The first evidence of a Fulham player at the tournament can be found in 1981 in Australia – the third instalment of the competition. Winger Tony Finnigan started all three of England’s Group Stage matches at the World Youth Championship, as it was initially titled. He actually scored the Three Lions’ first goal of the campaign in their 2-0 win over Cameroon, while draws against Argentina and the host nation saw them top Group D. He started the Quarter-Final win over Egypt, too, and came off the bench after 77 minutes of the Semi-Final defeat by Qatar. He didn’t feature in the Third Place Play-Off loss against Romania. Finnigan left the Club without making an appearance for Fulham’s First Team, but he returned in 1994, as a right-back, and played 18 times in two years.
In 1987, two future Fulham players were present at the showpiece in Chile. Billy McKinlay played in each of Scotland’s group games as they progressed to the Quarter-Finals, where he also featured as West Germany knocked them out on penalties. He’d later go on to play three times for the Whites in his twilight years, before taking up a coaching role at the Club.
Elsewhere, Kasey Keller was in the United States squad, but the 17-year-old didn’t feature as they went out at the first hurdle. It was a different story two years later in Saudi Arabia, though, with Keller playing every minute as the United States impressed on their way to a fourth-place finish. Indeed, such was the calibre of his performances, he was named second-best player at the tournament. Fast forward 18 years and Keller was on Fulham’s books, going on to play a significant role as we avoided relegation in dramatic style in 2007/08.
In 1991 in Portugal, the England squad boasted three players who would go on to play for Fulham. Andrew Cole and Steve Hayward were ever-present as the Three Lions finished third in a group that also featured Spain, Syria and Uruguay, while Lee Clark came on as a substitute in the final outing. Cole joined Fulham a matter of months after the tournament on loan from Arsenal, scoring four in 15 matches, before joining permanently in 2004 when he went on to net 13 times in his one season at the Club. Hayward arrived in SW6 in the summer of 1997 and helped us to the Division Two title, while Clark joined in 1999 and was an integral part of the side that won promotion to, and stayed in, the Premier League.
There were two future Fulham boys in the England squad two years later as Australia again played hosts, and it was a much more prosperous campaign this time as the Three Lions went on to finish third. Ian Pearce played in all six matches, and scored the equaliser as England drew 1-1 with South Korea in their opening game. Ian Selley saw considerably less action, just 15 minutes of that draw. Pearce would go on to play more than 60 times for the Whites, while Selley’s Fulham career was plagued by injury, limiting him to just three outings.