England have been blessed with some unbelievable footballing talent over the years, from the 1966 World Cup winning squad to the ‘golden generation’ in the early 2000s who failed at every hurdle. The depth of England’s talent means that plenty of star names have won fewer caps than they might have earned for other nations. Some great players never earnt an international cap but a select few got the call up once but then never received it again. As such, we decided to put together a one cap wonders XI of former England players. Note that players currently active and likely to add to their caps aren’t included.
England one cap wonders XI
Goalkeeper – Nigel Spink
Gordon Banks won a World Cup for England, he made 73 caps and produced the most iconic save ever. He didn’t, however, win the European Cup. Nigel Spink did. The keeper, who retired at 42, spent the best part of his career in what was a very strong Aston Villa side; he racked up in excess of 400 appearances for the club keeping 129 clean sheets.
His England career wasn’t quite so long lived though and his sole cap came courtesy of his former Villa gaffer Graham Taylor. Spink played the second 45 of a friendly with Australia with the goalie recording a shutout to help England to a 1-1 draw.
RB – Frank Bradshaw
Okay, we’re shoehorning Bradshaw into our one cap wonders XI somewhat, given his England cap came as a striker. He was regularly deployed as a full back for his club sides though. Bradshaw started his career off for hometown club Sheffield Wednesday in the early 1900’s and went on to play for Northampton, Everton and Arsenal. His solitary England appearance came in 1908 versus Austria; he scored a hat-trick.
CB – Ryan Shawcross
Shawcross started his career with Man United before eventually finding a long term home at Stoke. With the Potters he’d go on to establish himself not only as a club legend but, for a period of time, one of the better centre backs in the Premier League. His England debut could have come against Egypt, San Marino or Poland. He was in the squad for those games but never got on the grass.
Eventually, his cap would arrive with the Three Lions 2-1 up against Sweden and just 16 minutes remaining. Shawcross was on but soon wished he wasn’t as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored three goals in the closing stages to abruptly end the now Inter Miami man’s international career. Ouch.
CB – Neil Ruddock
Razor Ruddock might just be the last of the pre-sports science generation. He’d happily get ‘beered up’ between games and was far from a chicken and rice kind of guy. It didn’t stop him being a formidable defender though. The uncompromising left sided centre back is best known for his time at Liverpool where he won one of only two major honours he lifted in his career, the League Cup; the other was the Intertoto Cup with West Ham.
As far as his England career goes, Terry Venables – who managed him at Tottenham – gave him his only cap. It came in a 1-0 win over Nigeria as he played the full 90 minutes; that was that though, enough for inclusion in our one cap wonders England side.
LB – Tony Kay
Like our right back, Kay also started his career with Sheffield Wednesday. He spent eight years with the Owls before becoming Britain’s record transfer for a £60k move to Everton in 1962. The expensive recruit was named captain and led the Toffees to a league title in 1963. It was that year he earned his England call up.
Despite occasionally playing further forward, Kay was hardly known for his goal scoring but he did notch against the Swiss. It was downhill from there though. By 1964 he was found guilty of throwing a match between Everton and Ipswich. He was packed off to prison for several months and banned for life by the FA.
RM – Bill Nicholson
If you utter the words ‘Bill Nicholson’ to most football fans and they’ll talk of the Tottenham manager who led them to a league and cup double (amongst several other major honours). He was a tidy wing-half in his time too though.
His entire career was spent with Spurs as he racked up well over 300 appearances between 1938 and 1955. As for England duty, he scored with his first touch in a match against Portugal. Why didn’t he play more than once? Partly due to injury and partly because he openly put club above country.
CM – Lee Bowyer
Bowyer had a career that was littered with controversy be it drugs, assault or racism charges but there was a player in there too. In fact, as a teenager he was exceptionally highly rated to the point he became the most expensive British teen when he joined Leeds for just shy of £3m in 1996.
He’s best known for his periods with the Whites – with whom he reached a Champions League semi-final – and Newcastle. His England bow came in the form of an hour of action against Portugal in a 2002 friendly. He set up England’s only goal but it wasn’t enough to earn him a second cap, though it does get him into a one cap wonders England XI as part of a highly questionable central midfield pairing.
CM – Joey Barton
The second member of our morally questionable centre midfield pairing is Joey Barton. The now Bristol Rovers coach could certainly play. His ability as a footballer was somewhat overshadowed throughout his career though. Look past the indiscretions and you’ll see a very good player; he could perform all aspects of the game to a decent level.
Barton’s most high profile spell came with Man City but his best football came a level down as he helped three clubs – Newcastle, Burnley and QPR – to promotion. For England (despite the accent he’s not actually French), he managed just 12 minutes of action which came in a 2007 friendly against Spain.
LM – John Yates
There isn’t masses about Yates in the public domain largely due to the fact he was born way back in 1861. His main achievement at club level came in 1883 when he and his Blackburn Olympic teammates upset much bigger clubs to lift what has become the FA Cup. It wasn’t until six years later, when playing for Burnley, that England came calling though. It made him the Clarets first England international and he delivered the goods in the form of three goals in a 6-1 thrashing of Ireland.
ST – Albert Allen
How harshly treated do you need to be to bag three goals on your England debut and not win a second call up? Like Yates and Bradshaw before him, Albert Allen is another of our England one cap wonders XI who knows that feeling after achieving the feat against Ireland in 1888. Yes that’s right, we have included a player from the 19th century.
Allen would bang in goals for Aston Villa but was forced to retire before his time would have been up due to issues with tuberculosis, which thankfully isn’t a common reason for missing games these days.
ST – Francis Jeffers
If Allen was a long walk down memory lane then Franny Jeffers is less so. He came through the ranks at Everton in the late nineties/early 2000s with huge hype attached. He was going to be the next big thing in English football; Arsenal shelled out a then substantial £8m for his signature but rather than hitting the predicted heights, injuries meant he became a journeyman wonderkid that never got close to their potential. His sole Three Lions cap came against Australia where he scored. It proved his only appearance at senior level. A shame given he scored 13 in 16 games at under 21 level.
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