The best English footballers without international caps

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Representing the country’s national football team is something often taken for granted in England.

The fans dismiss any international football that isn’t a tournament, and club managers spend each day nervously waiting to get their players back in one piece. Even the players that go as regulars can get caught in the moment and not quite appreciate the gravity of the situation; the national team is the country’s pinnacle of excellence (more often than not).

There is always only so many spots, though, meaning talent is always guaranteed to miss out somewhere. Honourable mention to Ben Brereton who doesn’t make the list; never picked for England, but now a full international for Chile. We salute you, Mr. Brereton Diaz.

Dwight McNeil, Kalvin PhillipsDwight McNeil, Kalvin Phillips

McNeil has time on his side / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

There is no denying the talent that lies within McNeil, but his lack of experience at just 20 breeds inconsistency as expected.

Still, he’s impressed in fleeting spells at Burnley and has a bright future. The likelihood is that it involves an England cap down the line. Watch this space.

Jamal MusialaJamal Musiala

England have had a mare / Marc Mueller/Getty Images

It’s a weird one, is the Musiala case.

The Bayern Munich defender represented both England and Germany at youth level and has since gone on to become a full international for Die Mannschaft. But surely if England had acted quicker, Musiala could’ve been with the Three Lions? It’s a missed opportunity.

Todd CantwellTodd Cantwell

Cantwell has a chance in the Premier League again / George Wood/Getty Images

Similarly to McNeill, there’s a talented player in young Cantwell.

The attacking midfielder has impressed through the youth ranks, and returning to the Premier League with Norwich in 2021/22 presents a chance for a more matured player to steal the show. He’s got competition, though.

Matthew LowtonMatthew Lowton

Too many right backs / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Another Burnley man, Lowton falls victim to the fact that England unfortunately have at least 100 different right backs who are all rather talented and around the same level.

Timing and circumstance has robbed him of a call-up so far, simply due to the fact that there are multiple domestic and European champions ahead of him. Harsh.

Billy SharpBilly Sharp

Sharp and his Mr Socko celebration for England / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

A striker is one of the more difficult roles to earn a call-up from, especially when your style is more throwback and central.

Sharp has certainly been prolific enough in his career to warrant a national team call-up, having scored well over 200 goals and turned out at various levels. Again, though, plenty of better options have often lay ahead of him.

Adam ArmstrongAdam Armstrong

Armstrong is scoring for fun / Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Scoring in the Championship is always a solid first step, but Armstrong has done more than that.

The 24-year-old has bagged at various youth levels for England and is now doing so in a struggling Blackburn side, scoring 29 goals in the 2020/21 season despite them finishing 15th. It’s a strike rate that would get Premier League clubs sniffing, so England isn’t an unrealistic idea.

Mark Atkins of Blackburn Rovers and David Unsworth of EvertonMark Atkins of Blackburn Rovers and David Unsworth of Everton

Mark Atkins kept his spot at Blackburn / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Atkins was a key part of the Blackburn team that were crowned Premier League champions in 1994/95 and regularly impressed for them, but never earned a cap.

The midfielder could also play right back and managed to remain an integral member of the team as Blackburn won the league and spent heavily to improve the squad. Unfortunately, England had found a golden generation throughout the 1990s.

Will HughesWill Hughes

Premier League bound / Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Hughes was once the talk of the town as England’s next big star. But he’s still yet to earn full international honours.

That doesn’t tell the story, though. Hughes has built up a fine reputation for himself in the Championship and has the chance to play Premier League football again in 2021/22. A creative yet dogged midfielder could benefit the Three Lions, so his chances aren’t gone.

Dael FryDael Fry

Fry represented England at under-21 / Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Having been linked with the likes of Manchester United, there is obvious reason to keep an eye on the Middlesbrough centre back.

Fry is still young and has plenty to learn, but defending in the Championship isn’t easy and with England lacking quality beyond starting options, there has certainly been a chance for Gareth Southgate to think about calling him up. He can’t be far off.

Matty CashMatty Cash

Cash impressed for Villa / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He’s certainly still a little green, but Cash proved an excellent bit of business from Aston Villa, who lifted him from the Championship to the Premier League.

