One Cap Wonders

It is well documented that England have a crop of talented youngsters ready to burst onto the international scene and lead us to glory at long last. Or something like that. Still if the likes of Phil Jones, Tom Cleverly and Chris Smalling can avoid England careers similar to this miserable bunch, then we stand a decent chance of building a successful team. Here are the top ten one cap English wonders still in action today.

  1. Michael Ricketts – It all started brilliantly for the former Bolton striker who rattled in 37 goals in 98 games between 2000 and 2003, a strike record that led to a £3.5million move to Middlesbrough and a first England cap against the Netherlands. It all went down hill from there though, scoring just another 28 career goals, appearing for no less than 10 clubs and last appearing in court for head butting his girlfriend. Cue the familiar what happened to so and so stories…
  1. Michael Ball – After an impressive career start at Everton, Ball seemed destined to fill the problem left back spot for England after both Graeme Le Saux and Phil Neville made high-profile mistakes in successive major tournaments. He made his debut against Spain for Sven’s first game, and was replaced by, ahem, Chris Powell, never to be seen again. Although Ball has filled a career playing for Rangers, PSV and Man City, it is a definite case of what might have been, when Ball looks back on his career.
  1. Seth Johnson – Best remembered for epitomizing all that was wrong with Leeds United’s transfer policy back in 2000, when they signed him for 7 million, with rumours surfacing that Leeds offered him 17k more a week than he initially asked for, it is questionable whether his one cap came as a result of catching Peter Taylor having an affair with his assistant, given England’s strength in midfield at the time. Either way, the most impressive thing about Johnson’s career is probably the fact he has the best middle names in the country, Seth ‘Maurice Art’ Johnson.
  1. David Nugent – Surely not you say? This man has an England goal? Yes he does, but he also stole it off Jermaine Defoe and it was against Andorra, a team with standards similar to Leyton Orient. And he was capped by Steve McClaren, whilst still playing in the Championship. A less than impressive record followed during his Premiership stint with Portsmouth, he was so bad they loaned him to Burnley when they were literally begging players to play for the club. Still, he has a better goal to game ratio than Shearer, Rooney or Bobby Charlton. Best stick to the one cap Dave.
  1. Francis Jeffers – Another man with an England goal to go with his first cap. Maybe it should be made illegal for England strikers to score on debut, after all Darius Vassell also scored on his. Francis’s £8million move to Arsenal was so disastrous it changed Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy forever – never buy English. At all costs. Jeffers has now had more clubs than Tiger Woods, and has recently popped up in the most obvious graveyard for wasted talent in football, the Scottish Premier League, playing for Motherwell.
  1. Jay Bothroyd – This may seem a rash decision, after all Bothroyd was only capped last season whilst banging them in for Cardiff, but given the poor start to his Premiership career with QPR, I have a feeling his appearance against France may be used as a pointer to that fact Fabio Capello knows absolutely nothing about English football. After all, before last season, Bothroyd’s goal scoring record hardly lights up in neon lights, 88 goals in 354 appearances for, let’s face it, a host of distinctly average clubs.
  1. Kevin Davies – The most controversial call on this list, definitely in terms of playing ability, Davies has led Bolton’s line superbly for the last 8 years. Again though, his goal scoring record is questionable, which is why eyebrows were raised when Capello thrust him into a key qualifier at home to Montenegro. Needless to say,England drew 0-0. At the end of the day, if your job is to batter the opposition up front, foul a lot of players, and wave your arms in anguish at the referee and you are worse at it than Emile Heskey, then 1 cap is all you deserve for England.
  1. Lee Bowyer – Only earning the one cap against Portugal was not down to lack of ability, but more his off field antics and controversy on it. In all honesty, Bowyer was well up there with Europe’s best in firing Leeds to a Champions League Semi Final in 2001.  As a teenager playing for Charlton, he failed a drugs test for cannabis use and trashed a London McDonalds, before his infamous charge of GBH whilst at Leeds with Jonathan Woodgate, bringing the club into disrepute and turmoil. Not content with fighting off the pitch, Bowyer decided an on field brawl was necessary with Kieron Dyer in 2005, resulting in another police investigation and a self-sealed reputation as a bad boy/idiot. Whilst reforming himself later in his career, putting in decent performances for Birmingham, there is no doubt Bowyer would have easily avoided this list had he stayed out of trouble. However, he has nothing on the next one cap wonder.
  1. Joey Barton – So Joey thinks he’s ready forEngland’s midfield again? No thanks sunshine, you and your new styled Hitler haircut can stay well away from my national team. There are no questions over his ability, he is an undoubtedly talented footballer, but look up controversy in the dictionary and there is a picture (or probably mug shot) of Joey Barton. There are enough incidents to make a top 20 trials and tribulations of Joey, but favourites include putting out a lit cigar in a youth team player’s eye whilst at Man City, assaulting a 15-year-old Everton supporter in Thailand, never mind hospitalizing Ousmane Dabo in an astonishing training ground assault. A 2007 brawl in Liverpool led to him doing time and an apparent end to such a talented career. To his credit, Barton settled down at Newcastle and produced some outstanding performances, only to get himself shipped out after a series of criticisms aimed at the club’s board. Now at QPR, Barton is a philosophical Tweeter. Maybe he should philosophically work out that no-one in the country wants a thug like him ever to pull on the Three Lions again.
  1. Anthony Gardner – The word sicknote could have been designed for Anthony Gardner who, in his entire career, has made just 245 appearances, the vast majority for an average Tottenham side. In fact his departure in 2008 has perhaps coincided with Spurs’ rise towards the Champions League. Whilst Gardner is by no means a bad player, he hardly ranks alongside even the greatest Spurs defenders of recent times, let alone England’s, highlighting why we don’t stand much chance of winning an international tournament when players like him receive caps. After all, his appearance against Sweden was as a late call up for the injured Gareth Southgate…Gardner has just failed to win new contracts at either Hull or Crystal Palace and looks destined to join a long list of footballers who ‘never quite made it.’

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