The oldest national team in football history, along with Scotland, England and Scotland played the first ever international fixture in 1872, resulting in a 0-0 draw. Since that game, 143 years ago, a total of 1,212 players have been capped by the English national football team, an average of around 8/9 newly capped players each year. England have won the World Cup once, reached the World Cup semi-finals once more and the European Championship semi-finals twice.
The decision of who the England manager, or formerly the selectors, have chosen to represent the country has long been a topic of debate and disagreement. It goes without saying that it should be the best English players who are chosen to represent England, yet some distinctly sub-par players have been given the nod whilst arguably far more worthy candidates such as those listed in this article were ignored.
There are a number of reasons a good player may never win a cap for their national team, from the strength of competition in their position to unfortunately timed injuries, but some seemingly cannot be explained. All of the players on this list, whether it be on the grounds of their ability or achievements can be considered very unlucky to never be capped for England. Here are the top 15 players to never be capped by England:
15. Paul Davis
You have to have something about you to spend 15 years at Arsenal and play more than 400 games for the club, and that’s exactly what Paul Davis did. What’s more, the midfielder was successful with the Gunners, winning two league titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one Charity Shield. Davis played 11 times England under-21s, captained the side and represented England Bs. The Arsenal man was selected for a number of England squads but never won a full cap for the national team.
14. Ken Wagstaff
With a number of the entries on this list it is difficult to understand how they did not win an England cap, but in the case of Ken Wagstaff, it is a little more obvious. Waggy, a prolific goal scorer for 16 years, never played in the top flight, making it difficult for any England manager to reward his abilities. Despite this, Wagstaff comfortably had the ability to make it at the highest level. He scored prolifically for Mansfield Town and Hull City and was named the greatest player in both teams’ history, the only player to be win such an award at two English clubs.
13. Steve Ogrizovic
Being a goalkeeper can be one of the most difficult positions to win a cap, with managers often preferring to have a settled number 1, leaving a lot less room for movement and rotation in goal than in outfield positions. Steve Ogrizovic was unfortunate to have Peter Shilton in front of him for much of his career, the most capped Englishman of all time, and once Shilton retired, Chris Woods took over.
Ogrizovic was a very solid goalkeeper who is best remembered for his 14 years at Coventry City, in which time he played 601 games, making him the club’s all-time record appearance holder.
12. Ron Harris
Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris was widely regarded as one of the toughest defenders of his era, hence the nickname, but more than just a brute, Harris was also a very good defender. He spent 19 years at Chelsea and a further three at Brentford, playing a total of 795 games for the Blues, topping their all-time appearance chart. Harris won the League Cup, FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup with Chelsea but never won so much as a solitary cap for his country.
11. Alan Gowling
Alan Gowling played over 500 games for five different teams, all in the north of England. Manchester United, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End were the clubs whose lines were led by Gowling at one time or another. A former Bolton Player of the Year winner, Gowling came as close to winning a full cap as is just about possible, playing for England at schoolboy, amateur and under-23 level, as well as representing Great Britain at the 1968 Olympics. Over a 17-year career, Gowling scored 129 goals, but despite coming agonizingly close, he never won a full cap for England.
10. Steve Bruce
One of the most well-known names on this list, Steve Bruce may not have been as technically gifted as some of the players on this list, but his career statistics and achievements certainly make it surprising that he never won a single cap. The central defender spent nine seasons at Old Trafford, playing more than 300 games, winning three Premier League titles and nine other trophies, forming a formidable partnership with Gary Pallister,
Unlike most on this list, Steve Bruce was offered the chance to win an England cap, but aged 34, he turned down the opportunity feeling it was offered on sympathy rather than merit at the time.
9. Kevin Campbell
Kevin Campbell holds the somewhat proud distinction of being the highest scoring player in Premier League history to have not won a cap for their country. The tall striker played for seven different teams in a 19-year career, but his most notable spells came at Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Everton. Whilst he never set the world alight, Campbell was always a consistent goal scorer, and managed 148 goals in 499 games in total. Unsurprisingly, like a number of others on this list, Campbell came mightily close, playing for both England under-21s and England B, but never playing for the first team.
8. Tony Coton
The second goalkeeper to make this list, Tony Coton was another who was very unfortunate to never win at least one cap for his country. Coton played more than 500 games over a 19-year career, playing almost exclusively for Birmingham, Watford and Manchester City. He was the second player to be inducted into the Watford FC Hall of Fame and won Manchester City Player of the Season twice, at which time he earned a call-up to the England B team. He played once for England’s second string but never won full international honours; Coton went on to become a football agent following retirement.
