Manchester United: What happened to Chris Eagles' FA Youth Cup and reserve team-mates?


Former Manchester United footballer Chris Eagles has been banned from driving and has joined Alcoholics Anonymous after he was found drunk in the driver’s seat of his £70,000 Audi.

The 35-year-old was found slumped over his steering wheel by police in March outside the home of his then-girlfriend Jennifer Metcalfe at 3am.

He was found to be three times over the legal alcohol limit and admitted being drunk at the time while appearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.

It represents a significant fall from grace for a man who was tipped for stardom under Sir Alex Ferguson at United, having joined their academy at the turn of the century from Watford. 

Chris Eagles (pictured outside court), 35, was shoeless when he was found slumped over his steering wheel outside the home of his then-girlfriend Jennifer Metcalfe at 3am

Eagles played for Manchester United and won the FA Youth Cup with them in 2003

Chris Eagles (pictured outside court, left), 35, was shoeless when he was found slumped over his steering wheel outside the home of his then-girlfriend Jennifer Metcalfe at 3am; Eagles played for Manchester United (right) and won the FA Youth Cup with them in 2003

Eagles made his first-team debut in October 2003, but that was to be only one of 17 appearances he would make for the club, scoring once in a victory against Everton in April 2007.

He was an unused substitute in the first team’s 2007 Community Shield win on penalties against Chelsea, but his more renowned success came at youth level, after playing a crucial role in the club’s 2003 FA Youth Cup-winning side.

He also played with a number of players in the reserves who have gone on to make a name for themselves in the game. 

Speaking to Ladbrokes earlier this year, Eagles praised his former team-mates, stating: ‘My youth team was frightening; we didn’t lose.’

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at what has become of some of his reserve and Youth Cup-winning team-mates.

But what has become of the rest of his youth team and reserve team-mates since?

But what has become of the rest of his youth team and reserve team-mates since?

Tom Heaton

The now 35-year-old goalkeeper joined United in 2002 after playing for Wrexham. 

He became a regular for the Red Devils’ Under-17 side during the 2002–03 season and by the 2004–05 season, Heaton had become the first-choice goalkeeper for the Manchester United reserve team.

But he never would get a chance to play for the first team and a series of loans to teams further down the football pyramid – including Cardiff – followed. But the Welsh side signed him permanently in 2010 sparking an upturn in his fortunes.

Tom Heaton never got a chance for United's first team despite becoming reserves' first choice

Tom Heaton never got a chance for United’s first team despite becoming reserves’ first choice

A spell at Bristol City followed but his real breakout came at Burnley, whom he helped to seal a return to the Premier League in his first season at Turf Moor. 

Heaton went on to make 200 appearances for the Clarets before a less fruitful move to Aston Villa. But Heaton – who has won three England caps in his career – returned to the club where it pretty much all began in July this year after 11 years away.

Heaton has been on the bench this season after signing a two-year deal with an option for a further year at Old Trafford following his release by Villa. 

Heaton has returned to Old Trafford and has been on the bench for all their games this term

Heaton has returned to Old Trafford and has been on the bench for all their games this term

Lee Sims

While Heaton has been able to make a career in professional football, others like Sims – a Mancunian himself – have not been so fortunate. 

The versatile defender was released by United in 2004, having been a regular in the 2003 Youth Cup side.

Sims would go on to have an unsuccessful trial at Cardiff City, and has since dropped out of the professional game.

Lee Sims was released by United in 2004, having been a regular in the 2003 Youth Cup side

Gerard Pique joined Man United in 2004 from Barcelona's famed La Masia academy

Lee Sims (left) was released by United in 2004, having been a regular in the 2003 Youth Cup side; Gerard Pique joined Man United in 2004 from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy

Gerard Pique

The other extreme of the world of football is to reach the star status this 2010 World Cup winner has managed.

Pique joined United in 2004 from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and, after impressing in the reserve team and earning a few chances in the first XI, he signed a new deal in 2005 running until 2009.

