In stark contrast to the bleak English sporting summer of 2014, hope riddled the nation back in 2009, as eager eyes followed the U21 side’s progression to the European Championships final.
As the Golden Generation spluttered and died, a new breed of English footballer seemed to be coming into bloom, with even penalty shootouts proving nothing but a mild inconvenience to Stuart Pearce’s team.
To show off their newfound confidence, Joe Hart was allowed to take a spot-kick in the semi-final win over Sweden, the keeper making up for the suspension that ruled him out of the final.
However, the Young Lions collapsed against Germany, losing 4-0 to a side they had qualified from the group ahead of earlier in the tournament.
More disappointing still, while six of the German side that started the final are likely to line-up again in the World Cup decider against Argentina, just one of England’s starting 11 even made it to Brazil.
After beating the hosts 7-1 in their semi-final, Germany are 31/50 favourites to win the World Cup.
James Milner travelled with Roy Hodgson’s party as nothing more than a useful utility man, and yet he ranks as the most successful of the U21 prodigies of 2009.
Arsenal’s Theo Walcott would have also been in Brazil if not for injury, while Hart is another graduate of Pearce’s unit that has gone on to win senior caps, but most of the rest of the side stand as warnings of how careers can go wrong.
Scott Loach, who stood in for Hart in the final with unimpressive results, was released by Ipswich at the end of last season having played just five times in his final campaign with the Tractor Boys.
Right-back Martin Cranie, who started his career alongside Gareth Bale and Walcott at Southampton’s impressive academy, now plies his trade at League One side Barnsley.
Once Man City teammates, Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha have both seen their career stall, the former rarely used at the Etihad and the latter a bit-part player for QPR, while 2009 substitute Jack Rodwell is also warming the bench for the Citizens.
In midfield, the once-vaunted trio of Adam Johnson, Mark Noble and Lee Cattermole all look a long way from the England set up, even if they are still Premier League stalwarts.
It makes for a depressing roll-call of wasted talent, especially when looking at a German side containing 2009 alumni like Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Mats Hummels.