Nine Stoke City players to win England under-21s caps – where are they now?


Joe Bursik will become only the 10th Stoke City player to get an England under-21s cap when he starts this evening against Albania.

The 20-year-old goalkeeper has already played for England at under-17s, 18, 19 and 20 level, winning the under-17 World Cup and finishing as runners-up in the European Championships back in 2017.

It is a rare distinction and Bursik, who is on a season-long loan at Doncaster Rovers, has a long-term contract at Stoke with high hopes for his future. He’s even been spotted taking the odd direct free-kick like Jose Luis Chilavert.

So what happened to the first nine Stoke players who played for England under-21s?

Garth Crooks (4 caps, 3 goals)

Crooks was such a local lad at Stoke City that he grew up kicking a ball against a wall outside the Victoria Ground.

He flew the flag for St Peter’s in Penkhull when he graduated through Stoke’s youth ranks under the tutelage of the recently retired Gordon Banks – and made his debut alongside Greenhoff, Hudson, Smith, Conroy and Shilton as an 18-year-old in April 1976.

He was one of the stars of the team which won promotion back to the top flight under Alan Durban in 1979 and his 12 goals the next season included a hat-trick against West Brom.

Tottenham came calling with a £600,000 offer in 1980 – and there he won two FA Cups and the Uefa Cup – but there would be no senior cap.

Crooks later had spells at Manchester United, West Brom and Charlton and has remained a high profile figure in the game, as chairman of the PFA, a prominent anti-racism campaigner and pundit for the BBC.

But that very first memory still holds strong.

He later said: “The most valuable memory for me playing at the Victoria Ground was making my debut. The transition from being a Stoke supporter to becoming one of their players was just amazing.

“I spent the first few moments just staring at where I used to stand in the Boothen End.

“No one can imagine what a thrill that was for me, not to mention the most extraordinary feeling. To pull on that red and white shirt and run onto the pitch as a first-team player was electrifying.

“I’ve played for four other clubs since, but none of them ever quite matched that feeling.”

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Lee Chapman (1 cap, 0 goals)

Lee Chapman received a headbutt and a torrent of boos rather than a hero’s welcome on one of his first visits to the Victoria Ground after leaving Stoke City.

He was “determined to reply to abuse from his former fans” when he came back in a Sheffield Wednesday top in September 1984, smashing Chris Maskery to the turf and earning a retaliatory kick from Brendan O’Callagahan and a nut from Paul Dyson. A cut above his left eye needed six stitches but he hurtled back into the fray and laid out Maskery again.

What had happened to make their one-time homegrown striker so unpopular?

The truth is that he had a tough task winning them around in the first place.

The big fair-headed front man, the son of former Lincoln and Port Vale striker Roy Chapman, had trained with Stoke as an associate schoolboy and played for George Easthan’s A team while he was at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.

He deferred a place at Manchester University for a degree in chemistry and business studies to make his first team breakthrough at the age of 19 in 1979/80, scoring on his debut in the League Cup at Swindon.

He had netted three by the end of the campaign as Alan Durban’s side stayed up but he was raw and critics were quick.“Naturally it was an ordeal at first but it equipped me to handle crowd reaction,” he said as he prepared for his second season, benefiting from work on his physique.

He hit 17 goals to become the top scorer that term. That tally included hat-tricks against Norwich and Leeds, and he was called up for the England under-21s … but became unsettled when Stoke refused to meet his wage demands as his contract ran out that summer.

He eventually signed a one-year deal despite interest from Sunderland, Notts County, Everton, Manchester City, Manchester United and Birmingham.

His decision to stay was not least because he was settled in the area, having just bought himself a new bungalow.

“If the fans start to get behind us we can go places,” he said and spent the summer honing his game with new manager Richie Barker. He went on to score four goals in his first three games of 1981/82.

“He is finally coming to be accepted by his critical fans,” wrote the Sentinel’s Peter Hewitt as he went on to be the 17-goal top scorer again. But that was before he was threatened with suspension by the club when he refused to extend his contract.

