Category: England memories

Heading north of the border

There are calls from Glasgow for Celtic’s Scott Sinclair to be called up for England. Over the years plenty of Scots have made it by playing in England from Dennis Law & Kenny Dalglish to Colin Hendry & Gary McAllister but how have Englishmen faired north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Terry Butcher (Rangers 1986-90)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

After Mexico ’86 England’s premier Centre half was looking for a move from fading Ipswich to a big club, Butcher opted for Glasgow Rangers. With English clubs banned from Europe Butcher was soon joined by England teammates Gary Stevens, Chris Woods & Trevor Steven.

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How’d he get on?

Brilliantly- Butcher captained the Gers to 3 league titles and 2 Scottish Cups, although a broken leg in 1988 lead to a proposed move to Manchester United falling through. He stayed on at Ibrox until 1990.

How did it impact his England career?

He stayed in the England first 11 throughout his time in Glasgow, culminating at Italia ’90 after which he retired from international football. A few months later he left Rangers for a player-manager role back in England with Coventry. But his nomadic management career saw him take stints at Hibs, Inverness Caledonian Thistle & Motherwell. He also worked as a coach in the Scottish national team set up leading to an interesting touchline encounter with a certain Diego Maradona.

Mark Hateley (Rangers 1990-95)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

After making his name at Portsmouth the tall marksman went on a European odyssey starting with a fitful 3 year stay at AC Milan before moving to Monaco. Hateley was part of the England squad for Mexico 86 and Euro 88, but was then dropped following England’s shambolic Euro campaign.

After failing to make the Italia 90 squad Hateley decided to leave the riviera for Ibrox.

How’d he do?

Pretty well. He initially struggled to break up the strike partnership of Ally McCoist & Mo Johnston, scoring just 10 league goals in his first season.

However he added 80 in all competition in the next 3 campaigns as Rangers came close to winning the European Cup. Hateley’s aerial presence dovetailed perfectly with the pace of arch poacher McCoist.

Did it get him recalled?

Very briefly- with long ball loving Graham Taylor managing England many expected a recall, particularly when the goals started flying in. But Taylor preferred Arsenal target man Alan Smith and promising youngster Alan Shearer. Taylor eventually relented to pressure and picked Hateley by then 31 for a Euro 92 friendly, but he didn’t score and never played for England again.

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FOOTBALLER - MARK HATELEY

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Mark Hateley, Park Rangers FC.

Paul Gascoigne (Rangers 1995-98)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

After a stop/ start 3 years in Italy, Lazio grew frustrated with Gazza meanwhile his place with England was threatened by Southampton’s goal of the month specialist Matt Le Tissier. Needing to move on, Walter Smith persuaded Gazza to join Rangers in the summer of 1995.

How’d he do?

Brilliant- Gazza settled well with Rangers quickly finding fitness and form, bagging 19 goals in his debut season and winning both the SPFA & SFW footballer of the year awards. He added a further 17 from midfield in his second year.

How did it impact his England career

It saved his Euro 96 dream, in fairness old pal Terry Venables was always likely to pick him but his improved fitness extinguished any doubt. The bitter irony for Scots came at Wembley that summer: In the auld enemy group game of Euro ’96. Gazza left Colin Hendry (the premier leagues best defender) on his arse to score his famous goal to seal a 2-0 England win.

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However Gascoigne’s career started to unravel shortly after the tournament as revelations of domestic abuse and his drink problem sent him spiralling. He left Rangers in 1998 but reunited with Walter Smith 2 years later at Everton, without their former success.

Rodney Wallace (Rangers 1998-2001)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

After emerging at Southampton the most gifted of the 3 Wallace brothers joined Leeds in 1991 and spent 7 years at Elland Road- winning a league title, bagging the 1994 goal of the season against Tottenham (check it out on Youtube) and scoring 53 goals. In the summer of 1998 he joined Dick Advocaat’s Rangers on a Bosman.

How’d he do?

Excellent- Wallace bagged 27 goals in his first season, most memorably the winner against Celtic in the Cup Final. He won 5 out of 6 major honours available in Scotland and scored 56 goals in 2 years.

Did he get the England call?

No- There were calls from Glasgow for a call up but his ratio of 1 goal in 2 for Rangers compared to 1 in 4 for Leeds lead most to conclude he was a good player in a poor league. Wallace arrived towards the end of Rangers dominant period in Scotland and no major English talent has played for the Gers since.

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Rod Wallace sent sprawling by Alan Comce, Rangers v Dundee Utd 1999

Alan Thompson (Celtic 2000-07)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

The left footed Left winger (a rare English commodity in the early 2000s) left Bolton for Celtic in 2000. There had been several English players at Celtic prior to Thompson (most notably Allan Stubbs and Paul Elliott) but never an England cap won from Celtic Park.

How’d he do?

Steady- Thompson always had a cultured left foot and a decent free kick in his locker. He started slowly at Celtic but by 2004 he was bang in form and making double figures for goal scoring, and England manager Sven took note.

Did he get the England call?

Once- With England devoid of out and left wings calls for Thompson became louder as Sven moved from Nick Barmby to Kieron Dyer to Trevor Sinclair (none of whom were left footed) . The need for a winger was lessened by the emergence of Ashley Cole at left back but 4 years on from joining The Bhoys Thompson became the first active Celtic player to represent England. It was momentous for player and club but not repeated with Sven unconvinced Thompson was up to international football.

Fraser Forster (Celtic 2009-14)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

The giant keeper spent his early career bouncing around the Championship on loan when Gordon Strachan signed him on an initial loan and then permanent deal.

How’d he do?

Very well- Forster quickly established himself as number 1 as Strachan steadily built a credible Champions League side. And in the Champions League he enhanced his reputation by holding back Guardiola’s Barca. Domestically he won 3 league titles and to Scottish Cups.

Did he get an England call?

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Yes- Forster was first called into the squad in late 2012 and made his debut the following year, making the 2014 World Cup squad as an unused sub.

But Forster couldn’t force his way into the first 11 and with Celtic nosediving in Europe Forster moved to Southampton for £10 million.

 

Scott Sinclair (Celtic 2016- present)

How’d he end up in Scotland?

After failing to cut it at Chelsea and then Man City the young winger was left with a choice between Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa and Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic. He made the right choice.

How’s he doing?

The first English footballer of the year in Scotland since Gazza! Sinclair has been a revelation at Celtic bagging 21 league goals last term and starting this one on in similar style.

Any sign of an England call?

Not yet- thus far Gareth Southgate’s preferred wingers are Sterling, Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Lingard.

But The Ox is still settling in a Liverpool and Lingard isn’t getting a game at United. Behind them Michael Antonio is injured, Theo Walcott’s out of form and it’s too soon for youngsters Lookman, Sancho and Onomah.

At 28 it’s hard to argue Sinclair is an emerging talent and memories of his poor stint in Manchester persist but qualifiers against poor opposition are a good time to pick an in form player who’s a bit older than the normal new cap. It worked for Rickie Lambert and whilst history shows Scotland isn’t the best place to forge an England career if you make the top grade in Scottish football as Sinclair has you normally get a cap.

Ultimately the question for the England manager is how much of Sinclair’s form is down to his improvement under the tutelage of Rodgers and how much is down to playing in a lesser league

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Life after England

As Roy Hodgson prepares to re-enter the dugout with Crystal Palace how did his England predecessors get on when they left Wembley?

Bobby Robson

Unlike his successors Robson had already agreed to leave the England job before his last tournament at Italia 90.

Leaving England on a high Robson headed to PSV Eindhoven where he won back to back league titles.

He then took over at Sporting Lisbon where he employed a certain Jose Mourinho as his interpreter. Things didn’t work out between manager and chairman and Robson was fired in his second season.

Robson exacted revenge by joining rivals Porto and winning back to back league titles (again with the special one in tow).

From there this dynamic duo headed to the Nou Camp for the 96/97 season and won the Copa Del Rey & European Cup Winners Cup and finished runner up in La Liga. Barca then moved Robson to the boardroom to accommodate the more fashionable Louis Van Gaal (no really!)

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The now Sir Bobby Robson finally returned to England after a brief stint back at PSV with hometown club Newcastle United in 1999. He guided the Magpies from the foot of the table to Champions League qualification. In the process he revitalised Alan Shearer and signed smartly including a young Jermaine Jenas for £5million. Despite bringing a standard of football rarely witnessed on Tyneside and stability the club hasn’t known since. But we was bizarrely sacked in 2004 after a (relatively) poor start to the season and not being able to sign Wayne Rooney ahead of Man United (that obviously wasn’t a great career decision from Wayne.)

Robson’s truckload of trophies after England enhanced his reputation beyond measure, upon his death in 2009 Sir Bobby’s passing was mourned across European football.

Graham Taylor

Taylor left Lancaster Gate with his reputation in tatters and it didn’t improve on his return to club management with Wolves where he couldn’t orchestrate promotion to the Premier League and was fired after just one year.

in 1996 he returned to his spiritual home of Watford after his former chairman Elton John repurchased the club now in League One. Taylor restored his reputation with back to back promotions and put Watford in the Premier League for the first time. With limited resources the Hornets lasted just one season and Taylor retired in 2001.

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He then surprised everyone by going back to another old haunt- Aston Villa. He had one uneventful season under the moribund Doug Ellis regime before stepping away from management and eventually entering the Watford boardroom in 2009 and eventually became honory life president of the club.

Football mourned his passing earlier this year but nowhere was his loss more keenly felt than at Vicarage Road.

Terry Venables

Venables left Wembley on a footballing high after Euro ’96. But his legal troubles were mounting and shortly afterwards he was banned from being a company director.

On the pitch he took over the Australian national team job and things started well making the confederations cup final in 1997. He then guided the Socceroos to a World Cup playoff against Iran but 2 late goals conceded in Sydney saw the Australians miss out on away goals and that was that.

