At first glance, it’s an England team photo like all the others. Six men stood at the back, arms crossed behind them. Five more squatting awkwardly at the front. None of them smiling.
Look a little closer and the names begin to jump out. Hang on, that’s Rio Ferdinand. Is that a young Steven Gerrard? It is as well. Wait, that’s Frank Lampard in front. And Jamie Carragher next to him. There’s Emile Heskey, Kieron Dyer, Gareth Barry…bloody hell!
Some team. Even more so when you consider it’s not the senior team, but the under-21s, the picture taken 20 years ago ahead of their European Championship play-off against Yugoslavia in Barcelona. A game they won 3-0.
England's Under-21s from 20 years ago had a full array of players who went on to become stars
The picture often finds its way back on to social media, most recently following Barry’s retirement. Carragher posted it a few years ago and claimed it was good enough to beat the current England side.
In a team full of future household names, there’s still one who stands out mainly because he doesn’t. Who’s that skinny ginger kid stuck on the end of the back row?
Andy Campbell, then Middlesbrough striker, scored the opener and set up the third that day as Howard Wilkinson’s team secured their place in the finals. Yet he’s the only player in that starting eleven never to win a full cap.
The rest have 491 combined. Even Seth Johnson got one. For Campbell, though, four appearances for the under-21s was as far as his international career would go. It’s the team photo and cap from this game that hang framed in Campbell’s house.
‘It’s just like it was yesterday,’ Campbell tells Sportsmail. ‘It was a fantastic time in my career to be involved with those kind of players, the Golden Generation, and you knew that those players ƒwere on the brink of something special.
‘It was their arrogance and I mean that in the right way. Rio was a real Rolls Royce, you could tell from a young age he was different class. They knew they were good footballers.
'Rio went into games knowing he was the best defender, Frankie went into games knowing he would score goals, Steve went in knowing he would zing balls here, there and everywhere and lead from the front. They pushed themselves on and pulled others along with them.’
Something Campbell admits, looking back, that he probably didn’t have. ‘I relied on other people to tell me to build my confidence. That is little bit why I struggled at times in my career when things didn’t go for me. The best are able to rely on themselves as well.’
Andy Campbell, formerly of Middlesbrough, did not however win a full international cap
Yet we don’t need Baddiel and Skinner to remind us that that generation never accomplished what they promised. Tournament disappointment after tournament disappointment, the baggage dumped on to the shoulders of those who followed, culminating in England’s defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016. Knocked out by a country with the population of Leicester.
Fitting, perhaps, that England defeated the same opponents on Saturday 1-0 in the Nations League, as Gareth Southgate continues to shape the latest crop, the most exciting bunch since the golden one. Many of those, including Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, were also part of Southgate’s