He would earn a Premier League and Champions League winner’s medal with United, but a year before his contract was up he would rejoin his former club, where he has gone on to enjoy an incredible trophy-laden career. 

The 34-year-old has 30 team trophies along with several individual awards at the Nou Camp – including eight LaLiga titles and three Champions League crowns – to go along with the winner’s medal in Spain’s World Cup and Euros campaigns in 2010 and 2012.

Pique would go on to win the World Cup with Spain and eight LaLigas after returning to Barca

Pique would go on to win the World Cup with Spain and eight LaLigas after returning to Barca

A key member of the treble-winning Barcelona sides under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, Pique has been one of the world’s leading centre-backs for more than a decade.

The twilight of his career may not be as fruitful as his peak given his retirement from international duty combined with the current mire Barcelona find themselves in on and off the pitch.

But few players have tasted more silverware in their careers, and his impact will be forever etched in Barcelona history. 

Phil Bardsley

The versatile defender joined United in 1993 when he was just eight years old, and again would spend a decade among the youth ranks.

But he would only go on to make 18 appearances, most of which came in 2005-06, for the club around loans to the likes of Rangers, Aston Villa and Burnley.

Bardsley would eventually find a new permanent home at Sunderland in 2008, and it was at the Stadium of Light where he became an established defender in English football.

Versatile defender Phil Bardsley joined United in 1993 when he was just eight years old

Versatile defender Phil Bardsley joined United in 1993 when he was just eight years old

He won the club’s player of the year award for the 2010-11 season having starred under both Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce. He then fell out with Paolo Di Canio but after being restored under Gus Poyet, he helped the club reach a League Cup final in 2014.

Bardsley then joined Stoke, where he endured mixed fortunes at the then Premier League side, with his most notable moment during his spell there coming off the field. He infamously KO’d his pal and former United team-mate with a well-timed jab during an ill-advised boxing session in Rooney’s kitchen. After scoring against Tottenham at Old Trafford, Rooney made fun of his embarrassing situation by doing a boxing celebration.

A move to current side Burnley soon followed for Bardsley. The 36-year-old former Scotland international only made eight appearances for Sean Dyche’s men last season, but signed a new one-year contract in March to keep him at Turf Moor until the summer.

Bardsley currently plays for Burnley, having signed a new one-year contract in March

Bardsley currently plays for Burnley, having signed a new one-year contract in March

Paul McShane

McShane signed for United in 2002 and despite being given the No 34 after starring in the club’s Youth Cup win a year later, he never made a full debut for the club.

Paul McShane never made a full debut for the club despite being handed the No 34 shirt

Paul McShane never made a full debut for the club despite being handed the No 34 shirt

The Republic of Ireland international centre-back has played for a whole host of clubs since leaving permanently in 2006, including West Brom, Sunderland and Reading.

But his most noteworthy spell came at Hull, when under Steve Bruce he thrived and scored on the final day of the 2012-13 Championship season to seal The Tigers’ return to the Premier League.

The following year he came on as a substitute in the 3-2 FA Cup final defeat at Wembley by Arsenal, before being released by the club just 12 months later.

McShane, 35, has now returned to United as a player-coach. 

The defender, who had recently spent time coaching United’s U16s, is now working as a coach across the U15s to U23s teams.

McShane has returned to United as a coach working across the U15s to U23s teams

McShane has returned to United as a coach working across the U15s to U23s teams

David Jones

The captain of the 2003 winning team, Jones was another who would fail to make a first-team appearance for United.

But it has not prevented the central midfielder from featuring in the top flight. In 2007, Jones signed for Derby and helped them gain promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs. 

But he was also part of unwanted history, featuring in the Rams side that infamously only managed to win once and collect 11 points in 2007-08, the lowest-ever Premier League points total in a season since the introduction of a win constituting three points.

David Jones (right) scored three goals in 131 appearances for Burnley during his time there

David Jones (right) scored three goals in 131 appearances for Burnley during his time there

Jones left after that season and joined Wolves, and duly helped them achieve promotion to the top flight by winning the Championship in his first season at Molineux. 

