Since England’s first international fixture in 1872, over 1200 players have donned the Three Lions jersey. A proud moment and a dream come true for each and every one of them. But for some, that’s all it will ever be, a dream. Over the years, a number of high profile, talented players have been controversially overlooked, sparking outrage and debate amongst fans and the media alike. Below we look at the best players never to play for England.
Why Jimmy Case never played for England, I’ll never know. The lad was different gravy. A key figure in the talented Liverpool team of the 1970s, Case won it all with the Anfield club. 4 league titles, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, the list goes on. He was so good he received the first ever Bravo Award – handed out to the best young player in Europe starting in 1978 – but even then, it still wasn’t enough to earn an England call up. Strange one.
Some say he’s the greatest player never to play for England, which is bold. But they’ve got a very valid point. Jimmy Greenhoff was talented. Skilful. Could play with both feet. And bagged goals for fun, 200 of them in fact. Which ain’t bad going. Not good enough for an England call up, though, it seems. Which is criminal. The silky striker played for numerous clubs, but most notably Leeds, Birmingham, Stoke and Manchester United. During his 21-year playing career, Greenhoff won six trophies, including the FA Cup and League Cup twice.
Look up the meaning of ‘utility man’ and it’ll say Billy Bonds, or it should do. Starting his career at right back, Bonds was transformed into a midfield general before slotting in at centre back. A West Ham legend, he started his career at Charlton before going on to become the Hammers all-time record appearance holder, featuring more than 800 times for the club. Bonds was due to feature for England in their friendly with Brazil in 1981, however, an injury picked up in the final game of the season ruled him out of the clash.
What Micky Hazard lacked in height, he certainly made up for in footballing ability. Technically outstanding, Hazard was a natural with the ball at his feet. He could pass, dribble, had a fantastic touch and ridiculous vision. Everything you’d want from a midfielder in the modern game, but unfortunately for Hazard that wasn’t the case in the 80s. Subsequently, the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Full Members Cup winner was often overlooked by England managers due to a lack of physical presence. What might have been eh?
One third of Everton’s famous ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside World Cup winner Alan Ball and Colin Harvey – who was also capped by England – Howard Kendall was a talented midfielder strangely overlooked by the Three Lions in the 70s. Before reaching two FA Cup finals and winning the league with Everton, Kendal captained England’s youth team to glory at the 1964 Little World Cup. As a result, the Everton midfielder was hotly tipped to go on and become a regular in the senior side. But, for whatever reason, the call up never materialised.
Villa captain for seven years, midfielder Dennis Mortimer lifted both the league title and European Cup with the Midlands club. But it wasn’t enough to earn himself an England call up, unlucky son. Ooh, and I almost forgot to mention, he played for both England under-23s and the B team. Yet still didn’t feature for the senior side. Go figure. Mortimer’s playing career lasted almost two decades, during which he made nearly 600 league appearances. Some career, to be fair.
A cat between the sticks Tony Coton is best remembered for his time at Birmingham, Watford and Manchester City, where, combined, he made over 500 appearances. During a six-year stint at Vicarage Road, Watford, Coton earned legendary status at the club, becoming just the second player to be inducted into the Hornets’ Hall Of Fame. Add to that two Player Of The Season Awards at Manchester City and you’ll soon find yourself wondering why, or how, the Tamworth born goalkeeper never made it into the England senior side. Must’ve been some decent keepers knocking about in the late 80s early 90s.
With 148 goals in 499 career appearances, Kevin Campbell is the highest scoring player in Premier League history to have never been capped by England. Criminal. The former Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Everton striker may not have been the most technically gifted player of his era, but he was consistent. And can count himself unlucky not to play for the England senior team, having featured for both the under-21s and B team.
Despite making over 300 appearances for Manchester United and lifting three Premier League titles, Steve Bruce failed to win a single cap for England. Forming a formidable partnership with Gary Pallister at the heart of United’s defence, Bruce spent nine years at Old Trafford and was, controversially, finally offered the chance to represent the Three Lions towards the end of his career, aged 34. The centre back, though, declined the offer feeling the call up was offered out of sympathy. Fair play.
Known for his no nonsense, tough tackling approach, Ron Harris, or ‘Chopper’, played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s success in the ‘70s. The defender made a record 795 appearances for the Blues in 19 years, winning the League Cup, FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. But, somehow, it wasn’t enough to earn him a call up to the England national team. Outrageous.
A Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95, Paul Warhurst was one of the most versatile players of his generation. Capable of playing in defence, midfield and even attack, Warhurst’s ability to play in almost every position on the pitch was, at the time, seen as a huge positive. But on reflection, it probably had a negative impact on his international career, as nobody seemed to know his best position, therefore, he was unable to nail down a spot in the England senior team.
Playing in one of the most successful sides in history didn’t always guarantee an England cap, as David May found out. A double Premier League and FA Cup winner with Manchester United and of course Champions League winner, May thought his wait to represent his country was over in 1997 when several key injuries at centre back forced Glenn Hoddle to call up the United defender. But instead of starting May, an out and out centre back, Hoddle decided to play left back Stuart Pearce in an unfamiliar role, forcing May to watch on from the sidelines, the closest he ever got to an England call cap.
A Bolton Wanderers legend, Kevin Nolan played a pivotal role in the club’s famous European adventure, during which they beat Atletico Madrid over two legs to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Cup. The midfielder bagged 99 goals in 536 career appearances, which is a great return for a box to box midfielder. But it wasn’t enough to earn him an England call up. Perhaps playing for one of the traditional ‘big six’ may have enhanced his chances.
After the turn of the millennium, Matt Jansen was one of England’s brightest talents. A prolific goal scorer for Blackburn Rovers, Jansen bagged in the 2002 League Cup final, helping Rovers see off Tottenham 2-1. An international call up soon followed, but a stomach infection ruled him out of England’s friendly with Paraguay. Later that summer, Jansen was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident whilst on holiday in Rome. He spent six days in a coma before eventually making a full recovery. Jansen, though, was unable to reach the same heights on the football pitch and soon found himself playing in the lower leagues of English football.
After impressive performances for Wigan and Fulham, Jimmy Bullard finally received the call up he’d been waiting for. He was part of Fabio Capello’s 23 man squad for a friendly with Germany in 2008. He’d start on the bench, but with 11 substitutions permitted he’d at least get a 10-minute cameo. Or so he thought. So everyone thought, actually. But it never happened. To Bullard’s embarrassment,