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Former England Under-21 stars that failed to reach potential XI

| 14.01.2015

England have always produced a good crop of young stars, some that have earned Under-21 caps in double figures but ultimately failed to shine on the big stage by gaining fewer than five at senior level.

That got Coral football writers thinking, so we have conjured up a starting XI of current players and former Young Lions that shone so bright, but could not live up to their early potential.

Scott Carson – Goalkeeper
Leeds United have a habit of producing England international goalies, such as David Seaman and Paul Robinson, and Carson’s early potential was evident after making nearly 30 Under-21 appearances and being snapped up by Liverpool from Elland Road.

He gained four senior caps, but his second was in the infamous 3-2 defeat to Croatia, with Carson making a high-profile error along the way which ultimately dented his confidence and career.

Nedum Onuoha – Right back
Versatile defender Onouha is another that gained 20-plus youth appearances for England, and he was highly-rated as a youth graduate from Manchester City. But as the Citizens’ riches and big-money signings grew, his opportunities diminished.

Onouha is now 28 and still playing in the Premier League with QPR, but it is fair to say he’ll never win a senior Three Lions cap.

Michael Mancienne – Centre back
Another versatile player on this list, Mancienne came through Chelsea’s ranks and was tipped as a future star, gaining 30 Under-21s caps. He earned a senior call-up in 2008, but is yet to feature in any games.

Mancienne, who is still eligible for the Seychelles, tried going abroad to Hamburg after failing to break into the Blues’ first team, and now plays for Nottingham Forest.

Steven Taylor – Centre back
Newcastle United’s own Taylor was hotly tipped for future England caps, after making a whopping 29 appearances for the Under-21s, but injuries halted his progress and instead has been restricted to squad call-ups. He is an 11/10 chance to help the Toon to a top 10 finish this term.

Paul Konchesky – Left back
Current Leicester City player Konchesky was unfortunate to be behind the likes of Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines for many years, but he clearly had ability, after being signed for Liverpool and earning two England caps. We perhaps never saw the best of the former Charlton Athletic player, though. Remember that FA Cup final goal against the Reds anyone?

Nigel Reo-Coker – Defensive midfield
Reo-Coker was so highly-rated as a player and leader when he was young, that he was made captain for his first two clubs Wimbledon and West Ham United before the age of 21. His performances with the Hammers earned him a place on the 2006 World Cup standby list, but he never converted his 23 Under-21s appearances into senior caps. The 30-year-old can now be seen playing for MSL outfit Montreal Impact.

David Dunn – Central midfield
Dunn, now 35, has been a loyal servant for Blackburn, but managed just one England cap back in 2002. He was another who was perhaps unlucky due to the talent in front of him, as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes were the preferred choices.

Tom Huddlestone – Central midfield
It is difficult to see how Huddlestone has gained just four senior caps. The former Spurs playmaker is a deadly accurate passer of the ball and has one of the best shots in world football, but Three Lions managers have often overlooked him. He is currently the heartbeat of relegation chances Hull City (13/8).

Jermaine Pennant – Right wing
Pennant has the unfortunate stat of being the only English Champions League finalist to have never won a Three Lions cap. The winger was so promising in his youth, most notably his pace and crossing ability, and earned a £2m move to Arsenal at the age of just 15, however his career stalled and he was never able to turn his 24 Under-21 caps. Most recently Pennant played for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League.

David Nugent – Striker
Former Liverpool academy player Nugent is the only person on this list to have scored a goal for England, which came in his only appearance, against Andorra when he tapped in a shot from Jermain Defoe that was already going in. The 29-year-old is now impressing for Leicester, but it is fair to say he’ll never receive another senior cap.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – Left wing
Agbonlahor will probably regret playing international football for England (three caps), playing instead for one of his parents’ nations Nigeria or Scotland, where he would’ve no doubt gained more appearances.

The Aston Villa clubman, now 28, impressed in his youth with his lightening pace but he, along with the Villans, 11/4 to be relegated, have declined in ability.



Sam Barnard

Sam has been writing for Coral since January 2014, and is the assistant editor of the news site. As well as the main betting sports, football, tennis and cricket, he covers the likes of golf, F1 and darts too, the latter of which has become a particular favourite. Sam enjoys playing as much as writing about sports, but niggling injuries have limited his participation in recent years, so is happy to mainly watch the pros such as Manchester United, Yorkshire CCC, Raymond van Barneveld and even Gibraltar national football team instead.