How this England XI averaged 30 caps each, only God knows. Perhaps Kieran Richardson could ask him. The front two scored 15 goals in 109 caps between them.
This XI was first named to supplement this list of 10 undercapped England players. The last four years have seen some changes…
GK: Fraser Forster (6)
Joe Hart, with 75 caps, is the obvious shout here given only Peter Shilton has kept goal for England more times than the Hart-dog. But, in fairness, Hart was easily the best of what was available to England for quite some time. Until he wasn’t. Then he was out.
Forster was at Celtic when he earned his first cap – a 2-0 home defeat to Chile. Tending the the Bhoys’ goal was then a cushy gig, given there were generally only six testing games a season, so it was presumably a couple of decent performances when Barcelona had shooting practice which caught Roy Hodgson’s eye. His last squad appearance came in October 2017, not a moment too soon.
RB: Glen Johnson (54)
Had the then-Stoke defender not been forced to pull out of Gareth Southgate’s squad for qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia in 2016, Johnson may have extended his international career to 13 years. He still had well over a decade around the England squad, during which time he amassed 54 caps, the same number as Sir Stanley Matthews.
CB: Michael Keane (12)
Keane replaces Matt Upson in this latest Overcapped XI. Upson played in the same era as John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King and Jamie Carragher and still he claimed 21 caps. The competition for Keane has been rather less grand but still he has a dozen international appearances under Southgate.
Only two of those came as a Burnley player, when he was at his best. He has 10 appearances as an Evertonian, during which time he had rather less business being around the England squad. In fairness, it was a toss-up between Keane and Tyrone Mings, who has 17 caps and couldn’t get in the Villa team this season when everyone was fit.
CB: Martin Keown (43)
The former Arsenal defender was another who was never quite good enough to be first choice but still came within seven of a half-century of caps. Graham Taylor gave him his debut while Keown was still at Everton, before Terry Venables then completely ignored him.
Glenn Hoddle’s preference for a back three brought a return for Keown, who earned three-quarters of his caps after his 30th birthday. Somehow, he managed to wangle trips to two World Cups and a couple of European Championships.
LB: Danny Rose (29)
The former Tottenham left-back wasn’t a bad player. Far from it. But England have done well for left-backs and, for much of the time he was playing at the highest level, he just looked thoroughly miserable to be there.
Rose earned his caps over a three-year period between 2016 and 2019, including a European Championship as a starter under Roy Hodgson and the 2018 World Cup finals, mainly as a sub for Southgate. In April 2019, he said that he couldn’t wait to finish football in ‘five or six years’, owing to the racism he was exposed to, often on England duty. His final cap came six months later, in the dismal defeat to Czech Republic. Since then, he’s left Spurs and offered nothing to Newcastle or Watford. One suspects he’s quite content to be club-less at 32.
CM: Carlton Palmer (18)
The former Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder won 10 more caps than Nigel Farage’s bestie Matt Le Tissier. In his book Palmer explained it like this: “Le Tissier: plenty of talent and no hard work, eight England caps; Carlton Palmer: not so talented and plenty of hard work, 18 England caps.”
He also wrote this: “Though as I get older perhaps I feel the need to say something to the uninformed w****rs who offer their opinions in programmes like the one about England’s worst players. And: ‘F*** you’ is what I want to say.”
In fairness, Carlton couldn’t do right for doing wrong…
Graham Taylor's response when Carlton Palmer scores is absolutely brilliant. 😂pic.twitter.com/aYQaWAtGkn
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) January 13, 2017
CM: Jermaine Jenas (21)
Jenas allied himself with Michael Carrick when suggesting that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were the reason they never won more caps. The primary difference being that Carrick has a genuine grievance.
Jenas suggested that had he not been a Newcastle player, he would have had a better shot at beating Lampard to an England place in 2003. “There was a time when I was battling with Frank Lampard to start in the England midfield alongside Steven Gerrard and maybe that was a missed opportunity for me,” he explained to our friends at Planet Football. “He was in a Chelsea side challenging for the Champions League under Jose Mourinho and I was at Newcastle.
“I got the impression that Sven really liked me at the time, but I was at a club that was on the slide a little and that worked against me. Training with England was great. Working with all these great players, you lift yourself and when I went back to Newcastle, it felt like I was a few steps ahead of the lads around me. Then, by the time you next meet up with England, I was back down at Newcastle levels again and that didn’t work well for me in terms of catching the eye in training with England.”
Newcastle finished third in the Premier League in 2002-03 and fifth in 2003-04 while Jenas won the first third of his caps. They were in the Champions League both seasons.
LW: Kieran Richardson (8)
The left-winger won all his eight England caps while at Manchester United. He enjoyed a dream debut, scoring twice in a 2-1 win over USA in 2005 before hanging around the squad for 18 months.
He admits he didn’t apply himself properly while his career was peaking in his early 20’s: “I’m not saying I was off the rails; I was playing football and going out with my mates, like everyone else does.”
Then Richardson found God but even he couldn’t help him win back an England place once the winger could no longer claim to be a United player.
RW: Jesse Lingard (32)
Lingard’s call-up for this XI edges out ex-Chelsea snide Dennis Wise, whose 21-cap England career lasted 11 (eleven) years after first being called up as a Wimbledon player in 1989.
Lingard has 11 more caps than Wise and the ex-Manchester United attacker showed the odd glimpse, especially around the 2018 World Cup. J-Lingz then got a bit carried away, launching his own clothing range before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, quite understandably, decided he had no use for him. Nor then did Southgate.
An honourable mention here for Shaun Wright-Phillips, he of 36 England caps, almost equally split between his Chelsea and Manchester City spells. Lingard makes the cut on account of starting a higher proportion of his caps.
CF: Emile Heskey (62)
The big forward was often seen as a fine partner, and the fact seven England managers wanted Heskey in their squad tells its own story. But so does a record of seven goals in 62 appearances.
As impressive as he was as a target man, his finishing was often terrible and he lacked the killer instinct required of strikers at the highest level. A useful option, certainly, but to have been relied upon so heavily for so long is a damning indictment of the strikers England have produced.
CF: Theo Walcott (47)
Walcott’s international career has mirrored his club one: fleeting glimpses of brilliance to punctuate a largely disappointing decade.
The Arsenal flier has been dropped for more tournaments than he has attended, with Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson both deciding that he wasn’t worth a squad place in 2010 and 2016 respectively. Gareth Southgate twisted the knife somewhat by dropping Walcott on his birthday in 2017, but despite falling short of so many managers’ expectations, he has still managed to edge towards a half-century of caps.