Where Southgate’s first England XI are now five years after first game
The pessimism that used to come hand-in-hand with being an England fan has finally been washed away — and Gareth Southgate can take the applause for restoring hope within the fanbase.
For it was not so long ago that the Three Lions were left in a bleak situation.
Reeling from an embarrassing Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, their new boss Sam Allardyce was sacked just one game into his reign.
It was left to Southgate, who had been managing the Under-21s at the time, to clear up the mess and lead the nation into a new era, with some exciting talents emerging.
What has followed has been a semi-finals appearance at the 2018 World Cup, reaching the last four of the Nations League and, more recently, an agonising penalty shootout defeat against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
The whole nation has been been backing Southgate and his young side to end the 55-year wait for an international trophy and the World Cup in Qatar could be the place to do it.
Compared to having the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling at his disposal, the lineup Southgate’s selected against Malta for a World Cup qualifier at Wembley was anything but glamorous.
Daily Star Sport has taken a close look at the 11 players who started that day and where they are now…
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GK: Joe Hart
He might have lost his place in the Manchester City side as their number one goalkeeper, but at the time, Joe Hart was still counted on as the top stopper for his country.
Hart was a reliable goalkeeper and with 75 caps for England, he was one of the most experienced figures in the squad.
A loan move to Torino followed in the summer of 2016 before spells at West Ham, Burnley and Tottenham. Now on the books at Celtic, the 34-year-old finds himself out of the international picture with his last cap coming in 2017.
Southgate depends on Everton’s Jordan Pickford as his number one, with Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson providing competition for places.
RB: Kyle Walker
At 31, the Manchester City full-back was the oldest member of England’s Euro 2020 squad. But despite his advancing years, he remains as athletic and rapid as ever.
He retains a regular spot in Pep Guardiola’s defence and, with 38 of his 63 caps for England coming during Southgate’s reign, it is clear the England boss trusts him to do the job at hand.
As proven with Southgate’s decision to name four right-backs in his Euro squad, the clock may be ticking down on his time as a starter at international level.
But Walker has proven himself as a reliable performer in his prime years and that is reflected by the fact he is still starting games five years after the Malta game.
CB: Gary Cahill
When John Terry and Rio Ferdinand retired, there were fears England would struggle without a traditional centre-back, who puts their body on the line.
But up stepped Gary Cahill to fill the void as a leader at the back and he became one of Southgate’s trusted regulars in the team.
At the peak of his powers, the former Chelsea and Crystal Palace man was an imperious presence in the air and fearless in the tackle.
He had given the Blues seven years of loyal service when he decided to join Palace on a free transfer in 2019.
Now 35, Cahill turns out for Championship outfit Bournemouth, with the hope of having one last crack at Premier League football.
CB: John Stones
Like Walker, Stones was one of the few players to keep their place in the England setup from the game against Malta.
At the time of the game, Stones was struggling to justify his £47.5m price tag after arriving at Manchester City from Everton.
But at the age of 27, the centre-back has rediscovered his confidence which sealed his status as one of England’s best ball carriers out from the back.
He recently celebrated winning his 50th cap and remains a key member of the squad. It will be a huge surprise if he is not partnering Harry Maguire in Qatar in 13 months’ time.
LB: Ryan Bertrand
Six loans away from Chelsea preceded his debut in the Champions League final and it is safe to say Ryan Bertrand has never looked back.
He spent eight successful years at Southampton before joining Leicester on a free transfer this summer.
The 32-year-old is rarely viewed as part of the national team picture due to the emergence of Ben Chilwell and return to form from Luke Shaw.
But his 19 caps for England — nine of which came during the year of 2017 — highlight his value to the squad under Southgate.
CM: Dele Alli
The golden boy. The nation’s next big hope. That is what Dele Alli was billed as when he broke into the first team at Tottenham.
He was only 20 at the time, but clearly Spurs had unearthed a gem when they signed the attacking midfielder from MK Dons.
He scored the second of England’s goals that night and became a key player for club and country, playing an important role in their run to the last four of the 2018 World Cup.
But ever since being dropped by Southgate in 2019 due to a poor run of form and spate of injuries, he has never looked the same.
It will take some comeback for the midfielder to force his way back into the reckoning and add to his 37 caps.
CM: Jordan Henderson
Harry Kane may be the official captain but when nobody shouts louder and leads better when Jordan Henderson is on the pitch.
The Liverpool star, 31, has won 66 caps since making his Three Lions debut 11 years ago. No one could have denied he deserved to break his duck when he scored in the 4-0 win against Ukraine in the Euro 2020 last-16 clash.
Perhaps he would be knocking on the door of the centurions’ club had Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard not been around in his early years.
But when he is fit and fired up, he is a crucial member of the England setup — and Southgate will be hoping to rely him on again in the Middle East next year.
RW: Theo Walcott
A player who showed so much potential in his early years, Theo Walcott never quite hit the heights at Arsenal or for England.
The winger was famously called up to Sven Goran Eriksson’s World Cup squad in 2006 when he was just 17 — a clear indicator how how highly he was rated in his teenage years.
But injuries and a lack of opportunities with the Gunners robbed him of his best years with the north London side.
England fans will always remember his hat-trick against Croatia in 2008, but his appearance against Malta marked the beginning of the end of his international career when he was replaced by Marcus Rashford.
Now 32, he was released by Everton in June and opted to return to his roots with Southampton on a free transfer.
CAM: Wayne Rooney
What more can be said about Wayne Rooney, who finished his career as England’s all-time goalscorer and one of the most talented players to ever pull on the shirt?
At Manchester United, there were few defenders capable of limiting his genius on the ball. It was a similar case at international level, although critics will point to his lack of goals in major tournaments as a failure on his part to fire England to glory.
He surpassed the likes of Bobby Charlton and Alan Shearer, despite never really being a traditional striker like his predecessors.
Even it appears likely his haul of 53 goals in 120 caps will be usurped by captain Harry Kane, who at 28 years of age is only 12 behind, his achievements will not be forgetten.
Now 35, Rooney is in charge of Derby County in the Championship in his first non-playing role as the former striker looks to forge a career in management.
LW: Jesse Lingard
In terms of his club and international career, it is very much a case of keeping the stats quo for Jesse Lingard.
He was a prominent member of Gareth Southgate’s early days as England boss before attacking talents such as Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho emerged.
Lingard fell out of the international picture after struggling for first-team action at Manchester United but, after a temporary spell at West Ham where he rediscovered his form in front of goal, the 28-year-old is back at Old Trafford.
He narrowly missed out on a place at Euro 2020 and after notching a few goals this season already, he will be hoping for an opportunity to impress both his club and national bosses.
ST: Daniel Sturridge
It is fair to say no player has endured such a fall from grace than Daniel Sturridge in the five years since facing Malta.
Sturridge was a lethal finisher in his best form at Liverpool and that was reflected by his return of 51 goals in 80 Premier League appearances. In fact, he opened the scoring at Wembley, but it was to be his penultimate goal in an England shirt.
Under Jurgen Klopp he fell out of favour and that affected his international career, despite going out on loan to West Brom. Knee injuries affected his fitness and knocked his confidence, with the club releasing him in 2019.
He was playing for Turkish outfit Trabzonspor when he was banned by the Football Association after being found guilty of breaching betting regulations and was forced to serve a four-month worldwide ban in March 2020.
Now 32, Sturridge signed for Australian side Perth Glory late in September in an attempt to get his career back on track.
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