WHEN Gareth Southgate addressed the assembled press at the Community Stadium in September 2016 and joked about it being the last time he would manage Marcus Rashford for England under-21s, little did he know that less than two years later they both would be one game away from reaching a World Cup Final.

“I was tempted to say, ‘It was nice working with you!’”, quipped Southgate that night, after giving Rashford his under-21 bow in the European Championship qualifier in front of a crowd of nearly 8,500 at the home of Colchester United.

In fact, they were to work with each other again a few weeks later – for England’s senior squad.

England’s 6-1 thrashing of Norway in front of a full house at Colchester, where the Manchester United striker was in scintillating form and scored a hat-trick, proved to be the final time Southgate took charge of the nation’s Young Lions.

A matter of three weeks later, he was placed in temporary charge of the senior team following Sam Allardyce’s departure as manager.

That night at Colchester ultimately proved to be the final time Southgate managed at under-21 level but Rashford was not the only player to accompany to him to Russia, where England are one game away from reaching the World Cup Final for the first time in more than 50 years.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who also scored in that rout over Norway, has featured in three of England’s game so far in the tournament, where they take on Croatia in their semi-final tomorrow night.

It is not the first time some of England’s future World Cup stars graced the Community Stadium turf, either.

Back in November, 2011, an England under-21 side featuring the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jack Butland beat Iceland 5-0 in a European Championship qualifier.

And in 2010, Henderson featured again for Stuart Pearce’s under-21s in a 3-0 qualifier victory over Lithuania along with Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck.

Prior to that, Welbeck had also played for England under-19s at Colchester in their 3-0 victory over their German counterparts, in a Young Lions side that also included Southgate’s current first-choice right wing-back Kieran Trippier.