As England’s U-21′s prepare for the huge tie against Italy’s U-21 in the last of their group games, with a win guaranteeing the young Three Lions a Quarter-Final place in the U-21 European Championships, we took a look at the last England side to make out of the group stages in the U-21 Euro’s, the 2009 squad.
The impressive 2009 squad didn’t just make it out of the group stages in Sweden, they in-fact made it to the final of the competition before losing out to the impressive German side. Picking the key players who can have huge impact on this current U-21 squad, we looked at the key comparisons that show just how far this young side can go after their crucial win over Sweden.
Scott Loach Vs Jack Butland
With first choice keeper Joe Hart – whose career trajectory is one for Butland to replicate – suspended for the 2009 final, Watford’s Scott Loach deputised for just his fourth under-21 cap and had to pick the ball out of his net on four occasions. While Loach gained an addition nine caps at this level, it didn’t lead to a top flight, with the now 27-year-old currently in the reserves at Rotherham United after a two-season spell with Ipswich Town. Jack Butland has already surpassed Loach in terms of playing Premier League football (albeit just six league appearances for Stoke City since joining in 2013) and earning a call-up to the senior England set up, travelling to Euro 2012 and getting his first cap shortly after the tournament. The hype for Butland has died down somewhat since then, but the stopper is still only 22 and an impressive showing in what will be his last few games with the U21s may help his cause becoming first choice at Stoke next season and perhaps even a call-up for Euro 2016 with England. Given a choice between the two, it’s Butland who is selected.
Adam Johnson Vs Nathan Redmond
The role of Johnson, then of Middlesbrough, and Norwich City’s Redmond for their respective under-21 sides are very similar, with each providing the pacey option on the wing. Redmond has more caps than Johnson accumulated in total for the U21s, but it is the latter who would come out on top in a direct comparison between the two talents. Redmond impressed for the Canaries during his one season in the top flight, but it is perhaps telling that no club was willing to pay what was required for his services upon Norwich’s relegation. Johnson, on the other hand, was snapped up by Manchester City a few months after Middlesbrough’s drop to the Championship, for a few believed to be in excess of £10million, and before long he was winning cups and league titles. There is still time for Redmond to establish his ability on the big stage, however Johnson’s proven ability at the same stage of his career means he would get the nod.
Michael Mancienne Vs Ruben Loftus-Cheek
This pair of players each came off the bench in the two respective matches we’ve taken the England U21 lineups from, and while their positions are not exactly the same – Mancienne was known to play in midfield during his loan spell at Wolves, but is more comfortable across the back – there is potential for their careers to go down the same path. 19 year-old Loftus-Cheek made four appearances for Chelsea this season, with his call-up to the under-21s coming at the end of the campaign. Mancienne, too, broke through at Chelsea with a handful of games as a teenager. He had already spent two years on loan at QPR by that point, and soon after went ‘on loan’ to Wolves for three successive seasons. While he never returned to Chelsea, Mancienne did earn a call-up (without playing) to the England squad in 2008 and moved to Hamburg for a three-year spell before joining Nottingham Forest last summer. It looks likely that Loftus-Cheek will have to go on loan in the coming season in order to get decent first team experience, but it remains to be seen how good he is and given Mancienne’s long time spent with the U21 setup by 2009 (totaling 30 caps while eligible in the end) he would perhaps be selected. Hopefully there is more to come from the current Chelsea youngster.
Theo Walcott Vs Harry Kane
Probably the most pertinent of comparisons comes when looking at England’s attacking options and the inclusion of in-form Harry Kane and the, then controversial, inclusion of Arsenal’s Theo Walcott to the 2009 squad. Both came into their respective tournaments having already made an impression on the senior England squad and were argued to be too experienced and vital to their clubs to take on the U-21 Euro Championships. Theo was of course the shock inclusion in England’s 2006 World Cup squad and had played a huge part in the U-21’s invlusion in the 2007 Euro championships with a game winning brace against Germany in 2006. Harry Kane comes into this tournament off of the back of a truly astounding domestic campaign with Tottenham Hotspur in which he scored an amazing 31 goals in all competitions, leading his side to a surprise Europa League spot. Both forwards have had phenomenal pressure mounted on them as far as International progression and hopefully we won’t see a repeat of Theo Walcott’s international career in which he has been as unnecessary point of attack from both fans and pundits. Kane will hopefully continue his fantastic domestic form and continue to progress and become the player he has shown he can.
Fabrice Muamba Vs Nathaniel Chalobah
Modern day superhero and example of the true beauty of the game, Fabrice Muamba, was pivotal to England’s future back in 2009. The former Gunner had established himself as a crucial player for Bolton Wanderers , only James Milner had played more for the Under-21s than Muamba and he quickly became a key figure in the squad that reached Euro 2009 in Sweden. Muamba, just like Chalobah, had a choice to make before landing on the decision to take an England Cap, with an offer from DR Congo turned down by the Bolton man. Chalobah, who was born in Sierra Leone made his debut in a Three Lions shirt at the tender age of only 14, winning the 2010 European Championships u-17’s and later captaining the side at the age of only 15. Both players aim to marshal their midfield and provide fantastic physical presence and unrelenting stamina from minute 0 to 90. Although Muamba’s carrer was cut short during the harrowing incident at White Hart Lane, Chalobah is very much on the precipice of a crucial period in his development. A plethora of loan spells from parent club Chelsea has seen Chalobah make huge impacts at many clubs including Watfrod, Burnley and Reading but this season and specifically this summer offers the 20-year-old the chance to show both Chelsea and any other potential suitors just what he can do.