It has been a memorable year for England’s youth teams. With the Under-17s taking on Spain in the World Cup final having lost on penalties to the same opposition in the European Championships, Steve Cooper’s side have a chance to follow the Under-20s, Under-19s and Toulon squad who have all won major tournaments in 2017.
However, a word of warning. Time and sport can be cruel and unforgiving mistresses, and history is littered with those who showed promise but ultimately failed to deliver. Examples in English football include the Under-18 team that won the European Championship in 1993 with Julian Joachim as the star, and the 2009 Under-21 team that reached the European Championship final. Martin Cranie and Scott Loach started that final.
Yet there can be only one true fall from grace. In 2014 Upminster Park Rovers Under-8s beat Barcelona Under-8s in the final of the Barcelona Football Festival. At the time it felt like a new dawn of English football. Alas, for almost all of that squad it just wasn’t meant to be. The answer to the question ‘Where are they now?’ returns some tragic and disturbing answers.
Thomas Burnett – Goalkeeper
Winner of the Golden Glove award in Spain, Burnett’s career was turned on its head when he decided that being in goal was boring and he pushed for a move outfield. Now back in his familiar position, Burnett’s progress has been hampered by a determination to only play in teams for whom ‘rush goalie’ is the default tactic.
Kalvin Ellis – Defender
Fell through the tiers of children’s football soon after Barcelona. Initially joined Hornchurch Urchins, but then moved to Euro Dagenham after failing to break into the side. Now struggling to get a game at Romford Colts, which we all know is only one step from a move to St Clere’s Griffins. A lesson to us all about dedication and perspiration.
Patrick Fox – Defender
Just got really, really fat in the summer between primary and senior school. Has requested to play a sweeper role with less movement, but his coaches are resisting changing the team’s shape just to accommodate his.
Tyler Butler-Harper – Midfielder
You already know the story by now. Butler-Harper moved to Upminster’s greatest rivals, Barkingside Youth, after the manager went on a date with his mum with the underlying intention to poach her son for his team. Such was the fallout after the transfer, Butler-Harper had the head of a dead action man thrown at him by a couple of Barkingside parents in the next away game.
Ryan Johnstone – Midfielder
Career hangs in the balance after he began serving a two-year ban from the Echo Junior Football League after his father, a West Ham supporter, punched a referee in the face for failing to award Rovers a penalty.
“I sat by the fackin’ linesman for 18 years at the Boleyn, and you’re all as shit as each other,” Mr Johnstone explained, before calling referee Anthony Elden a “fackin’ nonce”. Mr Johnstone is now barred from seeing Ryan as a result of a court order, but the player’s ban remains in place while Upminster appeal.
Tom Davies – Midfielder
Plays in central midfield for Everton. The one success story.
Nathan Moore – Winger
A true tale of woe on the wrong side of the tracks. Moore was sent to Brentwood School, where he weekly boards, by his mother after a medium-sized lottery win. Was last season playing rugby on Saturdays and bullying members of the team for refusing to drink each other’s urine on the back seat of the bus on away trips.
Rakeem Parker-Jones – Winger
A dynamic playmaker, Parker-Jones fell out with the rest of his teammates when he spread the subsequently disproved rumour that Leanne Wilkins would kiss anyone for 50p. Given that Mo Sinha was going out with Wilkins at the time, sh*t went down.
Charlie Powell – Striker
Scorer of the brace that downed Barcelona, Powell claimed he’d got a place at West Ham’s academy until everyone found out it was a lie he’d made up for attention after his parents got divorced. Now lives in Colchester with his Mum and moved schools. Powell said he saw him outside Boots with his Mum but was not sure if he still plays.
Mo Sinha – Striker
An excellent striker, Sinha struggled with accusations in tabloid press that he was both a ‘ball hog’ and a ‘time waster’. Caused friction between teammates when he kicked the ball onto the assembly hall roof and forced the team to play British Bulldog for four days.
Jay Boston – Goalkeeper
Jay has found limited playing time since Barcelona. Although he is now a better goalkeeper than Burnett, crucially he is not the coach’s son.