TODAY is a milestone day for former Leeds United defender Jonathan Woodgate, who made his senior international debut for England exactly 16 years ago today - at the age of just 19.
Woodgate’s accomplished display was one of the main substantives from Kevin Keegan’s side’s 1-1 draw against Bulgaria in Sofia - when they wasted the chance to take a significant stride towards the Euro 2000 Championships against ten-man opponents on June 9, 1999.
The result kept Keegan’s qualification hopes alive - but the coach will have expected a victory when Bulgarian substitute Martin Petrov was sent off in the second half for the hosts, whose hopes of reaching the finals were already over.
Skipper Alan Shearer put England ahead in the 15th minute with a piece of vintage centre-forward play, but just three minutes later, Bulgaria were level through Georgi Markov.
After their early moments of dominance - led by their three-pronged strikeforce - England’s threat faded.
And even when Petrov was sent off for a second bookable offence, they could find no way through.
Bulgaria’s veteran striker Hristo Stoichkov produced a virtuoso display in his last international game - but he was kept out by England’s three-man defence in which Woodgate impressed.
The Leeds defender showed he has the temperament for international football with an assured debut, which included one stunning tackle from behind to deny Radostin Kishishev a near certain goal.
Woodgate was somewhat unlucky to be replaced in the second half, as Keegan sought to exploit the numerical advantage by switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
But even the reshuffle could not provide the breakthrough as Bulgaria condemned England to a draw.
Woodgate’s United team-mate David Batty also lined up for England for the 40th time.
Woodgate became the 1,095th England player to be capped, but his well documented injury ills restricted him to just eight caps, with his final apperance coming in 2008.
Batty made just two more appearances for his country after that appearance in Bulgaria, with his final cap coming in Poland in September 1999, when the combative midfielder was sent off.
England (in Sofia): Seaman, Gray, Neville, Southgate, Campbell, Woodgate, Redknapp, Batty, Sheringham, Shearer, Fowler. Subs: Ferdinand, Walker, Sherwood, Parlour, Dyer, Cole, Heskey.