Again, nothing short of a thousand right backs isn’t helping his cause, otherwise his attacking impetus could’ve landed him a cap already.

Michail AntonioMichail Antonio

Antonio is ready to be called upon / Henry Browne/Getty Images

Michail Antonio’s ascent has been a phenomenal one.

Having started as a right back, Antonio has now proven himself as a willing runner and an intelligent forward that can work in wide and central areas. An England call up should still be on the cards for him, considering his versatility.

Curtis JonesCurtis Jones

Jones is a shoo-in for England soon enough / Pool/Getty Images

Another case of youth playing a part, Jones has plenty of years ahead of him to earn his first cap, but perhaps could have already had one.

Liverpool’s local lad midfielder has proven a hit and become a key cog in Jurgen Klopp’s side, with his creativity and work from box to box standing out. It’s an asset that would give England an extra edge; form should’ve earned him a cap by this point.

Charlie AustinCharlie Austin

Austin is back at QPR / Clive Rose/Getty Images

Bagging 18 goals and seven assists in a relegated QPR side in 2014/15 somehow wasn’t enough for the Three Lions to call on Austin.

Now past his peak and unable to get in over the attacking prowess England have, Austin was definitely good enough for a cap in the mid-2010s and could’ve bagged goals in a darker period for the national team.

josh brownhilljosh brownhill

Underrated / Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Brownhill provides tenacity and creative spark in a Burnley side that regularly operates under the cosh.

His ability to thrive and adapt to commands in a largely defensive set-up are qualities that would work well in Gareth Southgate’s England side, yet Brownhill can’t seem to find a way in over the usual suspects.

Marc Albrighton - WingerMarc Albrighton - Winger

Albrighton hasn’t ever been capped / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Albrighton still playing a vital role in a Leicester City side that chases European football is baffling, yet telling of his unnoticed qualities.

Versatile, able to beat a man, a good egg in the squad and a mean crosser of the ball, it’s wild to think the winger hasn’t even managed to nab one cap throughout the last decade.

Steve OgrizovicSteve Ogrizovic

Ogrizovic never got a cap / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

After a spell with Liverpool in the late 1970s and early 80s, goalkeeper Ogrizovic eventually signed for Coventry in 1984 and would become their record appearance holder.

One of the brightest goalkeepers in the English game that the time, Ogrizovic simply couldn’t get into the England side with others ahead of him.

Stephen HughesStephen Hughes

Stephen Hughes’ best bits were with Arsenal / Getty Images/Getty Images

A midfielder by trade, Hughes impressed at youth level for both Arsenal and England. While he broke into the Gunners and helped them to the Premier League title in 1998, things didn’t happen the same for England.

Hughes couldn’t get into the national set-up at senior level despite proving a handy option at Arsenal. When he moved on from there in 2000, his chances were virtually done.

Ben MeeBen Mee

Mee presents a fine backup option for England / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Despite not making it all the way through the ranks at Manchester City, Mee has made a fine account for himself as a Premier League level defender at Burnley.

A regular in the side, Mee captains the Clarets and has long been tipped for a national team call up which continues to evade him. His experience and leadership might just be a fine addition to the squad, although competition around his level for backup spots is high.

Ivan ToneyIvan Toney

The Premier League presents a big chance for Toney / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Toney’s ascent has been nothing but hard work, but his hard work has reaped rewards as he fired Brentford into the Premier League for the 2021/22 season.

The clinical striker has an obscene range and awareness to his game, and now playing football in the English top flight, he has a real chance of catching the eye of the national team.

Aaron Wan-bissakaAaron Wan-bissaka

Wan-Bissaka can’t get a look in / BSR Agency/Getty Images

Another victim of England’s strange right back depth, Manchester United’s starting right back continues to get overlooked by the national team.

Granted there is plenty for Wan-Bissaka to improve on and there are more well-rounded options, the defender has a wicked tackle that deserves recognition with a call up.

