We all live with what if moments, we cannot change the past and make the best of the now! But what if we live in a parallel universe like the 1998 film Sliding Doors and a decision or moment years ago determined seismic life differences?
I’ve looked at tonight’s starting 11 for England v San Marino and sourced who their opposite counterpart was from their debut pro match. What if the England players career didn’t flourish and the opponent did instead? This is what the line up would look like:
Tom Heaton - Nick Pope came on as a sub for Charlton Athletic against Bristol City who had his future Burnley team mate Heaton in goal. It’s fair to say if Heaton had not got injured Pope may never have become Burnley No1 let alone a England keeper. At the time Heaton was the one involved in England squads, this sums up the sliding doors theory. Another injury at Villa has again cost him his club shirt and any chance to play for the national squad again.
Sam Hutchinson - Reece James first pro game was on loan for Wigan v Sheffield Wed, his opposing right back was the former Chelsea full back Hutchinson. A knee injury caused Sam to retire once and despite the club supporting him it ultimately curtailed a top flight career, credit is due though that he carved out a consistent run in the Championship. If circumstances were different Hutchinson may have been blocking James progress to the Chelsea first team.
George Friend - One of Ben Chillwell's first games during a loan spell for Huddersfield Town was against Middlesbrough and arguably at one time the Championships best left back, George Friend. These 2 players are so different, Chillwell a rampaging wing back and Friend your classic defender first player. When given a chance in the Premier League Friends lack of pace cost him, something Ben has in abundance.
Dean Leacock - When Connor Coady made his loan debut for Sheffield Utd another future England centre back was also on the field, Harry Maguire, they was team mates though. Leacock though was the captain for Notts County and at that stage of his career he was heading downwards. They passed each other at the crossroads never to be seen again.
Lewis Dunk - John Stones 2nd match for Barnsley was against a man who himself has been involved with the senior England set up. Dunk has been Brighton’s Mr Consistent and can consider himself unlucky to not had more squad selections. If he’d played for a established side who knows?
Jack Price - A massive cult favourite at Molineux, this tough tackling committed player was never given a chance by management, he always seemed to force his way into the team despite push backs by the managers at Wolves. Phillips meanwhile seems to lead a charmed career, his role in the Leeds lineup catered specifically for him, spoon firmly in his mouth.
Darren Ambrose - Ward Prowse made his debut for Southampton at 16 in the League Cup, it could be argued that when Ambrose was 16 his trajectory seemed to be chartered for international honours. Unfortunately by the time he faced Ward Prowse during his prime years his top flight career was racing down a slope. Similar style players, the Southampton man personifies a pro who is always working on his game.
John Swift - Mason Mounts first pro games were in Holland so when sourcing a English opponent it led me to his Derby loan career where he faced fellow Chelsea academy player John Swift who was playing for Reading. Both are attacking midfielders but while Mount controls the ball and speed of play like a no 10, Swift is a inverted 11. Swift has carved out a Championship career but like so many others in this list can feel if things were different he could have been in Masons position for club and country.
Daniel Sturridge - It’s striking that the one world class player on this list never went out on loan and has only played his career in the Premier League (funnily enough Harry Kane cannot claim this) therefore one of his opening games was up against a fellow English man who has represented his country and been a team mate. A natural goal scorer injuries devastated Sturridge and if things had been different he would still be involved in the national set up.
Mark Davies - When Jesse Lingard made his loan debut for Leicester versus Bolton his advisory in midfield was a promising player who later that season suffered a injury he never recovered from. Now aged 33 he is retired with memories he was considered a hotter youth product at Wolves than fellow alumni’s Joleon Lescott and Robbie Keane.
Jay Simpson - 6 years have passed since Calvert Lewin played for Sheffield Utd against Leyton Orient, fortunes for the players and clubs have been polar opposites. The year after they faced off Simpson had his best in the pro game being named in the League2 team of the year and 20+ goals, that was as good as it got for the former Arsenal man. Calvert Lewin was a raw prospect who has worked on his craft during his ascendancy, he is now the leading man behind England captain Harry Kane.
After watching the San Marino match tonight I can safely this sliding doors 11 could have beaten the world minnows.