But success there was not to last and, after brief spells at Wigan and Blackburn, he signed for Sean Dyche’s Burnley. 

He scored three goals in 131 appearances for the Clarets and following spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham, is now a player-coach at National League side Wrexham following a successful trial in the summer.

Ben Collett

Collett was Jones’ dominant central midfield partner, but unlike his former captain, he was robbed of enjoying a similar career in the game to him.

He won United’s Young Player of the Year award in 2002-03 and scored in the first leg of the Youth Cup win against Middlesbrough at the Riverside. 

Sir Alex Ferguson said Ben Collett had an 'outstanding chance' of being handed a pro contract before his career-ending injury

Sir Alex Ferguson said Ben Collett had an ‘outstanding chance’ of being handed a pro contract before his career-ending injury

Sir Alex Ferguson had therefore said Collett had an ‘outstanding chance’ of being handed a professional contract at the club, but a devastating injury suffered in a reserve-team game against Boro in May 2003 put an end to those hopes.

The former midfielder broke his leg in two places following a tackle by Gary Smith, an injury which would eventually force Collett to retire from football altogether. 

He did not give up immediately though and attempted to restart his career in Holland and New Zealand with AGOVV and the now-defunct New Zealand Knights, but that yielded very little.

However, after beginning legal proceedings against Smith and Middlesbrough in May 2008, he was awarded £4.3m in compensation by the High Court in August that year following a hearing which was reportedly attended by Ferguson and Gary Neville.

Collett was awarded £4.3m in compensation after taking legal action during 2008

Collett was awarded £4.3m in compensation after taking legal action during 2008

Kieran Richardson 

The only player from the Youth Cup-winning team to fully establish himself in United’s first team, Richardson made a total of 81 appearances for the Red Devils over a five-year period.

In fact, he made his first-team debut prior to the FA Youth Cup win, coming on as a substitute against Olympiacos in a Champions League game in 2002.

Mainly utilised on the left-hand side of the defence or midfield by Sir Alex Ferguson, Richardson won one Premier League winners medal and eight England caps before joining Sunderland in 2007. 

Kieran Richardson (right) was the only member to fully establish himself in United's first team

Kieran Richardson (right) was the only member to fully establish himself in United’s first team

He made 149 appearances for the Black Cats – the most he has for any one club – before moving to Fulham in 2012. He spent two seasons in west London and as many at Aston Villa before joining Cardiff in 2016. 

But his contract there lasted a matter of months and he was duly released, since when he has been a free agent. 

Trials with Spanish side Granada and with Southend in League One have followed, but he has not played professionally since late 2016.

Some suggested he had retired, but in late 2019 he called on clubs to take a leap of faith and help him get back playing again in a plea on Twitter, but none came calling. 

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake

The striker turned down a scholarship at Cambridge United to join the Red Devils academy, and all appeared well when he made his first senior appearance against Crewe in the League Cup.  

But he fractured his leg towards the end of the 2004-05 season, and despite netting a hat-trick for the academy on his return as well for the first team in the League Cup against Crewe, he was limited to just those senior chances.  

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored just once for United's first team before moving to Plymouth

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored just once for United’s first team before moving to Plymouth

He therefore joined Plymouth Argyle in the Championship and became an instant hit with fans, netting double figures in both his seasons there. That form saw Wolves sign him in 2008, where again he gained cult hero status.

Scoring 62 goals in 193 appearances, he was part of the side that got promoted to the Premier League. But since leaving Molineux in 2013, it has been a topsy-turvy ride, playing for no fewer than eight clubs in a six-year period

Most recently he appeared for Walsall Wood in the Midland League Premier Division, but left in 2019 after suffering a broken leg for the third time in his career, having also suffered the same injury in his final season at Wolves.

Giuseppe Rossi 

Another player who has seen his career blighted by injuries, Rossi was bought by United in 2004. 

He would go on to score four goals in 14 appearances for them in between loans at Newcastle and Parma, but quit the club after failing to break into the first team despite Sir Alex Ferguson wanting to keep hold of him.

