A lot has been made lately about the lack of English players in the English Premier League. In fact, many fans believe the country is nothing but a backdrop for the competition. But while there may not be an overabundance of homegrown players in the league right now, there are definitely some bright young prospects who could one day star for the country’s senior national side in the near future. Most of the attention-grabbing and headline-making players are those who have the knack for putting the ball in the net.
At the moment, England boasts young goalscoring stars such as Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur, Danny Ings of Burnley, Saido Berahino of West Bromwich Albion and Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin. But for every young soccer player with a bright future ahead of him there has been a greater number of them who have crashed and burned before they could establish a long-term career. We’ve seen several English youngsters evolve into world-class stars in the past with the likes of Paul Gascgoine, Michael Owen, and Wayne Rooney being among the best of the bunch.
Those who have come and gone like a failed Broadway show are harder to remember simply because for one reason or another they weren’t able to live up to their potential. These players all appeared to be stars in the making, but after brief moments of glory weren’t able to sustain their play at the top level. These are 10 English youngsters who all hit the ground running early on in their Premier League careers, but ultimately failed to live up to their billing and are rarely mentioned or even remembered by some fans anymore. They made this list based on their potential, expectations of them, and/or their transfer costs.
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10 Andy Carroll
It may be a bit harsh to place Andy Carroll on this list since he’s a fine soccer player, but is simply injury prone and hasn’t lived up to the high expectations placed on him or his enormous transfer costs. When he was 21 years old Carroll had scored 11 times for Newcastle United before New Year’s Day in the 2010-11 Premier League campaign and his performance earned him a call up by England. He had been with Newcastle since 2006 and left in 2011 with 31 goals in 80 games.
He was rated so highly that Liverpool paid 35 million pounds for him, which was then a record for a British player. Carroll managed to play 44 league games with the Reds and scored just six goals. He was loaned to West Ham in 2012-13 and fared better with seven goals in 24 league games. West Ham then paid 15 million pounds for the striker and he’s scored another 7 goals in 27 contests, but has missed more than half of West Ham’s matches over that time due to a variety of injuries. He is currently sidelined again until the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Carroll’s just 26 years old and has 59 goals in 215 career club outings. He’s also added a pair of goals in nine games for England. It’s conceivable that Carroll can still enjoy a decent Premier League and international career, but up to this point he’s got to be considered a disappointment.
9 Matt Jansen
Matt Jansen was hot stuff at the end of the 1990s after playing for lower-league Carlisle United, where he scored 10 goals in 42 matches. Crystal Palace noticed him and the Premier League club bought him for a million pounds in 1998. Jansen found the net 10 times in 26 contests with Palace and fellow Premier League side Blackburn bought him for 4.1 million pounds when he was still just 21 years of age. The striker was labeled as a can’t-miss prospect for England but things didn’t work out that way for him. He had some injury problems and was sold to Bolton by Blackburn in 2006 after scoring 44 goals in 154 games for the Lancashire side. He found himself playing non-league football with Chorley in 2010 and promptly retired after scoring 95 goals in 328 career games. Jansen managed to get half a dozen matches in with the England Under-21 team, but failed to score.
8 Danny Cadamarteri
Cadamarteri opened his account with Everton back in September of the 1997-98 season with a highlight-reel goal against Arsenal. The 18-year-old striker then followed it up a month later with a better tally against Liverpool in the famous Merseyside derby. Soccer fans believed Cadamarteri was destined for stardom and a role with the English national team, but his goal against Liverpool was the last one he’d score that season. He’d play 93 league games with Everton and scored 13 goals.
He was never seen in the Premier League again after 2002 and became a journeyman player by having stints at nine other clubs. Cadamarteri finished his pro career with 42 goals in 395 career club contests. Internationally, he played five games with the England Under-18 squad and three more with the Under-21 side, but failed to score.
7 Michael Bridges
Bridges was 21 years old back in 1999 when he joined Leeds United from Sunderland, where he scored 16 goals in 79 games, and appeared to be destined for an exciting career at Elland Road under manager David O’Leary. Bridges hit the back of the net 19 times during the 1999-00 campaign and it looked like he’d be a shoo-in for an England career.
However, Bridges suffered several injuries throughout the remainder of his career and never scored another goal for Leeds. He played for several other teams in the English lower divisions and then packed his bags and moved down under to play for the Newcastle Jets in Australia between 2009 and 2014. Bridges recently retired with 73 goals to his name in 326 career league outings. He appeared in five games with the England Under-18 team and scored a pair of goals and also represented the national Under-21 squad 11 times and chipped in with three goals.
6 James Vaughan
With Vaughan becoming the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history back in 2005, Everton thought they had another English star like Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney. However, he never got into a groove at Goodison Park due to injuries. He scored seven goals in 47 league matches with Everton between 2004 and 2011, but was also sent out on loan to Derby county, Leicester City and Crystal Palace where he scored a combined 10 goals in 40 league matches.
