Football Features

What happened next? England U21s’ top 10 goalscorers of all time

By Squawka News

Published: 17:25, 3 January 2021

When a player breaks straight into the England senior team at a young age, it’s often a sign of their quality.

But a lot of England stars have gone through the ranks of the Three Lions set up, doing their time, so to speak, with the under-21s including a bath of Gareth Southgate’s current squad.

Although the team has largely disappointed in recent years, including the group stage exit at the 2019 European U21 Championships, the Young Lions have previously boasted some wonderful goalscorers.

Some of those have gone on to achieve great things in the game, but unfortunately that isn’t exclusively the case. So, who is who? We’ve taken a look at England’s top ten U21 goalscorers of all time and what happened next.

6= Tammy Abraham

Under-21 record: 9 goals in 26 games

Senior England caps: 6

Senior England goals: 1

Clubs played for: Chelsea, Bristol City (loan), Swansea City (loan), Aston Villa (loan)

Hit or Miss? Hit

As part of Chelsea’s impressive academy, Tammy Abraham has become a key feature of England youth teams, enjoying a good spell with the U21s which he wrapped up with a ninth goal in the 2019 European U21 Championships to join the top 10.

At club level, Abraham had fine goalscoring campaigns in the Championship for Bristol City and Aston Villa, and finally carried that form to the Chelsea first team, being their main striker in 2019/20 and continuing to find the net with regularity in 2020/21.

He has also become more of a part in Gareth Southgate’s senior England squad, scoring one goal in six caps so far.

6= James Milner

Under-21 record: 9 goals in 46 games

Senior England caps: 61

Senior England goals: 1

Clubs played for: Leeds United, Swindon Town (loan), Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Liverpool

Hit or Miss? Hit

England’s most capped player at Under-21 level by a distance with an enormous 46 appearances — Nathaniel Chalobah (40) and Nathan Redmond (38) are second and third respectively — James Milner was a regular for a number of years following his professional breakthrough at Leeds aged 16.

Milner’s last game for the Under-21 was a harrowing one, as England were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the 2009 European Championship final and after that he graduated to the senior squad.

The versatile midfielder earned 61 caps and one goal for England but announced his international retirement in August 2016.

6= Frank Lampard

Under-21 record: 9 goals in 19 games

Senior England caps: 106

Senior England goals: 29

Clubs played for: West Ham, Swansea City (loan), Chelsea, Manchester City, New York City FC

Hit or Miss? Hit

Frank Lampard’s career with the Under-21s spanned three years between 1997-2000, during which he was capped at senior level in 1999 in a 2-1 victory over Bulgaria.

It took a while for Lampard to get going for England as he made only six appearances in the three years that followed his international bow but from 2003 onwards he was a pillar of the side, going on to become his country’s seventh-most capped player of all time, joining Bobby Charlton on 106.

After retiring, Lampard turned to management first at Derby County before returning to Chelsea where he became a legend as a player, being the club’s all-time record goalscorer.

6= Dominic Solanke

Under-21 record: 9 goals in 18 games

Senior England caps: 1

Senior England goals: 0

Clubs played for: Chelsea, Vitesse (loan), Liverpool, Bournemouth

Hit or Miss? Miss

Solanke was a fearsome striker at youth level both for club and country, and was predicted to enjoy a fine career. But that form, which included nine goals in 18 games for England’s U21s, is yet to transfer over to the senior game, with Solanke so far struggling to get regular first-team football at Chelsea and Liverpool.

There were similar struggles for Solanke at Bournemouth but following their relegation to the Championship and the sale of Callum Wilson, the 23-year-old has found his place as the Cherries’ starting striker and is on track to notch double figures for the first time in a single season.

6= Darren Bent

Under-21 record: 9 goals in 14 games

Senior England caps: 13

Senior England goals: 4

Clubs played for: Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Fulham (loan), Brighton & Hove Albion (loan), Derby County, Burton Albion (loan).

Hit or Miss? Hit

Despite playing in the First Division in the early days of his career, Darren Bent became a pivotal member of the Under-21 side between 2003-05 and his excellent form in front of goal for them caught the eye of Charlton, who signed him in 2005.

