Called up, but not called upon – the players who came close, but never earned an England cap
Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones have, quite rightly, featured in the England squad for the recent Euro 2012 qualifiers alongside fellow uncapped players David Stockdale and Frank Fielding. Neither however managed to win a cap. The better hope they get another chance though, as Mike Coxon looks back at the good, the bad and the crazy players who have featured in England squads but not earned a full cap.
Goalkeeper: Shaka Hislop (called up vs. Chile, February 1998)
Shaka Hislop is a great quiz question. Not only is he the only goalkeeper to represent Trinidad & Tobago [other than Kelvin Jack - Ed], the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup, at the finals but he is also the only player to face England at the World Cup finals having been called up BY England in the past.
In 1998 England were gearing up for the World Cup in France and, compared to modern times, they had an abundance of goalkeeping talent; Seaman, Martyn, Flowers, James, Walker, Wright, Pressman (another call up without a cap) and of course Shaka. And Hislop’s moment in the sun came on a wet February evening. The game was notable for the debuts of Dion Dublin and Michael Owen (whatever happened to him?) as well as Marcelo Salas announcing himself on the European stage with a brace that sunk a pitiful England. Hislop sat on the bench that night and, eight years later, must have been relieved he hadn’t been called into the shambles when he walked out to face Gerrard, Crouch et al.
Alternatives: Kevin Pressman, Scott Loach, Joe Lewis
Right Back: J’Lloyd Samuel (called up vs. Sweden, February 2004)
Another player called up by England but opting to eventually represent Trinidad & Tobago, J’Lloyd Samuel wasn’t lucky enough to get clearance to play for his parents’ homeland in time for Germany 2006 and only made his debut in 2009.
Samuel was called up by Sven in 2004 for a friendly in Sweden. Alan Thompson made his debut that night after 3 years of clamouring from England fans trying to prove they knew about more than the Premier League and exclaiming him as the best English left winger there was. Ultimately right footed central midfielder Paul Scholes was preferred at Euro 2004. Which says all you need to know about Thompson’s (and England’s) performance that night in a 1-0 defeat. Again, I bet J’Lloyd was delighted to have not have made a 5 minute cameo.
Alternative: Michael Mancienne
Left Back: Dominic Matteo (called up vs. Poland, October 1996, and vs. Mexico, March 1997)
I promise you that not all of these players opted for other nations, but you wouldn’t blame them. Step forward Dominic Matteo; Italian name, scouse accent, Scotland international…
To be fair and with no disrespect to the previous two, Dominic Matteo was genuinely of England quality. And I mean that with no disrespect to him either. Matteo was a decent centre back, left back and even defensive midfielder and played at the highest level with Liverpool and Leeds, reaching the 2001 Champions League semi-final. However Glenn Hoddle and later Kevin Keegan never favoured the scary looking defender and thus he followed the likes of Jim Leighton, Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordan as Scotland internationals who looked like they might bite your nose off, earning 6 caps before retiring prematurely from the international scene to prolong his club career.
Alternative: Alan Wright
Centre Back: Curtis Davies (called up vs. Switzerland, February 2008, and vs. Germany, November 2008)
Finally, a player who hasn’t gone on to represent another nation at international level…yet. Davies’ Dad is from Sierra Leone, so watch this space…
The surprise name in Capello’s first squad (although I’d argue that Jermaine Jenas is a surprise name in any England squad), Davies went on to earn a number of call ups throughout 2008. Since then the emergence of a number of quality centre halves and his loss of form have seen Davies drop from grace and, at the end of last season, drop from the top flight. Still, he’s only 26 and playing in the Europa League with Birmingham and is one of few players to have turned out for Birmingham, West Brom and Aston Villa. If he can only go and join Wolves then he’ll probably be the most hated man in the West Midlands.
Alternatives: Steven Taylor, David Wheater
Centre Back: David May (called up vs. Mexico, March 1997)
David May! Superstar! Won more medals than She-a-rer! What he didn’t win more of however is England caps. Because he won none.
I think we can be safe in the knowledge that David May won’t turn around tomorrow and choose to represent Scotland. Partly because he’s been retired for seven years, partly because even Scotland aren’t that bad (well…on second thoughts…). David May has become a footballing synonym for glory hunter. He was at Manchester United for 9 years, monopolised the photos after the Champions League win in 1999 despite not playing and appeared less times than luminaries like Ronnie Wallwork in his final five years. However in the 1996/97 season David May was imperious, cementing his place alongside Gary Pallister at the heart of defence and scoring against Porto in the Champions League quarter final. An England call up quickly arrived but like so many times before and subsequently he was robbed of his big night by injury. Still, two league titles, two FA Cups and a Champions League isn’t bad going…
Alternatives: Ryan Shawcross, Steve Chettle
Right Midfield: Jimmy Bullard (called up vs. Germany, November 2008)
Ahh lovely Jimmy Bullard. Isn’t he lovely? Unless you’re a Fulham fan…or a Hull fan…
Everyone’s favourite cheeky-chappy turned money-grabbing mercenary rode a wave of good form and good will into Capello’s squad for a 2-1 win in Germany, a nation that Bullard could have also represented through his grandmother. The Ipswich midfielder is famous for his antics on and off the pitch and would have brought a refreshing attitude to the England squad alongside your Terrys, Lampards and Coles. But severe injury and a salary-focused career trajectory have de-railed all hopes. And besides, he wouldn’t get paid more to play for England, so best just sticking with Ipswich.
