As sure as Michael Owen mispronouncing every word longer than two syllables that he attempts to utter, every month or two the above image will make the rounds on social media, the subject of as much ridicule as a skied Roberto Soldado volley from the edge of the six yard box.
The image has taken on a sort of mythical quality, bandied about by ‘troll football’ type accounts, as well as by actual people that aren’t operating their accounts from their despairing parent’s house-extension surrounded by close up photos of Ian Rush’s moustache, any time they need proof to say “har-de-ha, isn’t the Daily Mail stupid” – as if perusing it for 20 seconds wouldn’t do the trick just as well.
We like to make fun of the Daily Mail as much the next person with more than two brain cells and, if not empathy, at least an acceptance for the less fortunate, but in this case the ridicule is probably slightly misplaced. Yes, almost none of these players have made it to the big time, but predicting which young players will make it to the England setup is a fool’s errand (which also explains why said newspaper continues to do so). If you follow youth football for any amount of time, you will know that more goes into making a successful footballer than raw talent, and that even within a particular club’s youth setup it is difficult to predict who will make it.
The Daily Mail image got rebooted recently as a predicted “England team for the 2014 World Cup”, and although the November 2007 article itself never mentioned the 2014 World Cup, ‘England’s team of the future’ is indeed splashed mistakenly below some less-than-household names.
Goalkeeper Ben Amos obviously did enough at youth level to convince Manchester United that he was one for the future as much as he did the Daily Mail. At the Old Trafford club since the age of 11, Ben Amos nonetheless has only made seven appearances for Manchester United, and it is now three years since his only start in the Premier League.
Capped by England at all levels from Under 16 to Under 21, Ben Amos is now 24 but does not look like putting too much pressure on Joe Hart for the England #1 spot anytime soon. Amos is still a Manchester United player, but looks likely to be released when his contract expires this summer.
Ben Amos is a name most readers will be aware of due to his youth appearances and time as Manchester United’s third goalkeeper, but Amos has also been out on a succession of loans in recent years. Amos’ loan spells have seen him play for Peterborough, Norwegian side Molde FK, Oldham Athletic, Hull City, Carlisle United, and now Bolton Wanderers – Amos signed for Bolton on the 30th January 2015 on a one month loan deal.
Amos hasn’t had a competitive outing since a 2-1 away defeat to Crewe during his time with Carlisle on the 1st of January 2014, so it will be interesting to see if he gets a look in over Andy Lonergan and Ádám Bogdán during his time at Bolton.
Status : Active.
Current club : Bolton, on loan from Manchester United.
Clubs : Manchester United, Peterborough, Molde, Oldham, Hull, Carlisle, Bolton.
One for the future? Doesn’t look like making it a top side soon.
Sam Hutchinson spent his youth career with Chelsea, having joined at the age of nine. Capped for England at under 18 and under 19 level, Hutchinson’s career has been mired by knee injuries, the defender even retired from football in 2010, at the age of 21. Although Hutchinson came out of retirement to rejoin Chelsea a year later, in his two spells spanning 15 years at the club he only managed 6 senior appearances.
In his second period with Chelsea, Hutchinson went on a couple of loan spells, joining Nottingham Forest in August 2012, where he was limited to nine appearances due to a recurrence of his knee injury. The following year, Hutchinson followed the well-worn path of young Chelsea players to Vitesse Arnhem, where he made only 3 appearances, including only a single substitute appearance in the league.
Shortly after being recalled from his loan at Vitesse, in February 2014 Hutchinson joined Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, making 10 appearances for them whilst on loan until the end of last season. Released by Chelsea last summer, Hutchinson then signed with Wednesday on a permanent deal and has made six appearances for the Owls to date.
Current club : Sheffield Wednesday.
Clubs : Chelsea, Nottingham Forest, Vitesse Arnhem, Sheffield Wednesday.
One for the future? Has probably found his level in the Championship.
While Micah Richards is no longer an England regular, he has played 13 times for the national team, and might have done better but for some bad luck. Now 26, Richards joined Manchester City from Oldham aged 14, playing in the 2006 FA Youth Cup side that reached the final, before making his full team debut as a 17 year old in 2005.
Playing as a centre back, or as he is best known, as an attacking-minded right back, Richards established himself in the City team from the 2006-07 season under Stuart Pearce and kept hold of his place under Erikkson, Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini, winning the FA Cup in 2011 and playing a key part in the Manchester City side that won the league under Mancini in 2012.
It’s fair to say that graduates of Manchester City’s academy have had slim chances of making it through to the first team after Thaksin Shinawatra and then Al Mubarak took over of the club, spending fortunes on a host of imports. However, Richards remained the one exception for a number of seasons.
