Where are they now? England U21s 2007 semi-finalists

Ask the average man on the street about the state of English football and he’ll tell you we’re all doomed to another half century of hurt. A shock defeat to Iceland last summer compounded long-term fears of the national game moving in the wrong direction, leading since to plenty of soul searching and further attempts by the FA to change how young footballers are nurtured and developed on our shores.

But that hasn’t always been the case; in fact, back in the late 2000s, young English footballers were amongst the best around – at least in terms of results. After failing to qualify for the two previous tournaments, the Junior Lions reached the semi-finals of the U21 European Championship in 2007 and went on to better that with a runner-up finish two years later.

But what happened to the eleven men who started the 1-1 draw with the Netherlands that evening, which was eventually decided in Oranje’s favour by way of a penalty shootout? Where are they now?

Football FanCast takes a look…

GK – Scott Carson

Current club: Derby County
England caps: 4

Following an impressive loan spell at Charlton Athletic and 28 appearances for England at U21 level, the world appeared to be at Scott Carson’s feet (or should that be hands) when he made his senior England debut in 2007.

But his career with the Three Lions was short, infamous and painful, his second appearance being that nightmare performance against Croatia which resulted in England failing to qualify for Euro 2008. Steve McClaren lost his job, Carson earned just two more England caps and Joe Hart – his understudy on the bench against Netherlands U21s – overtook him to become the new No.1. Never quite the same again, Carson’s spent his career stuck between the bottom half of the Premier League and the Championship.

RB – Justin Hoyte

Current club: FC Cincinnati
England caps: 0

A typically over-hyped Arsenal youngster, Justin Hoyte never quite made the grade in north London or with England at senior level – in fact, after picking up over 50 caps across the youth levels, the full-back switched his international allegiances to Trinidad and Tobago in 2013, going on to represent them 18 times.

At club level, meanwhile, the 32-year-old’s career has taken the form of an increasingly downward trajectory, steadily dropping down the football pyramid with spells at Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Millwall and Dagenham and Redbridge before making the switch to MLS side FC Cincinnati in January.

LB – Leighton Baines

Current club: Everton
England caps: 30

One of the few true success stories from the 2007 squad, Leighton Baines has plied his trade in the Premier League ever since Wigan’s promotion in 2004 and has even represented England at senior level on 30 occasions.

That cap haul could have been double if the Everton man didn’t have a certain Ashley Cole to contend with for much of his career. Still going strong at the age of 32, Baines remains one of the best left-backs and set piece takers in the English top flight.

CB – Steven Taylor

Current club: Ipswich Town
England caps: 0

Most defenders get better with age, but Steven Taylor’s career has taken the reverse route. He looked like a real talent when breaking through at Newcastle in the mid 2000s but failed to add to early promise, whilst injuries have taken their toll, making more than 15 league appearances just once in his final six appearances at the club.

He signed for Portland Timbers in 2016 before returning to English football with Ipswich Town in January, where he suffered a serious hamstring injury in his second appearance.

CB – Nedum Onuoha

Current club: QPR
England caps: 0

Manchester City’s academy once produced young talent at an incredible rate and Nedum Onuoha was one of many tipped for the very top, combining the broad shoulders expected of Premier League centre-backs with a sprinting legs that once completed the 100 metres in 11.09 seconds.

Alas, Onuoha always lacked that missing ingredient – positional intelligence – and after realising he wouldn’t be part of the Sheik-funded revolution at the Etihad Stadium, decided to become one of Tony Fernandes’ big-earning flops at QPR. He’s stayed at Loftus Road ever since.

RW – James Milner

Current club: Liverpool
England caps: 61

Another rare success story, James Milner’s enjoyed a fine career at top level, fully embracing his role as an industrious, unsung hero whose technical qualities go under-appreciated.

He was part of the Aston Villa side that finished sixth in the top flight under Martin O’Neill, earned a big-money move to Manchester City where he won two league titles and¬†joined Liverpool on a free transfer in summer 2015, often captaining the Merseyside club and this term becoming their unorthodox left-back.

In terms of his England career, Milner represented the Three Lions 61 times, albeit scoring just once, before retiring last summer.

CM – Nigel Reo-Coker

Current club: Montreal Impact
England caps: 0

Nigel Reo-Coker earned his reputation as part of the West Ham side that famously lost to Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup final under Alan Pardew, having won promotion from the Championship via the playoffs just one year previously. But the Pardew bubble soon burst at Upton Park and Reo-Coker’s career went with it.

He never represented England at senior level and following underwhelming spells with Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich made the big switch to the MLS in 2013. The 32-year-old has since plied his trade with Vancouver Whitecaps, Chivas USA and Montreal Impact, but is yet to win the MLS title.

CM – Mark Noble

Current club: West Ham
England caps: 0

Nigel Reo-Coker’s midfield partner at club level as well as in the Junior Lions fold, Mark Noble’s come a lot closer to making the step up to England’s senior squad over the years but is still awaiting his first call-up.

A real hipster’s pick of underrated talent, Noble’s become a cult hero and Hammers captain in east London, but fleets of fine form haven’t been long enough to convince any England gaffer. Now aged 29, it may be a little too late for the industrious centre-mid.

LW – Ashley Young

Current club: Manchester United
England caps: 30

The third and final genuine success story from the starting XI, Ashley Young made 30 appearances for England at senior level and has lifted Premier League, FA Cup and EFL Cup titles with Manchester United Рalbeit, not always playing a big role.

Admittedly, injuries have hampered the progress of a winger-forward who showed so much potential at Watford and had begun to realise it at Aston Villa, but overall, Young will probably be remembered more for his shortcomings – and diving antics – than his actual quality. These days, he serves as Jose Mourinho’s emergency wing-back.

ST – Leroy Lita

Current club: Sisaket
England caps: 0

As a youngster, Leroy Lita fired his way from the depths of the third tier to the Premier League, netting 67 times during his first five campaigns as a professional.

But just like his goals, the powerful centre-forward’s development soon dried up, returning to the Premier League briefly with Swansea City in 2011/12 but spending the majority of his career undergoing unsuccessful loan spells in the Championship and League One.

Rather tellingly, the subsequent ten seasons of Lita’s career have produced just 53 goals. Now aged 32, he’s picking up pay cheques at Sisaket in the Thai Premier League.

ST – Dave Nugent

Current club: Derby County
England caps: 1

David Nugent will forever be famed for finishing his England career with a 100% scoring record, netting during his only appearance, and proving that there’s a massive chasm between Championship and Premier League strikers.

Whilst gaining a reputation at Preston North End, the front-man’s performances bordered upon sensational, but he just couldn’t produce the goods in the top flight for Portsmouth and has consequentially spent the most-part of his career stuck in the second tier.

Leicester and Middlesbrough both recently tested him in the Premier League before deciding to sell and Nugent is now leading the line at Derby County.

 


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