Vaughan spent 2011 to 2013 with Norwich City, but played in just five games without a goal. He spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Huddersfield Town and regained his scoring touch somewhat with 14 goals in 33 league games. He signed permanently with Huddersfield in 2013 and is still there now at the age of 26. Vaughan has represented England at the Under 17, 19, and 21 levels with a combined five goals in 13 contests. He’s scored 39 times in 164 career league games up to now and still had a few years to go in his career, but it’s highly doubtful he’ll ever be back in the Premier League.
5 Michael Ricketts
Ricketts turned pro with Walsall in 1996 and scored 14 times in 76 appearances before joining Premier League side Bolton in 2000. He scored 15 goals for the Wanderers in the opening half of the 2001-02 campaign and was called up by England as a 23-year-old. He played 45 minutes for his homeland against Holland and that was the start and end of his national senior career. The experience must have affected him somehow since Ricketts didn’t score another league goal for the rest of the season.
He left Bolton in 2003 with a respectable 37 goals in 98 league matches. Ricketts then went on to play with Middlesbrough, Leeds United, Stoke City, Cardiff City, Burnley, Southend United, Preston North End, Oldham Athletic and Tranmere Rovers before calling it quits on a 14-year career in 2010. Ricketts hung up his boots in 2010 with 96 goals in 406 career club games.
4 Francis Jeffers
Striker Francis Jeffers enjoyed four decent seasons with Everton from 1997 to 2001 before Arsenal snatched him up for eight million pounds, which was a ton of money back in those days. Jeffers had 18 league goals in 49 games at Everton, but could only manage four in 22 outings with the Gunners. The youngster was sent back to Everton on loan for half of the 2003-04 campaign and then drifted around Britain playing for several other teams including Charlton, Blackburn, and Ipswich. He also jetted off to Australia for a season with the Newcastle Jets in 2010-11. He finished up with Accrington Stanley in 2013 before retiring.
Jeffers managed 52 goals in 279 career club contests. He was a hit with the England Under-21 squad with 13 goals in 16 encounters, which ties him for number one as that team’s all-time leading scorer. He did play one game with England’s national senior side and scored a goal in the contest against Australia, but never represented the Three Lions again. Jeffers is still only 34 years old today.
3 Neil Mellor
Neil Mellor’s pro career began directly in the Premier League with Liverpool in 2002, but he played in just 12 league games up to 2006 with a grand total of two goals. Mellor was expected to be a goal-scoring machine much like fellow Reds Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, but it never panned out that way. He left Anfield in 2006 and signed with lower-division side Preston North End. In the meantime, Liverpool had sent him put on brief loan spells with West Ham United and Wigan. He played with Preston until 2012 and scored 38 goals in 130 league matches. He spent the 2010-11 season with Sheffield United and banged in 13 goals in 33 league outings. He retired at the age of 28 with 72 goals on his resume in 241 career club games.
2 David Bentley
Much like the car of the same name, Bentley was expected to be an elite performer in the Premier League and for his country. Bentley broke into soccer with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed with the London club until 2006, but played just one league game with the Gunners. Bentley spent the rest of those years out on loan with the likes of Norwich City and Blackburn where he scored just twice in a combined 40 games. Blackburn signed him permanently in 2006 and he chipped in with 13 league goals in 88 games.
Tottenham Hotspur then signed the young striker between 2008 and 2013 after paying 15 million pounds for him, but he played just 42 league games and scored only three goals. Spurs loaned him to Birmingham, West Ham, FC Rostov of Russia, and finally to Blackburn. He retired in 2014 with 30 career goals in 266 club games. Bentley was tipped as becoming the next David Beckham but he only managed to play seven times for England. He also made eight appearances with the Under-21 team with four goals, and represented the English B squad once without scoring.
1 Ravel Morrison
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson once stated that Ravel Morrison was the best 14-year-old player he’d ever set his eyes on. A glorious career for club and country was predicted for the youngster when he was with United in 2010, but he never played a single league game for the club. Ferguson got rid of him in 2012 and Morrison ended up at West Ham United. He appeared in 18 games with the London club and scored three times. However, he was sent out on loan to Birmingham, Cardiff City and then Queens Park Rangers.
Morrison scored a combined nine goals in 49 contests while on loan and is still under contract with West Ham. However, the 22-year-old has a reputation of being a bit of a troublemaker and has been in trouble with the law. Hammers have decided to let him leave and join Italian Serie A club Lazio at the end of the current season. Morrison has represented England at the Under-16, 17, 18 and 21 levels, but his reputation has more or less driven him out of England. He leaves with 14 goals in 81 career club games up to now.
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