Football Features

What happened to the England & Italy U21 sides that opened the new Wembley in 2007?

By Squawka News

What happened to the England & Italy U21 sides that opened the new Wembley in 2007?

Published: 14:00, 15 May 2022

A new dawn was upon us when Wembley Stadium 2.0 arrived in 2007.

England U21s were set to face Italy U21s in what would be the first game played on the hallowed, unused, carpet-quality turf.

It was a memorable occasion for all involved, as not only were the players’ boots the first to touch the grass, but the game was an absolute thriller, finishing 3-3.

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A glorious hat-trick from Giampaolo Pazzini (more on him later) well and truly christened the brand-spanking new goal nets, with the Italian’s first strike coming after just 25 seconds. The game swayed both ways as 55,700 supporters witnessed a cracking start to life at the new Wembley Stadium.

Fast forward 14 years, and a couple of Champions League finals later, Wembley 2.0 played host to these two nations at senior level in last summer’s Euro 2020 final, with a certain Giorgio Chiellini contesting in both matches, and coming up trumps under the arch in the most recent meeting.

But whatever happened to those plucky U21 internationals who had their whole careers ahead of them, and would surely not just be remembered for being the first bunch to play on a new pitch? Well, for some, their Wembley outing would’ve in fact been one of the highlights of their career, whereas others will now be sick of the place.

Here’s what the England and Italy Under 21 sides are up to now.

England Starting XI

Lee Camp

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 5

Appearances for England: 0 

Current club: Wrexham

After signing a professional deal with Derby County in 2002, Lee Camp spent time on loan at Burton Albion, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers, before signing for the latter in 2007.

His performances earned him a call-up to the England U21 side, and he started the first game at Wembley (ahead of Joe Hart), conceding after 25 seconds. Spells at Nottingham Forest, Norwich, West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth and Rotherham United followed, before playing for Sunderland on loan from Cardiff City in 2017/18.

Camp is now enjoying the Ryan Reynolds revolution at Wrexham, leaving Swindon Town at the end of the 2020/21 season and having a brief stint at Clitheroe. In an amazing international turnaround, Camp has also been capped nine times by Northern Ireland, for whom he qualifies via his grandfather.

Liam Rosenior

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 7

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Derby County (assistant manager)

Playing for Reading at the time of his international call-up, Liam Rosenior spent three years at the club and made seven appearances for the England U21s. A competent right-back, he moved to Hull City and played a number of games in the Premier League and Championship.

He signed for Brighton & Hove Albion in 2015 and played 51 games for the Seagulls, helping them to achieve Premier League promotion in 2017.

However, after making just three top-flight appearances for the club, Rosenior made the decision to retire from playing, taking up a position as Brighton’s Under-23 team and as a pundit with Sky Sports. He is now assistant manager to Wayne Rooney at Derby.


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Anton Ferdinand

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 17

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Retired

Anton Ferdinand was a regular for the England U21 side but didn’t ever quite follow in his brother Rio’s highly impressive footsteps. After leaving West Ham United, who he’d signed for as a schoolboy, he spent time at Sunderland and QPR before moving to Bursaspor on loan in 2013.

After getting a taste for the Turkish game he signed a permanent deal with Antalyaspor the following year, before madly joining Thailand-based side Police United after former teammate Jay Bothroyd recommended it to him.

He never actually played a game and signed for English Championship side Reading in 2014, but left in the summer of 2016 to join Southend.

Ferdinand ended his career in the Scottish Premiership with St Mirren, retiring in 2019.

Gary Cahill

Age: 36

Appearances for Eng U21s: 3

Appearances for England: 61

Current club: Bournemouth

Gary Cahill only played three times in the England U21 set-up before being deemed capable enough of stepping up a level. He’s made 61 senior appearances for England since and was the first-choice centre-back for Roy Hodgson’s side at the 2016 European Championships, also making an appearance for Gareth Southgate’s England side at the 2018 World Cup.