He then turned up at Crystal Palace where new owner Mark Goldberg promised a Venables/ Gazza dream team and delivered the first half of his promise. But things descended into chaos on and off the pitch and Venables only stayed 10 months.

Then in 2001 He moved into a co manangent arrangement at Middlesbrough with his former England assistant Bryan Robson. He helped the club avoid relegation and secure mid table stability, but El Tel didn’t fancy moving to Teesside so the arrangement was short lived.

The next move stunned football- he joined high flying Leeds in the summer of 2002. Unfortunately the club was drowning in a tsunami of debt and star man Rio Ferdinand was immediately sold. But Leeds still had a squad capable of competing and things got off to a promising start with an early season win over Ferdinand’s Manchester United and giving James Milner his league debut. But things soon went pear shaped and by Christmas the club were out of Europe and dropping down the league. In January Chairman ‘Publicity’ Peter Ridsdale began a fire-sale of the clubs top stars. But the team still fielded 11 internationals and the FA Cup offered a last chance of a trophy, until they crashed at local rivals Sheffield United in the quarter finals. Venables was fired but the financial mess at the club meant Venables escaped some of the blame.

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If Leeds was a shock move his next was Earth shattering- he rejoined England as Steve McClaren’s assistant. But things went wrong from the start and England suffered a miserable and ultimately failed qualifying campaign. Some (i.e. Jeff Powell) argued Venables had too little influence in the set up, but his finger prints were clearly on some of McClaren’s decisions- notably the switch to 3-5-2 for the awful performance in a 2-0 loss to Croatia.

Since then El Tel has returned to his adopted home of Spain where he owns a very nice hotel and restaurant where he presumably entertains guests with his Careoke machine.

Glenn Hoddle

Hoddle left the FA in late 1998 with a well earned reputation as a tactical innovator and tactless man. He returned to management a year later with Southampton where he started well and got the club clear of relegation. But 1 year later his dream job came up- Tottenham.

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After an acrimonious split with the Saints, Hoddle arrived at White Hart Lane in April 2001 where his first game was bizarelly the FA cup semi final against Arsenal, which ended in the then customary defeat. The following season started well and in September the visit of Manchester United saw Spurs 3-0 by half time, they then shipped 5 second half goals and went down 3-5. But Hoddle still guided them to the League Cup final where they were surprisingly beaten by Blackburn.

The next season saw an encouraging start quickly fly south and a disappointing 10th place finish, Hoddle was fired early into the 2003/04 season. He then masterminded 2 seasons of Wolves forever stay in the upper middle of the Championship.

Since then Hoddle has set up an academy for ex youth team players trying to restart their careers and become an ITV pundit. Strangely given his distinctly mixed record in club management plenty of ex players and football journalists (well Henry Winter) persistently campaign did his return to the England dugout.

Kevin Keegan

Keegan left England by his own admission because he wasn’t up to international football management. Just over a year later he returned to club management to retry is favourite trick- reviving a fallen giant. This time it was Manchester City, Keegan got them promoted at the first attempt with a typically cavalier brand of football inspired by playmakers Eyal Berkovic & Ali Bernabia.

Keegan largely bought name veterans notably Stuart Pearce & Peter Schmichael and this odd combination of entertainers and Dads Army secured a top hand finish, UEFA cup football via the fair play league and 4 points at the expense of United.

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Dads Army was reinforced by Robbie Fowler & Steve McManaman but the following season saw a 16th place finish.

Keegan stayed one last season before retiring and seeing City into their new home at Eastlands and a top half finish. Keegan announced his retirement from competitive management and set up a Soccer Circus- no really!

So it was to everyone’s surprise when in January 2008 Keegan reappeared at Newcastle. To Newcastle fans it was the second coming, to everyone else it was doomed to failure. Not that Keegan was a bad manager but only Newcastle would think conjuring up a Geordie Messiah from a Soccer Circus and think he would deliver a title challenge. With Mike Ashley now running the club it was always likely to end badly, particularly with Dennis Wise appointed Director of Football over Keegan’s head. After 9 months it was over and Keegan has stayed away from the frontline ever since. But Keegan has always done the unexpected so…

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven left the 2006 World Cup in apologetic mood after England’s early exit ,(back when the quarterfinals was considered early for England).

Most expected he’d return to Serie A where he’d enjoyed great success prior to his England stint. But he took a year to return to the game and when he did it was with Manchester City. City had just been taken over by Thai billionaire Thaskin Shinawatra.

Needing to overhaul a relegation candidate squad Sven signed a mass of players including Gelson Fernandes, Martin Petrov, Verdan Corluka & Geovanni with the need for quantity over quality.

Erikkson surprised everyone by making the early premier league running and scoring an early win over Ferguson’s United- revenge perhaps for all those England squad pullouts!

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However they couldn’t retain their brilliant start and started to slide down the table. Then February 2008 brought the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and unbelievably the fixture computer through out City at United for that weekend. The teams played in their 50s strips in tribute and City fans impeccably observed the minutes silence with some attributing this to the calming influence of their manager. A game that was supposed to be about United’s past ended up hinting at City’s future and a shock win, it was the first double City had scored over United in the Premier League era. City finished the season with their joint Premier League points record and UEFA cup football but a final day 8-1 drubbing persuaded Shinawatra to fire Eriksson.

City fans were outraged and Noel Gallagher offered to give Sven a ‘big kiss’ for turning the club around, its a what might have been for Sven had he survived another year- the following summer the Abu Dhabi billions rocked up in Manchester.

The next step was a move back to international football with Mexico but things quickly fell apart and the World Cup qualification campaign dropped off a cliff and Sven was sacked at the mid way point.

His next move was a return to England as director of Football at Notts County but the backers pulled out within weeks and Sven left in a hurry with the cls debts mounting.

Sven did however make it to the 2010 World Cup with Ivory Coast. The draw was awful (Portugal & Brazil) and an injury to Didier Drogba didn’t help and the Ivorians departed in the group phase.

A few months later he was back in England with Championship strugglers Leicester, Sven got them out of trouble but couldn’t push them beyond mid table so it was another short stay although he did sign Kasper Schmichael.

Since then Sven had been in the mega bucks Chinese Super League where he still quietly presides the touch line.

Steve McClaren

McClaren exited Soho Square to a flurry of kicks and punches (not literally). Given in England he was associated with umbrellas and failure like no man since Neville Chamberlain, the only real option was to look abroad.

In in the summer of 2008 he pitched up at Dutch side FC Twente. Things didn’t start well- he decided to give his first press conference in Dutch. The only problem being he didn’t speak Dutch so he just did a bit of schpeaking like thish. HE described his side as ‘masshive underdogsch.’

But Schteve (that’s the last one I promish) had the last laugh guiding Twente to 2nd place in Holland in his first season. Despite the sale of star forward Marko Arnautovic, McClaren bought well with Bryan Luiz & Miroslav Stoch. Twente stormed up the table on the back of a near perfect home record. Twente came out on top of a tight title race and won their first Eredivisie title with McClaren named manager of the year- redemption!

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McClaren decided to twist rather than stick and continued his continental odyssey in the summer of 2010 with German side Wolfsburg. But despite a decent start things quickly went downhill and McClaren was fired after only 9 months in charge.

He then returned to England with Nottingham Forest but that only lasted 10 games and by 2012 he was back at Twente without his earlier success.

In the summer of 2013 He joined QPR as a coach but in September McClaren returned to Derby where he’d served as both a player and coach. McClaren enjoyed an excellent season finishing third- had he been there from the start they might have got automatic promotion but they had to make do with the playoffs.

After beating Brighton, Derby secured a place in the final ironically against QPR. In the build up McClaren pointed out he ‘wouldn’t be taking a bloody brolly’. Derby dominated the game but lost to late Bobby Zamora goal.

Derby entered the 2014/15 season as promotion favourites and remained in the automatic promotion places but a dramatic late season collapse saw Derby miss out on even a playoff spot and McClaren was fired again.

In the summer of 2015 McClaren finally got back to the Premier League with Newcastle. McClaren became the only manager to persuade Mike Ashley to loosen the purse strings and signed Georgino Wijnaldum & Akexsander Mitrovic. Predictably Mitrovic got an early red card and lengthy suspension and the season spiralled into relegation trouble with McClaren getting fired in March and The Toon relegated 2 months later.

The Newcastle affair sent McClaren back to square one and Steve is now at Maccabi Tel Aviv as a consultant.

Fabio Capello

Had Capello left England just before the 2010 World Cup (when Inter were sniffing around) he’d have had his pick of top club jobs. However by the time he left England in early 2012 he was damaged goods.

Eventually he settled on the Russia national job. His first task was to qualify for the 2014 World Cup- something he comfortably managed.

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The finals group looked passable with Belgium, Algeria & South Korea. But a disappointing draw with South Korea put pressure on the Russians going into the headline encounter with Belgium. The Russians were resolute and tough but eventually succumbed to a late Divock Origi strike.

It would all come down to a final showdown with Algeria- who’d given Capello’s England a tough time in 2010. Russia got a dream start through Alex Kokorin’s 6th minute strike. Russia controlled the first half but Islam Slimani struck with a close range header (something Leicester fans have rarely seen), Russia couldn’t summon a response and were out in Round 1. Financial problems at the Russian FA saw Capello’s hefty salary delayed and Euro 2016 qualifying got off to a ropey start and Capello was sacked.

For the last year Fabio has been enjoying footballs highest paid retirement home of the Chinese Super League where he and Sven can compare bank balances.

Managing a fading star

As Gareth Southgate moves on from Wayne Rooney I’ve delved into the archives to look back at how other managers handled fading stars either easing them towards the door or trying to keep them in the room.

Bobby Robson & Kevin Keegan

When- 1982. Incoming England manager Bobby Robson felt it was time to put the nations favourite footballer out to pasture and decided not to select him for his first England squad.

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How did Kev take it?

