The teamsheet when England under-21s thumped Austria at the Amex makes interesting reading.

Raheem Sterling started, Jordan Henderson replaced him after an hour.

Danny Rose also played in a 4-0 victory against a side reduced to nine men by two red cards.

So too in goal did Jason Steele.

Five years on from that clean sheet, Steele is back at the Amex, hoping to get his career on an upward trajectory again while Sterling, Henderson and Rose prepare for a World Cup semi-final.

That they have made it to the last four with Gareth Southgate's England squad in Russia does not suprise him.

Steele said: "Quite a lot of the squad I've grown up with in terms of being around teams, camps, or just playing against them in academies.

"All my mates at home before the tournament were saying 'We are not very good, we're this and that'. I told them we would reach the semi-finals and they have.

"They haven't exceeded my expectations. They are stereotypical of the way youth is nowadays I think - no fear.

"They express themselves and everybody is really proud of them, aren't they.

"It's brilliant to see lads I know that have done so well. You are proud that you know them and have played with them. Some of them have gone on to be world class and I think they are showing that."

The reference to youth makes Steele sound older than he is, only 27, which is still young by goalkeeping standards.

He played for England from under-16s level right through to the under-21s, just like another north-east lad.

Southgate's No.1, Jordan Pickford, was born only 25 miles away from Steele's home town of Newton-Aycliffe.

The Argus: Steele admired from afar Pickford's performance in the quarter-final win against Sweden before heading out to Austria with Albion and a training camp with his new team-mates (above).

"That last game against Sweden was quality," he reflected, sitting in the foyer of the Seagulls' hotel in the Alpine resort of Schruns.

"Not just the saves he made, I thought he was very bold in everything he did.

"He played really quick and he knew when to slow the tempo, when to speed it up, when to pass short and when to mix it up and go long.

"I thought he made really good decisions throughout the game.

"I'm really pleased for him, being a northern lad. He took a bit of stick after the Belgium game, he showed a good set of coconuts on him at the biggest level to come back and shove it in a few people's faces."

The foot has been stuck on the reverse pedal in Steele's own career since those England under-21 highs and understudying Pickford's No.2 Jack Butland (below) for the GB team at the London 2012 Olympics.

The Argus: Does he ever wonder that it could have been him, not Pickford, trying to repel Croatia in Moscow tomorrow night?

The response is philosophical from a keeper intent on recovering from the double blow of successive relegations from the Championship with Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland, and the accompanying damage to his reputation.

"Throughout your career things happen," Steele said. "I'm a big believer they happen for a reason. I remember I was playing in the under-21s and I broke my wrist. Jack Butland came in and played when I was injured.

"Little things like that happen throughout your career. Jack plays, does well, kicks on and he's now in the England squad.

"Listen, I can't say I regret moving to places or things like that. Everything has happened in the past.

"I am very proud of what I achieved growing up. I had some great times, met some great people, have been to some unbelievable places, but I've got to try and be in the present and be motivated by what I am going to do next."

The target now for Steele, who lost his place then eventually regained it last season as Sunderland fell into the third tier, is to be ready together with the other keeper Albion sign - probably Fulham's David Button - to play in the Premier League when undisputed No.1 Mathew Ryan is on Asian Cup duty for Australia in the United Arab Emirates in January.

"I could have stayed at Sunderland," he said. "I had three years left on my contract. I could have stayed at home with my kids. My mum and dad around the corner.

"I could have stayed comfortable but this is a challenge for me now. My career took a massive step back last year. I sort of regained myself in the last few games of the season, back to the level I should be. This is a massive opportunity for me to get those levels back."