After leaving Bolton Wanderers in 2012 he became a regular for Premier League champions Chelsea, winning eight major trophies at the club. His contract expired in 2019 and he joined Crystal Palace, becoming a key member of their defence. He left last summer and was recently part of Scott Parker’s promotion-achieving Bournemouth.

Leighton Baines

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 16

Appearances for England: 30 

Current club: Retired 

Called up to the England senior team in 2009 following Wayne Bridge’s retirement from international duty, Leighton Baines is another player who successfully made the transition from the U21s to a first-team regular for the Three Lions.

He signed for Everton from Wigan Athletic in 2007 and went on to become one of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League. Baines’ eventually saw himself replaced at Everton by Lucas Digne and retired after 13 years with the Toffies in 2020.

David Bentley

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 8

Appearances for England: 7

Current club: Retired 

David Bentley was the first English player to score at the new Wembley after netting the equaliser against Italy U21s. Following an impressive 2006-07 season with Blackburn Rovers, the midfielder was eventually called into Steve McClaren’s England set-up but only made seven appearances at senior level.

After leaving Blackburn he signed for Tottenham Hotspur but, despite showing flashes of brilliance, struggled to impose himself as a first-team regular and was regularly loaned out to lesser sides. In 2013 Bentley retired from football after stating that he simply didn’t enjoy it anymore.

Nigel Reo-Coker

Age: 38

Appearances for Eng U21s: 23

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Retired

Another U21 regular, Nigel Reo-Coker never earned a full senior cap for England. He led the England U21s out on to the pitch as captain against Italy, making him the first Englishman to skipper the side at the new ground.

After leaving Aston Villa in 2011, the midfielder struggled to find another club that he could become a part of, playing for Bolton Wanderers, Ipswich Town, Vancouver Whitecaps and Chivas USA over the next four years.

He was with MLS side Montreal Impact until his contract was terminated by mutual consent. A spell at MK Dons in 2018 came next, but Reo-Coker didn’t make a single appearance and eventually retired.

Kieran Richardson

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 11

Appearances for England: 8

Current club: Retired

Kieran Richardson had undeniable ability but found himself better at playing with a lesser side than one of the big boys. He made eight appearances for England’s senior side after being called up by Sven-Goran Eriksson, but couldn’t hold down a regular place despite scoring twice.

After leaving Manchester United in 2007, he spent five years at Sunderland before moving to Fulham in 2012. The versatile midfielder, who’s often used at left-back, also played in the Championship with Cardiff City following a spell at Aston Villa. He has been a free agent since 2016 and, in October 2019, took to Twitter to aid his search for a new club to no avail. He now owns a company created to source watches for clients.


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Wayne Routledge

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 12

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Retired

Recognised by the England U21 side during his early days at Crystal Palace and Tottenham, Wayne Routledge never truly demonstrated his potential and played only two league games for Aston Villa after moving there in 2008.

Spells at QPR and Newcastle United were largely average, but the winger found a home at Swansea City in 2011, where he made over 300 appearances before retiring in October.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Age: 35

Appearances for Eng U21s: 16

Appearances for England: 3

Current club: Retired

One of the most frustrating strikers to ever play in the Premier League, surely? Gabriel Agbonlahor was blessed with supernatural pace and was also a mainstay in Aston Villa’s side for years. He earned three senior England caps after being handed his debut by Fabio Capello in 2008.

However, he simply hasn’t scored enough goals and, after displaying a horrendous lack of professionalism, left Villa Park in 2018. He subsequently announced his retirement at the age of 32.

Leroy Lita

Age: 36

Appearances for Eng U21s: 9

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Hednesford Town

Leroy Lita played well for Reading between 2005-07 and looked impressive in the Premier League. The forward was called into the England U21 set-up and made nine appearances, scoring six goals. However, he never quite did enough to make the step up to the senior side.