Really badly. Neither The FA nor Robson told Keegan of the decision in advance so Keegan found out when the squad was announced. He gave an on the spot reporter an earful of his anger saying “What upset me is the way I heard about it. I mean a 10p phone call from the FA is not a lot to ask.” A few weeks earlier at St James Park, Robson had indicated to Keegan he would be in stating after the game “see you soon,” it’s fair to say Robson and the FA could have handled it a lot better. Meanwhile there was condemnation in Robson’s hometown of Newcastle over dropping the new Geordie Messiah, with hate mail sent to the new England Manager.

 

How did it work out

Not great, Robson stuck with his decision to leave 31 year old Keegan in the past but failed to qualify for Euro 84 despite a qualifying group that put ‘England on Easy Street,’ according to The Sun. It wasn’t the last case of hubris on the tabloid’s back page but nobody saw Preben Elkjaer and Denmark coming and they took the group whilst England stayed home.

From then until Italia ’90 Robson was a walking target for a critical press, an adversarial relationship that may just have started when the ever popular Keegan was dropped.

Wether Keegan would have made the difference is harder to say he was by that time playing in the Second Division with Newcastle before taking them to promotion and finally departing St James Park by helicopter after his final game just weeks before Euro ’84.

Graham Taylor & Gary Lineker

When- 1992. With 28 minutes left of the last group match of Euro ’92 England needed a goal to qualify for the semi finals. Taylor decided to take off Lineker and replace him with Alan Smith. Lineker had announced pre tournament he’d retire at the end of it meaning he’d never wear the Three Lions again if England went out.

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How did Gary take it?

He gave a surprised look when his number was called but trotted off without complaint. After Taylor’s untimely death earlier this year Lineker tweeted his sadness at the his former manager’s passing, when one tweeting twit suggested Gary should have hated him Lineker gave a typically sensible response stating ‘Why? because he subbed me once! he made me captain and I’ll always be grateful for that.’

How did it work out

Badly- Smith didn’t get a decent shot off and Tomas Brolin scored late to send England packing and the turnip was born.

Glenn Hoddle & Paul Gascoigne 

When- 1998. With Gascoigne struggling for fitness and Hoddle needing to trim his World Cup squad to 23 the manager decided to put on a Kenny G record and calmly tell Gazza he was out.

How did Gazza take it?

Liam Gallagher style. Gazza went bezerk allegedly trashing Hoddle’s room before being lead away in tears.

How did it work out

In footballing terms Hoddle was almost certainly right. By 1998 Gazza was a shadow of his former self, and a move to Middlesborough aimed at cementing his World Cup place had yielded only 7 appearances. Then a late night session followed by a stop at a kebab shop made the back pages and Hoddle made his mind up.

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However Hoddle handled Gazza’s delicate psyche very poorly.  Clearly Gascoigne thought he could do anything and still get in the side and Hoddle should have managed him better. The decision to cut the Gazza-esque Matthew Le Tissier from the squad two weeks earlier suggests Hoddle just assumed Gascoigne would be going to France ’98 and had no contingency if things went pear shaped.

It’s hard to believe the whole episode didn’t have a negative impact on morale as the squad headed for France particularly amongst the senior players who’d played with Gascoigne for years. In Hindsight reprimanding the wayward star earlier and trying to pull him into line with a credible alternative in the background would have worked better.

Steve McClaren & David Beckham

When- 2006, Steve McClaren names his first England squad and omits David Beckham. It’s seen largely as a press friendly move, the hacks of Fleet Street having spent much of the previous two years insisting Beckham was passed it.

How did David take it?

Beckham took the snub with his usual good grace insisting he would work hard to get back into the managers plans. McClaren perhaps noting the Robson/ Keegan fall out notified Beckham in advance to explain his decision.

How did it work out

Badly- for McClaren. England’s results went downhill and the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign quickly unravelled, unsurprisingly the press were no longer saluting his decision to drop Becks.

McClaren didn’t help his cause by explaining in a BBC interview that he dropped Beckham because he was looking for more pace and direct running at opposing fullbacks  from the right wing. A fair point, but for the fact he then played Steven Gerrard on the right of midfield nullifying his own point.

McClaren back tracked and Beckham was recalled 6 months later a move widely seen as McClaren undermining his own authority. Beckham was by the resumption of qualifying playing for LA Galaxy and returned too late to save his beleaguered boss and England failed to make Euro 2008.

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Fabio Capello & David Beckham (again) 

When- 2008, When Fabio Capello took over from McClaren the first player the press asked about was Beckham (now aged 33 and playing in LA). Capello decided to retain Beckham but with a notable caveat- Beckham needed to be playing top-level football.

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How did David take it?

He spent the US offseason and start of the next season on loan at AC Milan. There was an irony to Beckham’s plight- Capello had been his manager at Real Madrid when Beckham was dropped by Real & England. Sensing his options in Europe being reduced to middle tier sides Beckham opted for his American adventure. Of course no sooner had he signed  a pre contract agreement with the Galaxy he was back in Capello’s team and he played a key role as the La Liga title followed 5 months later.  Now Capello wanted him back in Europe.

How did it work out

Pretty well, Beckham enjoyed a fruitful spell at the San Siro winning over a sceptical Milan fanbase and continuing his England career mainly as an impact substitute, providing calm ball retention as England looked to see out tight games.

It cost Beckham in LA with a chorus of boos upon his return to California but he soon saw out the storm and signed up for a second stint in Milan in the spring before the 2010 World Cup. This time disaster stuck, Beckham suffered a torn achilles and his World Cup dream together with his England career was over. Capello showing an unusually sympathetic streak brought Becks to South Africa in an unofficial capacity, not that it did England much good.

Roy Hodgson & Wayne Rooney

When- 2016 In the build up to the European Championships England traveled to a friendly in Germany without injured skipper Wayne Rooney. The ensuing 3-2 win inspired by new boys Kane, Alli & Dier got an excitable press suggesting England should move Rooney to the bench. Roy wasn’t having it.

How did Roy manage it?

He changed formation to try and accommodate Rooney, Kane, Alli and Vardy. First he tried a diamond with Rooney at the tip, Alli further back and Kane/ Vardy up front- this resulted in Vardy on the wing. He continued to tinker before deciding on 4-3-3 with Rooney and Alli together in midfield.

How did it work out

It showed promise in the Euro 2016 opener against Russia but got gradually worse, Alli was shunted further wide, Rooney played deep and gave the ball away and Kane was running on empty. We went out to Iceland and Hodgson’s decision to try square pegs in round wholes to accommodate Rooney was derided whilst the manager resigned on the spot.

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Almost England Manager

The impossible job? Managers always say they don’t want to manage England but many have been called and very few turn it down. So which big names almost got the job and what might have been?

  • Brian Clough- 1977

When? -1977 following the shock resignation of his bitter rival Don Revie, Clough was interviewed (amongst a lengthy shortlist) of managers for the England job.brian-clough-obe_27.max-740x444_1

What went wrong?

He flunked the interview. Apparently on arriving at Lancaster Gate Clough patronised an elderly man by suggesting he should take the lift instead of the stairs- said man was on the interview panel! Clough later claimed in his biography he had nothing in common with anyone on the FA Panel bar Sir Matt Busby and it didn’t go well. Clough also claimed the interview was a charade.

It’s not a shock that the controversial manager struggled to find a rapport with the conservative FA Panel, but there were other issues too;

The timing wasn’t great for Clough, he’d taken Nottingham Forest up to the First Division and won it 5 years previous with Derby County but his greatest achievements with Forest hadn’t happened yet.

There was also that infamous 44 day stint at Leeds which long before ‘The Damned United’ was published brought into question his ability to handle star names- just imagine the rows he’d have had with the ever combustible Kevin Keegan! The references from Derby Chairman Sam Longson may also have made for interesting reading given their volatile relationship and bitter parting of the ways. The old school tie and blazers of Lancaster Gate would have been in for a rough ride.

What happened next?

The more diplomatic Ron Greenwood got the job, took England to 2 major tournaments but never won a knock out game. Clough went on to win the league with the previously little known Nottingham Forest in 1978 and then back to back European Cups and 4 league cups, picking up every management award in the process and staying at Forest until his retirement in 1993

What might have been?

In truth it would have ended in tears- The FA was largely run by the dictatorial Sir Harold Thompson who’d been instrumental in sacking Sir Alf and had Revie in his crosshairs before the manager walked. The FA was inflexible, difficult and even then in desperate need of reform so it’s hard to see how it would have worked with a renegade manager. Had he got the job Clough and Revie would likely have finally found something they agreed on- The FA was not fit for purpose.

As Revie privately admitted and Keegan has often said since the England of the ’70s simply lacked the players to succeed. Clough would have needed to survive in the role until the early ’80s to have a chance of success, when the likes of Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle & Trevor Francis emerged to complement veterans Keegan and Trevor Brooking. Assuming he’d brought longtime cohort Peter Taylor with him (who notably didn’t join him at Leeds) Clough’s best chance would have come at the 1982 World Cup where he’d probably have done better than Greenwood but anything beyond the semi finals would have been truly miraculous.

  • Jack Charlton

When?– 1977 (again) when the then Middlesborough manager wrote a ‘very nice letter to the FA’ and applied for the job. He never heard back.

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What went wrong?

He was probably deemed too inexperienced having only entered management 4 years earlier at ‘Boro, despite taking them to the First Division and a highly respectable 7th placed finish. Notably ‘Big’ Jack’s Centre back partner from the ’66 World Cup Final also applied and didn’t hear back.

He was also probably considered too close to Revie having spent 21 seasons at Leeds playing first with and then for the manager with whom the FA was now engaged in a bitter dispute, one that eventually lead to the FA boycotting Revie’s funeral in 1989.

And then there was the ‘Little Black Book’ incident. Charlton claimed in a 1970 TV interview he kept a little black notebook of all the players who’d committed bad fouls against him and on whom he would seek retribution (on the pitch) given the chance. A tabloid had taken exception to this because things like that never happen in football.