Unfortunately for Richards, he suffered an injury at the start of the 2012-13 season, and has so far never seemed to recover his form, or his first team place. Micah’s first team chances took a further hit when Mancini was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, and he only made two league appearances in the 2013-14 season.
Short on game time at City, Richards joined Fiorentina on loan at the start of September 2014, but has so far failed to resurrect his career in Italy, making only five league appearances and another five appearances in the Europa League to date.
Status : Active.
Current club : Fiorentina, on loan from Manchester City.
Clubs : Manchester City, Fiorentina.
One for the future? Going through a rough patch, but could still turn it around.
Coming up through the Arsenal youth system since the age of nine, Gavin Hoyte’s career looks like it peaked in 2008-09 season, when the Right Back was captain of Arsenal’s reserves. Hoyte went on to make a few outings for the senior Arsenal team, although almost entirely in the League Cup.
After featuring in League Cup victories over Sheffield United and Wigan, Hoyte’s only appearance in the Premier League was a 3-0 away defeat to Manchester City in 2008, being replaced by Aaron Ramsey early in the second half. Hoyte made one further appearance for Arsenal, a 2-0 League Cup defeat at Burnley in December 2008, before being loaned out to Championship side Watford for the remainder of the season.
Gavin Hoyte had further loan outings at Brighton, Lincoln City and AFC Wimbledon, but found game time hard to come by until he finally left Arsenal, joining Dagenham & Redbridge in 2012. Hoyte left the Daggers last year, and signed for Gillingham on a short-term contract shortly after the start of the season.
Now 24, Hoyte was in and out of the side under former manager Peter Taylor, but has had a more regular role since the one-time England manager’s sacking. Hoyte’s deal with Gillingham has now been extended to the end of the season.
Status : Active.
Current club : Gillingham.
Clubs : Arsenal, Brighton, Lincoln City, AFC Wimbledon, Dagenham & Redbridge, Gillingham.
One for the future? Unfortunately is best described as Justin Hoyte’s less successful younger brother.
A left back that came through the Liverpool youth system ranks, Robbie Threlfall showed some early career promise, winning back-to-back FA Youth Cups with Liverpool in 2006 and 2007, facing up against other team inclusion Micah Richards in the 2006 final.
Threlfall however never made a senior competitive appearance for Liverpool and went out on a series of loans, where his career was constantly hampered by multiple injuries. Threlfall had loans with Hereford United, Stockport County, Northampton Town and finally Bradford City – where he was signed by Peter Taylor, who presumably has had a cut out copy of the Daily Mail’s team stuffed in his pocket since 2007.
After being released by Liverpool in 2010, Threlfall played a couple more seasons for Bradford before joining his final club, Morecambe in May 2012. Threlfall was released by Morecambe in May 2014, and has been without a club since.
Status : Inactive since May 2014.
Clubs : Liverpool, Hereford United, Stockport County, Northampton Town, Bradford City, Morecambe.
One for the future? Nope.
Still only 23, Dean Parrett represented England at Under 16 to Under 20 level, and signed for Tottenham Hotspur from Queen’s Park Rangers in February 2007. A midfielder, Parrett’s only appearances for Spurs came in the 2009 UEFA Cup matches against Shakhtar Donetsk, as Spurs looked to key rest players for that season’s League Cup Final (they lost, to Manchester United on penalties).
With chances at Tottenham slim, Dean Parrett went out on a number of loan moves, without getting much playing time at any club and returning back early to Tottenham on a couple of occasions – from Plymouth after getting sent off at Swindon, and from Swindon after reportedly falling out with club management. Parrett’s loan clubs included Aldershot, Plymouth Argyle, Charlton, Yeovil and Swindon.
All told, Parrett failed to become a regular at any club whilst on loan from Tottenham, and after a series of trials with various clubs, signed with Stevenage in October 2013. Parrett’s first goal for Stevenage came in a 2-3 home defeat to MK Dons on the 22nd of March 2014. Unfortunately for Parrett, later in the same match he suffered an ACL injury that would keep him out of action for the rest of the season. Parrett has now recovered, and is a regular in Stevenage’s side in League Two.
Status : Active.
Current club : Stevenage.
Clubs : QPR, Tottenham Hotspur, Aldershot, Plymouth Argyle, Charlton, Yeovil, Swindon, Stevenage.
One for the future? Is going the wrong way in the football league pyramid to bother the England midfield any time soon.
It’s hard to blame the Daily Mail for getting this one wrong, because at the time Michael Johnson was, in the words of Sven-Göran Eriksson; “an excellent player …everyone thought he would become the next big star for England”.
Johnson presents a cautionary case of the young prospect put under enormous pressure by being labelled “The Next…”, and breaking under the strain. Johnson had a splintered youth career spending from the age of 10, two years each in the academies of Leeds, Dutch side SBV Excelsior, Everton and Manchester City.
