As Stuart Pearce's men prepare for Portugal, we discover that the Under-21s were once the Under-23s.
England v Portugal2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier
7.45pm, Friday 5 September 2008
Ticket detailsOn Monday, we announced that Stuart Pearce's England Under-21s will play their UEFA Championship qualifier with Portugal at Wembley Stadium on 5 September.
The Friday night fixture is England's final match of the qualifying campaign and they are in pole position to make the play-offs for the 2009 Finals in Sweden.
The Under-21s, of course, made a little bit of history on 24 March 2007 when they took on their Italian counterparts in the first official match at the new Wembley. A crowd of 55,700, obviously a record for an Under-21 international, saw an entertaining 3-3 draw. Giampaolo Pazzini became Wembley's first scorer after just 29 seconds and went on to claim a hat-trick.
The Under-21s were the "Under-23s" before the age level was amended in 1976 to allow England to enter a team in the new UEFA Under-21 Championship and those Under-23s actually played one match at the old Wembley - a little-known fact. The date was 16 October 1957 and Romania provided the opposition.
The match opened sensationally with a superbly taken goal by a young Jimmy Greaves within 50 seconds of the kick-off. The same player made it 2-0 with a diving header before an amazing turn in the game's fortunes, the Romanians quickly drawing level through Ene and Georgescu.
For a while it appeared that England might well lose their grasp on the game - but a partial revival was rewarded with a goal by Newcastle's William Curry on the hour. It finished 3-2 to England.
So why did the Under-23s, who normally played at club grounds, line up at Wembley on that occasion? In the 1957-58 season the England senior team didn't have a Wembley fixture until November - i.e. nothing in August, September or October.
An "intermediate" international was included in the calendar to allow fans another opportunity to visit the world-famous stadium.