What happened next?

Snubbed by the FA Big Jack returned to club management where he continued to enjoy success with smaller clubs before getting the Republic of Ireland job in 1986. He got Ireland through qualification for the first time in their history making it to the Euro ’88 finals, where he exacted revenge on the FA by beating England 1-0 in the group opener. He went on to manager Ireland to back to back World Cup appearances in 1990 & 94 making it to the quarter finals and last 16 respectively. After losing out in a play off for Euro ’96 Charlton hung up his cap and went fishing.

What might have been?

Like Clough, Charlton was an outspoken manager who’d inevitably have run foul of the FA and Thompson before too long. His tactics with Ireland were hardly progressive but that might have worked well with England in the late ’70s but would not have won trophies.

However we wouldn’t have got beaten by Ireland at Euro ’88 and perhaps some of those suspiciously English sounding players in green would have been wearing the Three Lions. Big Jack was an excellent man manager who ringed the most out of the resources he had but it’s tough to argue he’d have done better than Bobby Robson.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson

When? Since his retirement in 2013 Sir Alex has talked more openly about his brush with the FA claiming fellow Scot Adam Crosier offered him the job in 2001 (following Kevin Keegan’s resignation.)

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What went wrong?

According to Ferguson he turned it down. He never showed any desire to leave United and as he’s said ‘He’d never have been allowed into Scotland again,’ a fair point.

He’d never have taken it, simple as that- Ferguson often derided the job as horrible and without the pull of national pride to the post, the absence of day to day working with players wouldn’t have sat well with him, the best the FA could have hoped for would have been an advisory role.

What happened next?

England appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson who took them to 3 straight quarterfinals whilst Ferguson stayed in Manchester won 7 more Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008, retiring after his final title in 2013.

What might have been?

Had he relented and taken the job, the FA of the millennium was a very different beast to the one Clough & Revie encountered. Ferguson would have been guaranteed the jobs for as long as he wanted it, if it had happened in 2001 it would have lasted until Euro 2004 at best.

Eriksson’s results with England in those tournaments were pretty good but Ferguson would probably have done better particularly adapting the team in 2004 after Rooney was injured in the quarter final.

But you have temper expectations with Ferguson’s record in the Champions League- 2 wins and 4 finals from 17 successive attempts, United were perennial quarter finalist but only intermittently better. He also managed Scotland to 4th place in an admittedly very tough group at Mexico ’86 having taken temporary charge following the death of Jock Stein.

One way in which he unquestionably would have moved England forward would have been the construction of St George’s Park.  On arriving at United in 1986 he insisted the clubs priority needed to be building the academy, United having become too dependant on buying players. That lead directly to the class of ’92 and the construction of United’s training facility at Carrington.

St George’s Park was originally envisaged in 2001, coincidentally the time Ferguson was in the FA’s sights. But it took until 2011 for construction to begin with the grand opening finally taking place in 2012 as the FA had perviously prioritised building the new Wembley. Ferguson would never have stood for that and England’s current plan would have been executed a decade earlier, that really would have opened up new possibilities.

  • Luiz Filipe Scolari

When?– Spring 2006, the FA decided they’d part ways with Eriksson after that summer’s World Cup and looked to the man who’d proved Erikksons nemesis in the previous 2 tournaments.

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What went wrong?

FA Boss Brian Barwick inadvertantly alerted the press by taking a commercial flight to meet Scolari in Lisbon to agree the deal. The story broke and Scolari discovered a mass of journalists camped outside his house, uncomfortable with the attention he declined to move forward and England started reviewing domestic candidates.

What happened next?

Big Phil’s Portugal inevitably beat England on penalties again, in the quarter finals again! He stayed on with Portugal for another 2 years guiding them to a slightly underwhelming quarter final loss to Germany. Before the tournament he announced he’d be leaving that summer to join Chelsea, many Portugal fans blamed the timing of the announcement for the teams early exit that summer. He endured a tough time at Stamford Bridge and was fired mid season with the Premier League title slipping out of sight. He eventually went back to managing Brazil, making it to the semi finals in 2014 before that walloping 7-1 loss to Germany.

What might have been?

Imaging what might have happened in the absence of Steve McClaren is a particularly low bar of expectation, Scolari would have cleared that by simply qualifying for Euro 2008. He’d have managed that and probably made some progress beyond the group, but England wouldn’t have been equipped to beat the likes of Spain or Holland. He’d have likely stayed until 2010 with a likely similar result to Fabio Capello albeit the players would have liked him more.

  • Jose Mourinho

When?– After Steve McClaren’s unceremonious failure in the Euro 2008 qualifiers the FA sounded out Mourinho who was available following his surprise sacking by Chelsea two months earlier.

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What went wrong?

Mourinho was initially interested but preferred a return to club football, when the rumours started to gather pace he received a backlash in his native Portugal and withdrew.

What happened next?

England appointed Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup campaign, the Italian masterminded a brilliant qualification run but suffered a lousy tournament in South Africa. Meanwhile Mourinho took the Inter Milan job in the summer of 2008 and guided them to the treble capped by the Champions League triumph in 2010. From there he went on to win the league in his second season at Real Madrid, second season on his return to Chelsea and is currently favourite to win it in his second season at Manchester United- anyone spot the pattern here?

What might have been?

A whole lot of trouble, when you take Mourinho you take him histrionics and pantomime villainy as part of the deal. The FA may have modernised but it’s hard to see them getting comfortable with all that.

He’d have stayed for 1 campaign- the 2010 World Cup, qualified (probably not as impressively as Capello) and then gone to the finals. Mourinho’s greater grasp of the English language and mentality would have made for a happier base than the infamous Camp Capello. Mourinho would probably have steered England to the top of their group (avoiding Germany) and on to a deeper run in the knock out phase, maybe even the Semi Finals where he usually takes his Champions League sides.

  • Harry Redknapp

When?- In early 2012 ‘arry Redknapp’s Tottenham were title contenders playing the most stylish football in the country, but he was also on trial in a tax fraud case with the Inland Revenue. On February 8th the result Redknapp 1-0 HMRC was confirmed at Southwark Crown Court. Redknapp was on his way back to Tottenham when the news broke that Fabio Capello had quit the England job after the FA went over his head to strip John Terry of the captaincy. Everyone put two and two together.

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What went wrong?

Unlike the others on this list the FA never made an approach for Redknapp instead turning to the more conservative Roy Hodgson. Some suggested he was blackballed by Trevor Brooking at the FA over his pushing Billy Bonds out of the West Ham job- neither rumour has ever been proved. Others suggested Redknapp’s colourful persona raised red flags with the FA or the FA didn’t fancy negotiating with Spurs’ Daniel Levy. However everyone agrees that Hodgson’s previous experience managing the Swiss national side was a factor in tipping the balance in his favour.

What happened next?

Redknapp’s Tottenham went into a late season slump end and missed out on the Champions League. Redknapp who appeared to have his head turned by the England speculation was blamed for the fall and fired. He resurfaced at QPR for an unsuccessful spell and briefly tasted international football with Jordan. He recently took charge of Birmingham City.

Hodgson took charge of England for Euro 2012 where a quarter final appearance represented a par score, he then oversaw a disasterous 2014 World Cup campaign and Euro 2016 exit to Iceland

What might have been?

Redknapp would have managed a similar campaign to Hodgson at Euro 2012 as the man parachuted in. He could’t have done any worse at the World Cup but I doubt he’d have got much further, Redknapp undoubtedly favoured veterans and would have certainly based his side around the likes of Terry, Cole, Rooney, Carrick & Crouch- a t’rffic bunch of lads no doubt but players England needed to move on from.

It’s difficult to see his old school management style fitting well with the FA’s new doctrine of Sports Science and attempts to intellectualise management and coaching. He’s also required extensive knee surgery in recent years that have kept him away from the game for extended spells; it would probably mean he’d have only stayed until 2014. All that being said he wouldn’t have got beat by Iceland.

  • Sam Allardyce

When? On 23rd July 2016 Sam Allardyce was appointed England Manager, a full decade after he was passed over for his dream job.

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What went wrong?

He had one too many ales and told undercover reporters how they could circumvent the FA’s rules on third party ownership of players, he also made off the cuff remarks about his peers and arranged some speaking engagements for a big fee.

What happened next?

Just 67 days on from his appointment Allardyce left his post by mutual consent. He reappeared later in the year at Crystal Palace guiding them to Premier League survival and maintaining his record of never being relegated. He then surprised everyone by retiring but has since said he’d be interested in a return to international management.

England meanwhile promoted Under 21s manager Gareth Southgate who is currently engaged in England’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

What might have been?

In qualification terms England would be very likely exactly where they are now, although Allardyce won the opening away game of the campaign it was a slightly fortuitous result and he would likely have picked up wins at home and draws on the road.

He raised eyebrows with his post match comments about an out of sorts Wayne Rooney stating it wasn’t his job to tell Wayne where to play. It smacked a lot of the crowbarring into the team of Rooney that cost Roy Hodgson at Euro 2016. Southgate by contrast dropped Rooney without losing the confidence of the player should he return to form.

Allardyce has always been a strong advocate of sports science and the FA stressed this fact on appointing him but how Big Sam would have fit with England’s DNA mission of developing more technically proficient players, God only knows! He famously insisted “This tippy-tappa is a load of bollocks!” which doesn’t give you much confidence he was the man to develop a more possession based style of play.

Whether or not Southgate is that man remains to be seen, he certainly seems more willing to promote youth but we have yet to see if he can translate it into a successful team.

In conclusion some of these managers may well have got better results for England but the managers who got the job were hardly club failures. Between them the managers England have employed since Ramsey have won 21 league titles in major European leagues (Italy 8, Spain 3, England 2, Portugal 5, Holland 3) plus 6 European trophies, 3 FA Cups, 4 Coppa Italia’s and truckload of smaller prizes. Incidentally Joachim Low has only 1 major club trophy to his name.

