Martin Cranie is among the less celebrated members of Stuart Pearce's squad but as the only player to have captained England in a UEFA final there is one distinction that he holds above his peers.
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Martin Cranie may be among the less celebrated members of Stuart Pearce's squad but as the only player aged under 34 to have captained England in a UEFA final there is one distinction he holds above all his peers.
The Portsmouth FC right-back wore the armband in the 2005 UEFA European Under-19 Championship showpiece against France, as a team featuring current U21 team-mates Mark Noble and Andrew Taylor lost 3-1 to France. That defeat means England are without a victory in an age-group tournament since Darren Caskey, now 34, led a side including Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Sol Campbell and Robbie Fowler to U18 glory in 1993.
"When I was in the U17s we lost in the  semi-finals and then we had the U19s so hopefully this is the year to go one better," said Cranie as he looked ahead to Monday's U21 final against Germany. "The U19 final is the biggest game I've played in, or maybe my debut for Southampton, but this game will top both of those."
Highs and lows
Cranie experienced the highs and lows of tournament football in Friday's semi-final against Sweden, helping England establish a three-goal lead by opening the scoring inside a minute before the hosts fought back magnificently, ultimately to lose on penalties. "We obviously made hard work of it," said the 22-year-old. "Because we had such a lead the gaffer warned us not to take our foot off the gas, but I think we sat back a bit and they came back at us. We've been practising penalties for the last two years and that obviously paid off."
The defender confirmed that he was "number eight" on Pearce's list of takers and also that he was "very nervous" as the shoot-out entered sudden death. A happier memory was his opening goal – his first in competitive football since registering for the U17s against the Czech Republic in 2003. "I can remember it well, as it was one of my first games for England," he said. "I don't get many goals so it was great to get on the scoresheet."
Having been the losing captain in 2005, Cranie is determined to finally get his hands on a winners' medal when this competition concludes in Malmo. "We have to treat the final like any other game, without taking our foot off the gas this time," he continued. "It would mean everything to me to win it, the highlight of my career. I've never really won a medal so if we were to win it, I'd be ecstatic."