So close; so far...
Every footballer dreams of representing his country, so receiving a call-up usually ranks among any player’s proudest achievements.
But an unlucky few never get to sample the international game despite being included in a senior squad – a fate which befell the following 20 players…
Paul Warhurst – last call-up in March 1993
Warhurst boasts one of the most bizarre individual goalscoring seasons in English football history, having found the net 18 times for Sheffield Wednesday in 1992/93 – leading to this unlikeliest of England call-ups.
Previously a centre-back, Warhurst was repackaged as a makeshift striker during an injury crisis at Hillsborough, taking the task brilliantly to enjoy the most memorable campaign of his career.
His form was so good that Three Lions boss Graham Taylor selected him in his squad for a World Cup qualifier against Turkey in 1993, but Warhurst was forced to withdraw from the squad after pulling a muscle in training. He never got the call from his country again.
Dominic Matteo – last call-up in March 1997
Born in Dumfries in 1974, Matteo eventually went on to represent Scotland at senior level on six occasions – but not before he’d had a dalliance with England.
A four-time international with the Under-21s, the versatile defender-cum-midfielder’s first involvement with the full squad came under Glenn Hoddle in 1996. The then-England boss had tried to sign Matteo while he was in charge of Swindon, but that wasn’t enough for him to hand the Liverpool man his international debut.
Matteo was again called up the following year, but having never set foot on the pitch for England he later switched allegiance to the country of his birth.
Shaka Hislop – last call-up in March 1998
Hislop went on to win 26 caps for Trinidad and Tobago, but he almost became a fully-fledged England international in 1998. Glenn Hoddle called the then-Newcastle shot-stopper up for a friendly against Chile a few months before the World Cup in France, but Hislop played no part in the 2-0 loss against the Marcelo Salas-inspired South Americans.
He later pledged allegiance to the country of his parents’ birth, making his debut for the Soca Warriors in 1999. The Hackney-born Hislop was part of the squad which qualified for the 2006 World Cup... where Trinidad and Tobago performed admirably in a 2-0 defeat by England.
Chris Armstrong – last call-up in March 1999
Armstrong has been overtaken by Wilfried Zaha as Crystal Palace’s highest Premier League goalscorer – the former’s 23 strikes in the early 1990s had earned him a move to Tottenham. Armstrong netted 22 times in his debut campaign of 1995/96, but he wasn’t rewarded with a first England call-up.
The striker was also eligible for Wales and the Republic of Ireland, but a strange clause in his Spurs contract stated that he could only ever play international football for England. He was eventually included in a Three Lions squad by Kevin Keegan in 1999 but played no part in a meeting with Poland and ended his career without a full cap.
Steve Froggatt – last call-up in February 2000
England’s dearth of natural left-footed players was a source of endless chatter in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. A string of hopeful but ultimately unsuccessful options were tried, resulting in call-ups for the likes of Steve Guppy, Darren Eadie, Alan Thompson and Steve Froggatt.
Coventry’s Froggatt was actually picked twice by Kevin Keegan, but never got the chance to make his debut after a Nicky Summerbee tackle injured his ankle and ruled him out.
Even worse, the injury ended his career prematurely – surgery couldn’t solve the issue and Froggatt was forced to retire after a year on the sidelines.
Matt Jansen – last call-up in April 2002
Sven-Goran Eriksson was a generous sort in his early days as England manager, but liked what he saw in young Blackburn striker Jansen. His goals had fired Rovers to promotion and a League Cup win in their first season back in the Premier League, and his reward was a friendly call-up against Paraguay in April 2002.
Illness meant he was forced to withdraw, but Jansen hoped to make the cut for England’s World Cup squad nonetheless. Instead, he was overlooked for experienced Arsenal defender Martin Keown, and then involved in a motorbike accident that summer which put him in a coma for six days.
He was able to resume his career, but never quite the same player again.
David Thompson – last call-up in October 2002
A graduate of the Liverpool academy, Thompson found game time hard to come by at Anfield once he’d made the step up to the first team. That led to his departure in 2000; the midfielder first spent two years at Coventry before moving on to Blackburn in summer 2002.
A fine start to his career in Lancashire led to his inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad for Euro 2004 qualifiers against Slovakia and Macedonia, but he didn’t play in either game and wasn’t able to earn another opportunity as a series of injuries disrupted his career. Fitness problems forced Thompson to call it a day in 2007 at the age of 30.
Sean Davis – last call-up in February 2003
An energetic midfielder who was integral to Fulham’s rapid rise from fourth tier to first between 1996 and 2001, Davis hit the ground running in the Premier League. His fine form in the first half of the 2002/03 campaign brought international recognition as Sven-Goran Eriksson included him in an experimental squad to face Australia at Upton Park.
The Socceroos recorded a famous 3-1 triumph in a game which saw Eriksson use two completely different XIs either side of half-time. Wayne Rooney and Francis Jeffers were both handed their maiden appearances for the Three Lions, but the unfortunate Davis was one of five men who remained on the substitutes’ bench throughout.
Joe Lewis – last call-up in May 2008
Lewis was highly-rated in his younger years, representing England at Under-15, Under-16, Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 level as he came through the ranks at Norwich. A move to Peterborough in 2008 gave the goalkeeper regular minutes at club level and also led to a surprise call-up to Fabio Capello’s squad for non-competitive meetings with the United States and Trinidad Tobago.
Lewis hadn’t played at a higher level than League Two at that stage of his career, so it was perhaps no surprise that he didn’t get on the field in either international. He never quite progressed as expected, though, and currently plies his trade north of the border with Aberdeen.
