Italy, Norway, Israel, Iraq, Chile and Egypt. The combined might of England's Under-21 and Under-20 teams failed to muster a single victory against that cluster of teams on the European and world stage this summer, but it seems they can always rely on Scotland.
England's U-21s had never lost to their neighbours in eight previous meetings and they embellished that tradition with this crushing victory at Bramall Lane. It will not erase the memory of their three straight defeats at June's European Championship finals but for Roy Hodgson, the man in temporary charge, it was proof that there is hope after all for the next generation of English footballers.
“The statement that English football has nothing coming through, we certainly put that one to bed tonight,” he said. “Hopefully people who made that statement will have seen the performance. They will struggle to tell me the players out there have no future and no technique.”
Six different players got on the scoresheet for England who, leading 2-0 at half-time through goals from Nathan Redmond and Raheem Sterling, added four more in an 11-minute spell soon after the restart as Scotland collapsed entirely.
Scottish observers will only hope that Gordon Strachan's seniors offer sterner resistance tomorrow evening when Hodgson returns to his day job at Wembley. The fact Billy Stark's visitors did not muster a single serious goal attempt must temper any optimism created, yet there were undoubtedly some encouraging performances. Hodgson singled out the speedy, incisive work of wide men Nathan Redmond - the sponsors' man of the match - and Raheem Sterling, as well as Jonjo Shelvey, who passed the ball well and scored a fine goal. Debutant John Stones, promoted from the U-20s by Hodgson, also caught the eye at right-back. “Without a shadow of a doubt they really did take their chances with both hands,” added Hodgson, the first England manager since Alf Ramsey - who also oversaw the U-23s in his day - to coach two sides simultaneously. “A lot of those players would not be out of place with the senior team.”
Positives then for whoever takes the U-21 post. Interviews are taking place this week, with Gareth Southgate a reported frontrunner, and whoever it is will at least be spared the task of lifting English chins off the floor ahead of England's first European Championship qualifier against Moldova next month. Hodgson has done that for them.
England took just three minutes to open the scoring as Redmond, the newly signed Norwich winger, sped on to Shelvey's ball over the Scotland back line and drove past goalkeeper Jordan Archer. Sterling got the second in the 38th minute, breaking through to score after Redmond's pass had taken a fortuitous deflection off Connor Wickham. A fluffed goal kick by the Scotland goalkeeper led to England's third, the ball falling to Wickham who promptly returned it over Archer's head and into the net.
That was the cue for a rush of goals, substitutes Ross Barkley and Tom Carroll each scoring with confident finishes inside the box either side of Shelvey, who underlined his quality by curling a spectacular fifth from 25 yards.
The only downside for England was the sight of Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah leaving the pitch on a stretcher, although Hodgson suggested it was “a kick to the side of the knee”, rather than something more serious.
England (4-3-3): Butland; Stones, Wisdom (Thorpe, 72), Keane, Robinson; Hughes (Dier, 72), Chalobah (Barkley, 44), Shelvey (Carroll, 58); Redmond (Lingard, 66), Wickham (H Kane, 58), Sterling (Ameobi, 66).
Scotland (4-2-3-1): Archer; Jack (Duffie, 46), McKay, Robertson (Smith, 62), McHattie; Fyvie, Bannigan (Macleod, 79); McGeouch, Armstrong, Feruz (May 62); Watt (Holt, 72).
Referee D Makkelie (Neth).
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