Ask any England football fan about 2010 and they will almost certainly not have the fondest of memories, especially after what happened in South Africa. But, some 8,400 miles away in Liechtenstein, something remarkable had just happened: England had won a tournament.
More specifically, it was the UEFA Under-17 Championship where the young Lions had beaten Spain 2-1 in the Final, which led to the all-too-rare image of an England football team lifting some silverware.
2010 England Under-17 Team: Where Are They Now?
Of that 18-man squad, only two – Jack Butland and Ross Barkley – are in the current England senior squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland (they are also the only two to receive senior caps so far), which begs the question: What happened to the rest of them? Let’s take a look…
- Sam Johnstone (Goalkeeper) – This man is a Manchester United academy graduate who has had loan spells at Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End (the latter of which he helped to get promoted to the Championship last season). Yet to make a first team appearance for the Red Devils, Johnstone warmed the bench for the opening game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur, as the David De Gea transfer saga rumbled on.
- Bruno Pilatos (Midfielder) – This highly-touted player represented England up to Under-19 level while at Middlesbrough, but was released in January 2013. Pilatos played for fellow North East clubs, Darlington 1883 and Crook Town, before moving to his current side, Jarrow Roofing, in the EBAC Northern League Division One (ninth tier of English football).
- Luke Garbutt (Defender) – Garbutt has made just eleven first-team appearances for parent club, Everton, but has had loan spells at Cheltenham Town and Colchester United and has represented England at every level between U-16 and U-21. Garbutt is currently on loan at Championship side, Fulham.
- Conor Coady (Defender) – The 22-year-old climbed the ranks at boyhood team, Liverpool, where he played just twice. After a loan spell at Sheffield United, he moved permanently to Huddersfield Town in 2014, where he played all but one league game for them before signing for Wolves this summer.
- Nathaniel Chalobah (Defender) – Still on the books at parent club, Chelsea, despite not having made a single first-team appearance, this Sierra Leone-born current England U-21 international has enjoyed loan spells at Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Reading and is currently at Serie A side, Napoli.
- Andre Wisdom (Defender) – This Liverpool and ex-England U-21 youngster has featured 22 times and scored once for the Reds – against Swiss side, Young Boys, in the Europa League – while also having loan spells at Derby County and West Brom. Wisdom is currently on loan at Norwich City.
- Will Keane (Forward) – This Manchester United academy graduate has represented England up to U-21 level, but missed the entire 2012-13 season through injury. Keane has had loan spells at Wigan Athletic, QPR and Sheffield Wednesday, and is presently away at Preston North End until the end of the season.
- George Thorne (Midfielder) – Thorne became West Brom’s youngest player at 16 years, 328 days when he made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in 2009/10. However, he made only 17 appearances in five seasons (plus loan spells at Portsmouth, Peterborough United, Watford and Derby County) for the Baggies before joining Derby last campaign.
- Benik Afobe (Forward) – Afobe rose through the Arsenal youth system but did not play for them once. He had had loan spells at Huddersfield, Reading, Bolton, Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons prior to moving permanently to Wolves in January of this year, where he bagged 16 goals in 27 League and Cup appearances.
- Saido Berahino (Forward) – The Burundi-born striker had loan spells with Northampton, Brentford and Peterborough before scoring 20 goals for parent club, West Brom, last season. These feats earned him a place in the England senior squad last November. The recent transfer saga involving Berahino, West Brom and Tottenham ended controversially this week.
- Robert Hall (Forward) – Hall graduated from the famous West Ham “Academy of Football”, but made just seven appearances. Further, he had loan spells at Oxford United, MK Dons, Birmingham, and Bolton Wanderers before moving to the Trotters permanently in July 2013. Hall is now away for a second spell with the Dons.
- Ben Gibson (Defender) – Nephew of Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, this man came through the ‘Boro academy and has spent time away at Plymouth Argyle, York City and Tranmere before becoming a regular for the Teessiders, as they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League last season. Gibson also represented England in this summer’s UEFA U-21 Championship Finals hosted in the Czech Republic.
- Jack Butland (Goalkeeper) – This Birmingham City academy graduate had two loan spats at Cheltenham Town. He then became the number one keeper for his parent club and moved to Stoke City in January 2013 as deputy to Asmir Begović until the Bosnian moved to Chelsea this summer. Butland also has one senior cap for England to his name, as part of a 2-1 friendly win against Italy back in 2012.
- Tom Thorpe (Defender) – Thorpe came through the ranks at Manchester United and impressed for their U-21 side (alongside Adnan Januzaj) but failed to make the first team. Thorpe also held down time at Birmingham City in 2013/14 before moving permanently to Rotherham United during the recent transfer window.
- Josh McEachran (Midfielder) – This promising youngster played just 22 times in five years for boyhood club, Chelsea, and was loaned to Swansea, Middlesbrough (he was their Young Player of the Year for 2012/13), Watford, Wigan and Dutch side, Vitesse Arnhem. McEachran then moved permanently to Brentford this summer, “for the sake of his career”.
- Ross Barkley (Midfielder) – Arguably the biggest success story from this side, Barkley made his Everton first-team debut aged 17 before enjoying loans at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. Has made 97 total appearances for the Toffees, scoring 11 goals, while also earning 13 senior caps for England.
- Connor Wickham (Forward) – Voted Player of the Tournament in Liechtenstein, Wickham became Ipswich Town’s youngest ever player when he made his debut aged 16 years and 11 days. Sunderland signed him for £8m in 2011 where he went on to score 15 goals in 91 appearances. Wickham then moved to Crystal Palace this summer for an initial fee of £9m.
- Luke Williams (Forward) – Williams became Middlesbrough’s youngest player in over a century when he made his debut in 2009, but failed to nail down a regular spot within the side. Furthermore, he went on loan to Hartlepool, Scunthorpe, Coventry and Peterborough, before moving permanently to Scunthorpe in July of this year.
Looking at the respective career paths of most of these players, does it reflect the top English clubs’ general unwillingness to take a chance on their academy youngsters in favour of more established foreigners? Or, are the players themselves simply not good enough? As ever, have your say in the comments section below.