Arsenal came calling and he signed before Stoke could tell him that he was also wanted by Manchester United, with a tribunal setting the fee at £500,000. In time he would go on to score 179 top flight goals and also win the title with Leeds.

In retirement, he was one of the celebrity victims, along with wife Leslie Ash, in the News of the World hacking scandal.

He has opened a cocktail bar in Clapham this year – and he has a Chelsea season ticket, despite being a Leeds fan.

“Leeds will always be my team – but it’s 10 minutes’ walk from where I live,” he said.

“I meet up with a few friends, have lunch, go to the match and enjoy a few beers afterwards. It’s nice going as a fan, but I’d like to get back into punditry.”

He added in an interview back in the spring: “I’d have scored a lot of goals in today’s Premier League, definitely.

“Most centre-halves now want to be creative midfield players as opposed to actual defenders.

“There are certain players I’d have a field day against because they don’t like to put their head in where it hurts whereas I did.”

Adrian Heath (5 caps, 2 goals)

Adrian Heath said he would never forget some sage advice from Terry Conroy: “Always do your best because you never know who is watching.”

The problem at first, however, was that the person watching Heath at ladsandads was then-Port Vale number two Reg Berks, who decided the young lad known as “Inchy” would be better suited to life as a jockey.

Heath, who used to walk the six miles from Knutton to play at Trubshaw Cross, had better luck with Stoke scout Cliff Birks, who was also responsible for taking Denis Smith, Jackie Marsh and Steve Bould to the Victoria Ground.

He made his debut at 17 in a League Cup tie at Northampton – “They had a rope running down one side of the pitch. It wasn’t exactly glamorous.” – and quickly became one of the most sought-after young players in the country, snapped up by title-chasing Everton before he turned 21.

“I know everyone says it, but it really was a dream come true to play for Stoke,” he said. “I was a Stoke fanatic as a boy, and my dad and I barely missed a game, home or away, for several seasons.”

Stoke City star Adrian Heath started out playing football with Ladsandads.
Stoke City star Adrian Heath started out playing football with Ladsandads.

Adrian Heath helps promote a 'Slim with Stoke City' campaign in October 1981.
Adrian Heath helps promote a ‘Slim with Stoke City’ campaign in October 1981.

Heath made two appearances in 1978/79 as Stoke won promotion to the top flight under Alan Durban and became a fixture in the side the following season. He was used up front by Durban’s successor Richie Barker, who told off Dave Sexton for playing him in midfield for England under-21s.

But Heath did not relish a strike partnership with fellow youth graduate Lee Chapman – and he was suspended by the club for a week when he slapped in a transfer request in August 1981.

Yet within three months Barker needed to issue a hands-off warning to Everton and defending champions Villa. And by January 1982 he was gone for a club record £700,000 to be reunited with old Stoke team mate Howard Kendall at Goodison Park.

Barker said: “The directors did not particularly want to sell. It was my decision. I hope he enjoys his football there. It was the right time for him and for me.”

It certainly was for Heath, who won two League Championship medals, four Charity Shields, reached three FA Cup finals and picked up a European Cup Winner’s medal.

And there was still room for one more medal, returning to Stoke in 1992 to help Lou Macari’s side win the Autoglass Trophy.

Heath moved into coaching and managed Burnley, Sheffield United and Coventry before crossing the Atlantic to take charge of Austin Astex, Stoke’s sister club Orlando City and, since 2017, Minnesota United.

Mark Chamberlain (4 caps, 1 goal)

Mark Chamberlain grew up in Longport opposite the Trubshaw Cross pitches and played ladsandads with brother Neville before starring for Port Vale and Stoke City.

Starring is an understatement. In his last season at Vale and his first two with Stoke, he was lightning, frightening and, at his very best, up there with the most exciting wingers in the world.

He has since spent a good chunk of his life on the south coast but he’ll always be a Stokie.

