Since the turn of the century England have not had much luck at major international tournaments. Under Sven Goran Eriksson between 2001 and 2006 they booked the trend a little, reaching three quarter finals, twice losing to Portugal on penalties as well as the 2-1 defeat to Brazil at World Cup 2002. But looking back on the squad from those years it’s clear the Three Lions should have achieved so much more. With the Premier League at it’s peak the national team boasted stars of world football such as David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Frank Lampard among others. Despite the many talents and under-achievements of this “golden generation” it might slip your mind that some players capped during this era of inconsistency were, to put it harshly, pretty awful. So much so that you may have forgotten that some of them even existed! On the list below we look at some of the most forgettable England internationals of the decade.
10. Ugo Ehiogu:
The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough centre back racked up over 300 Premier League appearances. Boro even coughed up £8 million in November 2000 to secure his services from Villa but it still seems incredible that he won four England caps given the array of quality defenders the National Team had at that time. Even with the likes of Tony Adams, Gareth Southgate and Sol Campbell lining up for England, Ego managed to mix it up with the best winning his first cap against China in 1996 and even netting a goal versus Spain at Villa Park in February 2001. Since retirement he has founded his own record label Dirty Hit, with the likes of The 1975 signing onto his label.
09. Dean Ashton
The story of Dean Ashton is a funny one as he was an excellent player on his day. First gaining recognition at Crewe Alexandra scoring 74 goals for the Railwaymen before a move to Norwich in 2005. Less than a year later West Ham United splashed out £7 million on the striker after an impressive start to the 2005/06 season at Carrow Road. He then received a call up to the England squad in August 2006 only to break his ankle in training following a heavy tackle by Shaun Wright-Phillips. He was sidelined for the entire next season with the injury with a brief renaissance in 2007/08 hitting 11 goals for West Ham he finally made his international debut against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008. Unfortunately he only played four more times in his professional career, announcing his retirement in December 2009 aged 26 a full year since his last Premier League appearance. This was due to his inability to fully recover from the ankle injury he suffered in England duty. What a pity.
08. Francis Jeffers
Perhaps Jeffers is not the most unforgettable international due to the amount wrote in the media about him. Arsenal bought him for £8 million as a 20 year old from Everton and there is also a story that Arsene Wenger turned down one Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Merseyside lad. His failure at Arsenal and other clubs is well documented as is his international career. He scored his only England goal in his only England cap in a disappointing 3-1 loss to Australia in 2003. One thing that Jeffers does have going for himself is his record for the England Under 21s. He is the joint all time top scorer for the U21s alongside Alan Shearer with 13 goals. Unbelievable Jeff-ers!
07. David Dunn
David Dunn was a solid player making over 252 Premier League appearances at Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City but his international career was a little more forgettable. After 22 appearances for the England U21 team, he received his first senior call up in 2001. He had to wait until September 2002 to make his debut replacing Steven Gerrard at half time against Portugal in what was to prove to be his one and only cap for the Three Lions. He is currently managing League One side Oldham Athletic.
06 Jay Bothroyd
We are bending the rules a little by including Jay Bothroyd as he was capped in 2010, so technically not in the naughties. However, the question still remains, how did it happen? Basically he had been in fine form for Cardiff City and Fabio Capello thought he was worth a shot. Bothroyd was called up to the England squad for a friendly against France. He appeared as a second-half substitute in the 2–1 defeat, becoming Cardiff’s first England international player in their 111-year history, and the first Football League player to represent England since David Nugent in 2007. That was as good as it got for the big hitman. He now plays for Jubilo Iwata in Japan’s J1 League if you fancy seeing him in the flesh.
05. Anthony Gardner
Spurs fans will remember Anthony Gardner well as he had an eight year spell at White Hart Lane making 144 appearances for the club. He never did anything special for the North London side and was always seen as a bit-part player in the side. He like many others on this list had a very short international career with his solitary cap coming against Sweden in the run-up to Euro 2004. He left Tottenham in 2008 to join Premier League newcomers Hull City. A move to Crystal Palace followed before his career petered out altogether. Now aged 35 he has no club.
04. Darius Vassell
Darius Vassell, remember him? Of course you do, however it’s probably been awhile since you heard a mention of his name. Having started his career with Aston Villa he had a strong start to the 2001/02 season. He made his England debut against the Netherlands in February 2002 scoring a bicycle kick to equalise in a 1-1 draw. This was enough to get him on the plane to the World Cup in Korea and Japan where he featured in three matches. His continued good club form saw him become a fixture in the England team winning all of his 22 caps between 2002 and 2004. His international career is somewhat overshadowed as he missed the decisive kick in England’s penalty shootout loss to Portugal at Euro 2004. That kick proved to be his last for England, aged just 25 he was never picked again. His club career faded quickly after that fateful moment also after a few mediocre seasons at Manchester City he moved on to Turkish side Ankaragucu before retiring in 2012 after a short, unsuccessful stint at Leicester City. If only you stuck away that penalty, Darius, if only…
03. Michael Ball
Michael Ball made his only appearance for England in a friendly against Spain, coming on as a half-time substitute for Chris Powell in February 2001. This came after four solid seasons for Everton in the top flight where he became a regular at the back for the Toffees. Unfortunately this was as good as it got for Michael. He made an unsuccessful move north to Glasgow Rangers before a torrid spell at PSV Eindhoven making only twelve appearances for the Dutch giants in two seasons. He was thrown a lifeline when Manchester City offered him a contract in 2007 but this also did not work out. He spent two years in the wilderness, training with several teams before he was thrown a second lifeline, this time by Leicester City, in 2011. However he only made a handful of League Cup appearances before being sacked by the Foxes in January 2012 after making homophobic comments about Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton on Twitter. Now aged 36 he is without a club having played only three games in his last four seasons as a footballer and having failed to score a goal since 2007. The question remains how did he ever win a cap for England?
02. Seth Johnson
Former Crewe Alexandra, Derby County and Leeds United midfielder won his only England cap in November 2000 against Italy. He was never the most glamorous player but Leeds did fork out £7 million for his signature in October 2001 but a series of severe injury problems restricted him to just 54 league appearances in four years at Leeds. That was about it from Johnson as he moved back to Derby in 2005 before he was forced into retirement in 2007 aged only 28. He had a career of misfortune which has landed him the tag as possibly the worst player to ever represent the Three Lions.
01. Michael Ricketts
Michael Ricketts’ career took on a kind of pyramid shape having started in the old Second Division with Walsall before rising up to reach the dazzling heights of the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough before steadily dropping back down to where he began in League One with Walsall before retiring at Tranmere Rovers in 2010. At the very top of that pyramid is his solidarity appearance for England against the Netherlands in 2002. The football league journeyman played with eleven clubs in all, throughout his career and his inclusion in the England squad continues to baffle people to this very day. He tops our list as the least memorable England international of the 2000s. Do you feel we left someone out or do you disagree with some of our picks? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet your thoughts to @FutbolNetwork.
By Peter Muldoon, TFN Founder on 16/12/2015 at 16:50