Revisiting The Guardian’s ’20 future England stars’ list from 2008

In 2008, The Guardian published a list of 20 ‘future England stars’ at the time aged 18 or under. Their hit rate in predicting the future was extremely mixed.

The list throws up plenty of recognisable names, some brilliant descriptions which are hard to believe now, plus several players who disappeared into obscurity.

Here, we see which of the ’20 future England stars’ lived up to the newspaper’s billing.

Jose Baxter

The Guardian noted Baxter was “better than Wayne Rooney at 14”, but his is a cautionary tale. The talented attacking midfielder dropped down to League One in 2012 and has been banned twice for failing drug tests.

The 28-year-old was given a third chance to resurrect his career when offered a 12-month contract by Everton in 2017, and after a season of training and playing with their Under-23 side.

Spells at Oldham Athletic and Plymouth Argyle followed, and his last move was to sign for Memphis 901 in the second tier of US football in 2020, before retiring a year later at the age of 29.

Mark Beevers

At the age of 18, Beevers was named Sheffield Wednesday’s Player of the Year and had been regularly linked with a move to a Premier League club.

He was named in League One’s Team of the Season in 2017 after helping Bolton win promotion back to the Championship. He did the same with Peterborough in 2020-21, dropping back down again last term before his recent move to A-League outfit Perth Glory.

John Bostock

A senior Crystal Palace debut at the age of just 15 led to a move to Tottenham a year later. But Bostock never settled at Spurs and was loaned out five times before eventually departing permanently for Royal Antwerp.

The attacking midfielder signed for Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse in July 2018, just six months after joining Bursaspor on a two-and-a-half-year contract, before joining Doncaster Rovers in January 2021.

He left that summer following their relegation to League Two, and now plays for Notts County, who he helped return to the Football League.

We say helped, Bostock tried a panenka penalty in the National League play-off penalty shootout at Wembley which inevitably hit the bar. Thankfully, his blushes were spared as they were promoted.

Nathan Delfouneso

A Football Manager legend, Delfouneso had four different spells with Blackpool before moving to Bolton two years ago. The striker, now 31, is yet to reach double figures in a single season.

He currently plies his trade with National League outfit AFC Fylde.

Fabian Delph

The Guardian deserve credit for this one, even if he wasn’t exactly a fan favourite at Everton.

It was sad to see him retire early at the age of 32, but his last few years at Goodison were ravaged by injury, and he enjoyed a great career prior to that.

Danny Drinkwater

He’s played for England and has lifted the Premier League trophy, so we’ll give them this one.

The midfielder seemed to have stopped being an actual footballer for a while, making headlines for headbutting a team-mate in Aston Villa training in March 2020.

Last season, Drinkwater played regular football for the first time since leaving Leicester in 2017, on loan at Championship side Reading. His deal at Stamford Bridge has finally expired in the summer and he’s since spoken candidly about where it all went wrong.

Drinkwater spent the entire 2022-23 season as a free agent, but hasn’t given up on a return to action.

Jordan Henderson

“An elusive right-sided midfielder or deep-lying forward, and equally happy in the hole or drifting wide right.”

Henderson’s game has changed somewhat, but as a Champions League & Premier League-winning captain, you can’t argue with this pick.

Gavin Hoyte

As luck would have it, we spoke to the former Arsenal full-back. He was last seen turning out in non-league for Maidstone United.

READ: The story of Gavin Hoyte and his one Premier League appearance for Arsenal

Josh McEachran

The Next Jack Wilshere rejected moves to Real Madrid and Manchester United at the age of 16 to stay at Chelsea but suffered from the familiar tale of too many loan moves.

After an injury-hit four years at Brentford, a short spell at Birmingham and a year in Milton Keynes, he’s just signed for Oxford United in League One.

Henri Lansbury

After looking promising at Arsenal, Lansbury earned a reputation as one of the best midfielders in the Championship at Nottingham Forest before joining Aston Villa in January 2016.

He last played for Luton Town, doing his best to get away with absurd challenges.

Jacob Mellis

Chelsea paid £1million to land Mellis from Sheffield United, meaning he cost exactly £1million per minute played in the Blues’ first team.

The midfielder has since gone on a tour of the north of England, appearing for Barnsley, Blackpool, Oldham, Bury, Mansfield and Bolton – before migrating back south with stints at Gillingham and Southend United before a move to non-league Leatherhead earlier this year.

He recently announced his retirement as a result of injuries.

Victor Moses

Switching his international allegiance to Nigeria probably didn’t help the chances of Moses establishing himself with England.

A nomadic career currently sees the 32-year-old at Spartak Moscow.

Nile Ranger

“Tipped for Shearer-esque scoring feats” by The Guardian, Ranger was ranked Newcastle’s worst striker of the Mike Ashley era.

You’ll be unsurprised to hear he was sacked by Southend in January 2018 and has been playing in non-league ever since, signing for Boreham Wood back in December.

READ: Ranking the 29 strikers signed by Newcastle under Mike Ashley

Jack Rodwell

Rodwell earned plenty of plaudits at Everton and eventually a move to Manchester City, but his career has been undermined by a host of injuries.

It took an even worse turn in 2017-18, however, with Rodwell making only three appearances for Sunderland all season as they suffered a second successive relegation, who eventually got rid of him at the end of that campaign.

After a spell with Blackburn, Rodwell was signed by Sheffield United in January 2020 but only made one Premier League appearance.

Last year, the midfielder signed a two-year deal with Western Sydney Wanderers – and he’s actually hit double figures for appearances for the Australian club, notching three goals in 14 A-League games so far.

A brilliant debut season saw him earn a move to Sydney FC.

Freddie Sears

Remember when he scored the winner on his West Ham debut and everyone was dead happy? That was good.

Remember when he scored for Crystal Palace against Bristol City but the ball bounced straight back out of the goal and the ref didn’t give it? That was also quite good, to be fair.

Sears signed for Colchester United in 2021, waving goodbye to Ipswich Town after six years at Portman Road.

Jonjo Shelvey

Still at Charlton when this list was published, Shelvey’s move to Liverpool may not have worked out, but the midfielder has established himself as a Premier League player with Swansea and Newcastle.

He’s pretty proud of his career, as evidenced by the fact he likes to make guests watch his highlights after a night out.

Danny Welbeck

Dat Guy is invariably Dat Guy on the bench these days. The Guardian article likens Welbeck to Nwankwo Kanu, which is weird.

Aidan White

After a bright start at Leeds, a combination of injuries, Neil Warnock trying to turn the left-back into a right winger, and Brian McDermott playing him as a No.10 did for White at Elland Road.

He now finds himself in League Two with Rochdale.

Jack Wilshere

Unfortunately hasn’t lived up to his potential since That Night Against Barcelona.

Wilshere retired last year and has since taken up a new job as Arsenal’s Under-18s coach. We’re still a bit gutted he didn’t have the career he could and arguably should’ve had.

Michael Woods

Signed by Chelsea from Leeds United alongside Tom Taiwo – Danny Rose rejected the move – Woods joined Hartlepool in 2014 and has spent the last six seasons in non-league, currently plying his trade for South Shields.

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