Skip to content
GO TO bet365 Sports
The Debate
  1. Football
  2. England Men’s Football Team

The Debate: Who's England's most under-capped player?

Every international break, England's squad gets announced with a couple of in-form players always unlucky to miss out.

There are players whose style doesn't necessarily fit with a certain manager, or perhaps there's too much competition for places in a certain position, and some players go their career picking up a surprisingly low number of caps.

Liam Williams and Jaquob Crooke from the bet365 News Team put their cases forward for England's most under-capped player.


Under-rated, under-appreciated and under-capped, England's Golden generation needed Michael Carrick

Although the left side of midfield was cited as the problem position for England for a number of years, it was the middle of the park where England really suffered.

International tournaments are won by resolute sides who are difficult to play against. It’s rarely the open, expansive sides lifting the trophy after a gruelling month of summer football, and it was that solidity that England so often missed in midfield.

Take the Euro 2008 final; Germany lined up with Thomas Hitzelsperger and Torsten Frings in midfield; Spain countered that with Marcos Senna, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas. The Dutch were always known for their attractive football but so often underperformed at major tournaments.

In 2010, however, they reached a World Cup final with the combative Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong in midfield, only to be met by Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso.

Even the legendary Brazil team of 2002 had Gilberto Silva and Kleberson in midfield, allowing their more gifted players to maximise their talents.

For all the criticism he’s received, Gareth Southgate appears to be the first manager England have had in recent memory who understands the approach required to win a tournament, often sacrificing attacking players to make his side more solid.

Had previous England managers realised that, Michael Carrick wouldn’t have been limited to his 34 caps.

Steven Gerrard’s best season at Liverpool was when he was removed from midfield by Rafa Benitez (who shrewdly opted to utilise a base of Javier Mascherano and Alonso) and deployed behind Fernando Torres. But for England, Gerrard was often played in a midfield two – never his strongest position – or on the right or left wing. Although their peaks didn't quite overlap, a midfield of Owen Hargreaves and Carrick could've given Gerrard the freedom to hurt teams further up the pitch and may well have been just what England needed. Of course, that would have involved dropping Lampard; unpalatable to any England manager.

Around 2007 when the penny started to drop that Gerrard and Frank Lampard couldn’t play in a midfield two, the decision to introduce a holding midfielder was made, but between 2007 to 2012, Carrick made just 23 England appearances (most of which were off the bench or in friendlies).

Gareth Barry over the same period played 45 times, mostly as a starter. While Barry was perfectly good at what he did, Carrick was the superior footballer, playing a key role in the Manchester United squad that, between 2007 and 2011, won four titles and reached three Champions League finals.

Were the likes of Gerrard and Lampard better footballers than Carrick? Yes.

Would England have fared better between 2008 and 2012 had Carrick been a regular starter in midfield? Also yes.

One of the Premier League's best goalscorers, Andy Cole deserved far more than his 15 caps

The player with the fourth-most goals in Premier League history only won 15 caps; Andy Cole can consider himself very unfortunate that his career overlapped with some of the finest strikers that England’s ever produced.

Were it not for the likes of Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Teddy Sheringham, Cole could quite easily have been the focal point of England’s attack for a number of years.

Injuries were to his detriment and a lack of confidence could undermine him. Glenn Hoddle famously remarked that it required Cole five chances to score a goal and while there were a catalogue of glaring misses – 1995 v West Ham and 2000 v Real Madrid come to mind – Cole was no more guilty of squandering chances than any other elite forward.

You simply cannot overlook his incredible goalscoring figures; 68 goals in 84 appearances for Newcastle United and 121 goals in 275 appearances for Manchester United. He even hit double figures in each one of his three seasons with Blackburn Rovers.

Of the 187 goals he scored in the Premier League, only one was a penalty. If you were to exclude spot-kicks, his goals-per-game ratio in England’s top flight is actually better than Shearer’s.

With a career tally of 127 assists, he was a multi-faceted threat and in many ways helped to carve a new mould of striker in the Premier League; one who is capable of engaging in build-up, linking with teammates intricately, creating chances and converting them.

His 34 goals in 40 Premier League appearances for Newcastle in 1993/94 were not enough to warrant selection. Much to the bemusement of the Tyneside faithful, Terry Venables cited shin splints as the reason behind Cole’s continued omission and yet the forward had plundered in 11 goals from 11 appearances in the following campaign.

Cole’s bitter feud with Hoddle is well-documented, but imagine scoring 25 goals in a season for one of England’s biggest clubs and still not receiving a call-up to the 1998 World Cup?

He won every honour imaginable at Manchester United, was a key figure in their unprecedented treble success in 1999 and forged one of the most lethal strike partnerships in Europe, yet a consistent streak in the England team was beyond him.

He finally scored his first England goal in a 3-1 away win over Albania in 2001; he would start only one more match before announcing his international retirement in the wake of being left out of Sven Goran Eriksson’s World Cup squad.

It’s a good job social media was not around in those days; the clamour for Cole would have been deafening…

Related Articles

bet365 uses cookies

We use cookies to deliver a better and more personalised service. For more information, see our Cookie Policy

New to bet365? Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets Join Now

Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of qualifying bets. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.