He signed for Middlesbrough in 2009 before moving to Swansea two years later. Lita was mainly loaned out during his time at the Liberty Stadium, and in 2015 following stints at Barnsley and Notts County, he moved to Greek side AO Chania. After just 11 league appearances he returned to England and has also appeared in Thailand with Sisaket.

Now 37 years old, Lita is currently playing for non-league side Hednesford Town.

Substitutes

Ben Alnwick

Age: 35

Appearances for Eng U21s: 2

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Unattached

A Sunderland youth product, Ben Alnwick spent three years at the Stadium of Light before moving to Tottenham in 2007. Spurs loaned the shot-stopper out to seven different clubs before signing for Barnsley in 2012.

He moved to Charlton Athletic after just one season, and following a brief spell at Leyton Orient in 2014, moved again to Peterborough United. Alnwick most recently played for Bolton Wanderers and is now a free agent.

Justin Hoyte

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 18

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Miami Beach CF

Justin Hoyte was a product of the Arsenal youth academy and looked like a special talent as he broke on to the scene in 2002. He spent six years with the Gunners before moving to Sunderland on loan in 2005. Staying in the North East, he moved to rivals Middlesbrough in 2008 and made over 140 appearances for the club.

After joining Millwall in 2014 he left the club after one season and was then released by Dagenham and Redbridge before joining FC Cincinnati. In the end, Hoyte made 18 appearances for the Trinidad and Tobago national team.

Liam Ridgewell

Age: 37

Appearances for Eng U21s: 8

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Retired

Liam Ridgewell made eight appearances for the England U21s between 2004-05. The defender was playing for Aston Villa at the time, where he spent five years. He signed for Birmingham City in 2007 before joining arch-rivals West Brom five seasons later.

In 2014, he made the move to MLS and was part of the Portland Timbers side that won the MLS Cup in 2015. He has spent short-term loan spells with Brighton and Wigan Athletic during his time in America, and most recently played for Southend before retiring in January 2020.

Lee Cattermole

Age: 34

Appearances for Eng U21s: 16

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Retired

First brought into the England U21 side during his time at Middlesbrough, Lee Cattermole spent three years on Teesside before signing for Wigan in 2008. He only played one season with the Latics and returned to the North East, signing for Sunderland in 2009. He made 16 appearances for the U21s but has never earned a senior cap. The midfielder is now retired after leaving Dutch club VVV-Venlo at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.

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James Milner

Age: 36

Appearances for Eng U21s: 46

Appearances for England: 61

Current club: Liverpool 

James Milner was on the bench during the 3-3 draw with Italy but eventually went on to establish himself as one of the senior side’s most valuable players. His versatility and midfield ability earned him his first call-up in 2009, and Milner made 61 appearances for the England national side before calling time on his international career following Euro 2016.

After spending five years at Manchester City, Milner has become one of Jurgen Klopp’s most trusted midfield generals at Liverpool, helping the Reds win the 2019 Champions League final and 2019/20 Premier League, and recently scoring a penalty in the Reds’ most recent FA Cup win over Chelsea.

Tom Huddlestone

Age: 35

Appearances for Eng U21s: 32

Appearances for England: 4

Current club: Hull City

Tom Huddlestone received a call-up for the England U21 set-up during his time at Tottenham. The talented central midfielder made over 150 appearances at Spurs and was called into England’s senior side by Fabio Capello in 2009.

He made just four appearances for the side and signed for Hull City in 2013 before returning to Derby County and then back to Hull.

Ashley Young

Age: 36

Appearances for Eng U21s: 10

Appearances for England: 39

Current club: Aston Villa

Ashley Young was very highly rated from a young age and was brought into the England U21 set-up during his last season at Watford. After signing for Aston Villa the following year, the midfielder was called into Steve McClaren’s senior Three Lions side in 2007.

