From Cole to Collymore, Bruce to Cunningham there's a raft of Englishmen who beg the question 'how did they only win X-amount of caps for their country?' We look at ten players whose respective international careers failed to match their talent
By Matt Stanger. Last Updated: October 17, 2012 2:20pm
Robbie Fowler enjoys a rare outing in an England shirt
Given his impressive scoring record with Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, Collymore deserved more chances for England, with his three caps providing only a brief opportunity to impress. The striker was 24 and at the peak of his powers when he made his debut against Japan in 1995, but combined with the two sub appearances that followed, he played a grand total of just 84 minutes for the national team. Along with several other English forwards in the mid-90s, Collymore was a victim of circumstance and perhaps it was unlikely that he would have formed a formidable partnership with Alan Shearer.
Although Cole was outstanding for both Newcastle and Manchester United, he was never given a fair crack of the whip with England and Glenn Hoddle once famously accused him of needing five chances to score. Along with Collymore, Robbie Fowler and Sir Les Ferdinand, Cole belongs in the bunch of forwards who never quite broke into the England set-up during the Shearer, Sheringham and Owen monopoly. He made just 15 appearances (six as a sub) for the national team and scored only one goal despite totalling 157 strikes in 280 Premier League matches between 1992 and 2002. With England currently short on attacking quality, Roy Hodgson must wish he had a striker of Cole's quality to call upon.
If you consider what Carrick has achieved during his time at Manchester United, it's quite remarkable that he has made only 25 appearances for England. While a succession of national team managers struggled with the Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard axis, Carrick has been repeatedly ignored despite playing a fundamental role in a better team. Similar to his United team-mate Paul Scholes, Carrick's disciplined use of the ball has always been overlooked in favour of a more cut-and-thrust style, but England's inability to retain possession was underlined at Euro 2012 and the midfielder has since been recalled by Roy Hodgson. With Gareth Barry, who has 53 caps, preferred by Fabio Capello, Carrick's international career has never got going and even Kieron Dyer (33 caps), Wayne Bridge (36 caps) and Stewart Downing (34 caps) have made more appearances for the Three Lions.
King's knacked knees restricted the 32-year-old to only 21 appearances for England during his 13-year career and his long-term battle against injury forced him to retire in the summer. Despite being unable to train regularly for Tottenham, the defender was admired by England managers for both his physical attributes and ability to read the game, with Fabio Capello once saying, "Without doubt, King is one of the best central defenders in England." Fortunately for the Three Lions, King's absence never proved crucial and they could still rely on the partnership of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. But if the Spurs defender hadn't been held back by injuries he certainly would have challenged the duo for a starting spot.
With 395 goals in 447 games for Everton, Dean was one of the greatest forwards English football has ever seen. The striker scored a record 60 goals in 39 league matches in 1928 as Everton romped to the title and secured a second championship in 1932 with 45 strikes in 38 matches. In his first five games for England, Dean hit 12 goals and between 1927 and 1932 the forward totalled 18 strikes in 16 games for the national team. He was denied the chance to play at the World Cup, however, with the FA declining to participate in the inaugural tournament in 1930 (as well as the 1934 and 1938 competitions). As testament to Dean's wonderful talent, Sir Matt Busby once said of the Everton striker: "To play against Dixie Dean was at once a delight and a nightmare. He was a perfect specimen of an athlete, beautifully proportioned, with immense strength, adept on the ground but with extraordinary skill in the air."
Despite being a colossus for Manchester United, Steve Bruce never played for England, winning just a solitary 'B' cap in his 20-year career. The defender was appointed United captain by Sir Alex Ferguson and won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the Cup Winners' Cup and the League Cup during his time at Old Trafford, but for some reason that wasn't enough for a succession of England managers. Bruce was probably resigned to never making an appearance for the Three Lions after the 1990/91 season, when he scored an astonishing 19 goals in 50 games for United but was still overlooked. That even Neil Ruddock was rewarded with a cap ahead of Bruce is quite a shocking quirk in England history. Maybe his face just didn't fit.
Although Fowler was known as 'God' on Merseyside for his goalscoring exploits for Liverpool, the striker struggled to replicate his club form on the international stage. Fowler's record of seven goals in 26 matches is rather meagre for a forward of his talent, but he only appeared in the starting line-up on 11 occasions for England which - if you consider Danny Welbeck has already started six matches - was clearly an oversight on the part of Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle. Fowler's limited chances at international level were summed up by his involvement at Euro 96, when he appeared for just 24 minutes in the tournament despite scoring 28 goals in the Premier League that season, as Teddy Sheringham was preferred to partner Shearer in attack.
Despite being one of the brightest talents of his generation, Cunningham made only six appearances for England between 1978 and 1980. His chances were partly limited by a string of injuries during his spell at Real Madrid, while an ongoing feud between club and country also prevented Ron Greenwood from selecting the winger. During his time with Real Madrid, Cunningham won La Liga and two Copa del Rey trophies as well as playing in the 1-0 European Cup final defeat to Liverpool in 1981. One of his most memorable performances came against Kaiserslautern in the 1982 UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg, when he scored and showcased his skill on the left of Real's attack. However, with injuries taking their toll, the winger left the Santiago Bernabeu and appeared for Marseille and Rayo Vallecano before his tragic death in a car accident in 1989.
Matthew Le Tissier
It's often been said that Le Tissier was "too good" for England, after the attacking midfielder made only eight appearances for the Three Lions between 1994 and 1997. Le Tissier's performances for Southampton warranted further recognition from Venables and Hoddle, and it was often thought that he would have been given more chances to impress had he left the south coast to join a club competing at the top end of the Premier League. Not only would Le Tissier's creativity have been a huge boost for England, but his spot-kick record of 47 goals in 48 attempts could have proved invaluable in a team that exited both Euro 96 and World Cup 98 on penalties. At least Xavi recognised Le Tiss' ability, saying in 2010: "His talent was simply out of the norm. He could simply dribble past seven or eight players but without speed - he just walked past them. For me he was sensational."
If there's an uncapped player to have a trophy cabinet as full as Jimmy Case's we've yet to come across him. In eight memorable years at hometown club Liverpool the diminutive but menacing in the tackle Case won four First Division titles, three European Cups, a UEFA Cup and a Super Cup. A volatile character on and off the field the one-time electrician enjoyed a fine understanding with fellow hell-raiser Ray Kennedy in the heart of Liverpool's midfield. A jackhammer of a strike helped him to a healthy number of important goals and complemented his pugnacious appetite for the battle but a succession of England bosses overlooked the Anfield favourite. He was voted No.45 in the 2006 poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop and will likely be equally as proud to sneak into our Top Ten. Upon leaving Liverpool he went on to play for a further 15 years (enjoying lengthy spells at Brighton 127 appearances and Southampton 215 appearances) before finally hanging up his boots at the age of 41 in 1996.
This article first appeared on Football365