Having better players to work with would seem the best way to achieve long term success, it’s a pity it took the FA so long to realise that, build St George’s Park and reboot grassroots football. It’s a longer route to success than paying top dollar for a manager but does provide the best chance of success- just ask Joachim.

England’s 10 greatest qualifiers

For all England’s tournament woes they remain Europe’s leading qualification experts- 1 defeat in their last 46 (and that was a dead rubber) is an enviable qualification record.  I’m counting down here their 10 best qualification performances I’ve witnessed;

10. England 3-0 Poland (Sep 1993/ World Cup 1994)

The game that almost saved Graham Taylor, after the infamous loss in Norway Taylor’s England needed a win at home to Poland to keep the campaign alive. Taylor looked to have finally found the winning formula with a strong physical side with Gascoigne providing the flair, Lee Sharpe the pace and Les Ferdinand the power upfront. And for one night they resembled a Jose Mourinho side, Ferdinand powered home a header after 5 minutes, Gascoigne scored a clever second and Stuart Pearce lashed home a free kick early in the second half. Sadly Gascoigne (not for the first time) picked up an untimely suspension and Ferdinand got injured meaning England arrived for the decisive game in Holland with Carlton Palmer back in the side and all that was left was for Taylor to utter his timeless catchphrase and our dreams of a summer in the States were over.

9. England 3-0 Scotland (Nov 2016/ World Cup 2018)

Currently the stand out performance from Gareth Southgate’s brief tenure with England. England started well and Daniel Sturbridge headed a poachers effort in mid way through the first half. Scotland rallied after the break and should have equalised when first James Forrest and then Robert Snodgrass missed presentable chances, moments later Adam Lallana headed in a second and it was game over. With the pressure off and Scotland disheartened England played some neat and tidy football finishing with 68% of possession and added a third through Gary Cahill. How Raheem Sterling missed from 2 yards out for a fourth is anyones guess, but a biggest win over Scotland in 4 decades isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself as England manager.

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8. England 3-0 Russia (Sep 2007/ Euro 2008)

Steve McClaren’s one good night as England manager- yes he did have one! England were playing catch up when Guus Hiddink’s talented Russian side rocked up at Wembley. With Rooney absent McClaren gave the much maligned Emile Heskey a recall hoping he could rekindle his old partnership with Michael Owen, it worked wonderfully well on the night. Heskey’s power and pace caused havoc in the Russian defence and Owen was at his predator best scoring twice in the opening half hour (his final goals for England). The Russians had a goal wrongly chalked off for handball and showed plenty of verve in attack, but always looked like conceding more and Rio Ferdinand drilled home a third late on. It was a performance of calm confidence and authority, qualities sadly lacking in Moscow the following month or against Croatia when a brolly entered England folklore.

7. England 3-1 Poland (Mar 1999/ Euro 2000)

Call it destiny, call it fate but England had an uncanny knack of drawing Poland in the 90s- in 5 consecutive qualifying campaigns the 2 countries were drawn together. This was Kevin Keegan’s first game as England manager and he quickly discovered he had a player similar to himself (only with red hair and no perm); Paul Scholes. Scholes gave a masterly display of attacking midfield play scoring twice in the opening 22 minutes. He completed the hat-trick in the second half and King Kev was up and running. Sadly under Keegan that was as good as it got, but when it did go well Scholes was always in the thick of it.

6. Switzerland 0-2 England (Sept 2014/ Euro 2016)

After the disastrous World Cup campaign of 2014, England arrived in Switzerland for their Euro 2016 opener expected to lose or at best salvage a draw. What followed was a masterclass in counter attacking football, with a new midfield triangle of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson & Fabian Delph controlling the game. In the second half Arsenal new boy Danny Welbeck got a deserved opener and as Switzerland pressed for an equaliser Welbeck sprinted forward for a stoppage time second. The most difficult fixture from a simple group negotiated England went on to post their only 10 wins from 10 qualifying campaign. The less said about the finals the better.

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5. Italy 0-0 England (Sep 1997/ World Cup 1998)

‘Hoddswallop’ was the verdict of The Sun after Glenn Hoddle’s first big qualifier ended in a 1-0 loss to Italy at Wembley. But slowly Hoddle rebuilt belief and England went on to win every other qualifier whilst the Italians suffered costly nil nil draws in Poland & Georgia, it all meant a draw from the final qualifier in Rome would send England to France and Italy the playoffs. England produced an excellent defensive performance largely on the back of a solid defensive trio of Adams-Campbell-Southgate and a busy midfield display from the tigerish pairing of Paul Ince & David Batty and Ian Wright harassing the Italian backline, the sort of thing you hope to see in a Champions League quarter final second leg (Man City take note!) Wright went for glory at the death, when the corner flag was a more logical option and Christian Vieri almost nicked it in injury time but England hung on for a deserved point and their World Cup tickets.

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4. England 5-1 Croatia (Sept 2009/ World Cup 2010)

After their hammering a year earlier in Zagreb a sombre Croatia showed up at Wembley 2 years on from their great triumph over the Wally in the Brolly. England needed a point to ensure qualification, Croatia were struggling to make the play offs. In the 8th minute England won a penalty which Lampard stroked away and when Gerrard headed home the second 10 minutes later it was clear this was to be an execution. Bilic cut a dejected figure on the sidelines as Capello’s England exacted vengeance for the humiliation of 2 years previous. Three more goals followed in the second half as England completed a flawless qualification (8 played, 8 won, 2 to play). Had the World Cup been played that autumn they may have made the final, how quickly things changed.

3. England 2-0 Turkey (Apr 2003/ Euro 2004)

Turkey were on a high entering this Euro qualifier having finished 3rd at the previous years World Cup. Tensions were high at The Stadium of Light following a series of controversial games for English club sides in Turkey (in particular against Galatasaray). Sven gave young forward Wayne Rooney his first competitive start but initially Turkey looked dangerous with a series of neat passing moves, but Rooney dropped deep and began causing their defence problems. In the second half England pushed the Turks deeper and deeper into their own half and got a richly deserved goal through superstitute Darius Vassell. Turkey lost their cool and gave away a late penalty, Beckham duly dispatched and when Gerrard (accidentally) pushed a Turkish player with his arm while celebrating he received a shove in the back to which he got the repost of Steven celebrating in the players face- that’ll learn ‘yer!

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2. Croatia 1-4 England (Sept 2008/ World Cup 2010)

Rarely have England turned up for a qualifier so unfancied. Croatia had done the double on them in the previous qualification campaign and had an imperious home record. But Croatia were soon put on the blackfoot by Theo Walcott, the Arsenal winger drilled a low shot from the right home to give England the half time lead. Croatia grew frustrated and a violent elbow to the face of Joe Cole saw them down to 10 men. England then simply hammered home their numeric advantage with Walcott adding a second, Rooney a brilliant third and despite pulling a goal back Croatia had no answer to Walcott  who duly completed his hat-trick. The final session of keep ball was reminiscent of that famous Leeds- Southampton game from the 70s, Croatia really didn’t know what day it was. Stunning.

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1. Germany 1-5 England (Sept 2001/ World Cup 2002)

Never any doubt this was number 1. After falling behind to Carstan Janker’s early strike England found their rhythm and a goalmouth melee saw a swift equaliser through Michael Owen. England were excellent throughout the first half but Germany almost went ahead on the stroke of halftime through Sebastian Deisler’s point blank effort he somehow smashed straight at David Seaman, England broke, won a corner, Gerrard hit a volley and the rest is history. With England ahead a pedestrian German side tried to dominate possession but were repeatedly caught out, Scholes & Beckham shredded the German backline and Owen smashed in 2 more, when Emile Heskey runs through your defence for the 5th you know you’ve been hammered. A memorable night and a result that genuinely shook the football world, qualifying never gets better than this (that late free kick against Greece a month later only made it sweeter.)

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Remembering the England managers: Kevin Keegan

It’s hard to believe it now but in 1999 Kevin Keegan’s appointment as England manager was a cause for national jubilation (not just in Newcastle). English Football had finally appointed its greatest hero to its biggest job. After the fractious ending of Glenn Hoddle’s reign here was the man to bring the nation together.

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It wasn’t just the cult of King Kev’ that got fans excited, Keegan’s management record to that point was outstanding. He’d taken Newcastle from the bottom of the second division to a whisker away from a Premier League title, more recently he’d turned Fulham around in both cases bringing a style of football rarely seen at either St James Park or Craven Cottage.

Almost everyone believed he could do it with England particularly given the quality of young players he had to work with; David Beckham, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Emile Heskey and Lee Bowyer. Keegan had always been a strong advocate of his ex England manager Don Revie, often stating England’s problems in the 70s were simply down to a lack of quality players, here there seemed evidence England might finally have the talent to succeed.

But those expecting a youthful reinvention of England were soon disappointed. It became clear very quickly Keegan favoured veterans. He retained Alan Shearer as captain having previously broken the World transfer record to sign him for Newcastle. The problem was by 1999 Shearer had lost a yard of pace and was embroiled in a difficult relationship with new Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit. Keegan also retained the spine of the Euro ’96 team- Davis Seaman, Tony Adams & Paul Ince all by now on the down slide of their careers. The youth of the side was again provided by Manchester United; right sided pair Gary Neville & Beckham continued their right wing/back partnership from club level in a 4-4-2 with right footed Phil Neville at left back and Paul Scholes playing attacking midfield.

The qualifying situation Keegan inherited was worrying. England had taken a poultry 4 points from their opening three Euro 2000 qualifiers. The group was headed by Sweden who’d beaten England in Stockholm and held a 2 point lead in the table with a game in hand, but Keegan projected his usual air of self confidence and insisted England would qualify.

