Life ain't fair
A look at the list of England's all-time cap holders can make for head-in-hands reading. We shan't dig out those who clearly earned more than their fair share, but it's much easier to bemoan the fortunes of those who weren't quite so lucky.
These 25 players should all consider themselves unfortunate not to have pulled on the Three Lions shirt more – all were excellent players at club level but found their pathway into the Three Lions' first team blocked by even better superstars, bone-headed bosses and more. Read on...
25. Steve McManaman (37 caps)
English football’s most successful export in the modern era, McManaman’s decision to swap Liverpool for Real Madrid was entirely vindicated with Champions League winner’s medals in 2000 and 2002.
Even before that the winger had been one of the stars of Roy Evans’ talented Liverpool team of the late 1990s, but he had to make do with just 37 caps for his country. Ever-present at Euro 96, McManaman only ever appeared in one World Cup game – and that was as a substitute against Colombia in 1998.
24. Michael Carrick (34 caps)
Carrick divided opinion throughout his career, but one man who rated him highly was Sir Alex Ferguson.
Yet despite the fact he was Manchester United's midfield stalwart as the Red Devils won five league titles and the Champions League between 2006 and 2013, Carrick made fewer England appearances than Gareth Barry and Owen Hargreaves.
23. Nobby Stiles (28 caps)
A World Cup winner who played every minute of every game as England lifted the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil in 1966, Stiles' contributions to the national team were surprisingly minimal outside of that tournament.
Although he won the European Cup and two First Division titles with Manchester United, the defensive midfielder was capped just 28 times by his country.
22. Robbie Fowler (26 caps)
One of the most gifted finishers English football has ever produced, Fowler found it difficult to nail down a place in the England side. The then-Liverpool striker made just two substitute appearances during Euro '96, and wasn't included in Glenn Hoddle's squad for the 1998 World Cup.
In total, Fowler scored seven goals in his 26 England outings.
21. Lee Dixon (22 caps)
“No one grows up wanting to be a Gary Neville,” Jamie Carragher once quipped when discussing the traditional view of the humble full-back. Dixon, though, must have wished that his international career hadn’t overlapped with that of the Manchester United mainstay, who made the right-back spot his own after breaking into the England setup in the mid-1990s.
Dixon had struggled to get past Gary Stevens and Paul Parker in the pecking order earlier in his career, and he once again found himself playing second fiddle despite his contributions to Arsenal’s habitually mean defensive record.
20. Paul Merson (21 caps)
Merson made his England debut in a friendly defeat by Germany in 1991, and there was a time over the next few years when it looked like he would establish himself as a regular starter at international level. Yet after seven appearances in 1992 and another four the following year, the attacking midfielder played just once for the Three Lions between late 1993 and early 1997.
Off-field problems threatened to derail Merson’s career, but he conquered his demons sufficiently to become a key part of Glenn Hoddle’s team in 1998. However, a player with his natural talent should have won more than 21 caps.
18= Les Ferdinand (17 caps)
Ferdinand scored 101 goals in 178 Premier League appearances for QPR and Newcastle between 1992 and 1997, yet still struggled to convince successive England managers he was the man to lead the line for his country. The 5ft 10in centre-forward played just 17 times for the Three Lions, netting five times.
18= Jamie Redknapp (17 caps)
In the mid-1990s, no one knew whether Manchester United or Liverpool’s crop of youngsters would go on to dominate English football. Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham ultimately won that war against Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Redknapp, but on raw talent alone there was little to choose between them.
Many England fans felt Scholes was both underused and misused by the national team, but he at least won 66 senior caps. Redknapp managed a comparatively paltry 17, despite playing almost 300 Premier League games for Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton.
16= Gary Mabbutt (16 caps)
A Tottenham legend who played over 600 games for the north London outfit, Mabbutt's exploits at club level weren't enough to earn him regular international recognition. The versatile UEFA Cup-winning central defender – who could also play in midfield – turned out just 16 times for England.
16= Dixie Dean (16 caps)
It's hard to see anyone breaking Dean's scoring record from the 1927/28 campaign, when the Everton frontman struck an astonishing 60 goals in 39 top-flight appearances. He was almost as prolific for England, scoring 18 times in 16 games, but didn't have as long an international career as one might expect of someone with such a knack of locating net with ball.
15. Andrew Cole (15 caps)
Cole might have scored 68 goals in 85 games for Newcastle, but it was only when he moved to Manchester United that England came calling. The goals kept coming at club level for a man who went on to win the Treble in 1999, but Cole was unable to climb above the likes of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham in the international pecking order.
