WHAT was Theo Walcott doing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany?
Ahead of the tournament, blind English optimists saw his inclusion in the squad as an exciting commitment to their country’s long-term footballing ambitions.
But when star striker Michael Owen collapsed injured in the second minute of England’s final group game against Sweden, the 17-year-old Arsenal winger went unused, as he did for the rest of tournament.
In the wake of recent scandal, the decision of then England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson to take a teenage boy on a three-week summer trip to the Continent now looks like some sort of a pre-Yewtree indulgence.
In reality, for every top scorer and penalty hero the World Cup there is a multitude of cover: unused substitutes, young players out to get a bit of experience and dogeared veterans who rarely get a run out for their national side anymore.
So in the build up to proceedings in Brazil, as squads are pored over and likely starting line ups are discussed in cafés and bars from South America to South London, everyone will be looking for the shining stars.
But what of those making the least impact?
Of the 736 footballers who have travelled to the Amazon Basin, a 23-man squad is published today of what is hoped are the most goal-shy benchwarmers ‘on the plane’.
Made up of those least likely to impress themselves on matters in Brazil, the ‘Titus Bramble squad’ includes three goalkeepers, eight defenders, seven midfielders and five strikers from the top 23 FIFA-ranked countries at the tournament.
The casual observer may be wondering why the outright worst 23 players at the tournament were not selected. Firstly, it was felt that over the last few weeks there has been more than enough criticism of the Australia squad.
Secondly, and most importantly, the Titus Bramble side was compiled ahead of this Thursday’s marquee event: the 2014 Emerson World Cup fantasy football auction.
More than 15 managers will gather in the upstairs bar of the Union Tavern in Clerkenwell, London, to buy their 11 players under hammer.
With a £100m budget and a quota of one footballer per country, each manager will be keen to secure the services of the best players and give themselves a shot at Emerson glory.
With five points for a goal, three for an assist and two for starting a match, first-choice strikers, attacking midfielders and wing backs overlapping up the flanks will all come at a premium. Though honourable, the ‘Claude Makalele role’ is not desirable at this level.
And with defenders and goalkeepers getting four points for a clean sheet and goalies five for a penalty save, managers will be looking to avoid taking valuable spaces with full backs and centre backs who don’t get forward.
Any manager going over budget or found to have bought more than one player from a certain country will trigger the Titus Bramble forfeit ruling.
Either their most expensive or their illegal player will be removed and replaced with a bogey man from the Bramble line up below.
A high-intensity auction pace on licensed premises ensures at least a handful of managers always fall foul.
Follow the Emerson World Cup auction on a live blog on KennaLeague.com on Thursday from 6.30pm British Summer Time.
Pepe Reina (Spain, 31 caps, aged 31) – Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper…¡en la fiesta!
Victor (Brazil, 6 caps, aged 31) – may have been the best goalkeeper in the Copa Libertadores in 2013, but still behind Cesar and Jefferson in the pecking order.
Agustin Orion (Argentina, 3 caps, aged 32) – if Sergio Romero gets stretchered off, Mariano Andujar will take the gloves.
Matthias Ginter (Germany, 2 caps, aged 20) – young Master Ginter will do well to get picked above Hummels and Mertesacker.
Jose Maria Giminez (Uruguay, 6 caps, aged 19) – in a settled Uruguay outfit, the young Real Madrid centre back looks to be along for the experience.
Philipe Senderos (Switzerland, 53 caps, aged 29) – a full member of the Arsene Wenger dodgy centre back signing club, Senderos is likely to start on the bench.
Timothy Chandler (USA, 12 caps, aged 24) – this defender is most notable for his resemblance to Rob Earnshaw, according to his wikipedia page.
Lucas Digne (France, 2 caps, aged 20) – while it’s likely Patrice Evra, Mathieu Debuchy, Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny decide to down tools, the French camp would be in such familiar disarray, Digne would struggle to make an impact.
Constant Djakpa (Cote D’Ivoire, 3 caps, aged 26) – constant hopes one of the preferred centre back pairing gets a snapped hamstring and he gets a chance to add to his three appearances since 2007.
Laurent Ciman (Belgium, 8 caps, aged 28) – Daniel van Buyten is the obvious replacement if any of a strong back four come off.
Oscar Bagui (Ecuador, 21 caps, aged 31) – has not made an appearance for his country since 2010, but continues to be called up.
Alexander Mejia (Colombia, 8 caps, aged 25) – the young Colombian has the tournament’s smallest Wikipedia page and Colombia’s smallest chance of getting in above a wealth of attacking talent.
Marco Parolo (Italy, 4 caps, aged 29) – four appearances in three years for Italy smells like bench warming.
Frank Lampard (England, 105 caps, aged 35) – every England fan will be hoping not to get overrun in yet another knockout match while Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard look at each other across the pitch like they’ve never met before.
Jean Beausejour (Chile, 59 caps, aged 30) – as ever Chile have an exciting team, and as ever the Wigan Athletic lefty isn’t expecting to start matches.
Jose Juan Vazquez (Mexico, 5 caps, aged 26) – known as El Gallo (The Rooster), he certainly isn’t the favoured cock in the defensive midfield position.
Sammir (Croatia, 5 caps, aged 26) – Brazilian who found a Croatian passport. When he was first called up to the national side some Croat players resigned in protest. Funny really, because it’s not like they’ve got form for racism.
Tino Sven-Susic (Bosnia, 2 caps, aged 22) – surely there are murmurs Tino only got selected because his uncle Safet is the national coach.
Eder (Portugal, 7 caps, aged 26) – second string striker once went AWOL for club Academia and suspended.
Theofanis Gekas (Greece, 70 caps, aged 34) – out-of-form, ageing striker in the tournament’s most goal-shy team.
Memphis Depay (Netherlands, 6 caps, aged 20) – Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are all favoured over this young left winger.
Maksim Kanunnikov (Russia, 2 caps, aged 22) – has never scored in a Russia shirt.
El Arbi Hillel Soudani (Algeria, 22 caps, aged 26) – the third-choice striker in a lone front man set up.