Alternative: Darren Eadie
Left Midfield: David Thompson (called up vs. Slovakia & Macedonia, October 2002)
It’s easy to forget David Thompson. Despite playing in the Premier League on and off with Liverpool, Coventry, Blackburn, Portsmouth, Wigan & Bolton for 11 years he’s not exactly memorable.
One person who did appreciate his efforts was Sven Goran-Eriksson, who called him up for the Euro 2004 qualifiers against Slovakia and Macedonia. England struggled to a win in Slovakia before drawing in Southampton against Macedona and maybe Sven should have given a hungry young player who was a natural on the left wing a chance, but unfortunately Thompson’s guile and willingness weren’t matched by skill and class. Another chance never came despite England using 22 players (including debutants Franny Jeffers, Paul Konchesky and Wayne Rooney…again, whatever happened to him?) in a farcical defeat to Australia mere months later and a career as a journeyman beckoned.
Alternative: Steve Froggatt
Centre Midfield: Lee Clark (called up for Le Tournoi, June 1997)
There won’t be many Mackems that are sad about Lee Clark failing to win an England cap, even though at the time of his call up he was playing in the old (but not the proper old) First Division.
Le Tournoi was a funny one, and not just because it was an international tournament featuring decent quality opposition that England actually won (for the less educated, the opposition was reigning World Champions Brazil, runners up Italy and France, who would go on to win the World Cup a year later). This was very much an England team in transition; your Platt’s and Pearce’s from the glorious summer of 1996 were all but done at the highest level and new blood was needed. Some, like Paul Scholes (whatever happened to…ok I’ll stop with that joke), went on to be mainstays in the national team for years to come. But Lee Clark went on to have a middling career with another two spells at Newcastle (to add to his one prior to Sunderland) as well as at Fulham. He now manages Huddersfield where he’s seen as one of the best young managers around, and remains the only England player to have won a medal without winning a cap.
Alternatives: Mark Draper, Sean Davis
Centre Midfield: Robbie Earle (called up for Le Tournoi, June 1997)
And we’re back to players who went on to represent other nations rather than England. Step forward one of the only two men to score goals at the World Cup finals for Jamaica (I’ll give you a hug if you can name the other…no, it’s former Hull City player Theodore Whitmore).
Robbie Earle is a bit of a hero. A legend for Port Vale and Wimbledon, winner of Strictly African Dancing, a committed anti-racism campaigner and renowned ticket tout (allegedly), it’s easy to forget that he was a very good footballer. Unfortunately, international honours didn’t arrive until his autumn years and by that time he was competing against youthful players like Scholes and Butt as well as players in the upper echelons of the top flight like Batty, Ince and Lee. To say he was a loss for England might be an exaggeration, but he’ll always be a Jamaican football legend.
Alternatives: Nigel Reo-Coker, Jonathan Greening
Striker: Paul Warhurst (called up vs. Czechoslovakia, March 1992)
Somehow I’ve managed to include a former Northwich Victoria player in this team, though admittedly he wasn’t a Vics player at the time. He was playing for Sheffield Wednesday. As a defender. Let me tell you the strange story of Paul Warhurst.
The year is 1992. A young Michael Coxon has just started primary school at St. Bede’s Catholic primary in Weaverham and Paul Warhurst is a defender with a relatively successful Sheffield Wednesday. An injury crisis later, and Warhurst was forced into an emergency striker role that is now legendary. 12 goals in 12 games is amazing by the best strikers’ standards but for a defender it’s unbelievable and lead to a call-up from Graham Taylor. Unfortunately, injury robbed him of his chance for international honours and the return of Mark Bright and David Hirst saw him head to Blackburn (where he won a league winners medal), Bolton and just about every other club in the country before ending his career at Vics.
Alternative: Chris Armstrong
Striker: Matt Jansen (called up vs. Paraguay, April 2002)
And we end on possibly the most tragic tale of all our unfortunate bunch. A young player robbed of his chance through sickness then robbed of his top level career in a tragic accident.
Matt Jansen started out with his home town team Carlisle United. After impressing and helping them to the 1997 Football League Trophy (it wasn’t called the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy back then) he had a choice – Crystal Palace…or Manchester United. We know what most players would do, but Jansen opted for the Eagles simply because he knew he’d get more game time and eventually move onto bigger and better things. That he did, joining Blackburn and helping them back into the Premier League before scoring the opener in their 2002 League Cup triumph over Spurs. Alongside Duff and Dunn he was the shining light in a young team and a month before the 2002 World Cup Sven called him up. Unfortunately he wouldn’t follow the likes of Danny Murphy, Wayne Bridge and Darius Vassell in earning a late call up due to a stomach bug, missing the game and ultimately the tournament at the expense of Martin Keown (like for like swap if you ask me…). What followed highlights why players are so molly coddled by their clubs.
Jansen went to Rome with his girlfriend to try and get away from the disappointment of being left behind. They hired a scooter but, 300 yards away from their hotel, they were hit by a taxi. Jansen spent 6 days in a coma but returned to action miraculously 5 months later. However he was never the same player and 4 injury hit years later he was released by Blackburn. After a brief spell at Bolton and failed trials with Man City, NY Red Bulls, Huddersfield and, once again, Blackburn, he tumbled down the leagues with Wrexham, Leigh Genesis and current club Chorley. Now playing in the Northern Premier League and managed by former team mate (and super injunction pioneer) Garry Flitcroft, he’s also a money trader and property developer. But you can’t help but think “what if…”.