David Wheater – last call-up in June 2008
Wheater had made just eight Premier League appearances before 2007/08, which proved to be his breakout season. The central defender played 34 times in the top flight for Middlesbrough that campaign, and his performances were deemed of a high enough standard for him to be included in Fabio Capello’s provisional England squad to face France in March 2008.
Wheater was one of seven players to be dropped when Capello trimmed his group from 30 to 23, but he was called up seven months later for matches against Les Blues and Trinidad and Tobago. The Boro stopper made it onto the bench this time, but a first cap eluded him.
Curtis Davies – last call-up in November 2008
A 1-1 draw with Blackburn in January 2008 kept Aston Villa within two points of the Champions League places, and five members of Martin O’Neill’s squad – Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, Scott Carson and Davies – were rewarded with a place in the England squad a few days later.
However, the centre-back played no part in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Switzerland, which soon became a familiar feeling: Davies went on to receive more call-ups under Capello without ever getting on the pitch.
Michael Mancienne – last call-up in November 2008
At one stage, Chelsea academy graduate Mancienne was expected to follow in the footsteps of John Terry by becoming a first-team regular at Stamford Bridge – but he only ever made four Premier League appearances for the west Londoners.
The defender benefitted from a lofty reputation in his younger years, though, and some impressive performances during a loan spell at Wolves brought international recognition in the form of a call-up to Fabio Capello’s squad to face Germany in late 2008. Mancienne didn’t make it off the bench, though, and is now plying his trade in MLS with New England Revolution.
Scott Loach – last call-up in September 2010
Loach was linked with a move from Watford to Tottenham in 2009, before going on to play every league game for the Hornets as they finished 16th in the Championship. Fabio Capello had clearly been paying been attention, promoting the England Under-21 shot-stopper to his senior squad for a friendly against Hungary in August 2010.
Loach returned to the England setup for the following month’s European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland, but he was seen as Capello’s third choice and therefore never donned the gloves outside of training.
Jimmy Bullard – last call-up in November 2008
Bullard’s inclusion in an England squad to face Andorra and Croatia in a pair of World Cup qualifiers in 2008 came as a surprise – not due to a lack of ability, but because the midfielder’s Jack-the-lad persona didn’t seem a natural fit with ultra-strict disciplinarian Fabio Capello.
Bullard was playing well for Fulham at the time and had been spoken about as a potential future international, but he didn’t make it off the bench in either match. He did, however, receive another call-up for a friendly against Germany two months later – but the former Wigan man again spent another 90 minutes as substitute.
Frank Fielding – last call-up in August 2010
Fielding’s inclusion in the England squad to play Hungary in a friendly in 2010 came as a major shock, not least because the inexperienced goalkeeper hadn’t played at a higher level than the third tier. The then-22-year-old was seen as one for the future, though, and manager Fabio Capello was keen for him to get a taste of life around the Three Lions setup.
Unsurprisingly, Fielding played no part in the match against the Hungarians and hasn’t been part of an England get-together since.
Steven Taylor – last call-up in March 2013
Taylor’s England career got off to a brilliant start: the defender was named player of the tournament at the Under-16 Walkers International Tournament in 2001. He later played for the Three Lions at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-21 level but failed to make a senior team after graduating from the latter in 2009.
He'd already earned one call-up by that stage, but the Newcastle man didn’t feature in a 2007 friendly against Germany. Taylor did play for England Bs that year, but he never got an opportunity at the highest level and hasn’t been part of the setup since 2013.
Jack Colback – last call-up in August 2014
The midfielder tyro had not long made the controversial move from Sunderland to his boyhood club Newcastle when the England call arrived. Colback was one of four uncapped players named in Roy Hodgson’s squad for matches against Norway and Switzerland, alongside Calum Chambers, Danny Rose and Fabian Delph.
England had crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage earlier that summer and Hodgson was keen to freshen things up. While Chambers and Delph both made their debuts, Rose had to wait – but unlike the still-uncapped Colback, at least he got there in the end.
David Stockdale – last call-up in May 2011
Perpetual loanee Stockdale had three separate loan spells during the 2018/19 season at Southend, Wycombe and Coventry. He was sent out on six short-term stints while contracted to Fulham, but it was a rare spell of first-team football for the Cottagers which brought the goalkeeper to Fabio Capello's attention in February 2011.
Stockdale was standing in for Mark Schwarzer at Craven Cottage and caught the England boss’s eye with his displays between the sticks, but didn’t play a single minute in a friendly with Denmark. Capello again called him up in May, but the glovesman withdrew from the squad as the Three Lions’ meeting with Switzerland clashed with his wedding.
Saido Berahino – last call-up in November 2014
Berahino seemed to have the world at his feet in 2014, when the clinical West Brom frontman was seemingly ahead of Harry Kane in the international pecking order. Named England Under-21s’ Player of the Year, Berahino was also finding the net with regularity in the Premier League, prompting Roy Hodgson to name him as part of his squad for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia and a friendly with Scotland.
The striker didn’t feature for the Three Lions on that occasion, and he’s slipped further away ever since – so much so that Berahino switched allegiance to Burundi, the country of his birth. A goal on his debut was a good start, though.
Ben Gibson – last call-up in March 2017
Middlesbrough may have been relegated from the Premier League in 2016/17, but their defensive record was actually the 10th-best in the division. Gibson played every minute of every game that season, and his solid showings brought an England call-up towards the end of the campaign.
The former Under-17, Under-18, Under-20 and Under-21 international was called up by Gareth Southgate for the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, although he was only ever going to be a back-up after being drafted in to replace the injured Chris Smalling. Gibson is still in the Premier League with Burnley, where he struggles to get a kick.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).
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