The best England XI of one-cap wonders
England play their next fixture against Ukraine in the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifiers – they currently lead their group, ahead of their opponents.
The recent England squad selection caused a very mixed opinion, and earlier this week I took a look at which players were not called up.
It is every footballers’ dream to be called up to their national team and to play for their country in the biggest tournaments, aiming to create a legacy.
But, what happens to those who make just one solitary appearance and never play for England again, the so-called “one-cap wonders”?
Here is the England best XI containing only “one-cap wonders”. We will be playing a 4-1-3-2 formation and there are also seven substitutes named due to the quality of contenders.
I have not included anyone in the current England squad, so players such as Lewis Dunk and Eberechi Eze are excluded from this list.
Goalkeeper – Alex Stepney
There was only going to be one goalkeeper who would be considered for this and that is former Manchester United goalkeeper and legend Alex Stepney.
Stepney made 433 appearances for United from 1966 until 1978, and was the first goalkeeper to win the European Cup with an English team in 1968 – helping the Red Devils defeat Eusebio’s Benfica 4-1 after extra time.
His sole cap came against Sweden in preparation for the 1968 European Championships, where they would win 3-1, and while he was called up several times during the 1970s, he would fail to win another cap.
It is noted that he had Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Peter Bonetti ahead of him in the England pecking order, and was unlucky to only win the one cap.
Right-back – Carl Jenkinson
A straight choice between Carl Jenkinson and former Liverpool right-back Martin Kelly, but Jenkinson gets the nod.
The former Arsenal defender spent eight years at the club, making 70 appearances – scoring one goal.
He also spent time at West Ham on loan and Nottingham Forest, before switching to Australia where he currently plays for the Newcastle Jets, aged 31-years-old.
The 2014 FA Cup winner made his sole England appearance in a 4-2 loss against Sweden in November of 2012, replacing Glen Johnson in the 74th minute.
Centre-back – Neil Ruddock
Neil Ruddock was one of the “hard-men” of football during the 1990s and played for plenty of teams across a 17-year-career.
Making his debut at Millwall, he spent time at Tottenham, Southampton, Liverpool and West Ham, making a total of 466 appearances.
In November 1994 he would make his debut for the Three Lions against Nigeria, where they won 1-0.
More known now for his TV appearances, he has appeared on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and on Harry’s Heroes, fronted by Harry Redknapp, and famously came out of retirement in 2015 to play non-league football.
Centre-back – Ryan Shawcross
Stoke City stalwart Ryan Shawcross also only made a single appearance for England, making his debut against Sweden in that aforementioned defeat – playing for 16 minutes.
It was this game that Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick after Shawcross came on, and effectively ended his England career before it began.
The Manchester United youth graduate made his name at Stoke, making 453 appearances across 14 years before joining Inter Miami in 2021.
He suffered a career-ending injury in August of 2021 and retired in January of 2022.
Left-back – Michael Ball
Michael Ball’s career had plenty of promise when he burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old for Everton in 1997, going on to make 139 appearances for The Toffees.
It was during this time that he made his international debut against Spain in February of 2001. He then signed for Rangers for £6.5 million, winning the Scottish Premiership and League Cup in 2005.
He also won the Eredivisie title in 2006 when he joined PSV; and had stints at Manchester City and Leicester City.
His career ultimately ended in January 2012 after he sent homophobic messages on Twitter to actor Antony Cotton.
Defensive midfielder – Steve Perryman
One of the most iconic players in Tottenham Hotspur’s history, the all-time record appearance holder played 866 games from 1969 until 1986 where he won a number of trophies.
Steve Perryman, who was a midfielder and later a defender, won the FA Cup twice, League Cup twice and UEFA Cup twice; and won the FWA’s Footballer of the Year in 1982.
It is shocking that he never played for the England team more – even his debut against Iceland in June 1982 was a B-team fixture which was later upgraded to full status.
He also had a semi-successful management career, making sure Watford pulled-off an great escape to survive relegation in 1991.
At the end of his career, after stints with Oxford United and Brentford, he had made 951 appearances at club-level.
