England's recent World Cup exit prompted me to think about the team set-up and how players make the transition to the elite level of football.

I remember a few years back how proud we were that the England Under-20s had won their World Cup in 2017 with quite a few Everton players and we all expected the future to look Blue and rosy.

Well, time makes a fool of us all but nobody could have predicted how most of that team would just fall between the cracks. Here is the team (with subs in brackets):-

Goalkeeper: Freddie Woodman

England’s penalty-saving hero remains on the books at Newcastle United but has just finished his seventh loan spell away from St James’s Park with Bournemouth.

He only played once for the Cherries in the FA Cup, but he’d done well at Swansea before that, spending two seasons in South Wales and keeping an impressive 20 clean sheets in 45 second-tier games in the 2020-21 campaign, helping Steve Cooper’s men into the play-offs for a second consecutive time.

Right-Back: Jonjoe Kenny

One of the winners of the 2014 Under-17 European Championship, Kenny has since gone on to make 50 Premier League appearances at Everton, including 15 last season under Rafa Benitez and Frank Lampard.

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He hasn’t impressed every Everton boss though and was shipped out on loan to Celtic during 2020-21 campaign – his fourth loan spell away from Goodison Park following stints with Oxford United and Schalke. He made 16 appearances in a disappointing season for the club, but at least he managed four assists.

We won’t talk about the Old Firm own goal…

Centre-Back: Fikayo Tomori

One of the biggest success stories of this team. An impressive loan spell with Derby County in 2019-20 eventually saw the centre-back catapulted into the Chelsea first-team under Frank Lampard.

He then fell out of favour at Stamford Bridge but has really re-established himself at San Siro with AC Milan.

He helped Milan to their first Scudetto in 11 years in 2022 and former Milan man Mauro Tassotti, who knew a thing or two about defending, saying: “Tomori is good at winning the ball back, his speed is impressive. He anticipates a lot and he’s always aggressive.”

Centre-Back: Jake Clarke-Salter

Another Chelsea centre-back, Clarke-Salter has not enjoyed the same ascent as Tomori and is yet to be given his chance in Chelsea’s first team – although he has captained England’s Under-21s.

The 2020-21 season saw him spend a fifth loan spell away from Stamford Bridge, making 10 Championship appearances in his second stay with Birmingham City.

Left-Back: Kyle Walker-Peters

Walker-Peters was on the fringes of Tottenham’s first team for three seasons after enjoying glory at the Under-20s World Cup, making 24 appearances in all competitions, including the Champions League.

In January 2020, the full-back joined Southampton on loan and made the move permanent that summer. He has since established himself as a solid Premier League full-back, making 62 appearances over his two seasons as a full-time Saint.

Right-Midfielder: Kieran Dowell (62' Sheyi Ojo)

Another of the six squad members who also won the European Under-17 Championship in 2014, and another of five Everton players in this World Cup-winning squad.

But Dowell struggled to fit into the Toffees first-team set-up after flying home and, after four spells away on loan, moved permanently to Norwich City in the summer of 2020. He scored five goals as the Canaries were promoted straight back to the top flight but played just seven times in the Premier League.

Liverpool’s Ojo, meanwhile, is another serial loanee and most recently spent the 2021-22 campaign at Millwall.

Centre-Midfielder: Josh Onomah

After threatening to break through at Spurs only to be loaned out to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, Onomah joined Fulham on a permanent basis as part of the deal that saw Ryan Sessegnon move in the opposite direction.

Centre-Midfielder: Lewis Cook

The captain of the side and another one to progress from the Under-17 victory in 2014, Cook has battled some serious injury issues and saw his 2020-21 season ended by a second cruciate ligament rupture. He came back in October 2021, however, and played 28 games as Bournemouth sealed promotion.

He won his first, and to date only, senior cap as a substitute against Italy in 2018, and the former Leeds United man certainly won’t have given up hope of a return to Gareth Southgate’s set-up just yet.

Left-Midfielder: Ademola Lookman

Having already made 49 appearances for Charlton, Lookman joined Everton in January 2017, just 3 months after turning 19.

Despite occasional moments of promise, the forward failed to establish himself on Merseyside and made the eye-catching move to RB Leipzig, having impressed on loan at the Bundesliga outfit.

That permanent move didn’t work as planned though and Lookman’s since been sent on loan twice, most recently to Leicester City.

Striker: Dominic Solanke

Solanke had already agreed to join Liverpool from Chelsea when he helped England win the Under-20 World Cup, collecting the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.

Since then he has made his senior England debut and earned a £19M move to Bournemouth, but seriously underwhelmed in the top flight for the Cherries.

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Reader Comments (7)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 13/12/2022 at 17:22:49
Nice job, Jay.

Can't help thinking someone's missing...

He may even have scored the winning goal, methinks.

Peter Mills
2 Posted 13/12/2022 at 20:38:14
I was talking with my brother on Sunday about the England Youth World Cup winning team of 1964.

Peter Springett, Peter Knowles, John Hollins, Howard Kendall, Harry Redknapp, Don Rogers, David Sadler, John Sissons all amongst them.

Different days, I know, but some team.

Dave Abrahams
3 Posted 13/12/2022 at 20:47:54
Not bad, Peter, eight players from that squad who all had very good careers – although Peter Knowles sacrificed his career to become a Jehovah's Witness.
Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 13/12/2022 at 21:01:15
It's so hard to make it to the top nowadays in the ultra physical Premier League. Look at England's back four on Saturday night. The left-back and one of the central defenders can't even get a game for Man Utd, and they're a club who haven't pulled up many trees over the last few seasons.

Looking at the list makes me think there has got to be a better pathway, simply because I think most young players need to play in a settled environment. This doesn't seem to be the case nowadays, when you look at how few of these players have been allowed to develop by staying at one club.

Jay Harris
5 Posted 14/12/2022 at 04:59:44
Well pointed out, Michael, I included Calvert-Lewin in my write-up. I must have deleted it in my submission.

Yes, he scored the winning goal and has arguably been the most successful of that team.

I just wonder as Tony says what we have to do to bring them on from that age because it is obvious they had the talent.

Duncan McDine
6 Posted 17/12/2022 at 08:16:52

I've only just stumbled upon this article and must say that you've done a brilliant job researching and writing it. This thread has gone under the radar whilst the World Cup semis were on, but it's well worth a read.

The reasons for the majority of these players not ‘making it' is beyond me, but thought-provoking nonetheless. Do we have a problem with the ‘system'?

All of these lads were on the books of Premier League clubs, but how many would've been given a chance?

The bigger clubs send their young talented players out on loan year after year in the lower leagues and very few ever get a chance to break through at their parent club. Doesn't feel right to me.

Kieran Kinsella
7 Posted 17/12/2022 at 18:25:06

You missed the latest update on Lookman. He joined Atalanta for €15 million in the summer and has 7 goals in 15 games so far. Like Tomori, Smalling and Abrahams, he's made a much easier transition to life in Italy than that RS with the tache in the 80s.

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