That’s been seen – and heard, he hasn’t lost any of his accent – by the millions tuning in for ITV’s hit show Harry’s Heroes back in May, watching Harry Redknapp take a squad of ex-England players around Europe before a match against a team of Germany legends.

In one episode they were in Italy and John Barnes led the group to a viewpoint overlooking Florence.

“Boys, have a look at this view,” said Barnes. “It can’t get better than that. All we need is a bit of sunshine.”

Chamberlain told him: “It looks like Stoke-on-Trent, Barnsey.”

John Barnes shows off Florence to Harry Redknapp.

Chamberlain was born to Jamaican-born parents Banny and Anastasia, who had arrived in England in the 1960s, and if the world seems a very different place looking back – he has always been the same, difficult-to-rattle character.

Son Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain recalled in an interview with the  Independent:  “My dad is one of those who doesn’t care. I remember him telling me a story about someone throwing a banana at him during a game. He picked it up, peeled it and said thanks – then just carried on playing.

“He used to tell me that he’d walk home from school with his sisters, they used to get stones thrown at them. They had to fight and protect themselves but you have to get on with it.

“That’s what he did. He used to go to England trials on his own, not knowing anyone. The other boys were at Aston Villa, Arsenal and Everton. He was at Port Vale.

“He had to overcome loads of stuff like that. That’s the sort of character he is. He just gets on with what he’s got to do and doesn’t worry too much about what everyone thinks.”

Chamberlain had been a precocious talent but he shunned interest from clubs including Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, then one of the best in Europe, to make his breakthrough in Burslem, having also picked up a Sentinel Cup winner’s medal.

He made his full debut for Vale at the age of just 17 in April 1979, against Barnsley.

And he scored a brilliant goal in defeat against Huddersfield two days later, easing past two challenges before scoring with a swerving effort from the edge of the area.

“Sometimes I tend to overdo it, but this is through habit, which I still have to get out of,” he told The Sentinel at the time.

“It was so easy for me to go past players at school that I did it all the time.

“It was my games master who was responsible for me eventually playing wide. I used to operate either up front or in midfield, but he encouraged me to get out of the mud and go on the wings to use my pace.

“I always wanted to play professional football and the fact that I did not fancy travelling too far from home led me to Vale Park when clubs like Nottingham Forest and a few others were interested.

“My brother Neville was also at the club so I was happy to go to Vale.”

There is a story that Mark and Neville used to change shirts at half-time to confuse opponents who had been scared stiff in the first period.

Whatever, he was named in the PFA Division Four team of the season for 1981/82, the Daily Star Division Four player of the year – and signed for Stoke on the eve of the next campaign.

The state of Vale’s finances forced them to reluctantly accept a £150,000 joint offer for the winger and keeper Mark Harrison, with boss John McGrath suggesting he was probably worth more like £500,000 on his own.

Mark Chamberlain at the Victoria Ground in October 1982

Rarely has a player made such an immediate impact on the Boothen End than when Chamberlain was handed his debut on the opening day against Arsenal.

His pace immediately got England left-back Kenny Sansom into a tremendous panic and that won a corner for George Berry to give Stoke an early lead.

The thrills continued and Stoke fans were in raptures in the 50th minute when he ran at Sansom in the box and sent a ball over for Brendan O’Callaghan to make it 2-0. “Brendan has waited four years for a cross like that,” said Barker.

The fun continued and in Chamberlain’s third game, away at Birmingham, he gave left-back Phil Hawker a roasting.

It was that match when Stoke were 4-0 up at half-time with some of the best play the club had ever produced – and he had scored one of the best goals.

He picked the ball up on the halfway line when a corner was cleared, beat Pat van den Hauwe and Geoff Scott and set off for goal. Hawker came across and was skinned and everyone else was left for dead

He scored with a header too, forced Hawker into an own goal and smashed a volley against the bar for Peter Griffiths to knock in from close range.