In March 1999 Keegan strode out to the Wembley dugout chest puffed out for his first game as manager, ready to face England’s most familiar qualifying opponents; Poland. Scholes slid onto a through ball to put England 1 up after 12 minutes, 10 minutes later he headed home a Beckham cross and England were in charge. The Poles pulled a goal back before half time but England bossed the second half and Scholes completed his only England hat trick on 70 minutes to finish off the Poles in a 3-1 win.

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Keegan had to wait another 3 months for the biggest qualifier- a chance for revenge at home against Sweden. The Swedes arrived at Wembley holding a 100 percent record in the group.  Injuries dictated team selection and Keegan made the bizarre decision to include Tim Sherwood in his starting 11.

It was a turgid ill tempered match with Scholes making a predictably poor tackle and being sent off early in the second half. It ended 0-0 with England’s chances of winning the group disappearing down the Wembley tunnel with Scholes. It was now about finishing second and winning a play off.

Even finishing second started to look difficult when England drew their next qualifier later that week in Bulgaria.  When September came around England needed maximum points from their remaining 2 qualifiers. The first was easy- Luxembourg at home, the open goal was duly accepted and England won 6-0, leading to the regular event of an England qualifying campaign ending with the need to ‘get a result in Poland.’

The teams were level on points but crucially Poland had one more game to play whilst England’s campaign would end that night in Warsaw. Keegan went with tried and trusted a 4-4-2 with Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler partnering Shearer in attack and Fowler’s old pal Steve McManaman on the left. Poland played for the draw, England huffed and puffed but Fowler and Shearer weren’t a natural pairing and England struggled to create anything of note. In the 84th minute David Batty was red carded and Poland got more interested in winning but England held out for a 0-0.

England’s qualification rested on Poland losing their last game away to Sweden (who’d already qualified) and then getting it right in the playoffs, most fans consigned the campaign to failure and started thinking about the 2002 World Cup.

But it was at this point fate slipped Kevin Keegan an ace; Poland crashed 2-0 in Sweden, with Celtic’s Henrik Larsson injury time goal guaranteeing  England a place in the play off draw. At UEFA HQ the draw was made, the first team drawn from the pot of 8 was Scotland and there was something in inevitable about who was drawn to play them. It was an Auld Enemy clash to decide a place at Euro 2000 and all talk of 2002 was on hold, England suddenly expected.

The first leg would be held in Scotland, as an icon of English football Keegan made for a convenient target for the Scots as match day approached and Keegan seemed to revel in the atmosphere, for the first time he looked truly comfortable as England manager and it had the effect of taking the pressure away from his players.

Come the game Keegan made another odd selection decision- picking Sol Campbell at right back in the absence of Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp in the troublesome leftwing position.

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50,000 Scots crammed into Hampden Park baying for blood like an Alex Salmond wet dream. But Scottish hopes for a Braveheart inspired pitch battle were quickly muted.  A rangey cross from Campbell found Scholes who nipped in front of Colin Hendry and put England 1 up after 21 minutes. Despite their imbalanced looking side England outclassed Scotland, with the second goal arriving before half time; One Beckham cross, One Scholes header 2-0. England controlled the second half and rode off to Wembley with what looked like an unassailable 2 goal cushion.

Wembley was a sell out for the return match 4 days later, most went to Wembley in party spirits with the Scots already beaten for Keegan’s coronation as England’s saviour. Keegan made only 1 team change with Gareth Southgate replacing Martin Keown, the gamble of Campbell at righback had paid off and Keegan stayed with the winning formula from Hampden.

But Scotland hand’t read the script, they produced a stirring fightback and after Barry Ferguson had missed a gaping early chance, a Neil McCann cross found Don Hutchison and Scotland were back in it 2-1 (on aggregate) after 39 minutes. In the second half the Scots pushed for an equaliser, England looked rigid and unable to find a response sat further and further back, they almost paid for it- A close range Christian Dailly header ws brilliantly saved by Seaman and England just hung on for an aggregate win but a loss at Wembley to Scotland. It was an odd sobering night for England fans, qualification which looked lost a year earlier had been achieved but it had been a constant struggle

In truth the campaign had been awful with England only managing 3 wins in the group (2 against Luxembourg) 4 draws and that opening loss in Stockholm, indeed England finished 9 points adrift of Sweden. They’d only made the playoffs because Poland had blown it and when drawn against an unfancied Scotland they’d done it by the skin of their teeth.

It wasn’t neccasrily Keegan’s fault, Hoddle had dropped him in it with a lousy start, his options had been hugely debilitated by injuries and ill discipline, but there was little to suggest England would play the champagne football Keegan had previously brought to Newcastle.

But the most obvious deficiency Keegan had to wrestle with was the shocking lack of left sided options available to him. In the era before Ashley Cole but after Stuart Pearce (not that being 37 stopped Keegan calling him up!) England couldn’t produce a single left footed defender and few natural left wingers. Keegan often played Phil Neville at left back arguing he’s played their successfully for Manchester United, true but at United Neville had the marauding Ryan Giggs in front of him, he had no need to run the left corner and cross, with England he always had a right footed midfielder ahead of him meaning England leaned to the right more than a Donald Trump rally.

Keegan now had some respite through friendlies and time to prepare his team for the finals ahead, he also had a draw ceremony to attend. Given how England had sneaked into the tournament the seeding in the draw was low and fears were raised of a tough group, but again fortune favoured Keegan and England drew Germany, Romania & Portugal. Germany were a fading force whilst the Portuguese had a talented side but one with a reputation for under achievement, Romania had beaten England at the previous World Cup but were seen as an ageing side.

The friendly results were middling, Keegan chopped and changed without finding the combination to unlock the kind of football his club sides had often played. In the final friendly he opted to give youngsters Steven Gerrard & Gareth Barry their debuts. Gerrard impressed but more importantly the left footed Barry offered a possible solution to the left side issue, left footed and able to play at left back or left midfield Barry could have been the missing piece Keegan needed to complete his jigsaw.

Gerrard & Barry made the squad as did the recalled Steve McManaman (fresh from scoring in the Champions League final) and fit again Michael Owen. Owen had been the star of the previous World Cup campaign but often injured during the Euro qualification campaign. England were ready to roll.

England would start against Portugal or to give them their official title of the era Luis Figo’s Portugal.  Keegan again opted for Phil Neville at left back with McManaman on the left wing, alongside Scholes, Beckham, Owen & Shearer this was a very attack minded side with Seaman, Adams & Campbell & the Neville brothers only screened by the ageing Ince.

England got off to a perfect start, a 3rd minute Beckham cross was headed home by Scholes 1-0. Beckham was the best player on the pitch and 15 minutes later he crossed again for McManaman to volley home. 20 minutes gone 2-0 up what do you do? If you’re managed by Keegan you push men forward for a third. But with England in the ascendancy the ball broke to Figo who ran unchallenged through England’s half and blasted home from 25 yards, 2-1. From then on Portugal had the upper hand playing in a flexible 4-3-3 England were simply out numbered in midfield, on 37 minutes a fine team move saw Rui Costa float a perfect cross for Joao Pinto to head home 2-2 at half time.

During the break Keegan sent Peter Beardsley of his coaching staff out for the interview who gave the insightful soundbite “2-0 is often a dangerous lead to have.”  The second half saw England unable to regain their mojo and Portugal got the winner on 59 minutes when Nuno Gomes slid home 2-3. England had blown it, they were too open too cavalier and got caught out whilst on top and Keegan faced a storm of criticism.

Next up were Germany, the game was hugely hyped and the fixture inevitably was the one England fans had circled. But this was not the Germany of old or more specifically it was an Old Germany. Incredibly Lothar Matthaus was captain aged 39, elsewhere they had Liverpool pair Christian Ziege & Didi Hamann, the dour midfield duo Jens Jeremies & Mehmet Scholl, giant striker Carstan Janker who had a turning circle bigger than an oil tanker and the deceptively slow Ulf Kirsten.

Keegan made 2 team changes dropping McManaman for the more workmanlike Dennis Wise and replacing the injured Adams with club mate Martin Keown. The first half was tepid, England went close when Owen headed a Phil Neville cross from the edge of the box but little else of note happened.

On 53 minutes a Beckham free kick found Shearer on the left of the box who headed a low effort past Oliver Kahn 1-0. Germany fought back and Keegan perhaps learning from his mistake against Portugal dug his side in replacing Owen with Gerrard who marked the occasion with crunching tackle that left Hamann “screaming like a girl.’ Germany had little cutting edge and England had done it!

1728275_w2Germany were beaten and a draw from the Romania game would see them into the quarter finals. Keegan again had a change forced on him- Seaman got injured before the game and Nigel Martyn played in goal. Romania made a fast start and Christian Chivu headed home from close range after 22 minutes. England laboured but won a penalty which Shearer despatched on 41 minutes, then on the verge of halftime a break through the centre saw Owen burst forward and tap home a second 2-1 at the break.

England had looked ragged, struggling with their passing and lacking the fluency of the Romanians. They needed an improved performance in the second half but got a poor start when a weak Martyn clearance fell to Dorinel Muntaneu who lashed in an equaliser. Romania swept forward, England repelled with Martyn partly atoning for his error with a series of fine saves. There was little tactical advice from the sideline with Keegan instead encouraging his players to stand tall, it was a disjointed performance but the result was enough so long as nobody did something silly at the death, enter Phil Neville. The young fullback committed a clumsy tackle in the box and the referee pointed to the spot Ionel Ganea put away the penalty and England were out.

article-2028286-002B588500000258-365_634x411The knives were out and England’s poor tournament was ridiculed, Keegan took the brickbats and prepared for the new season. Shearer retired from international duty that summer depriving Keegan of his captain, he was replaced with Adams.

