It is worth noting before we begin that Emile Heskey won exactly the same amount of caps as this entire team put together. Oh the humanity.
1/ Joe Corrigan (9 caps)
Manchester City’s original Big Joe was an exceptional keeper who made nearly six hundred appearances at the highest level. Were it not for the fact that his career ran parallel with two even more exceptional goalkeepers in Clemence and Shilton he would undoubtedly have represented England a considerably higher number of times than the rationed amount he garnered.
2/ Billy Bonds (0 caps)
Began his career at right-back before being switched to midfield and later dropping back to central defence. In truth Bonds could play anywhere which makes the absence of England call-ups all the more surprising even more so considering the way he perfectly complimented England stalwart Trevor Brooking in the middle of Upton Park. Mr West Ham twice lifted the cup for the Hammers in a career that spanned over two decades.
3/ Alan Kennedy (2 caps)
As a very young boy one of my favourite players was Trevor Cherry because his name was a fruit and he vaguely resembled David Banner. As I got older however I began to wonder how the hell this competent but nothing special left-back managed to keep out Kennedy from the England starting XI until the emergence of Kenny Sansom. Kennedy famously settled two European Cup finals (one in normal time, the other a deciding pen) and for seven seasons was an ever-present in a club side good enough to win the World Cup had they been eligible.
4/ Kevin Beattie (9 caps)
Bobby Robson was once asked who was the best player he’d ever worked with. Was it Ronaldo at his rampaging peak? What about the irresistible Stoichkov? The interviewer did well to hide his surprise when Beattie’s name was immediately proffered but Wor Bobby – ever the gentleman – knew exactly what he was doing. Everyone knows how great those players were yet all-too-few are aware of Beattie’s natural athleticism and magnificent reading of the game that made him unquestionably one of the greatest defenders this country has ever produced.
5/ Steve Bruce (0 caps)
Bruce skippered Manchester United to three league titles and two FA Cups whilst one half of an impregnable and telepathic all-English partnership with Pallister yet never once pulled on a Three Lions jersey. Even as a City fan who regards him as the Elephant Man I find that staggering.
6/ Jimmy Case (0 caps)
The fulcrum of an all-conquering Liverpool midfield that contained Ray Kennedy, Souness, McDermott et all yet was bafflingly not deemed worthy enough for an England side that failed to reach three major tournaments during his eight year reign at Anfield. Case has a…well, case for being the most successful club player never to be capped by his country winning the league on four occasions and the European Cup three times.
7/ Stan Bowles (5 caps)
A drinking, womanising, gambling fantasista blessed with sublime ability Bowles formed a scintillating partnership with Gerry Francis at QPR during the 70s yet between them amassed only 17 caps at international level. On arrival at Loftus Road the cocky Mancunian noticed a reluctance amongst his team-mates to claim the number 10 shirt recently vacated by Rodney Marsh. Bowles duly accepted it declaring that he’d never heard of him. In 2004 he was voted the club’s best ever player.
8/ Tony Currie (17 caps)
A shirt out, socks down showman who may have got significantly more caps than the rest of his team here but 17 still represents a waste of a rare talent. The adopted Yorkshireman who can still reduce the most hardened Blade or Leeds fan to tears of nostalgia played with a casual exuberance that is now lost forever in the game.
9/ Joe Baker (8 caps)
In 1959 Baker became the first of only two players to have ever been selected for England despite having never played in the English football league after an astonishing 102 goals in 117 games for Hibs forced Walter Winterbottom to look north of the border. The Liverpool-born striker then continued his trail-blazing career path by pairing up with Denis Law at Torino where they endured a miserable time holed up in a small apartment avoiding the attentions of the feverish paps. Following life-threatening injuries sustained in a road accident that left him in hospital on a drip for four weeks Baker returned to the UK to bang them in for Arsenal. 93 goals in 144 games at Highbury between 1962-66 meant that his exclusion from the World Cup winning squad was unfortunate to say the least.
The other player incidentally was Owen Hargreaves.
10/ Len Shackleton (5 caps)
The Clown Prince of Football who was not averse to back-heeling pens and standing on the ball to comb his hair but unlike some of today’s showboaters the Yorkshireman had the magnificent talent to back it up. He scored six goals on his debut for Newcastle before falling out with the club’s hierarchy over his individual approach to the game whereupon he moved to arch-rivals Sunderland. Here he became legend banging in 101 goals in 348 games and once declaring “I’m not biased when it comes to Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them”. Journalist Malcolm Hartley once wrote “Apart from the adhesive ball control and breathtaking body swerve, Shack could hit a ball. His slender legs could crack the ball like a Bofurs gun”. Not only do we not get journalism like that anymore but players of his ilk are sadly long gone too. His meagre tally of five England caps amounts to a travesty.
11/ Matt Le Tissier (8 caps)
An extravagantly gifted genius distrusted by a succession of England managers not because of a boozy lifestyle or outspoken nature – he was a level-headed one-club man – but rather by valuing artistry over tracking back. It says everything about England’s neanderthalic pre-96 era that the maestro from Guernsey got a pitiful 8 caps throughout his career whilst the eminently ordinary Andy Sinton laboured his way to four more.
A significant percentage of his breath-stealing goals – a supernatural array of forty-yarders and juggling acts – occurred in a specific moment in time when Southampton boss Alan Ball built his entire team around Le Tiss. Imagine if his country had done the same.