Michael Johnson was another who played in the 2006 FA Youth Cup final, playing for Manchester City alongside Micah Richards. Capped at Under 16, Under 19 and Under 21 level, Michael Johnson made his début for the Manchester City first team in an away defeat to Wigan in October 2006. Johnson’s next appearance was the following March and he quickly gained a regular place in the City team, making a total of 10 league appearances in the 2006/07 season.
The following 2007/08 season would be Johnson’s most productive, making 14 league appearances, scoring against Derby and Aston Villa before suffering an abdominal injury which kept him out of action until March. Johnson came back to make another 9 appearances until the end of that season.
Johnson started the 2008/09 season as a regular in Manchester City’s team as the club played preliminary UEFA Cup rounds, having qualified for the competition through the Fair Play rules. Johnson played three matches in the league before a re-occurrence of his abdominal injury late in a League Cup defeat at Brighton. Johnson’s next and final league appearance for Manchester City would come over a year later, the youngster coming on in the last minute of a home victory over West Ham. Johnson’s only other appearance for Manchester City would come in the League Cup a month later, when Johnson came on and scored in a 5-1 victory.
In August 2011, Johnson attempted to re-start his career by going out on loan to Leicester, but made only seven appearances in the Championship – never able to complete a full 90 minutes – before injury once again curtailed his progress and he returned to City.
The following February, Johnson was arrested for drink-driving in Manchester and further run ins with the police for driving offences illustrated the poor state the midfielder was in. Johnson later recounted in an interview his treatment for mental health problems during this period.
Johnson’s problems with injury were not limited to the abdominal problem, and the midfielder also had serious knee injuries. Billed as the next great thing but beset by injuries, amid problems of temperament as well as psychological problems, Johnson never lived up to the promise he showed. After a photograph of Johnson looking overweight and out-of-shape surfaced on the internet, Manchester City announced that they had released the player in January 2013.
Since his retirement at the age of 24, Michael Johnson has looked to move on from football by announcing plans to open a restaurant and estate agency in Manchester.
Status : Retired.
Clubs : Manchester City, Leicester City.
One for the future? Nope.
Henry started his career with Reading, but went out on loan before making an appearance for the Royals. A right-sided midfielder, Henry made only one appearance for his first club, Nottingham Forest – coming on in the 88th minute.
The following 2007/08 season, Henry did get his Royals début, coming on as a late substitute in home defeat to Liverpool, before heading to Bournemouth on loan on the 2nd November 2007. Only a day later, Henry made his Bournemouth début, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers. Henry went from Bournemouth on another short-term loan to Norwich, but only played three games for the Canaries, in February 2008.
The next season, James Henry returned to Reading, playing seven league matches and a handful of cup ties, but was mostly limited to substitute appearances. Henry went out on loan to Millwall, and he would play for both Reading and Millwall in the year that followed, finally signing permanently for Millwall in July 2010. Henry made 176 appearances in all competitions for the Lions, playing almost every game in the 2010-13 seasons.
After a 1-5 home defeat to Derby on the 14th September 2013, Henry did not play for Millwall again, and on the 1st October went to Wolverhampton Wanderers on a short-term loan that would eventually become a permanent deal the following January. Playing under his old Millwall boss Kenny Jackett, Henry has so far made 46 appearances for Wolves, and is a regular in the side, helping them to get promoted to the Championship last season.
Current club : Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Clubs : Reading, Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Norwich City, Millwall, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
One for the future? With Wolves not far off the Championship play-off places, it’s at least possible that he could be playing in the Premier League next season.
Theo Walcott played youth football with Newbury, Swindon and Southampton before breaking into the Southampton team in the Championship in the 2005-06 season, and, despite some injury problems, Walcott is easily the most successful player in the Daily Mail’s predicted 11.
Quickly snapped up by Arsenal in that January transfer window, Walcott would make his Premier League début with Arsenal the following August, but before that was taken to the 2006 World Cup in Germany by England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson. Well capped at Under 16 to Under 21 level by England, Walcott had nevertheless never played in the Premier League, and would not make any appearances in that World Cup. (This also makes this something of an easy pick from the Daily Mail – Theo Walcott had already been in an England World Cup squad when they made this list).
Despite going to the World Cup at such a young age, Walcott is yet to make a World Cup appearance. Walcott was not picked by for the England squad by Fabio Capello in 2010, and in 2014 suffered a knee injury which would rule him out of the World Cup in Brazil.
Walcott has now made over 200 league appearances for Arsenal, scoring 47 league goals (72 goals in all competitions). Walcott has also scored five senior goals in 36 appearances for England, including a hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier against Croatia in September 2008.
Often derided in England for “not having a football brain”, Walcott is however admired abroad. Pep Guardiola famously said “you need a pistol to stop him”, while Lionel Messi, speaking of Walcott’s exclusion from the 2010 World Cup squad, said :
“I must say that at the time I thought it was a bad decision to leave Theo Walcott at home, and I think that has been proved right. I can only speak from experience but he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against.
Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us.”
Status : Active.
Current club : Arsenal.
Clubs : Southampton, Arsenal.
One for the future? Theo Walcott is recently back from serious injury, if he can stay fit, maybe he can still make an appearance at a World Cup.
Jose Baxter came through the Everton youth set-up, and was famously hailed as “better than Wayne Rooney”. Baxter was given a début by Everton in August 2008, and was the youngest ever to do so, but remained primarily a reserve team player before heading out on loan to Tranmere for the first few months of the 2011/12 season.
Recalled by Everton that January, Baxter made a substitute appearance at home to Manchester City at the end of January 2012, but would never feature for the Toffees again.
Baxter refused a contract offer from David Moyes to search out regular first team football, which almost backfired as the youngster spent an agonising couple of months looking for a club. Baxter’s old reserve team manager (and now manager of Hibernian) Alan Stubbs put Baxter in touch with Oldham, who signed Baxter – initially on a four month contract, but later extended.
Baxter made 37 league starts for Oldham in which he scored 15 goals, before a £500,000 move to Sheffield United in 2013. Now with 46 league appearances for Sheffield United, last season also saw Baxter help the Blades on a memorable FA Cup run, and Jose Baxter will at least forever remember the goal he scored at Wembley as Sheffield United lost their semi-final with Hull 5-3.
Status : Active.
Current club : Sheffield United.
Clubs : Everton, Tranmere Rovers, Oldham Athletic, Sheffield United
One for the future? Has had to take a couple of steps down to get regular football, but Sheffield United look well placed for a League One play-off spot, so Baxter could be back to Wembley soon, and maybe the Championship.
Scott Sinclair joined Bristol Rovers at the age of nine, making his first team début before his 16th birthday and subsequently being snapped up by Chelsea. Sinclair’s spells at Chelsea saw him limited to a handful of appearances, mostly in cup competitions, as he failed to break his way into a star-studded first team.
Between 2007 and 2010, Chelsea sent Sinclair out on series of loans, before he was eventually offloaded to Championship side Swansea on the 9th August 2010, joining up with Swansea’s new manager Brendan Rodgers – youth team coach and later reserve team coach from Sinclair’s early Chelsea career. It was to be an extremely successful re-kindled partnership, as that season Sinclair helped Rodgers’ Swansea gain promotion to the Premier League, scoring a hat-trick in the play-off final against Reading and finishing the season with a remarkable return of 19 goals in 43 league appearances (27 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions).
Sinclair played every game for Swansea in their first season in the Premier League the following 2011-12 season, scoring eight goals and getting the attention of some big clubs. The following August, Sinclair played and scored in Swansea’s opening game of the season – a 5-0 victory at QPR – but it was to be the winger’s final contribution for the Welsh club, as he signed for champions Manchester City.
It was to be a mistake, in the two and half seasons that have followed, Scott Sinclair has started only two league matches for Manchester City, making a paltry total of 11 appearances in the Premier League for the Citizens.
Scott Sinclair was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion last season, but made only 8 league appearances. This season, Sinclair made only a couple of appearances as a late substitute for City until the end of January, when he joined relegation threatened Aston Villa. Since joining the Villans, Sinclair has come off the bench in 5-0 and 2-1 defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, but on the 10th February, made his first Premier League start since the 21st of December 2013, putting in an underwhelming display before being substituted after an hour of a 2-0 defeat at Hull.
You could argue that Sinclair represents another of the cautionary tales in this list – this one warning young players of taking the money of big clubs without being certain of getting game time. Sinclair has been on the books of top four clubs for seven years of his short career so far, in Manchester City and Chelsea, but both spells look ill-advised, as they have set his career back considerably. Still, Sinclair is reported to earn around £50,000 per week in his four year Manchester City contract, so even if he rarely plays football, he is doing quite well for himself as a professional footballer.
Status : Active.
Current club : Aston Villa (on loan from Manchester City).
Clubs : Bristol Rovers, Chelsea, Plymouth Argyle, QPR, Charlton, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Wigan, Swansea, Manchester City, West Brom, Aston Villa.
One for the future? Soon 26, and with a further year left on his Manchester City contract, Sinclair needs a permanent move away from City sooner rather than later in order to restart his career.
That concludes our ‘where are they now?’ for the players in the Daily Mail’s England team of the future. While only a couple of the players have reached the highest peaks of the Premier League and played European and International football, it’s not a total disaster as is often portrayed, and the majority of them are still working as pros somewhere in the English football pyramid.
Who is your favourite player in the list? The biggest wasted talent? Thanks for reading, and next time you see the image shared, you will know where to point people!