14. Malcolm Macdonald (14 caps)
Wherever he went, be it Luton, Newcastle, Arsenal or Djurgårdens IF in the Swedish top tier, Macdonald was a clinical centre-forward. His scoring record for England - 0.43 per game - was extremely respectable too, but Supermac's problem was that he only got 14 opportunities between 1972 and 1975.
13. Ray Parlour (10 caps)
A player who straddled the pre- and pro-Arsene Wenger eras at Arsenal, Parlour found game time significantly harder to come by at international level. An energetic, box-to-box midfielder, the "Romford Pele" played more matches for England Under-21s (12) than the senior side.
10= Matt Le Tissier (8 caps)
Widely considered one of the most talented footballers to have ever pulled on an England jersey, it remains a mystery that Le Tissier was only capped eight times. Granted, his decision to remain at Southampton for his entire career probably didn't help the midfielder's cause, but his domestic brilliance meant he surely deserved more of a go on the international stage.
10= Kevin Phillips (8 caps)
A European Golden Shoe winner in 1999/00 after scoring 30 Premier League goals for Sunderland, Phillips was never fully integrated into the England setup. The fact that the Three Lions won only two of his eight games probably didn't help, nor did his failure to find the net for his country in that time.
10= Jonathan Woodgate (8 caps)
Frequent injuries hampered Woodgate's career and there was fierce competition at centre-back throughout the 2000s, but his tally of eight England caps still seems on the low side. After all, the former Leeds, Real Madrid and Tottenham man was an excellent defender on his day and perhaps deserved a few more chances to impress for the national team.
9. Laurie Cunningham (6 caps)
Real Madrid don't sign Englishmen very often, so when they do it probably means the player in question is a pretty good one. Cunningham was that and more, yet the former West Brom winger only appeared in six matches for his country, missing out on both Euro 1980 and the World Cup in Spain two years later.
8. Stan Collymore (3 caps)
Something of a late developer - Collymore only began playing regular first-team football for Southend at the age of 21 - the former Nottingham Forest and Liverpool striker won just three caps for England. After partnering Alan Shearer in a victory over Japan in 1995, Collymore played for only a few seconds in his second appearance, entering the fray against Brazil as a 90th-minute substitute.
6= Nigel Winterburn (2 caps)
A key part of the famed Arsenal backline that kept clean sheets for fun under George Graham, Winterburn was surprisingly overlooked by England managers Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor and Glenn Hoddle. After making his international bow against Italy in 1989, the left-back had to wait four years for his second - and final - cap in a meeting with Germany in the United States Cup.
6= Steve Bould (2 caps)
A three-time title winner and all-round defensive rock at Arsenal, Bould was a natural partner for Tony Adams at club level. But while the Gunners captain represented his country on 66 occasions, Bould was capped only twice – against Greece and Norway in May 1994.
True to form, the towering centre-half helped England keep two clean sheets, but he didn’t do enough to earn a recall.
5. Chris Sutton (1 cap)
One half of the SAS strike partnership which fired Blackburn to the Premier League title in 1995, Sutton didn't enjoy as much success on the international stage as Alan Shearer. His sole outing for England lasted just 11 minutes, with the former Norwich marksman introduced in the 79th minute of a friendly with Cameroon in 1997.
1= Steve Bruce (0 caps)
Bruce played at least 30 league games in eight of his nine seasons at Manchester United, yet the central defender - who won three league titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and a Cup Winners' Cup at Old Trafford - remarkably went through his entire career without being capped by England.
1= Jimmy Case (0 caps)
Case went on to make more appearances for Southampton, but Liverpool is the club he remains most associated with. The midfielder won four First Division championships, three European Cups, the UEFA Cup and the League Cup at Anfield; despite that, he was never once called upon by the national team.
1= Howard Kendall (0 caps)
Many will know Kendall primarily for his achievements as a manager, particularly at Everton, but before that he captained the Toffees and also impressed in the centre of Birmingham, Stoke and Blackburn's midfields. Yet despite playing 36 times as Everton won the title in 1970, Kendall was never called up by England.
1= Billy Bonds (0 caps)
No player has turned out more often for West Ham than Bonds, who pulled on the club's strip 799 times between 1967 and 1988. A consistent performer who rarely got injured and could play in defence or midfield, the Charlton academy product was nevertheless overlooked by several England bosses.