The Spoiler’s “Never Played in a World Cup” England XI
Including this wasted treasure
No doubt about it, when the World Cup squad is announced next year, there will be some very tearful young millionaires not getting on a plane to South Africa. With that in mind, below is The Spoiler’s greatest England team never to grace a World Cup match…
Goalkeeper, Ray Clemence – 61 caps
Probably the best thing to ever come out of Skegness, Clemence was a rock for Liverpool and Spurs, and managed to win a load of caps for England. Unfortunately, he did it all at a time when England couldn’t qualify for World Cups. And when they finally did, a certain Peter Shilton delivered an almighty punch to the underpants by keeping Ray out of the team.
Right Back, Lee Dixon – 22 caps
Dixon was kept out of the 1990 World Cup squad by Paul Parker and Gary Stevens, and once Gary Neville turned up on the scene in 1995, it pretty much spelt curtains for the Arsenal full back. So much so that he never played in a single tournament, World Cup or otherwise.
Centre Back, Gary Pallister – 22 caps
With Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister was one half of probably the best central defensive partnership in England in the mid-90s. And yet, he missed out on Italia 90, thanks to the likes of Des Walker, Mark Wright and Terry Butcher, and then Keown, Campbell, Adams and Southgate got the nod in 1998, by which time he was slowly winding down his career.
Centre Back, Steve Bruce – 0 caps
It seems quite ridiculous that Steve Bruce didn’t get a single chance to prove himself on the international stage – albeit at a time when England could boast the likes of Tony Adams and a young Sol Campbell. Captain of United as they ascended to dizzy heights, he was still surely worth a shot.
Left Back, Phil Neville – 59 caps
The younger Neville famously wept when he was ousted from the 1998 World Cup squad, and he hasn’t really had much of a look-in since. By 2002, the left back spot belonged to the Ashley Cole-Wayne Bridge axis of sophistication.
Right Midfield, Duncan Edwards – 18 caps
Tragically, Duncan Edwards was one of the victims of the Munich air disaster in 1958, before which he had been tipped as a future England captain. “His ability was complete – right foot, left foot, long passing, short passing. He did everything instinctively,” said Bobby Charlton.
Centre Midfield, Emlyn Hughes – 62 caps
His versatility finds Emlyn “Crazy Horse” Hughes in the midfield for this team, although he could also do a pretty good job at centre back and full back. He captained the great Liverpool side of the 1970s, but never got the chance to shine in the World Cup. He made the squad for Mexico 70, but never made it onto the pitch. After that, England became rubbish for a bit.
Centre Midfield, Tony Currie – 17 caps
An exciting, attacking midfielder, Currie was great in the 1970s, playing for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds. Unfortunately, like others in this team, his peak playing days coincided with a bleak time for English international football. He managed a few World Cup qualifiers, but no World Cup.
Left Midfield, Ray Kennedy – 17 caps
A Liverpool legend, Kennedy was great on the left, with Keegan and Toshack up front. So good that Jimmy Greaves boldly declared him “the player of the 70s”. Unfortunately, when it came to World Cups, no room for Ray.
Forward, Ian Wright – 33 caps
Were it not for his damn hamstring buggering things up for him, Ian Wright would probably have made it to the 1998 World Cup. As it was, he didn’t, which was a shame, as he’d done much to get the team there in the first place – notably a great performance in a 0-0 against Italy. Seriously.
Forward, Matt Le Tissier – 8 caps
Probably the most criminally wasted English footballer of all time. He was absolutely brilliant, but probably turned the various England managers off by repeatedly turning out for lowly Southampton. Below is a clip of his utter genius.