After Danny Sturridge's coming-out party in the last half of the 2010/11 season with Bolton, many would have tipped him to shine at the under-21 European Championships in Denmark. Ok, maybe they wouldn't have expected him to shine against Spain, but still. Instead, we got a gruesome performance from one of England and Chelsea's brightest young stars (the rest of the team wasn't really any better).
No, England didn't lose, but they certainly deserved to. Two Chelsea players started for the Young Lions, with Sturridge as the centre forward in a 4-3-3 and Ryan Bertrand the left back. Neither would have played if England had been able to field all of their eligible players (a team which would have looked like this: Fielding; Gibbs, Jones, Smalling, Richards; Rodwell, Henderson, Wilshere; Welbeck, Carroll, Walcott), but play they did and neither impressed, with Sturridge particularly poor.
When Sturridge was being used as a last-ditch substitute striker by Carlo Ancelotti, he had a bad habit of displaying a first touch so poor you could reasonably have concluded that his foot exploded upon contact with the ball. So too was it here, with Spain's technical wizards flatly embarrassing the 21-year-old by being able to touch the ball without it bobbling off five foot in a random direction.
Bertrand wasn't nearly as big a disappointment as Sturridge, but that's mainly because my expectations of him were so much lower. He did an adequate job of defending down the left, but unlike Kyle Walker was never able to provide any sort of attacking threat. Part of that isn't his fault, of course, as England's midfield was in no way able to cover for him if he did choose to take off the shackles and bomb forwards, but it's an important reminder that the most important part of modern fullback play is the transition between attack and defence, and right now Bertrand can't do this (the same applies for Patrick van Aanholt, incidentally).
It's not like we were really expecting miracles from the Chelsea boys here, but yeah, this wasn't such a good start to the tournament.