Back In Another Euros Final, But What Happened To England's U21 Stars Of 2009?

From Milner to Walcott, this squad has it all...
15:01, 06 Jul 2023

England are back in the U21 European Championship final, 14 years after their last appearance. Now led by Lee Carsley, the latest bunch of young stars will try and go one better than their predecessors, and win the final against Spain on Saturday.

But what did that England squad of 2009 look like, and how did their careers pan out? Given the Germany team who beat them featured six World Cup winners including Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng - hopes were high for the generation behind the golden generation. 

Goalkeepers (first team England caps)

Joe Hart (75)

Scott Loach (0)

Joe Lewis (0)

Joe Hart was England’s number one for the tournament and he went on to have a successful career as the Three Lions number one between 2012 and 2016. But the Man City man missed the final through suspension and instead Scott Loach played in the 4-0 defeat. He didn’t kick on after leaving Watford however, and has been knocking around the Football League ever since. Now 35, he is a back-up at Derby County. Meanwhile Joe Lewis has been a stalwart at Aberdeen since 2016, making over 200 appearances. 



Martin Cranie (0)

Micah Richards (13)

Nedum Onuoha (0)

Kieran Gibbs (10)

Michael Mancienne (0)

James Tomkins (0)

Richard Stearman (0)

Andrew Taylor (0)

Danny Rose (29)

Crikey. What a list this is. The top four started the final, with Martin Cranie playing out the rest of his career in the EFL. Micah Richards burst onto the scene with England at 18, did well with City, and he’s the biggest success story of the lot. Onuoha was also at City before spending the majority of his career at QPR while Gibbs regressed after leaving Arsenal. 

Mancienne was expected to be the next big thing but never delivered, while it’s hard to believe Tomkins and Stearman were ever under the age of 21. Danny Rose’s career imploded under Jose Mourinho at Spurs while Andrew Taylor was a hot prospect at Boro but finished his career at Bolton. A whole lot of promise, delivered a whole lot of nothing. 

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Fabrice Muamba (0)

Lee Cattermole (0)

Mark Noble (0)

James Milner (61)

Jack Rodwell (3)

Craig Gardner (0)

Adam Johnson (12)

James Milner aside, this is an absolute horror show. A thug, a mercenary and a convicted paedophile walked into England’s U21 team, and Sunderland is the running theme here. Cattermole had a cracking career there, Rodwell took them to the brink of financial ruin on the way down to League One and Johnson was only released from prison in 2019.

Noble was captain of this team but never got the senior cap his career deserved and Muamba was an u21 icon, but his heart condition ended his career early. Craig Gardner’s peak came at Birmingham, and Milner is certainly carrying this midfield group. A true professional, always. 


Theo Walcott (47)

Gabriel Agbonlahor (3)

Fraizer Campbell (1)

What a trio. Potentially the fastest striking options an England squad has ever had. Walcott started the final and had the best career, but he was always chasing something bigger having been thrust into the World Cup squad in 2006 at the age of 17. That put a lot of pressure on him, and although he did well, he wasn’t England’s next superstar. 

Meanwhile, Agbonlahor was good for Aston Villa but is now known for spouting nonsense on TalkSPORT, while Campbell made a decent career in the Premier League and the Championship before retiring at Huddersfield Town last year. 

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