7. Dennis Mortimer
Any player who captains a team to both a league title and a European Cup win can probably consider themselves a little unlucky not to win a cap for their country, and Dennis Mortimer is no exception. The Liverpool-born midfielder played just shy of 600 games in the Football League, scoring 47 goals, but is best remembered for his 10 year spell at Aston Villa. In that time, Mortimer was pivotal figure in Villa’s success, captaining the team for seven years, a period in which the club became champions of both England and Europe, as well as winning the League Cup. Mortimer played for both England under-23s and England Bs, but never the full national team.
6. Howard Kendall
Recently deceased football legend Howard Kendall was best remembered for his incredible managerial career when he passed away in October of this year, but supporters of a certain vintage also remember Kendall as a fine player. A talented midfielder, Kendall formed one third of the “Holy Trinity” at Everton, alongside Alan Ball and Colin Harvey. Ball won 72 England caps, including a World Cup win, Harvey won one cap, and Kendall didn’t even manage that.
A two-time FA Cup finalist, Kendall won the league as a player with Everton in 1970, and also played for Preston, Birmingham, Stoke and Blackburn. Despite captaining the England youth team to glory at the 1964 Little World Cup, Kendall never won a cap for the senior team.
5. Micky Hazard
It has been claimed that England are incapable of producing natural, gifted ball-playing players, but the truth is, there have been a number of them, the problems have been in England managers understanding and accommodating them. Whilst many failed to do so, Micky Hazard was simply never even given a chance. The diminutive midfielder had fine technique and passing abilities which saw him star for Tottenham and Chelsea in the 1980s. He won an FA Cup and a UEFA Cup with Spurs, adding a Full Members Cup at Chelsea, but to the bewilderment of many, he was never handed an England cap.
4. Billy Bonds
It is still considered a travesty by some West Ham fans that Billy Bonds never won an England cap. Versatile and committed, Bonds began his career at right-back, before adapting to become a midfielder and later ending his career at center-back. Having started his career at Charlton, Bonds joined West Ham in 1967, and stayed there for 21 years, playing more than 800 games for the club, making him far and away the Hammers all-time record appearance holder.
Bonds most likely would have won an England cap in England’s 1981 friendly against Brazil were it not for an injury sustained in the final game of the 1980/81 season which ruled him out of the tie.
3. Jimmy Greenhoff
A wonderfully gifted footballer, Jimmy Greenhoff is best remembered for his time at Leeds United, Birmingham City, Stoke City and Manchester United, although he later played for Crewe, Toronto Blizzard, Port Vale and Rochdale. A skillful and two-footed player, Greenhoff scored more than 200 career goals in just shy of 750 games. He won a total of six trophies over the course of a 21-year career, including the FA Cup and League Cup twice. Greenhoff played for England under-23s, but never won a full cap, and is considered by many to be the greatest player not to have done so.
2. Jimmy Case
A star of the magnificent Liverpool team of the the 1970s, when one looks at what Jimmy Case achieved, it is difficult to believe he never got the nod for a single appearance for England. In eight years at Anfield, Case played around 200 games for the club, winning 4 league titles, three European Cups, four Charity Shields, one UEFA Cup and more. A very effective left winger with a tremendous shot, Case won the Bravo Award in 1978, naming him the best player in Europe that season, but still failed to receive international recognition. He played and scored once for England under-23s, but somehow failed to win a full cap.
1. Albert Stubbins
One of the earliest examples of a complete forward in the English game, Albert Stubbins was powerful yet technical, capable of scoring goals, creating goals and bringing people into the game. A large chunk of his early career – ages 19 to 26 – was taken from him by WWII. In that time, Stubbins scored 188 goals in 231 appearances in unofficial wartime fixtures. By the time the war came to an end, Stubbins was one of the most highly regarded forwards in the country, and set a post-war British record transfer fee when he signed for Liverpool in 1946.
Stubbins scored 24 goals and won the title in his first season at Anfield, although it would prove his only trophy at the club, coming close as losing FA Cup finalists in 1950. He scored 83 goals in 178 games for Liverpool, and holds the rare distinction of being the only footballer to appear on the front cover of the Beatles Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Stubbins played for England in unofficial wartime fixtures but never won a full cap under Walter Winterbottom whilst playing for Liverpool.
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