Hypothetical XI #27: England’s one-cap Wonders

Ahead of England’s Euro 2016 Qualifier against Slovenia and Wayne Rooney’s 100th cap, Dave Hughes brings us a hypothetical XI of England’s one-cap wonders…

Ah, the one-cap wonder. It comes in many forms.

There is the in-form man, who deceives the nation with a clutch of eye-catching club displays before having their shortcomings mercilessly exposed on the international stage. The stop-gap, summoned to national duty during a desperate injury crisis. There are those who display genuine promise before tragedy curtails their careers or, in some tragic cases, their lives.

And, of course, there is Seth Johnson.

In the spirit of optimism (or kindness in the case of David Nugent), players who have currently won one cap but may, with a fair wind, regain their place been omitted. Hence the absence of the likes of Jack Butland, Jake Livermore and Steve Caulker. The inclusion of Kevin Davies is based on the premise that the three goals he has scored in 46 appearances for Preston North End are unlikely to earn the 37-year-old an 11th-hour recall. Although you never know.

GK – Chris Kirkland

Of all England’s one-cap wonders, Chris Kirkland had the most cause to celebrate his solitary call-up. When the keeper was 11, his father and several family friends placed bets of £100 at 100/1 that Kirkland would play for England before his 30th birthday. So, when he came on as a substitute against Greece in 2006, he secured the syndicate £10,000 each. There is no evidence that Steve McClaren, presiding over the first match of his tenure, stood to gain financially from the selection.

LB – Steve Guppy 

It is unlikely anybody deserves a place in this line-up as richly as Guppy. His call-up came when he was 30, making him an unusually old debutant, while the ‘look he’s left-footed, that ought to do it’ nature of his selection is classic one-cap wonder material (see also: Michael Ball, Alan Thompson). Most brilliantly, though, Guppy seemed to have tailored his entire life towards being a one-cap wonder: he made just one appearance for both the U-21 and B teams before his full international debut, when England beat Belgium in 1999, in an era when England could beat Belgium.

RB – Frank Bradshaw

The most recent player to score a hat-trick in their only England appearance, Bradshaw played at a time when England seemingly had an unfeasible amount of competition for places. Perhaps disgruntled by the fact that scoring three of England’s 11 goals against Austria in 1908 couldn’t earn him a second shot at the international game, Bradshaw decided to become a right-back.

CB – Neil Ruddock

Most recently seen stripping for Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp on A League of their Own in one of the most disturbing moments in television history, Razor’s post-football life has been an increasingly bizarre catalogue of reality TV appearances and well-documented personal problems. In his heyday he was good enough to play for England against Nigeria in 1994, although not good enough to ever play for England again.

CB – Jim Barrett

Barrett, who spent his entire career at West Ham United, deserves his place by virtue of managing just four minutes of his international debut against Northern Ireland in 1928 before succumbing to injury. He made enough of an impression in those 240 seconds to never earn another call-up.

MF – Seth Johnson

When Peter Taylor took the reigns as caretaker for a friendly against Italy in 2000 he made two bold decisions. One was giving the captain’s armband to David Beckham for the first time. The other was giving Seth Johnson, an uninspiring member of an insipid Derby County side, an international debut. Only one of these was a success. Johnson managed to convince Leeds United to part with £7m for his services the following year, but injuries forced an early retirement.

MF – Joey Barton

Sincere apologies to Gavin McCann, but the prospect of a Barton/Johnson pairing in central midfield was too sumptuous to ignore. Barton made his solitary appearance in a friendly against Spain in 2007, after publicly criticising England players for releasing autobiographies after the 2006 World Cup. Bizarrely, he announced his retirement from international football in 2013, before un-retiring after the World Cup this year. So watch this space, I guess.

MF – Charlie George 

The talented, controversial maverick who lit up Highbury during the early 70s probably had himself to blame that he didn’t play more for England. Miffed after being asked to play out of position after a promising first half of his debut, George unleashed a tirade of abuse at Don Revie as he was substituted. Although Revie was sacked shortly after, George’s international prospects were ruined. “It wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve done or said in my life,” he later admitted.

MF – David Pegg

Many one-cap wonders were lucky to ever get a chance at international level. David Pegg had his prospects of a long England career snatched from him in the cruellest of circumstances. The 22-year-old Manchester United winger, tipped to replace Tom Finney in the England side, had represented his country just once when he died in the Munich air disaster in 1958.

FW – Michael Ricketts

Pipping Jay Bothroyd as the classic ‘misguided form pick’, Ricketts earned his call-up after scoring 15 goals by February for newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers. Sadly, 45 minutes of a friendly against the Netherlands in 2001 were enough to show the world he probably wasn’t an international footballer. He instantly stopped scoring for Bolton and spent the rest of his career not scoring for ever more mediocre clubs.

FW – Kevin Davies

When Kevin Davies came on as a second-half substitute against Montenegro in 2010 he became, at 33, the oldest England debutant for 60 years. He has committed more fouls than anyone in Premier League history. He was booked.

Manager – Brian Stein

There are a host of worthy candidates. Stuart Pearce and Peter Taylor both managed England on one occasion, and lost. Bill Nicholson earned one international cap during his playing career, before presiding over the most successful period in Spurs’ history. However Stein, who played once for England in 1984, also managed Luton Town on a solitary occasion as caretaker in 2007. For his admirable commitment to the cause, he deserves the nod.

@DaveHughes1990; @The_False_Nine

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