He has gone on to earn 39 caps for England, playing in Euro 2012 and the 2018 World Cup. Young made the move from Manchester United to Inter Milan after nine years at Old Trafford in 2020 and helped Antonio Conte’s side win Serie A, before returning to Aston Villa.

Cameron Jerome

Age: 35

Appearances for Eng U21: 10

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: Luton Town

Cameron Jerome was selected for the England U21s during his time at Cardiff City and then Birmingham City between 2005 and 2007. The towering striker didn’t manage to score a goal in his 10 appearances, and even after moving to Premier League side Stoke City in 2011 couldn’t earn himself a senior cap.

After a spell on loan at Crystal Palace during the 2013-14 season and having spent time at Norwich, Jerome had a brief spell at Derby County before moving on to Turkish side Goztepe. Jerome is now back in England, joining Luton Town in the Championship last summer and trying to help the club gain promotion to the Premier League in this season’s play-offs.

Joe Hart

Age: 35

Appearances for Eng U21s: 21

Appearances for England: 75

Current club: Celtic

In 2007, Joe Hart was third in command for England’s U21s and enjoyed a wonderful rise to the top thereafter. The shot-stopper signed for Manchester City in 2006 from Shrewsbury Town and established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. However, since Pep Guardiola’s arrival at City, poor spells at Torino and West Ham dented Hart’s reputation. The 35-year-old hardly improved his chances of an England recall at Burnley or Tottenham, but he recently won the Scottish Premiership with Celtic.

Matt Derbyshire

Age: 36

Appearances for Eng U21s: 14

Appearances for England: 0

Current club: AEK Larnaca

Matt Derbyshire had all the characteristics to become one of England’s finest centre-forwards but a large dip in form after leaving Blackburn in 2009 put an abrupt end to his chances.

The striker spent time at Olympiacos, Birmingham, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Blackpool and Rotherham but is now plying his trade with AEK Larnaca.

Italy Starting XI

Gianluca Curci

Age: 36

Appearances for ITA U21s: 22

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

A serial attendee at youth level, Gianluca Curci was called up to the Italy senior side in 2009 but didn’t make an appearance. The goalkeeper who started at Roma has played for the club on two separate occasions and also spent time at Sampdoria and Siena. Having played at Bundesliga outfit Mainz 05, he most recently played for Hammarby IF in Sweden.

Alessandro Potenza

Age: 38

Appearances for ITA U21s: 27

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

Mainly remembered for his promising spells at Parma and Fiorentina, Alessandro Potenza represented the Italy U21s 27 times but never made the step up to senior level. After spending time at Genoa, Catania, Modena and Foggia, the defender played for Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League.

He has since called time on his playing career and moved into management, last taking charge of Arezzo.

Andrea Mantovani

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 16

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

After signing for Chievo in 2005, Andrea Mantovani went on to spend six years at the club and earned 16 call-ups to the U21 Italy international fold. The versatile defender who could play centre-back or left-back moved to Palermo in 2011, before signing for Perugia in 2015.

A two-year spell with Novara was then sandwiched between spells with Vicenza, whom he left in 2019.

Marco Andreolli

Age: 35

Appearances for ITA U21s: 24

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

Despite starting his career at Internazionale and Roma, it wasn’t until 2010 when Marco Andreolli finally found a club he could enjoy playing for. The defender was called up to the U21 fold during his loan spells at Vicenza and Sassuolo but never did enough to earn himself a senior cap.

After leaving Chievo in 2013 he returned to Inter but was once again frozen out of the team. Andreolli tried his luck in Spain with a spell at La Liga side Sevilla on loan. A stint at Cagliari was followed up by another spell at Chievo.

Giorgio Chiellini

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 26

Appearances for Italy: 111

Current club: Juventus 

Giorgio Chiellini has been, and still is, an absolutely world-class central defender. An imperious figure at the back for the Azzurri, Chiellini has since gone on to make a century of appearances for his national side since stepping out at the new Wembley in 2007.