“Richie Barker was at a loss for words at half-time,” he said. “I don’t think he’d ever seen anything like the football we were playing.

“My first goal was a special, special goal and I still remember it vividly. It actually hurts that there were no TV cameras.”

Mark’s brother Neville followed in his footsteps from Vale the following month but it was the impact of another new boy, Mickey Thomas, together with a central midfield of Paul Bracewell and Sammy McIlroy that really got things motoring.

By mid-October, Stoke were seventh and Chamberlain was in the England squad. Two months later he was handed his international debut and netting from the bench in a 9-0 rout of Luxembourg.

It was such electric form that Chamberlain was becoming a household name. He even  guest starred on The Sooty Show.

Mark Chamberlain was a guest star on kid’s TV show Sooty.

By April, Stoke were fifth and looking up but Chamberlain’s breakthrough season at the top was interrupted by injury and his side tumbled out of contention for a UEFA cup spot.

That disappointment paled in significance next to Barker’s decision to go on a close-season coaching course run by FA experts at Lilleshall and come back fully converted to the long ball game.

Chamberlain said: “We had really good players like McIlroy, O‘Callaghan and Dave Watson. Barker tried to coach us into the long-ball game after going on courses with the likes of Howard Wilkinson, but it just didn’t suit us.

“We had a good nucleus of old pros and youngsters like myself, Paul Bracewell and Steve Bould. The older players left when they saw what was happening.”

Two disastrous seasons followed although they stayed up first time around thanks to a major upturn in form after Barker was replaced by Bill Asprey.

Chamberlain made another seven appearances for England, including in a 2-0 win over Brazil in the Maracana Stadium in 1984, where he and John Barnes were dubbed “more Brazilian than Brazilians”.

But even he could not prevent Stoke’s painful relegation in 1985… and turning down Chelsea to join a Sheffield Wednesday side managed by Wilkinson for £300,000 did not go well.

“It was an eye-opener,” he said. “All I did was chase the ball. At training we constantly worked on corners and throw-ins and then went on a 14-mile run.”

It picked up when he moved to Portsmouth in 1988, where he was unlucky to lose an FA Cup semi-final to Liverpool in 1992, but Sansom and Co would breath a sigh of relief he was never to hit those heights again.

Since hanging up his boots, he has worked as a coach, including in the Southampton Academy as Alex was making his way through the ranks.

To the wider world it seems like he had been pulled from the cold to star again on television by Harry Redknapp.

But he will always be remembered fondly in the north and south of the Potteries.

Ian Painter in action for Stoke City.
Ian Painter in action for Stoke City.

Ian Painter (1 cap, 0 goals)

Ian Painter’s greatest day in a Stoke shirt started off with him having to deal with a coach-load of Wolves fans.

Painter came through the ranks at the Victoria Ground but grew up surrounded by Wolves fans in Wombourne.So it came to pass on Boxing Day 1984 that Painter’s mates went to watch their own side in an 11am kick-off at Shrewsbury… then decided to make a de-tour on the way home to watch Stoke against Manchester United.

“I was told someone wanted a ticket but when I got to the door I found out they wanted 52!” said the forward.

“Bill Asprey got them tickets next to Ron Atkinson’s dug out.”

They were in for a treat as 19-year-old Painter scored one and made another in a famous 2-1 win.

He buried a 70th minute penalty high into the net to level the game at 1-1 before Carl Saunders struck to seal what was only one of three victories all season.

Painter ended that term as nine-goal top scorer, including six in the league, but the team was relying too heavily on him and his former youth teammates.

Confidence grew back in the lower division under Mick Mills but Painter was consigned to the sidelines with hamstring and groin problems – using trampolines, electrodes and acupuncture in a bid for fitness.

He was still called up for England under-21s – losing 2-0 to Italy in Pisa with goals from Roberto Donadoni and Gianluca Vialli.

He later turned down a two-year contract to sign for Coventry City Football Club for £85,000 that summer.

“I desperately want to play First Division football again,” he told us at the time.