Preparing for England’s first game of the new campaign (a friendly against France) Keegan gave an interview saying he’d needed time after the Euros to lick his wounds and then gave an odd analogy to his current predicament saying “Sometimes a boxer gets off the canvas to fightback and land the knockout blow, I want to be that boxer’. The unfortunate thing with that analogy is of course more often than not a floored boxer gets up just to stumble around in a trance, take more punishment and fall flat on the canvas as the referee decides he’s had enough. And here were Germany rocking up at Wembley to start World Cup qualifying.

Despite a credible 1-1 draw with newly crowned World & European Champions France hopes for Keegan’s side heading into qualifying weren’t high. On the eve of the game Keegan made yet another surprise selection- picking defender Gareth Southgate as a defensive midfielder, Southgate had only played that position briefly in his early career at Crystal Palace but had spent the last 5 years as a centre half at Aston Villa.

Wembley was sold out as usual but this was more than a qualifier, it was Germany and it was the old ground’s final England game. The German’s were little changed from the summer encounter but did have a new coach in Rudi Voller and the sides kicked off in a light London drizzle.

Germany won a free kick 30 yards from goal, Hamann stepped up and lashed a low shot that skidded around the wet surface, was fluffed by Seaman and squirmed into the England net 0-1.

England responded with chances falling to Andy Cole & Captain Adams before half time but to no avail. In the second half Keegan brought on Barry and changed shape to nearer a 3-5-2 but the second half was a turgid affair with England pushing, Germany hanging in and occasionally breaking forward, a couple of long range efforts from Beckham were as close as England got, the game ended 0-1 and as Keegan trudged down the Wembley tunnel he was heckled by a small group of fans, he looked up clearly hurt by it and disappeared into the dressing room. Soon after FA chief Adam Crozier was called in and after short delay Keegan faced the press declaring he’d resigned as manager.

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In his resignation speech Keegan gave a heartfelt thanks to the FA & his players for their support and effort but also declared he felt he just wasn’t quite good enough for international management. It was a staggeringly honest assessment of his reign and one few managers would dare admit but he was probably correct in what he said.

I like most were relieved it was over and that’s the saddest thing about Keegan’s time with England. Most respected his brutal honesty and accepted England should move on without him although there was criticism that he was leaving 4 days ahead of England’s second qualifier in Finland. The most surprised person at Wembley that day was probably Howard Wilkinson who arrived Under 21s Manager and left in temporary charge of the senior side.

Soon after Crozier crossed the Rubicon (quite literally) in appointing Lazio boss Sven-Goran Eriksson as England’s first overseas manager. England would go on to qualify for the World Cup, beating Germany 5-1 in Munich 11 months later. Keegan resurfaced the following year at Manchester City, a great name of English football fallen on hard times, a typical Keegan project. He took them to promotion and into their new Stadium but crucially left before the Abu Dhabi billions rolled in. His most recent management stint was an ill advised return to Newcastle in 2008 where he fell out with Mike Ashley.

Looking back on Keegan’s time with England the biggest problem seemed to be his pushing square pegs into round holes; Campbell at right back, Neville & Redknapp on the left, Southgate in midfield to name a few.

But also there was a lack of a defined team shape, like a lot of England managers he correctly identified the best 11 players and simple put them out on the pitch. In Michael Cox’s recent book ‘The Mixer’ Cox reviewed Keegan’s time at Newcastle pointing out their problem in that title near miss of 1996 was the team lacked a defined shape and scheme and Keegan simply fitted it around the best 11 players, a particular problem when they signed Batty & ‘tino Asprilla. You could certainly see a similar pattern in his England tenure.

There were also problems with his coaching staff, Keegan wanted Arthur Cox as assistant  but the FA refused on the grounds of Cox’s age. Notably after Keegan left Crozier recruited top coaches Brian Kidd & Sammy Lee to work with the as yet unnamed new England Manager. A similar policy when Keegan was in charge would have helped, I can’t help thinking had he had a top line coach to help with his own short comings (Kidd or Ray Harford say) things might have been different.

In a recent interview Keegan gave some interesting insight into his management at Newcastle. On taking the job he noticed the training ground was run down and decrepit so he immediately persuaded Sir John Hall to invest £40k in having the dressing rooms retiled, cleaned and out dated equipment replaced over the weekend. It had the desired effect lifting spirits amongst the squad and Keegan used such incentives to motivate his players as he rebuilt the club.

It was a great trick at a run down Newcastle but not the sort of thing that works with top level players at Wembley (where I”m sure the floors have a nice polish). And of course at international level he didn’t have the fantasy football chequebook of Sir John to back him up. Whilst his shortcomings in tactics and team shape came into far sharper focus at international level.

Kevin Keegan the England player is a legend, arguably the best his country as ever produced, as a manager he said it himself he just wasn’t quite up to it. He did however achieve England’s only tournament victory over Germany since 1966 and for one night only We Loved it when we beat them! LOVED IT!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 English players who didn’t make it with England.

A look back at the players who were sensations for their clubs but somehow never quite worked for the National Side, in no particular order here are the players who many expected to be England greats but barely figured and why.

1.Matt Le Tissier (Caps 8 Goals 0)

Le God to Southampton fans Matt Le Tissier was the most creative English forward of the 1990s. Blessed with skill, vision and a remarkable tendency to score spectacular goals Le Tissier never quite made it with England.

Le Tissier was named young PFA Young player of the year in 1990 but Bobby Robson overlooked Le Tissier for his Italia ’90 squad largely on the grounds he already had one maverick young talent in the squad in Gazza and couldn’t accommodate two. Sadly for Le Tissier, Robson was succeeded by Graham Taylor a man famous for direct long ball tactics and not a fan of creative strikers and in 3 years never called up Le Tissier.

Then Terry Venables rolled into Wembley, Le Tissier was in and surely this was the belated start of a great England career right, wrong! As Venables experimented to shape a more creative side he like Robson saw Le Tissier and Gascoigne couldn’t work in the same team and he only had room for 1 luxury player. Le Tissier lacked Gascoigne’s work rate and Venables soon hit on the stronger Teddy Sheringham in the deep lying forward role behind Alan Shearer.

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When Glenn Hoddle took over after Euro ’96 many again expected Le Tissier to shine, after all Hoddle the player was cut from the same cloth and also struggled to make an impact in England teams who favoured industry over art. Le Tissier started a World Cup Qualifier against Italy at Wembley in the autumn of 1997 but again was frustrated and England crashed 1-0 and calls for Le God died down. But on the brink of France ’98 Le Tissier was thrown lifeline, a pre tournament call up to England B to play Russia B- this time Le Tissier delivered a sensational hat trick. And with Gazza out of shape Le Tissier looked like getting his World Cup chance, Sadly it was not to be and Hoddle didn’t bring him into his provisional 30 man squad never mind the final 22.  I’ve always thought Le Tissier should have gone to that World Cup after Gascoigne was excluded, England looked short on artistry in the centre and whilst Le Tissier was hardly the man to bring on having gone down to 10 men against Argentina he could have played a tournament role as an impact sub.

What did for Le Tissier was his lack of pace and work rate so he will always be known as a great English player (and Goal of the month’s most frequent winner) but not a great England player.

2. Steve Bruce (0 Caps)

It represents a startling fall from grace to think England never called up Bruce but in more recent years had Chris Smalling, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott starting in central defence at major tournaments. Bruce formed one half of the best central defensive partnership (with Gary Pallister) in the early years of the Premier League, winning 3 of the first 4 titles.

So why no England career? Mainly because by the time Bruce emerged as a star defender (1991) Italia ’90 stalwarts Des Walker & Mark Wright had enormous credit in the bank whilst Bruce’s pacier partner Pallister & Arsenal skipper Tony Adams were also in the squad, by Euro ’92 Martin Keown was also in contention and at 32 Bruce was considered too old to start an international career.

Bruce not the best defender in possession wasn’t helped by the outlawing of the back pass rule which favoured defenders who were good in possession, at United Bruce had Peter Schmicheal in goal who’s long throws upfield and (sometimes ill advised) attempts to play the ball with his feet meant Bruce didn’t need to to be good on the ball, with England it may have proved more of a problem. Plus through the early 90’s England managers liked the cohesion provided by an Arsenal dominated defence (Seaman, Adams, Keown, Dixon).

Still a trophy laden playing career and successful twin careers in football management and literature (smirk) aren’t bad compensation.

3. Malcolm MacDonald (14 caps, 6 goals)

After Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer had taken Newcastle down in 2009, I really thought ‘Super Mac’ might be the next Geordie Messiah handed the managers job at St James Park, after Sting but before Jimmy Nail.

MacDonald was phenomenal for Newcastle in the early ’70s, a staggeringly quick forward he scored 95 goals in just 187 games for the Magpies before moving to Arsenal where he racked up another 42 in 84 games.  But for England he never quite got going, first called up by Sir Alf Ramsey in 1972 he made his debut against Wales but made little impression under Ramsey or short term successor Joe Mercer. The reason being despite a lack of talented English players in that era one place England didn’t lack was upfront with Martin Chivers, Alan Clarke & Mick Channon.

When Don Revie took over Super Mac was initially left out again but Revie did bring him in during a hot streak in 1975. MacDonald repaid him with his first international goal (against World Champions West Germany!) Next up MacDonald was retained for a qualifier against Cyprus and set a post war record scoring 5 goals, woof!! But great as that sounds it was the footballing equivalent of a batsman scoring 200 against Bangladesh (Greame Hick probably did that?!) Super Mac played 5 more games for Revie without scoring and England looked elsewhere.

Perhaps MacDonald deserved better particularly early on in his career, might he have been the sub to break through the Polish wall in that infamous 1973 match? You never know.

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4. Andy Cole (15 Caps, 1 goal)

The most device player of the Premier League era, some argue Cole’s goal scoring statistics stack up against anyone but then there are those of us who watched him play.

For all the jokes levelled at Cole his scoring record for Newcastle was phenomenal; 55 goals in 70 games! Cole’s club form earned him a call up from Terry Venables but he drew a blank and didn’t make the cut for Euro ’96.

