IT is a piece of trivia you can entertain your friends with ahead of Wednesday’s England versus Denmark European Championship semi-final. 

With which club did each of the goalkeepers make their competitive senior debut? 

The answer is not new information to Darlington supporters, because they witnessed both Kasper Schmeichel and Jordan Pickford pull on their gloves and take the first significant steps of their career while wearing Quakers colours. 

It is a distinction the pair share, and having watched from afar their careers develop it is something the National League North club’s supporters can take pride in when the teams line up. 

Each were on loan - Schmeichel from Man City, Pickford from Sunderland - mutually beneficial arrangements that suited all parties; teenagers handed vital experience in the professional ranks, while they enabled Quakers to fill their No. 1 spot for a few weeks. 

Schmeichel’s stay was brief but memorable, making a lasting impression with three clean sheets in League Two and a man of the match display on his debut. 

With No. 1 Sam Russell injured, manager David Hodgson needed back-up. Never short of contacts, Darlington’s resourceful boss put a call into City, later saying: “It helps enormously that we’ve been able to bring in Kasper on a week-to-week arrangement. 

“We don’t have the financial resources to sign players when we feel like it. The plan is to keep Kasper until Sam is fit enough to return.” 

Schmeichel had been in City’s youth system for four years and had played in at least one friendly for the first team, but his senior bow in competitive football came at the age of 19 on January 14, 2006 when Peterborough United visited the Arena, an occasion attended by Schmeichel senior. 

He watched his son’s big day from an executive box, no doubt enjoying the moment Kasper blocked a shot using the star-jump technique that was a trademark during his own playing days with Manchester United. 

The Northern Echo:

Darlington beat Peterborough 2-1, fellow new loan signing Kyle Lafferty scoring a late winner, and supporters were impressed with the teenage Schmeichel, who was excellent that day. 

“I think Sam is fully fit, but there is no need to rush him back when we’ve got Kasper,” said Hodgson after the third of Schmeichel’s four appearances

“We’ll give Sam a few more days to recover and Kasper will return to Manchester after the Mansfield game. I have no qualms with keeping Kasper because he has done exceptionally well for us.” 

Kasper kept clean sheets against Grimsby Town, Oxford United and Mansfield Town before Russell regained his place, allowing the young Dane to return to City richer for his first experience of competitive football, and Darlington assistant manager Mark Proctor said: “Kasper was outstanding for us and we’re grateful that he served us so well. He has a very big future in front of him.” 

Proctor’s analysis proved to be spot on, though nobody could have predicted what would happen when Schmeichel returned to the Arena before the end of 2006-07 by which time he was with Bury on loan. 

He was playing for the Shakers against Quakers when Bury’s Chris Brass scored a calamity own goal, the ball bouncing into the net after booting it into his own face and breaking his nose, creating a viral clip viewed over one million times on YouTube. 

Both goalkeepers are now well used to the eyes of the footballing world being on them, and Pickford’s first taste of competitive action came amid a relatively high-profile fixture when he was just 17. 

It was at the Arena versus Fleetwood on January 21, 2012, a call to arms having made been to boost the attendance and help financially stricken Quakers, so Pickford’s first competitive football came in front a bumper crowd of 5,638 – about three times higher than usually watched Darlington at the time. 

It was when they were in the Conference, but he arrived amid administration and acrimony. 

To cut costs, a number of senior pros were moved on, goalkeeper Russell sold to Forest Green Rovers, and boss Craig Liddle sought to boost numbers by bringing in players on loan from Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. But Conference officials blocked all loans aside from Pickford’s. 

A player registration embargo was in force, and a spokesman for the Conference said at the time: "Darlington have sufficient players to play the game. They may only have nine senior players, but they have enough registered players to fulfill the fixture. The Conference have allowed Darlington to bring a goalkeeper in as it is a specialist position.” 

The Northern Echo:

The stance meant Darlington’s matchday 16 was, bolstered by kids from the club’s own youth set-up plus on-loan Pickford. 

He impressed against Fleetwood despite a 1-0 loss, but three days later away came a character-building experience: defeat in front of 550 people at Hayes & Yeading that saw Pickford concede an early penalty, and within two minutes his clearance was intercepted which led to a second goal. 

"There were too many young lads in the team because of the circumstances that we find ourselves in,” said a hugely sympathetic Liddle, now Middlesbrough’s academy manager. “They are bound to make mistakes, but they are learning. We are asking them to do a man's job." 

While Liddle and his young team valiantly attempted to defy the odds when the club’s existence was under threat, the team tumbled down the table during Pickford’s 17 appearances, during which Darlington did not win a game during this bleak time. 

Heavy defeats at Mansfield (5-2) and Lincoln (5-0) were particularly harrowing, but Pickford’s potential was clear and Liddle was glowing in his assessment, saying at the conclusion of his three-month loan: “He's played a lot of games for a young kid and he's got a big future ahead of him if he continues to listen and learn, which he will because he's got a good character as well. 

"He was bossing the penalty area and that's what we wanted him to do. He's become more and more confident. There's been one or two errors, but you'd expect that because he's only young. 

"I've known him for a lot of years, since he was in the under-12s at Sunderland I think, and he's got a bright future. Sunderland are grateful for him getting first-team experience and pleased with his progress." 

Short-term deals are a well-worn route many youngsters take on the path toward first-team action; Harry Kane was sent to Leyton Orient, Jordan Henderson to Coventry, Jack Grealish to Notts County, Dominic Calvert-Lewin to Northampton. 

They are a rite of passage that can make a career. Are they good enough? Have they the mettle? Let’s find out. 

Man City and Sunderland benefitted enormously from their teenagers spending time with Darlington, as did Schmeichel and Pickford, who on Wednesday will be at opposite ends of Wembley seeking to help their respective nation reach Sunday’s final, a combined total of almost-1,000 career games since their careers began in earnest with Darlington.