He was sold to LaLiga outfit Villarreal, where the American-born former Italy international would enjoy the best part of his career, scoring 82 goals in 192 appearances between 2007 and 2013.

Giuseppe Rossi's career has been blighted by injuries ever since he left United in 2007

He starred for Villarreal (pictured) and Fiorentina when pictured

Giuseppe Rossi’s career has been blighted by injuries ever since he left United in 2007

He also netted 19 goals in 42 games for Fiorentina, but Rossi peaked in 2010-11 when he scored 32 goals in 56 games. However, a series of devastating knee injuries has hampered his career severely ever since. 

The most recent knee problem came in April 2017, when he ruptured the ACL in his left knee while playing for Celta Vigo. A year later he tested positive for dorzolamide, a banned substance, following a Serie A match against Benevento.

He avoided a doping ban, with Italy’s anti-doping court only choosing to reprimand him, and after training with United and Villarreal in 2019, he signed for MLS side Real Salt Lake, his most recent club, who he left last year.

In 2019, he trained with his former club before playing for Real Salt Lake, his most recent club

In 2019, he trained with his former club before playing for Real Salt Lake, his most recent club

Luke Steele

Luke Steele was a much trusted No.1 in United's youth set-up but saw his path to the first team blocked

Luke Steele was a much trusted No.1 in United’s youth set-up but saw his path to the first team blocked

Steele was a much trusted No 1 in United’s youth set-up and looked to join a number of promising players to make the first-team jump. 

But ultimately Ben Foster, Tim Howard and Edwin van der Sar blocked his path and, having failed to make a senior appearance, Steele left in 2006 for West Brom in a deal which saw Tomasz Kuszczak move to Old Trafford.  

Steele has represented no fewer than 13 clubs in his career, including successful stints at Barnsley – who he would leave following their relegation in 2014 after 195 appearances – and Greek side Panathinaikos.

Steele is currently playing for Notts County in the National League after joining in April.

Steele (left) currently playing for Notts County in the National League after joining in April

Steele (left) currently playing for Notts County in the National League after joining in April

Lee Lawrence 

Not long after United’s FA Youth Cup success, Lawrence was sent out on loan to Conference outfit Shrewsbury Town.

He would go on to make nine appearances for them and he even net a couple of goals, and came on as a substitute to help them win on penalties to return to the football league pyramid.   

However, his career stalled after suffering an injury while out on loan and he was duly released by his parent club. He last played for semi-professional outfit Wigan Robin Park FC.

Mark Howard 

Howard went to the same school as Bardsley but would not be as lucky in his career as the current Burnley defender.

He was among the players released in 2006, and joined Danish side Brondby, who had just seen Rene Meulensteen – now a familiar face for United fans after a number of non-managerial roles for the club over the years – take over.

In December 2008, he signed a three-and-a-half year contract with AGF, before moving to Oklahoma City Energy six years later and two years after he had left the Danish side.

He retired after that season in 2014 and now reportedly works as an assistant coach for the American club.

Mark Howard was among the players released in 2006, and joined Brondby

David Poole left United for Yeovil Town in 2005 and most recently played for Hyde

Mark Howard (left) was among the players released in 2006, and joined Brondby; David Poole (right) left United for Yeovil Town in 2005 and most recently played for Hyde

David Poole

The winger left United for Yeovil Town in 2005. He has since gone on to enjoy three spells at Stockport County.

He most recently played for Hyde in the Northern Premier League between 2011 and 2014. 

Eddie Johnson  

Johnson played as a striker or attacking midfield, but was one of seven United players released by United in 2006.

Bradford took up the option to sign him permanently after he had been on loan Royal Antwerp, Crewe and Coventry while at United. 

He scored eight goals in 71 appearances for Bradford, but a succession of injuries eventually lead to him being released in 2008.

He joined Chester City after a trial at Crewe, but the club’s financial hardship saw and Johnson head to the States where he retired after two seasons with Portland Timbers.

Forward Eddie Johnson (centre) was one of seven United players released in 2006

Forward Eddie Johnson (centre) was one of seven United players released in 2006

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