Where are they now? The England U21s from the first game at new Wembley

Quick Reads

On March 24, 2007, England Under-21s drew 3-3 with Italy in the first game at the new Wembley Stadium – but what has come of the 11 players to start that day?

Giampaolo Pazzini scored both the first goal and the first hat-trick at the ground – and he went on to win 25 caps for Italy’s senior team, too.

But what happened to the England XI? A couple made the step up to the senior team, but others were not so lucky. Indeed, one even ended up declaring for another international side.

GK – Lee Camp

Derby goalkeeper Camp had spent much of the season out on loan, including a spell at QPR, and would end up joining the London club at the end of the season.

Spells at eight more clubs have followed, including a handful of Premier League games at Norwich City, and the veteran is now back in the Championship with Birmingham.

Camp would miss out on the squad for that summer’s European Under-21 Championships and indeed never played for England’s full national side, prompting him to declare for Northern Ireland and play for the country nine times.

RB – Liam Rosenior

Rosenior was the oldest member of that Euros squad, but a move from Fulham to Reading that same summer went wrong when his former club relegated his new one on the final day of the 2007-08 season.

The full-back retired in 2018 and has gone into broadcasting. He never turned his England Under-21 representation into full international recognition.

CB – Anton Ferdinand

The West Ham regular was struggling domestically when this game rolled around, having played all 90 minutes of a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat to Tottenham earlier in the month, but he would stay in the Premier League on the final day and go on to play more than 200 games in the division.

Ferdinand missed the decisive penalty in England’s seemingly never-ending Under-21 shoot-out defeat to the Netherlands that summer and would never play for the senior side.

He did, however, get plenty of experience overseas with spells at clubs in Turkey, Thailand and Scotland, where he plays at the time of writing for St Mirren.

CB – Gary Cahill

One of the handful to earn senior caps, Cahill would end up being the biggest success story of the 11 who started against Italy, going on to travel to two World Cups and one European Championship.

Cahill has also had a fair amount of success at club level, winning two Premier League titles and the 2011-2 Champions League with Chelsea, despite beginning the Champions League-winning season with a Bolton team which would end up suffering relegation.

LB – Leighton Baines

Baines’ 30 senior England caps is the second-highest tally of the 11 who started against Italy, with only Cahill earning more, even if he – like his team-mate that day – would have to wait until 2010 for a full debut for his country.

The left-back has crossed the 400 mark for Premier League appearances, joining Everton from Wigan Athletic a few months after the Italy game and ending up an important player under a number of managers.

RM – David Bentley

If you were forced to guess which of the players that day would go the furthest, Bentley might well have been your first choice.

The Blackburn winger was rebuilding his career at Ewood Park after leaving boyhood club Arsenal in 2006, and would ultimately leave for Tottenham in a £15million move not long after.

However, that was as good as it really got – his seventh and final senior England cap would arrive in his first Spurs season, and injuries contributed to him hanging up his boots in 2014 at the age of just 29, three years after his last senior goal.

CM – Nigel Reo-Coker

Another of West Ham’s struggling squad, Reo-Coker’s form had dipped since a move to Arsenal fell through the previous summer, and the midfielder had gone from a spot on the standby list for the 2006 World Cup to an Under-21s return.

Reo-Coker captained the Young Lions in that summer’s tournament in the Netherlands but never earned a senior cap and was courted by Sierra Leone later in his career without ever turning out for the African nation.

The 34-year-old has been without a club since leaving MK Dons in the summer.

CM – Kieran Richardson

Richardson is another who had returned to the Under-21s after flirting with the senior side, and even played and scored for his country against the United States in 2005.

However, a move from Manchester United to Sunderland in the summer of 2007 was not enough to revive his England chances.

The midielder has been without a club since leaving Cardiff City in 2016 and was last seen on trial with Tony Adams’ Granada the following year.

LM – Wayne Routledge

Routledge played for seven different clubs between 2005 and 2011 but has stuck it out with Swansea City ever since.

His 12th and final Under-21 cap came that summer against Serbia, and he never made the step-up to the seniors.

Four years later he achieved a personal milestone by winning the Championship in back-to-back seasons with different clubs.

ST – Gabby Agbonlahor

The Aston Villa striker was already beginning to establish himself with his boyhood club when England Under-21 recognition arrived: he had already scored at Stamford Bridge, Anfield and Old Trafford in the 2006-07 season, and would add four more goals between the Italy game and the end of the campaign.

He would earn his first senior call-up the following year, eventually making his full England debut in a win over Germany in November 2008, but made just one competitive appearance for his country and just three in total.

Agbonlahor has been unattached since ending his 13-year spell at Villa Park in 2018, spending time working on his fashion label Six Figures Official.

ST – Leroy Lita

Lita had worked his way up into the Under-21 set-up after an impressive start to Premier League life with Reading and would end up as his country’s top scorer in that summer’s European Under-21 Championships with three goals.

Even a place in the team of the tournament wasn’t enough to earn Lita a senior cap, though (it wasn’t good enough for Dutch goal machine Maceo Rigters either), and he has been playing out his career in those famous beachside resorts of Crete, Thailand and Margate.

Manager – Nigel Pearson

Pearson took the reins with Stuart Pearce focusing on the other one of his two jobs in charge of the most uninspiring Manchester City team in recent memory, who were bang in the middle of an eight-game scoreless run at their home ground.

At the time a rookie boss, Pearson would go on to become famous for getting Leicester promoted and subsequently asking a reporter if he was an ostrich. He was recently sacked by Belgian second-tier side OH Leuven. The O does not stand for ‘ostrich’.


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