The Top 10 Football Players Ignored by England

Matthew Le Tissier (Getty Images)

Although the England national team has not always been successful, its managers have not always selected the best players available. Below we rank the best players available for selection by England over the years, who either received no full international caps at all, or received a handful of them, at a time when it could have been expected that the player would make a major impact on the international stage.

10. Chris Sutton - 1 England Cap

Sutton was one half of the "SAS" (Alan Shearer being the other) that helped power Blackburn Rovers to the 1994/95 Premier League title. In spite of this, Sutton is a one-cap wonder at international level. The reasons for this were that the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright and Robbie Fowler were considered better strike partners for Shearer at international level, and because Sutton, in 1997, refused to play for England B when Glenn Hoddle asked him to.

9. Nigel Martyn - 23 England Caps

Twenty-three caps doesn't indicate a lost international career, however those caps were spread over ten years, and were mostly picked up in friendlies or qualifying matches. This was because Chris Woods, David Seaman and, later, David James were picked ahead of the former Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Everton goalkeeper.

Everton fans were so appreciative of Martyn's gift for the perfect save that they called him "England's number one", and club chairman Bill Kenwright said he was "the best goalkeeper in the world".

8. Steve Watson - 0 England Caps

Capable of playing in any position in defence or midfield, Watson made his name as a key element in the Newcastle United side that, managed by Kevin Keegan, finished second in the Premier League twice in the mid-1990s. However, in spite of being called up for England B, Watson's versatility perhaps was his undoing, with England never calling him up.

7. Edu - 0 England Caps, 15 Brazil Caps

A strange choice for this chart, given that Edu is a former Brazil international, but there was a time, around the period of Arsenal's 2003/04 "Invincibles" season, when the club's ball-winning midfielder had lived in the UK long enough to be granted citizenship. Uncapped by Brazil and frustrated by this, Edu told the media he would be happy to be selected by England.

The FA seemingly did not agree, as starting a naturalisation debate might have opened a can of worms, and indeed the player was soon called-up by Brazil, though missing out on major tournament football with his country of birth. However the selection by Germany of Brazilian-born Cacao shows that other countries do not all have the same rigid policy on players born elsewhere.

6. Lee Sharpe - 8 England Caps

The Manchester United winger, one half of a tricky partnership out wide with Ryan Giggs during United's early-1990s successes, didn't make the most of his prodigious talents. While Giggs was training and preparing well, his team-mate loved to party, and paid the price with a series of injuries later in his career. However Sharpe was called up several times for England, sometimes out of position, and was never really trusted sufficiently to shine at international level.

5. Rodney Marsh - 9 England Caps

Best known these days for sexist remarks made as a contestant on reality TV show "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!", Marsh was once one of the brightest talents in English football. A winger or striker for Queen's Park Rangers who moved to Manchester City in 1972, he was seen by England manager Alf Ramsay as a risky selection, eventually getting called-up by Ramsay against Switzerland in 1971.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of trust in Marsh was his love of the high life, often spotted out drinking with George Best. Another was his lack of respect for authority. Ramsay apparently told Marsh against Switzerland, "I'll be watching you for the first 45 minutes and if you don't work harder I'll pull you off at half time," with Marsh saying, "Crikey, Alf, at Manchester City all we get is an orange and a cup of tea."

4. Stan Bowles - 5 England Caps

Another QPR winger-turned-striker who possessed extravagant gifts with the ball at his feet, but a wish to drink himself under the table when not playing, Stan Bowles fell out with many of the managers he worked with, and so it is perhaps not a surprise that he only received 5 England caps in spite of helping QPR to second place in 1975/76, giving fans of that time a series of tricks that, if shown now, would surely break YouTube. Bowles' unfit appearance on BBC TV's "Superstars" game show is the stuff of comedy legend.

3. Howard Kendall - 0 England Caps

Signed for Everton from Preston North End as a 23 year-old, Kendall was moved from defence to midfield by manager Harry Catterick, the creator of the coaching group known to fans as the "School of Science". He played in the so-called "Holy Trinity" alongside Colin Harvey and World Cup-winner Alan Ball, helping Everton win the 1969-70 league title.

However this was a period when England was arguably at its peak, with Ball playing in the middle alongside the likes of Martin Peters and Francis Lee. Kendall, in spite of being one of the most skilful players of his time, and with an excellent work-ethic, did not make the England side. However after retiring as a player, Kendall managed Everton to the 1984 FA Cup and the 1984/85 and 1986/87 First Division titles, at a time when, sadly, English teams were banned from Europe.

2. Steve Bruce - 0 England Caps

It remains a mystery why Steve Bruce, the rock at the back of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United teams between 1987 and 1996, did not get a single cap for England. His defensive colleagues Paul Parker and Gary Pallister did, and for many of Bruce's 309 appearances for United, he was captain. His big-hearted, tough demeanour hid a quite skilful defender, who was a better passer of the ball than many at the time.

1. Matthew Le Tissier - 8 England Caps

Le Tissier is such a shy and unassuming man that, as a Sky Sports TV pundit last Christmas, he and his colleagues were asked to name the greatest-ever Premier League eleven. In spite of "Le Tiss" being in the room, no-one mentioned his name. This ignored the man who Andres Iniesta said in an interview he wished he'd played with, and the player who, a banner declared, Brazil would have picked.

Arguably the greatest-ever Southampton player, Le Tissier, born on the Channel Island of Guernsey, could and often did do anything with the ball. His Premier League highlights reel is a treat for the eyes, and for 1990s players of the FIFA series of video games, he was pretty much the only reason to play as Southampton, then a struggling team. In spite of offers, Le Tissier declined all possible moves to top clubs, saying he did not want to leave his home.

As a Channel-Islander, Le Tissier could have picked any of the UK nations as his international team, under a quirk of FIFA eligibility rules. He chose England, who then spent the best part of a decade either ignoring or misusing a player who, unlike Marsh and Bowles, hardly drank, didn't enjoy parties, and whose biggest vice was liking pies and curry too much at times.

Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle both fielded the playmaker, but he was overlooked for both Euro '96 and the 1998 World Cup, describing the latter as one of the biggest disappointments of his career. England managers were wedded to the 4-4-2 formation in those days, meaning a man like Le Tissier who played a free role between the lines was seen as a liability, a sad indictment of their lack of imagination.

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