But by that time Cole had moved to Manchester United where despite playing alongside Cantona, Giggs & Beckham he mustered 17 goals in his first 2 full seasons . Eventually Cole rallied to score 93 goals in his Man Utd career, but his misses were amazing most notably his barn door performance at West Ham that ultimately cost his side the 1995 League title.

His England career was acutely summed up by Glenn Hoddle who claimed he needed “6 or 7 chances to score.” Predictably he never found the net for Hoddle or Kevin Keegan (for whom he’d performed so well at Newcastle) and he missed out on the ’98 World Cup and Euro 2000.

Sven-Goran Eriksson offered Cole a fresh chance but predictably he missed it. Cole started in Eriksson’s early World Cup qualifiers and actually scored (but it was only against Albania). By the time qualification was secured Cole was dropping down the pecking order. Finally Eriksson omitted Cole from his World Cup squad and laughably within an hour of the announcement Cole declared he was retiring from International football (only 60 minutes after Sven had done it for him, very thoughtful!).  Andy’s record of 1 goal from 15 caps really says everything, still he’s got a nice medal collection.

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5. Stan Bowles (5 Caps, 1 Goals)

There aren’t many true facts in the ‘Damned United’ but the scene where Billy Bremner asks Brian Clough the game plan against QPR and Clough replies ‘Stop Stan Bowles!’ is at least a true fact (not necessarily that Clough said it).

One of the trio of English footballs ’70s mavericks (along side Alan Hudson & Charlie George) Bowles star burned brighter and surprisingly longer than his peers. At QPR is outrageous skill made him a legend, with England it raised suspicion.  He made is debut aged 25 in Sir Alf’s final game as manager. He went on to make only 4 more appearances and scored just once.

It’s a shame given his undoubted talent but a maverick on and off the pitch didn’t really fit with England or Don Revie, Bowles later recalled he and Hudson broke curfew on England duty much to Revie’s annoyance and it’s hard to believe he had much time for the managers dossiers on opposition players. Bowles eventually played for Clough at Notts Forest but the two fell out and Bowles only played 19 times for Forest (it seems Stan was the one thing Revie & Clough did agree on).

His liking for a pint didn’t do Bowles any favours with England, never the fittest player Bowles’ appearance on ‘Superstars’ saw him lose to James Hunt- a man who had sex for breakfast and sat in a car for a living! Maybe that’s not the man you need to take on Franz Beckenbauer; sad but probably true.

Bowles is currently struggling with Alzheimers disease, every football fan with a heart must wish him well.

6. Lee Bowyer (1 Cap, 0 goals)

Bowyer emerged in the late ’90s as a dominant midfielder with the work rate and skill to rival Steven Gerrard. Bowyer scored an impressive 6 goals from midfield in Leeds’ unlikely run the Champions League semi finals as David O’Leary’s young side turned heads around Europe. At the time England had a settled first choice midfield with Beckham, Gerrard & Scholes but behind them options were thin on the ground (even Kieron Dyer was called up!) Yet Bowyer remained absent.

The reason for Bowyer’s exclusion was a controversial court case where Bowyer and teammate Jonathan Woodgate stood trial for GBH. Remarkably Bowyer played whilst the trial was ongoing and produced some of his best football. Bowyer was cleared of the charges but with his reputation stained (not helped by previous incidents in Leeds & London). Whilst the case was ongoing (and it lasted almost 2 years) the FA barred Bowyer from England selection, after the trial he was finally called up.

He was picked to play a friendly against Portugal and provided the cross for Leeds teammate Alan Smith to score, it seemed Bowyer had finally arrived with England. Unfortunately it turned out he was finishing off with them; in the aftermath of the trial Bowyer fell out with Leeds over a fine and was soon shipped out to West Ham and eventually settled with Newcastle. But Bowyer couldn’t rekindle the form that made him one of the best midfielders in the country and his career sank into mediocrity.

One way or another it would seem that infamous night out in Leeds cost Bowyer an England career.

7. Dave Beasant (2 Caps)

Beasant’s career was real Roy of the Rovers stuff. Starting at Edgware Town he moved to 4th division Wimbledon in 1979. He would stay for the whole Crazy Gang ride from the bottom of the football pyramid to the first division and finally FA Cup winners. And it was Beasant Wimbledon had to thank- making history by saving a penalty from John Aldridge as they ran out 1-0 winners at Wembley.

Beasant developed a reputation as a great penalty stopper and was consistently amongst the top ‘keepers in the first division during the late ’80s. Eventually England came calling and in 1989 Beasant aged 30 made his debut against Yugoslavia. He was initially left out of the Italia ’90 squad but an injury to David Seaman meant he got in as the number 3 ‘keeper. Beasant spent the entire tournament (even the 3rd place playoff game) on the bench, after the tournament he never represented England again.

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The problem here was spending his early career in the lower divisions meant he stayed off the international radar and it took a few years in the top division before he was truly recognised as a top ‘keeper rather than a lower league player got lucky. By that time Peter Shilton was unshakable as number one and Bobby Robson had Chris Woods earmarked as the long term replacement as early as 1985. It’s a tough ask to break into a national side at goalkeeper and Robson was a man who rarely rotated in goal.

At the 2014 World Cup Louis Van Gaal took the odd decision to substitute his goalkeeper purely for the upcoming penalty shoot out. The move worked and Tim Krul saved a spot kick sending Holland to a World Cup semi final. I’ve always thought Robson should have done the same in that Italia ’90 semi; Beasant might just have got to one and who knows- it couldn’t have been worse than Shilton’s cunning plan to wait until the German player fired his missile at the top corner before reacting!

8. Tony Cottee (7 caps, 0 goals)

Tony Cottee was hailed England’s next big thing after emerging from West Ham’s famed academy in the mid ’80s. The problem for Cottee was his game was very similar to England’s current big thing of the time; Gary Lineker.

In 1986 aged 21 Cottee was named PFA young player of the year following a prolific season at West Ham bagging 20 goals at the Hammers reached the giddy heights of 3rd place in Division 1. In the same year Lineker scored 30 for Everton who finished 2nd and reached the cup final. Lineker went to the World Cup won the Golden Boot and signed for Barcelona.

At the start of the following season Cottee made his England debut as a sub and he managed 22 strikes for West Ham in a deadly partnership with Frank McAvennie. But with Lineker almost never injured or out of form further England chances were thin on the ground.

Two years on Cottee finally left West Ham for Lineker’s old gig at Goodison Park- surely his chance at the bigtime. Unfortunately he joined Everton a year too late and the Howard Kendall glory era was starting to fade. Cottee did score a respectable 72 goals in 6 seasons on Merseyside but it wasn’t quite the prolific stay he needed. Cotten finally made his first England start in 1989 against Scotland at Hampden Park, but he didn’t find the back of net, unfortunately for him England debutant Steve Bull did score that day and got the final forward’s spot in the Italia ’90 squad.

Cottee never played for England again, he did play on in the Premier League all the way until 2001 (aged 36) before dropping down the divisions and retiring. His last 3 premier league seasons were spent at Leicester City with Walkers Crisps emblazoned on his jersey, the irony.

9. Michael Bridges (0 Caps)

Some reading this will say Michael who? Bridges is on this for what he promised to be rather than what he achieved. Emerging in 1998 at then high flying  Sunderland, Bridges had the vision to play as a number 10 but the pace and finish to be a number 9 drawing early comparisons to Dennis Bergkamp.

His talent didn’t go unnoticed and aged just 21 he was signed by David O’Leary’s Leeds for £5 million. O’leary claimed Bridges was a long term project but after selling Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink that summer Bridges was in the first team and immediately bagged a hat trick. He finished his first season with 21 goals as Leeds made an unlikely title challenge and UEFA cup semi final.

An England call up was mooted for early next season (many of his young teammates were by now full internationals) but then disaster struck. Bridges was stretchered off in a Champions League group game in October and didn’t play again that season. An endless cycle of injury and rehab began and he made only 10 appearances over the next 4 years.

After that Bridges began to drop down the divisions even faster than Leeds and was last seen playing at the beautifully named Lambton Jaffas in his native North East. For England Under 21s he played 11 times (all in those 2 seasons at Sunderland & Leeds) netting 3 times. Injury has wrecked many a career but few in such frustrating circumstances as with Bridges who showed so much in such a brief period.

There are a few other examples of young English players most notably Manchester City’s Paul Lake who showed immense promising leading Citeh out of the Second Division aged just 21, hailed by some as a successor to Bryan Robson as an all action midfielder Lake suffered a anterior cruciate ligament (sounds painful), played 4 games in 6 years and Robson was succeeded with England by Carlton Palmer, something we should all mourn.

10. Wilfried Zaha (2 caps, 0 goals)

The only current player on this list Zaha first emerged at Crystal Palace aged 18 and over 3 seasons built a reputation as a dynamic winger, so much so he was given a senior England debut and a transfer to Manchester United. He turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing at United before being loaned back to Palace.

The problem was by the time he arrived at United David Moyes had taken over and Zaha’s risky exotic style no longer fit in Manchester. He was soon loaned and eventually sold back to Palace and demoted back down to the Under 21’s. There he had a punch up with Ravel Morrison and showed an attitude that allegedly saw him fall out with Pearce and teammates alike.

At the start of last season Zaha’s stock had fallen and few saw him as an potential England player after falling behind new young attackers Marcus Ashford & Demarai Gray but a sudden return to form had many thinking recall and then something unexpected happened, Zaha switched allegiance to the Ivory Coast.

Zaha was born in the African republic and qualified for both nations and as both of his senior caps were in friendlies FIFA approved the switch. Whether of not Zaha goes on to be a true world class player remains to be seen but he has the raw talent despite occasionally being let down by a lack of focus. It’s a shame we won’t get to find out with England, but at least he can entertain at the Cup of Nations.

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