It was in South London that Bent’s career really took off as he managed a goal ratio of just under one every two games which resulted in Tottenham shelling out £16.5m for his services in 2007.

Bent failed to truly live up to expectations at Spurs, but he enjoyed a successful career in the Premier League nonetheless and managed four senior goals for England too.

5. Nathan Redmond

Under-21 record: 10 goals in 38 games

Senior England caps: 1

Senior England goals: 0

Clubs played for: Birmingham City, Norwich City, Southampton

Hit or Miss? Hit

Nathan Redmond had racked up the appearances for England Under-21s since making his debut back in 2013 but he has just the one senior call-up to his name to date.

The Birmingham City academy graduate has spent the majority of his career in the Premier League – battling against relegation with both Norwich City and Southampton at different stages – although on his day he is a great player to have on your side.

On the international stage, Redmond’s one appearance came in a friendly match against Germany in 2017. After good form for Southampton, the winger did earn a call up to Gareth Southgate’s provisional squad for the Uefa Nations League finals in 2019, though he did not make the final cut. That said, his form under Ralph Hasenhuttl suggests he might come into contention again soon.

4. Saido Berahino

Under-21 record: 11 goals in 12 games

Senior England caps: 0

Senior England goals: 0

Clubs played for: West Brom, Northampton Town (loan), Brentford (loan), Peterborough (loan), Stoke, Zulte Waregem, RSC Charleroi (loan)

Hit or Miss? Miss

Saido Berahino’s outstanding goalscoring record for England at youth level suggested it would only be a matter of time before he was promoted to the senior team and indeed he earned a maiden call-up from Roy Hodgson in 2014.

The Burundi-born striker failed to feature against either Slovenia or Scotland on that occasion and his career has been on a downward spiral ever since, struggling to even get minutes under his belt, let alone score the goals to showcase the ability he teased a few years back.

He now plays international football for Burundi, where he has 13 caps and one goal to his name to date.

2= Francis Jeffers

Under-21 record: 13 goals in 16 games

Senior England caps: 1

Senior England goals: 1

Clubs played for: Everton, Arsenal, Everton (loan), Charlton Athletic, Rangers (loan), Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town (loan), Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle Jets, Motherwell, Newcastle Jets, Floriana, Accrington Stanley

Hit or Miss? Miss

Francis Jeffers looked destined for a career at the very top of the game following 21 goals in 60 games for Everton and 13 in 16 for England Under 21s. He even managed to score on his international debut against Australia in 2003 (a game where Wayne Rooney also featured for the first time).

Unfortunately, he was never able to live up to his early promise and a premature move to Arsenal proved to be the wrong decision as, quite predictably, he was unable to dislodge Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp from the starting XI.

Jeffers retired in 2013 following spells in Australia, Malta and Accrington Stanley in League Two. He is now back at Everton as an academy coach.

2= Alan Shearer

Under-21 record: 13 goals in 11 games

Senior England caps: 63

Senior England goals: 30

Clubs played for: Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United

Hit or Miss? Hit

The Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer with 260 goals, Alan Shearer actually made a relatively slow start to his club career at Southampton and it was with England Under-21 that his goalscoring prowess was first properly showcased.

A ridiculous record of 13 in 11 games secured Shearer a place in England’s Euro 1992 squad and he went on to feature in three more major tournaments for England, including most memorably Euro 1996 where he finished top scorer with five goals.

Shearer opted to retire from England duty after a disappointing Euro 2000 tournament, but he went on to score goals by the hatful for his beloved Newcastle United for a further five years prior to retirement.

1. Eddie Nketiah

Under-21 record: 16 goals in 14 games

Senior England caps: 0

Senior England goals: 0

Clubs played for: Arsenal, Leeds (loan)

Hit or Miss? Hit

Step aside Shearer and Jeffers, there’s a new man a the top of the list.

The bright attacking star of England’s current U21 crop is Eddie Nketiah, and he has flown up the rankings since the start of 2020. Nketiah began last year with eight U21 goals in as many games, but the Arsenal man has unleashed a deluge of strikes to take the record.

Although not a starter for Arsenal, the 21-year-old has been performing well and has already scored a handful of important goals for the Gunners. It will be equally as tough for Nketiah in the England senior team when his U21 time is over, but the Arsenal man has proven he can do it.