The top six underwhelming England strikers
The hitmen who didn’t quite cut it at international level
In light of in-form Sunderland striker Darren Bent’s omission from Don Fabio’s latest England squad, Spoiler correspondent Alex Perry has compiled a list of English strikers who failed to sparkle on the international stage. Who knows, Darren, if you keep “banging them in” you may get a chance to avoid joining this list…
410 club appearances / 88 goals
1 England appearance / 0 goals
Alan Shearer’s other half in Blackburn Rovers’ deadly strike force, Sutton was the joint top-scorer with Dion Dublin and 18-year-old Michael Owen in the 1997/98 season, and thus a shoo-in for the upcoming World Cup squad, surely? Well, no, because Sutton had decided a few months before that playing for an experimental England ‘B’ team wasn’t for him and Glenn Hoddle decided Sutton’s single goalless cap in an England shirt was enough.
409 club appearances / 172 goals (and counting)
26 England appearances / 8 goals
You couldn’t pick up a newspaper in the nineties without reading about “England’s most natural finisher”, scoring 30-plus goals three seasons on the bounce. Fowler went to Euro ’96 in the form of his life, but he was never going to unsettle the Shearer/Sheringham partnership that did so well in that tournament.
Persistent injuries, the “Spice Boy” lifestyle and controversial goal celebrations meant Fowler was restricted to just 26 England appearances and just one competitive goal – against Albania in a World Cup qualifier.
Matthew Le Tissier
443 club appearances / 162 goals
8 England appearances / 0 goals
A goal in every two-and-a-half games is an unbelievable return for an attacking midfielder, so why didn’t Le Tiss earn more than eight call-ups? It’s alleged that Terry Venables wasn’t a fan of “flair players”, but it is more likely that – with around 161 of his 162 Southampton goals being 35-yard piledrivers – Le Tissier simply didn’t offer enough for the team on the whole.
581 club appearances / 387 goals
33 England appearances / 9 goals
Much like his TV presenting career, Wright’s exploits in the white of England were jittery at best. But nine goals in 33 isn’t that bad, we hear you say. Well, Wright started just 16 times with the rest of his caps coming from the bench. And four of his nine goals came in one match featuring an overly-generous San Marino goalkeeper.
Wright can consider himself unlucky because his peak came at a time when England were hardly setting the world on fire. He started out with (arguably) England’s most unsuccessful manager of all-time in Graham Taylor, before moving on to a manager who didn’t fancy him in Terry Venables. And by the time Hoddle was in-charge, Wright’s free-scoring Arsenal career was winding down and the new kids on the block were in favour.
495 club appearances / 232 goals (and counting)
8 England appearances / 0 goals
Phillips has scored a goal every other game at club level – and is still doing it week-in-week-out in the Premier League right now – but his international career never really got started. At the start of the 1999/00 season, controversial quote machine Rodney Marsh predicted Phillips would “struggle to score six goals” in the upcoming campaign. He had six by mid-September. Phillips went on to hit an unbeaten 30 and earned himself a call-up to Kevin Keegan’s Euro 2000 squad where he was an unused substitute throughout the (frankly embarrassing) tournament.
Phillips scores goals. That’s what he does. But in most football fans’ eyes, he is of a similar mould to Bolton’s Kevin Davies. Unfashionable and unfancied, but gets on with the job in hand.
499 club appearances / 229 goals
15 England appearances / 1 goal
The hottest English striker throughout the nineties, Andrew Cole – then known as ‘Andy’ – was knocking them in for fun. A goal every 1.2 games in three seasons at Newcastle was all the encouragement Alex Ferguson needed to break the English transfer record.
Cole’s short England career didn’t get off to the best start. Given his big chance against Uruguay in 1995, the United hitman missed a host of chances, including a sitter from all of six-yards. He suddenly found himself with the stigma of needing “six or seven chances to score” – a claim famously backed-up by Hoddle when justifying leaving Cole out of the World Cup ’98 squad.