It did not have a happy ending, however, as injuries returned and he only played three games before retiring at the age of 23.

Now aged 55, went on to run a sports shop in Wombourne and has had spells managing Bilston Town, Stafford Rangers and Hednesford.

Steve Parkin (6 caps, 0 goals)

Nobody could have blamed Steve Parkin for getting carried away in March 1983.

At the age of 17, he was pulled out of a reserve game at Witton to make his first team debut for a Stoke side chasing a UEFA Cup spot against Nottingham Forest.

He impressed to the extent Colin Walsh was substituted – he kept replacement John Robertson quiet too – and he was whisked off to Cannes with the England under-17s.

It all meant he was ‘excused apprentice duties for one day’ as a reward.

But he told the Sentinel: “I helped in the cleaning up work anyway. I suppose it brought me quickly down to earth again but I enjoy the job anyway.”

Parkin had actually turned down the chance to join Forest from school and he went on to captain Stoke to the FA Youth Cup final in 1984 a year after his first team debut, losing 4-2 on aggregate against Everton.

It remains the best Stoke have ever managed in the competition.

The Sentinel’s Peter Hewitt wrote: “The skipper’s determined example will make him a name to note for the future.”

Parkin, nicknamed Billy, made infrequent senior appearances – not least because he needed surgery to remove a bone in his thigh following a blood calcification – until 1986/87 when Mick Mills made him a fixture in the team that would push for the play-offs.

Lee Dixon was flying at right-back so he switched to the left. He was called up for England under-21s in February 1987 on the back of winning the Midlands award for Fiat Uno Young Player of the Month, with Arsenal’s Tony Adams taking the national honour.

“Parkin is not a stylist,” said Hewitt, “but is gaining in confidence and laughed off the ribbing he received in the dressing room when the call-up news came through.”

He was player of the year in 1987/88 but persistent groin problems started to limit his game time and in the summer of 1989 he left for West Brom in the hope of a fresh start.

Stoke demanded £500,000, the Baggies offered £100,000 and a tribunal set compensation at £190,000.

Mills said: “We are very disappointed both in losing the player and for getting what we regard as an insufficient fee.”

The injuries never really cleared up but Parkin went on to make his name on the other side of the touchline.

He became, with Mansfield at the age of 30 in 1992, the youngest manager in the league. As a coach he helped Hull win promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and he has also had spells in charge of Rochdale and Barnsley.

Currently assistant to Phil Parkinson at Sunderland.

Ian Moores celebrates a late, late winner to complete a Stoke City turnaround and beat Wolves in the chase for the title in 1975.

Tony Allen (7 caps, 0 goals) 

John Farmer (1 cap, 0 goals) 

Mike Bernard (3 caps, 0 goals)

Mike Pejic (8 caps, 0 goals) 

Alan Hudson (5 caps, 0 goals)

Alan Dodd (6 caps, 0 goals) 

Ian Moores (2 caps, 0 goals)

Jimmy Greenhoff (1 cap, 0 goals)

Carl Beeston (1 cap, 0 goals)

Carl Beeston’s last game for Stoke City was a 2-1 win West Brom, which was also the final game at the beloved Victoria Ground.

A stark comparison in atmosphere to his first game for the club, making his debut on the final day of the 1984/85 relegation season as Stoke lost to Coventry and went down with barely a whimper from Division One.

Beeston had been thrown into action by the man that offered him a professional contract, Tony Lacey, who took over from Bill Asprey with eight games to go.

He later recalled: “Being a fan and then the next minute you’re on the pitch was surreal. There were no real nerves, as soon as you start having a bit of a laugh with the lads and you step onto the pitch, any real nerves disappear.”

He added: “If it wasn’t for Lace (Tony Lacey), I don’t think I would have been given a professional contract. “I was too lazy and Lace gave me a different way of thinking, which was basically getting me off my backside.

“It was just too easy for me and I just couldn’t snap out of it. The games weren’t easy, I could just play football – it was as if I didn’t have to think.”

