So by now you’ll have listened to this week’s edition of Talk From The Top Flight. Wait, you haven’t? Well then fortunately for you here’s the link for the SoundCloud and iTunes.
Anyway, on said episode, myself and Bob Priestley (with some ‘assistance’ from Chris Darwen) came up with what we believe to be England’s Worst XI. That being said, it came with a couple of caveats – firstly, it had to have been from our ‘era’ so to speak (players we’d seen) and, secondly, they had to have either underwhelmed or had no right to have been anywhere near international football.
With that being said, let’s see who made this horrendous team:
Goalkeeper – Peter Shilton
Wait, isn’t he England’s most capped player ever? 20 years and 125 caps is so far unsurpassed despite David Beckham’s best PR campaign. So just why is England’s most capped player in this team?
Well, according to Chris, Shilton’s persistence in hanging on to his international career into his forties at Italia 90 hindered England’s chances. In an era with young Martyn’s and Seaman’s, the inclusion of a man with a bus pass seemed rather a wacky choice by the then just Bobby Robson. He repaid Robson’s faith by getting nowhere near any German penalties and handing Italy third place in the tournament.
It wasn’t his first high-profile mistake, despite his autobiography’s claims. There’s that infamous game at Poland where the Polish keeper became God and England didn’t make it to the World Cup. Shilton had a hand in it by conceding the softest goal of all time. Incredibly, he kept his place in the side over Ray Clemence.
Maybe Chris had a point somewhere after all…
Right Back – Carl Jenkinson
Despite our suggestions of a strange Martin Kelly/Jenko Dragonball Z mashup (named Cartin Jenkelly), that hasn’t technically played for England. Therefore, it was one or the other and, based entirely on a hat he wore once, Carl is the winner.
Parties were had in Finland when Woy announced that Jenko had decided to hitch his banter wagon to England’s truck in the future despite the fact there were at least 15 better right backs than him in England. He played, at most, 20 minutes in THAT defeat to Zlatan in Sweden along with a few other nominees for this side. Still, banter machine Carl is at least holding on to his place on the Arsenal bench as best he can, bless him.
Centre Back – Anthony Gardner
An incredible shout by Bob and the benefits of doing your homework, kids. Gardner was one of those players who was around during the 2000s but you’d be damned if you could remember him unless you searched for him.
Called up in 2004 during an era where Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jonathan Woodgate, Jamie Carragher and Ledley King were all entering their prime with varying degrees of injury proneness, Gardner was as surprised as anyone that he managed to get called up at all. He played one half of football in an England shirt and never got anywhere near one ever again.
Hence his inclusion into this XI. Here was a player that was around a Spurs side that was not very successful or particularly good getting a game for England just because he was English. He’s not the first we’ll see either.
Centre Back – Matthew Upson
Some may argue this is harsh but let’s be honest with ourselves. Matt Upson got 21 games for England in the same era as Gardner which is fine until you consider he played for, at best, mid-table Premier League sides.
He scored two goals against Germany which might hold water if you’re stuck in World War 2, however, the harsh reality is that an England international does not a solid Premier League defender make. He was a bit slow and a bit crap and he was completely shown up by the Germans in South Africa where Miroslav Klose of all people outpaced and outclassed him.
Left Back – Michael Ball
Ah, Michael Ball. You’d do well to remember him but what a time he had of it. In 1997, he was the youngest player to play for Everton and the youngest in Merseyside Derby history. His career peaked with the arrival of Sven and he got his solitary cap for his country when he came on for a 31-year-old debuting Chris Powell.
Now, I don’t wish to be mean to Chris Powell but when you’re considered the third best left back (at best) behind an experienced Premier League campaigner then it’s not a great indication of your ability. He would never win another cap either for England despite his claims that he would never be a one-cap wonder.
Injuries, a £6.5 million move to Rangers and just general average ability put paid to that hope and, despite Paul Konchesky’s best averageness, a charge for tweeting homophobic comments in 2010 secured his place in the side.
Right Winger – Aaron Lennon
Diet Theo Walcott. Chicken Little. Whatever you want to call him, Aaron Lennon definitely did not deliver. Hailed as the heir to the Beckham throne on the right, Lennon proved to be just like Wright-Phillips and Walcott in that he was all pace but no quality.
Worse still, he was electric for Tottenham in spurts yet never really translated that into England form. So, while SWP and Walcott contributed moments of class in an England shirt, Lennon just didn’t in his 21 appearances.
Centre Midfield – Paul Gascoigne
Right, so in theory, I completely disagree with this one but, Chris did make a fair point. For all of Gazza’s Italia 90 brilliance and scintillating club form, he never really replicated it consistently for England. Nor did he do himself any favours with his reckless nature on the pitch when he injured himself in the FA Cup Final.