Right-Winger – Matt Jarvis
Matt Jarvis was a winger who could play on both flanks and had a decent level career, ultimately shining for Wolverhampton Wanderers and occasionally for West Ham United in the Premier League.
Starting off at Gillingham, he transferred to Wolves in 2007 where he went on to play 175 times for the club – helping them get promoted to the Premier League in 2009.
In 2012 he joined The Hammers and after 90 appearances, joined Norwich City and his career fizzled out. He retired in 2021 after a brief spell with Woking.
In March of 2011, he received his sole cap against Ghana, coming on for Jack Wilshire in a 1-1 draw, and becoming the first Wolves player to play for England since Steve Bull in 1990.
Attacking midfielder – David Dunn
David Dunn is a player most associated with Blackburn Rovers, spending 14 seasons at The Riversiders across two different spells.
Described at the time as being similar to Paul Gascoigne, he was able to beat a man with ease and became a legend at Blackburn, making 378 appearances.
However, injuries plagued his career and robbed him of his chance to progress with England, as his one cap came in 2002 against Portugal, replacing Steven Gerrard.
Known as a prankster, and with players such as Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes ahead of him, his opportunities would be limited – and he was never be called up again, retiring in 2016.
Left-winger – Harvey Barnes
The second time I have spoken about Harvey Barnes in a week, as he missed out on an England callup for the upcoming fixtures.
The Newcastle United winger, who can play in attacking midfield, has been in good form so far this season – scoring one goal and assisting one in four appearances so far, after his transfer from Leicester City for £38 million.
The 25-year-old has made 269 appearances in his club career and has won the FA Cup with Leicester in 2021.
In October of 2020, he was brought on against Wales for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but has yet to add to his international career. However, it seems inevitable that he will make a second appearance soon.
Striker – Chris Sutton
It was tough to choose just two strikers to appear in this team, but the fact that Chris Sutton only made one England appearance is a tragedy.
He started at Norwich City before signing for Blackburn Rovers in 1994 for £5 million, which at the time made him the most expensive Englishman, before his heroics sealed an unlikely Premier League title.
Forming a partnership with Alan Shearer, they won the Premier League in 1995, before Sutton later won the Scottish Premiership with Celtic in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
But Sutton would only play once for England, in a friendly against Cameroon in November 1997 (the season where he won the golden boot). However, a falling out with manager Glenn Hoddle followed, and he would be left out of the 1998 World Cup squad.
He would also refuse his call up to the England B squad and would never be called up again. He retired in 2007 but made an appearance for Wroxham in 2012.
Striker – Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney makes this list for very different reasons to the other players.
The Brentford striker got his one cap in March of this year against Ukraine in Euro 2024 qualification, replacing Harry Kane – and is the most recent debutant in the team.
Toney has been lethal for Brentford, scoring 68 goals in 124 appearances so far and finished last season scoring 20 in 33 games.
The striker was given an eight-month ban from football worldwide, for betting offences in May of 2023 – due to come back to football in January 2024.
Toney is bound to add to his caps and the 27-year-old will look to force his way into the Euro 2024 squad come the end of the season.
So that is the best team featuring “one-cap wonders”, but who would make the seven-man bench?
Nottingham Forest’s Dean Henderson comes in as back-up goalkeeper, appearing in November of 2020 against Ireland. However, honourable mentions must go to John Ruddy, Chris Kirkland and Alex McCarthy.
Former Liverpool and Crystal Palace right-back Martin Kelly was given a run-out for 2 minutes and 39 seconds against Norway, making his career the shortest ever in England history.
David Unsworth completes the defenders on the bench, his appearance against Japan in June 1995 meaning the Everton legend just misses out on the XI.
Burnley’s Jack Cork had a run-out against Germany in November 2017, and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook played against Italy in March of 2018. Both defensive midfielders unlucky to not be included.
Making up the bench are strikers Dean Ashton, who made his debut against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008, two years after his initial call up; and David Nugent, who famously scored in his lone game – tapping in Jermain Defoe’s goal bound effort in March of 2007 against Andorra.
Nugent’s 11-minute cameo with his goal is the shortest England career amongst goal scorers – the first England player from Preston since Tom Finney, and the first player outside the Premier League since David James in 2003.
If you think I have missed anyone out then let me know!
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