In 2009, the hype was real as England’s under-21s made it to the final of the European Championships, only for them to be trounced 4-0 by a seriously impressive Germany side.
Almost 19,000 fans watched on from the Eleda Stadion in Malmo as Stuart Pearce’s young lions were thrashed by Germany, who fielded the likes of Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and player of the match Mesut Ozil, who scored once, alongside goals from Gonzalo Castro and Sandro Wagner.
Losing in such a way in the final to long-time rivals was crushing for England’s under-21s, but by no means a defining moment. In fact, getting to the final should’ve been the first milestone in flourishing football careers for many of them.
So, 14 years on, what’s happened to the XI that started that day in June 2009, and what are they up to now?
GK: Scott Loach
Loach spent the bulk of the tournament playing back-up to a certain Joe Hart, but got his chance to start in the final due to Hart being suspended.
It wasn’t his finest display, but Loach would go on to feature more regularly at under-21 level after that, but never graduated to a senior cap despite being called up twice. He’s had one hell of a journeyman career within English football, playing up and down the pyramid at just about every step.
Now 35, Loach signed for Derby County in 2022 and has extended his contract for another season. He also played for the England C team in 2022.
RB: Martin Cranie (Craig Gardner, 79)
A product of the Southampton youth academy, under-21 football was the best it got for Cranie on the international stage.
36-year-old Cranie has spent the bulk of his career floating between the Championship and League One, but has been without a club since leaving Luton in 2021.
Gardner enjoyed a much more memorable career, failing to earn a senior England cap but making 260 appearances in the Premier League. He now serves as technical director at Birmingham City.
CB: Micah Richards
One of the stars of the squad, Richards was hot property in 2009 and the years that followed. He’d already made his senior debut years before the tournament, becoming England’s youngest-ever defender in 2006.
A career that should’ve seen him become one of the best in the Premier League in the eyes of many would be derailed through injuries, however. He moved to Aston Villa in 2016, but was never able to recover from recurring injuries and retired in 2019 aged 31.
He’s now seen on all of our television screens as a successful pundit, laughing very loudly whenever there’s football on. That, or annoying Roy Keane to no end. Fair play.
CB: Nedum Onuoha (Michael Mancienne, 46)
Onuoha broke through at Manchester City alongside Richards, but left in 2012 for QPR and enjoy a solid six-year stint in London with the club.
He retired in 2020 after a stint with Real Salt Lake and is now dabbling in punditry and radio commentary. while also working as a community ambassador for City. He also has a degree in accountancy.
Mancienne switched allegiance to represent the Seychelles national team in 2022, earning five caps, 11 years on from his final England under-21 appearance. A product of the Chelsea youth academy, he also enjoyed a spell in MLS, but is best known for his four-year stint with Nottingham Forest.
He retired at the end of the 2022-23 season.
LB: Kieran Gibbs
The former Arsenal man would go on to be capped 10 times at senior level for England after the defeat, enjoying a 10-year stay at Arsenal before leaving for West Brom in 2017.
Gibbs retired in 2023 after two years playing for Inter Miami under Phil Neville, and now works on the club’s broadcasting team.
DM: Fabrice Muamba (Jack Rodwell, 78)
Muamba moved to England aged 11 and was set for a stellar career in football after representing England at various youth levels and being voted Birmingham City’s Young Player of the Season by fans in 2007.
Unfortunately, Muamba’s career came to a sudden and premature end when he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton in 2012, in the FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham.
Muamba’s heart stopped for 78 minutes, but he incredibly managed to survive and he’s since graduated from university, and dabbled in both coaching and media.
Rodwell, now 32, made three appearances for England’s senior team. He’s now out in Australia playing for Sydney FC enjoying a late-career revival, after years of riding out a mammoth contract with Sunderland.
CM: Lee Cattermole
The all-action midfielder was never able to progress to full international honours, but did enjoy a long career in the Premier League after signing for Sunderland in 2011.
He retired in 2020 after a strange, one-season spell with Dutch side VVV-Venlo upon leaving the Black Cats in 2019.
CM: Mark Noble
Captain, leader, legend. We all know the story of Mr. West Ham.
We won’t bore you with the spiel about how he should’ve been capped for England, because it’s very clearly true and we’ve heard it all before. Noble is now serving as West Ham’s sporting director, taking on the role at the beginning of 2023 following his retirement the previous summer.
Watching how he does in the new job will be very interesting in the coming years.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 7, 2023
RW: James Milner
Probably not the flashiest name in the side, it’s Milner who’s gone on to enjoy the most successful career out of everyone in the XI.
The 37-year-old still lives for a pre-season bleep test and will be doing so at Brighton ahead of the 2023-24 campaign, after agreeing to join on a free transfer from Liverpool, where he won a Champions League and his third Premier League title.
With 619 Premier League appearances under his belt, he’s closing in on Gareth Barry’s all-time record of 652.
ST: Theo Walcott
Walcott was widely regarded as the next big thing, and for a while, he was. Until playing way too many games at a young age caught up to him in his mid-twenties.
He’s now a free agent at the age of 34 after being released by Southampton following their relegation. Having looked somewhat out of his depth at Premier League level these days, it’ll be interesting to see what his next move is.
LW: Adam Johnson
Former City and Sunderland winger Johnson has not played professional football since 2016.