Chris though is still angry that Gazza’s antics may have inadvertently brought the Sky moneymen to the footballing table and changed the game forever.
Centre Midfield – Carlton Palmer
Something we can agree with Chris on. Well, partly.
See, while the naked eye sees Palmer for what he was – a gangly, out of place typically English early 90s centre midfielder – Chris seems to think he could have the Marcel Desailly of the infant Premier League. Sadly, no amount of explanation from him will stop me from thinking he’s spent far too much time in the Spanish sun.
Carlton played 18 times, formed a comedy duo with Gazza on a documentary and, according to Wikipedia, did not captain England despite me thinking he did. He certainly was no Desailly and no amount of sangria can convince me otherwise.
Left Midfield – Steve Guppy
Martin O’Neill’s favourite, nobody quite knows how Steve Guppy ever made it into an England squad.
Kevin Keegan, unfortunately, called him “like a left-sided David Beckham”. To be fair to Kev, he was right. Watching Guppy for England was like watching David Beckham if he’d played with his destroyed Achilles. Unsurprisingly, Steve never did make it to another England squad but at least he got his cap and a sweet, sweet pay packet for a couple years at Celtic.
Striker – Kevin Davies
Just how did a 33-year-old Kevin Davies get a call-up in 2010.
Poor Fabio was under all sorts of pressure after the disaster that was the World Cup, so his solution? Call up Bolton’s top scorer who managed a whole 11 goals the previous season. True to form, big Kev was unable to burst down the mighty wall of Montenegro but did get booked for the very English thing of “putting himself about”.
Unsurprisingly, he was never in another squad again and England eventually upgraded to Rickie Lambert a couple of years later.
Striker – Jay Bothroyd
Fabio, mate. You didn’t have a good time, did you?
It seems the late Capello era was a goldmine for striking atrocities. Bothroyd may take the cake, though. Despite not quite ever doing anything at all in the Premier League, a run of goals for Cardiff in the Championship got Bothroyd a game against France. No, really. It’s a shock he wasn’t partnered up top with Michael Chopra. That would’ve had the French waving the white flag instantly.
Jay’s big break in the Premier League with QPR was, shockingly, a disaster but he is at least now banging them in over in Japan these days. Is it too late for a recall?
Manager – Steve McClaren
Something about umbrellas and Croatia right?
The idea of McClaren’s appointment was a smart one on paper. Promote the assistant for a seamless transition. Foolproof. However, as the Dutch will most recently attest to, it’s not always that easy.
McClaren made an absolute hash of Euro 2008 qualifying, scrambling for a goalkeeper like there was no tomorrow. He plumped for Scott Carson, a man who wasn’t even considered second choice at his parent club. He regretted that decision once Niko Kranjcar’s shot was spooned into the top corner by Scott. Still, at least he took his brolly onto the touchline so he was dry. Nobody likes a damp suit at a firing.
Seth Johnson – Apparently, he played well for Derby. I wouldn’t know because nobody remembers him it seems. His solitary cap was the second most memorable thing about Peter Taylor’s one and only game as England boss.
Gavin McCann – One of the engine room of an actually decent Sunderland team but like so many on this list, he should never have been anywhere near internationals. One of those given a shot by Sven when he arrived then quickly discarded like there was no tomorrow.
Scott Carson – Born in the same town as Bob apparently. Still made the most famous mistake in English history and managed to get McClaren sacked which is a mark in the pro column for Scott. He has a mistake-to-cap rate of 50% which is atrocious when he only won 4.
Michael Ricketts – A goal scoring machine that broke down the moment he pulled on an England shirt. Sold to a Boro team that Bob gets way too excited about.
Martin Kelly – The other half of Cartin Jenkelly, I still can’t remember why he was called up and quite how he ended up at Euro 2012.
Zat Knight – Something like the 15th choice option chosen to go on a tour the rest of the centre backs couldn’t be arsed with and so he got two caps.
Matt Jarvis – He was quick and he crossed a lot for Wolves. Fabio put Stewart Downing to the side for his new toy. Jarvis was rubbish against Ghana. Fabio picked Stewart Downing again.
So that is our England Worst XI. Of course, you can hear our full opinions and hear who else we talk about on the podcast itself. If you want to give us grief then hit us up on Twitter either to the site’s account, @TalesFromTTF, or come at myself, @LongBallFoot; Bob, @BobJPriestley and especially Chris, @chrisdarwenfmg, for those Carlton Palmer comments.