Over-hyped England flops XI
The British media is a wonderful thing, responsible for bigging up any footballer that shows even an ounce of ability at whatever level over even the shortest amount of time. If said players are English, extra-strength arse-sore cream is complimentary at all pharmacies, followed by a voucher for free anti-depressants when the tabloid rimming descends into public torture amid a single bad display for the national team. Here’s an alternative England XI of those that were tipped to be England regulars while in their teenage years, but never quite made it for whatever reason…
1. Chris Kirkland, caps: 1
After a £6m move from Coventry to Liverpool in 2001 – a then transfer record for a British goalkeeper – and a number of appearances for the under 21s, Kirkland only ever appeared as a second-half substitute against Greece in 2006. At just 11 years old, some members of his family placed bets of £100 at 100/1 that he would play for England before he was 30, which he did. Forever blighted with injury problems, Kirkland fell out of favour at West Brom and Wigan, and now sits on the bench – either physio’s or substitutes – at the DW, holding onto the joy that he made most of his family a lot richer.
2. Stephen Wright, caps: 0
Right backs were surprisingly hard to come by for the list, so here’s Stephen Wright, another hopeful savaged by injury and mediocrity. He was never really tipped to be an England regular.
3. Michael Ball, caps: 1
The most frustratingly average full-back on the planet, Ball also made just one measly appearance for England in Sven’s very first game in February 2001. He replaced Chris Powell, another contender for this particular XI. On the sidelines for months upon end with different clubs due to every injury in the book, he cost Rangers a mammoth £6.5m from Everton in 2001, a fee that these days the Old Firm would find hard to muster.
4. Titus Bramble, caps 0
You all know Titus Bramble. He was once a good player at Ipswich, I promise. Just typing his name into YouTube results in videos headed “Titus Bramble had a bad day”, “How is Titus Bramble paid to play football” and “Titus Bramble, perhaps he’s not really a defender”.
5. Ledley King, caps: 21
Without doubt the best player in this team, though absolutely crippled with cruel injuries since 2006. King had all the potential to be a regular stalwart in England’s defence, so his hype was at least justified. It was revealed in 2008 that he had no cartilage in one knee, just bone-on-bone friction due to past injuries and operations, restricting him to play less regularly. Although taken to the 2010 World Cup, King only played one half against USA due to another injury. Without doubt a compassionate entry.
6. Jody Morris, caps: 0
Filling in the holding midfield role, little nipper Morris always showed potential to become the next, ahem, Dennis Wise. A more than decent stint at Chelsea in the late 90s early 00s suggested Morris could ruffle feathers in England’s midfield, but having fallen out of favour at the Bridge he moved on to unsuccessful spells at fellow dirty buggers Leeds and Milwall. Numerous allegations of law-breaking dampened his image, and he now plays in the dizzy heights of Scottish football with St Johnstone.
7. Kieron Dyer, caps: 33
Kieron Courtney Dyer has the worst luck I have ever seen in the history of football. But I stopped feeling sorry for the boy (or is he a man now?) after his seventy-eighth career injury on the first day of this season, this time lasting just three minutes for his new team QPR. Having made just 34 appearances in the last four seasons, the nippy midfielder seems desperate to re-ignite a career that has seen him pick up monstrous wages in return for a huge physio bill.
8. Seth Johnson, caps: 1
After impressing at Crewe and then Derby Country just over a decade ago, Seth Johnson became just another piece in Leeds United’s debt-ridden jigsaw. Moving to Elland Road for a whopping £7m before spending most of his time injured, it was reported the then £6,000 a week Johnson and his agent had initially wanted to hold out for around double that wage at Leeds. Peter Ridsdale, being the shrewd, collected business man that he is, tabled an opening offer of £30,000 a week without blinking. Nice one, Pete. Some say he then went on to earn around £40,000 a week for four years, making just over 50 appearances.
9. Francis Jeffers, caps: 1
After 20 goals in 60 matches for Everton, Arsene Wenger splashed out £8m (unlike him) on front-man Jeffers in 2001. What Arsenal fans would give to see Wenger splash out that money on a centre-half now? However, Jeffers’ fox-in-the-box tag was a gross misinterpretation of chicken-in-a-basket, as the “next England striker” suffered with multiple-injury syndrome and was kept out of the side by the form of Henry and Wiltord. He was recently released after playing in Scotland (surprise, surprise) with Motherwell.
10. David Nugent, caps: 1
Nugent isn’t a bad Championship-standard player, but he is worthy of getting into this XI for this reason only: his only “goal” for England.
After describing it as a “striker’s goal”, Dave didn’t earn another cap for England. He was never England quality, but then again, my cat could have played for England under Steve McClaren.
11. Ritchie Humphreys, caps: 0
Playing in the top-flight for Sheffield Wednesday between 1996 and 2001, winger Humphreys was once tipped to be the next Van Basten. It turned out he was more like Van Barneveld and he now resides in Hartlepool United folklore. Aside from this, his biggest achievement was being heralded by Cambridge United fans as a “big loss” after missing out on him in 2001. Well done, Ritchie. But seriously, credit where credit is due, Humphreys is a true lower-league legend.
Yes, there’s lots of other candidates who missed the cut so leave your own would-be England greats in the comments section below.