After starting out at Livorno in 2000, he moved to Roma two years later but was immediately loaned back to his former side.

The centre-back then signed for Fiorentina and spent the 2004-05 season at the club before Juventus came calling. The rest, as they say, is history. Chiellini led Italy to Euro 2020 glory last summer and has announced he will leave Juve at the end of this season after 18 years of service.

Alessandro Rosina

Age: 38

Appearances for ITA U21s: 32

Appearances for Italy: 1

Current club: Retired

An Italian one-cap wonder, Alessandro Rosina made 32 appearances for the Italy U21 side and finally got his reward in 2007, when he played for the senior side in a friendly against South Africa.

Aside from a three-year spell at Zenit St Petersburg from 2009, Rosina spent his whole career in Italy (mainly with Torino), finally retiring in 2020.

Riccardo Montolivo

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 19

Appearances for Italy: 66

Current club: Retired

Riccardo Montolivo established himself as a key player for the national senior side after rising through the ranks of the Italian youth levels and now has 66 caps to his name.

The playmaker started off at Atalanta before moving to Fiorentina in 2005, spending seven successful years at the club. He made over 150 appearances for AC Milan but left San Siro at the end of his contract in 2019.

Antonio Nocerino

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 9

Appearances for Italy: 15

Current club: Retired

After starting out at the Juventus youth academy, Antonio Nocerino spent five years out on loan before signing for Palermo in 2008. His performances prior to the move for Piacenza earned him nine call-ups to the Italy U21 side, and in 2007 was also selected in Roberto Donadoni’s senior team.

The midfielder has made 15 appearances in total for the national team, and after brief spells at West Ham United, Torino, Parma and Orlando City, is now a retired having left Benevento.

Giampaolo Pazzini

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 22

Appearances for Italy: 25

Current club: Retired 

The man of the moment. Giampaolo Pazzini scored a hat-trick during the first game at Wembley, finding the net after just 25 seconds. Since his impressive performance, the striker picked up 25 caps for the senior Italian side and scored four goals.

He was mainly selected for the side during his time at Sampdoria, and since leaving the club in 2011 (moving to Internazionale) has announced his retirement from international football. Pazzini then called time on his club career in November 2020, last representing Hellas Verona.

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Giuseppe Rossi

Age: 35

Appearances for ITA U21s: 16

Appearances for Italy: 30

Current club: SPAL

Another player who rose through the national youth ranks and into the senior Italian side, Giuseppe Rossi made 30 appearances for Italy and scored seven goals. After a great six years at Villarreal, he left the Yellow Submarines and signed for Fiorentina, where he once again found form.

A terrible injury hampered his development and after playing for Celta Vigo (on loan) and Genoa, Rossi is became a free agent. He trained with Manchester United in 2019 but is now turning out for SPAL.

Simone Padoin

Age: 38

Appearances for ITA U21s: 7

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Juventus (technical collaborator)

Simeone Padoin hasn’t earned at first-team call-up to the national team, despite starting as one of the attacking three against England during their U21 match at Wembley. The versatile midfielder spent long spells at Vicenza and Atalanta between 2003 and 2012 and has now retired, holding a role as ‘technical collaborator’ with Juventus at the minute.

Substitutes

Emiliano Viviano

Age: 36

Appearances for ITA U21s: 5

Appearances for Italy: 6

Current club: Fatih Karagumruk

Emiliano Viviano has made six first-team appearances for Italy, after making his debut in 2010 while playing for Bologna. After leaving the club for Internazionale in 2011, he spent one year at the San Siro before signing for Palermo.

Two loan spells at Fiorentina and Arsenal followed before the shot-stopper made 115 appearances at Sampdoria. The veteran ‘keeper is now playing in Turkey with Fatih Karagumruk.