Hull City v Reading - Sky Bet ChampionshipHull City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship

Richards is Bayern Munich bound / Ashley Allen/Getty Images

The 23-year-old’s performances at Reading in the Championship have been enough to earn him a move to Bayern Munich, but not enough to warrant an England call up.

It’s strange, too, because Richards would be the perfect competition for Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell and gives Southgate a genuine wing back option for his preferred back three.

Patrick BamfordPatrick Bamford

Patrick Bamford is working towards a cap / Frank Augstein – Pool/Getty Images

It’s weird to be campaigning so vehemently for Bamford to be going to a major tournament with England, but alas. It could’ve happened and it should’ve.

Bamford has finally found his groove at Leeds and his goals for the club in their return to the Premier League have been vital. He’s proving his worth and deserves a call up to reflect that and try to replicate it on the national stage.

Kevin Campbell of ArsenalKevin Campbell of Arsenal

Kevin Campbell was impressive for Arsenal / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A Premier League regular in its early years, Campbell was always good for a goal at Arsenal, despite being overshadowed by Ian Wright’s brilliance.

Campbell was always a man among the goals in the league’s lower sides as his career went on, but never managed to earn a cap for his exploits. A rather harsh reality on a solid career.

Charlie TaylorCharlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor has been unlucky / Clive Mason/Getty Images

Burnley’s left back has quietly been one of the most consistent in the Premier League for some time.

Granted it will now be hard for him to get in over the likes of Shaw and Chilwell – and even potentially Omar Richards – but there were plenty of points in the past where Taylor has been worthy of a call up. A solid defender who gets Burnley forward, he deserves a cap.

Ron Harris - Soccer PlayerRon Harris - Soccer Player

Ron Harris never made it to the seniors / Express/Getty Images

20 years of service for Chelsea from 1960 to 1980 where the Blues won at domestic and European level somehow wasn’t enough for Harris to earn an England cap.

An uncompromising defender, ‘Chopper’ was endlessly physical and dominated the backline for Chelsea, but for whatever reason couldn’t break into the national team.

Dennis MortimerDennis Mortimer

Dennis Mortimer’s cup pedigree wasn’t enough / Getty Images/Getty Images

403 appearances for Aston Villa including the honour of captaining them as they won the 1982 European Cup was somehow not enough to see Mortimer as a viable option for the national team.

A midfielder, Mortimer had serious pedigree at club level, but for whatever reason was overlooked at every possibility.

Paul Davis of Arsenal and Alvin Martin of West Ham UnitedPaul Davis of Arsenal and Alvin Martin of West Ham United

Davis in action for Arsenal / Dan Smith/Getty Images

An integral cog in the Arsenal machine that won the 1989 and 1991 First Division and the 1993 FA Cup, Davis was a hit for the Gunners.

But again, his cup winning exploits couldn’t force him into an England side that was entering some of its best years, reaching the semi final at Italia 90 and Euro 96. The closest he could get was England B.

David MayDavid May

David May moved to United but couldn’t get in with England / Getty Images/Getty Images

Impressing as Blackburn finished league runners up to Manchester United, May moved to the Red Devils to add youth to an ageing defence and was eventually a regular fixture by the late 1990s.

May’s form for United earned him an England call up for a friendly against Mexico in 1997, but he didn’t actually get on for a cap and that’s how it ended at national level.

Mark NobleMark Noble

Noble’s chances for a cap seem to be gone / Henry Browne/Getty Images

Don’t worry West Ham fans, we hadn’t forgot. Unlike England.

It’s become a bit of a joke, but there is a serious undertone. Noble has certainly been more than worthy of an England cap throughout his playing career. The Hammers midfielder dictates and leads play and represented the Three Lions up until under 21 level, but hasn’t been welcomed into the first team. Criminal.

Steve Bruce, Brian DeaneSteve Bruce, Brian Deane

Bruce was never capped / Anton Want/Getty Images

Bruce was admittedly a late bloomer for United, but his defensive work alongside Gary Pallister was some of the best in the 1990s as they kicked into Premier League dominators.

Age is but a number, and there was certainly a spot for Bruce at England at least once before he left the Red Devils in 196. If not for his defensive abilities, then his winning pedigree.

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