The next two seasons would be tough, with limited starts in the 1985/86 campaign and then he contracted glandular fever which led to him missing the whole of the 1986/87 season after spending six months bed-ridden.

“It nearly ruined me. I just thought I’d got the ‘flu and then they found out I had glandular fever – I was in bed solidly for six months,” he said.

“I actually met Seb Coe through it. He gave me advice on how to recover because he went through something similar.”

The long wait for Beeston’s return was certainly worth it as he returned to Mick Mills’ side and earned himself an England under-21 call-up after Arsenal defender Martin Keown pulled out of the squad because of injury.

Beeston took to the field with David Rocastle, David Platt, Vinnie Samways and Paul Gascoigne.

He said: “Vinnie Samways was there from Tottenham, he was brilliant. Him and Gazza were the ones, they were brilliant together.”

“Gazza’s just mad, constantly winding everybody up. Us or someone in the street, he’s having a laugh with them, either trying to trip them up or doing something stupid.”

Stoke were relegated in 1990 but Beeston was a part of the resurgence under Lou Macari, winning the Autoglass Trophy in 1992, the title in 1993 and, in another season hit by injury, challenging for promotion to the top flight in 1995/96.

Now aged 53, he goes to Stoke games as a fan when that’s allowed and works as a postman in Hanford.

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Ryan Shawcross (2 caps, 0 goals)

Shawcross had played for Wales as a youth thanks to going to school on the border but that was never an option or intention as a senior.

He won his first England under-21s call-up in February 2008, the month after he had made his loan move from Manchester United to Stoke permanent against the wishes of Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Yes, I was offered a new four-year contract to stay at United,” he said in a recent interview with Duck magazine, “but I didn’t see a pathway through to the first team. I just wanted to play first team football and wanted to sign for Stoke, so I was then banished to train on my own at United before eventually signing for Stoke.

“I was absolutely terrified of him, to be honest. Everyone was.

“But he was an unbelievable man-manager, and I put so much down to him and the people at Man United. Not only is it one of the biggest clubs in the world, it has huge standards off the pitch too, and that’s something I am massively into – always have been.”

Shawcross made his under-21s debut in March 2008 in a 0-0 draw with Poland, who had Robert Lewandowski come off the bench.

He went on to help Stoke win promotion and played more minutes than any player from any club in the Premier League over the next decade.

He became captain at 22 and the first man to lead Stoke out in an FA Cup final – despite his young daughter, unknown to almost everyone, having been in intensive care as he was helping secure an incredible 5-0 semi-final win over Bolton at Wembley – and working his way into the all-time hall of fame in terms of appearances, quality and character.

England under-21s v Poland, March 2008: Hart (Heaton 46), Mancienne, Onuoha, Shawcross (Dann, 65), Fox, Gardner (Leadbitter 46), Surman (Mattock 88), O’Hara, Johnson, Jerome (Campbell, 66), Moore (Derbyshire, 65).

Jack Butland in the England team at the under-20s World Cup in 2011. (Back row, l-r) Matthew Phillips, Reece Brown, Jack Butland, Jason Lowe, Nathan Baker, Reece Wabara. (Front row) Adam Smith, Callum McManaman, Billy Knott, Saido Berahino, Blair Adams.

Jack Butland (25 caps, 0 goals)

Jack Butland had the same route as Joe Bursik into England under-21s, a fixture from the under-16s when he was coming through at Birmingham.

He was European under-17s champion in 2010, when he was named in the team of the tournament, and under-21s player of the year in 2015.

By the spring of 2016 and part-way through a fine breakthrough season at Stoke, he was on the cusp of becoming England’s first choice senior goalkeeper when he suffered a complicated ankle fracture while on international duty.

The comeback was tough and Stoke’s form didn’t help.

Now aged 27, he has recently re-joined Roy Hodgson, who was England manager that night, hoping to get back to his top form at Crystal Palace.





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