Andrea Coda

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 5

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

Andrea Coda’s early signs of promise during his time at Empoli earned him a move to Udinese in 2006, and he went on to spend nine years at the club. The centre-back never did enough to earn himself a senior cap (although he has faced some pretty stiff competition) and, after playing for Pescara, most recently turned out for Aglianese Calcio in Serie D.

Arturo Lupoli

Age: 34

Appearances for ITA U21s: 5

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: ASD Imperia 1923

Some might remember Arturo Lupoli from his early days at Arsenal. He only ever made one league appearance for the Gunners and was sold to Fiorentina in 2009.

His early signs of promise quickly disappeared and he went on to have a very average career playing for Ascoli, Grosseto, Budapest Honved, Frosinone and Pisa. He returned back to the latter after a loan spell at Catania in the 2015/16 campaign. He now plays for ASD Imperia 1923.

Raffaele De Martino

Age: 36

Appearances for ITA U21s: 2

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: ASD Pontinia 

Called up to the U21 side after signing for Udinese in 2006, Raffaele De Martino spent two years at the club before moving to Avellino. He struggled to develop, despite looking promising at Roma during his youth, and played for Crotone, Nocerina and Paganese, before floating around Italy’s lower leagues.

Daniele Dessena

Age: 35

Appearances for ITA U21s: 25

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Virtus Entella

Midfielder Daniele Dessena made 25 appearances for the Italian U21 side but has never made a senior appearance. His career looked promising during his early days at Parma and Sampdoria, but he never reached his full potential.

The 32-year-old signed for Cagliari in 2009 before returning to his former side just one season later. Then in another strange twist, he returned back to Cagliari in 2012 before joining Brescia at the beginning of 2019 (leaving in 2021). He now plays for Virtus Entella.

Andrea Raggi

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21s: 3

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired

Called into the U21 Italian set-up during his last season at Empoli, Andrea Raggi never truly reached his potential and flopped at Palermo, who he signed for in 2008. He went on to make over 100 league appearances for Monaco – winning the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title and restoring his reputation – before leaving in 2019.

Graziano Pelle

Age: 36

Appearances for ITA U21s: 11

Appearances for Italy: 20

Current club: Unattached

Graziano Pelle has 20 caps for the Italian senior side after being handed his debut in 2014, aged 28. The striker was impressive for former club Southampton, as well as performing exceptionally for Feyenoord prior to his arrival in the Premier League. Now he’s plying his trade in China for Shandong Luneng.

He was part of Antonio Conte’s squad for the 2016 European Championships, scoring twice in four appearances as Italy reached the quarter-finals.

Domenico Criscito

Age: 35

Appearances for ITA U21s: 26

Appearances for Italy: 26

Current club: Genoa 

Domenico Criscito is a fine left-back and has earned himself 26 senior Italy caps since making his debut in 2009 in a friendly against Switzerland. The defender failed to establish himself at Juventus in 2007 but performed well at Genoa over the next four years. In 2011, he signed for Zenit St Petersburg, spending seven years in Russia before returning to Genoa.

Gabriele Paonessa

Age: 35

Appearances for ITA U21s: 6

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Retired 

Gabriele Paonessa has spent almost his entire career out on loan, despite playing for both Bologna and Parma. He’s been sent on eight loan spells at Vicenza twice, Avellino, Cesena, Gubbio, Como, Perugia and Crotone. Paonessa never fulfilled his potential at club level and retired in 2016 without a single senior cap for Italy.

Andrea Lazzari

Age: 37

Appearances for ITA U21: 9

Appearances for Italy: 0

Current club: Vigor Senigallia

Starting his career with Atalanta, Andrea Lazzari moved to Cagliari in 2008 and performed well during his three years at the club. He then moved to Fiorentina, where he only made 36 appearances in four years and subsequently moved to Carpi in 2015. After rarely playing for the White and Reds, he moved to Bari in 2016. He now plays for lower league club Vigor Senigallia.

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