Grealish and Maddison next? Eight England players who disappeared after pre-tournament axe

Jason Soutar

Who would want to be one of the Unfortunate Seven dropped from the England squad ahead of Gareth Southgate’s final decision? Nobody, obvs, but there must be seven and James Maddison and Jack Grealish are two of them.

How do you bounce back from such disappointment? Well, a lot of players don’t. Here are eight of them. If you are interested in eight who came #backstronger, you can read about them right here.

Grealish the next Lingard? Eight England men who vanished after pre-tournament axe

Jesse Lingard (Euro 2020)
Gareth Southgate did hand Jesse Lingard three World Cup-qualifying caps after his Euro 2020 snub, so he did not quite disappear but rather faded away.

Lingard was an important player for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and again featured heavily in the 2019 Nations League finals but his lack of minutes for Manchester United limited his Three Lions opportunities. A loan spell at West Ham revitalised his career at club and international level and after featuring in five England matches in a row, Lingard was included in Southgate’s preliminary squad for the Euros in the summer of 2021. You know the rest.

His form at the London Stadium was enough for a preliminary spot but not a final spot. Since opting against joining West Ham on a permanent basis, Lingard’s career has hit a steep decline. He now plays in South Korea and will not play for his country again barring a miracle.

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Dion Dublin (1998 World Cup)
There is a slight reluctance to include players who retired shortly after being left out of a tournament squad as that hints they were heading towards the end of their career, but Dion Dublin had plenty left in the tank after his 1998 World Cup snub, going on to play another decade at club level. The same cannot be said for Paul Gascoigne, who all but retired four years later.

Dublin – footballer by day, Dube player by night – had three England caps and zero goals, which was not enough to make the final cut in ’98, sitting on the bench for a qualifier and playing a friendly before the turn of the year, calling it a day at international level after helping the Three Lions beat the Czech Republic 2-0.

Gary Stevens (Euro 1992)
A regular following the 1985 debut handed to him by Bobby Robson, right-back Gary Stevens played every minute as England reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, again at Euro ’88 and in two matches at Italia ’90. He would mainly feature in friendlies afterwards and found himself in the preliminary squad for Euro ’92. You’ll never guess what happened next.

Stevens was given a lifeline following an injury to Lee Dixon, being added back into the squad by Graham Taylor, but he picked up an injury of his own and missed out having played in the four friendly matches directly before the tournament.

The disappointment of missing out on the European Championships saw the end of Stevens’ time on the international stage.


David Rocastle (Euro 1992)
After falling victim to the dreaded preliminary squad axe ahead of the 1990 World Cup, Arsenal’s David “Rocky” Rocastle would meet the same fate two years later.

Rocastle’s final England appearance came in a pre-tournament friendly against Brazil, failing to score in any of his 14 caps. The former attacking midfielder will be remembered for his glittering Arsenal days, not those scarce England minutes.


Peter Barnes (1982 World Cup)
Rocastle did what was known as a Peter Barnes, as the former midfielder found himself dropped for back-to-back tournaments in the 1980s.

Following the pain of Euro 1980, Barnes again missed out on a tournament after a flurry of friendly and qualifying minutes. An eight-minute cameo against the Netherlands before the World Cup in Spain was not enough to convince Ron Greenwood to include him in his final 22-man squad.


Eric Gates (1982 World Cup)
Ipswich forward Eric Gates made two appearances in England’s qualification campaign but his fine performances at club level were never enough to grant him a tournament appearance.

Making the preliminary squad in ’82 was as good as it got for Gates on the international stage.


Paul Goddard (1982 World Cup)
The curse of the 1982 World Cup also hit one-cap wonder Paul Goddard, who scored in his only appearance for his country.

Scoring England’s sole goal in a pre-tournament friendly draw against Iceland was not enough to convince Ron Greenwood.


Laurie Cunningham (Euro 1980)
Playing outside of England was clearly frowned upon as Real Madrid double-winner Laurie Cunningham was overlooked for Euro 1980 by Greenwood, who included Kevin Keegan and Tony Woodcock in his squad despite their disgusting decision to play in Germany.

He was called up again but only played 25 minutes in a friendly defeat to Romania in what proved to be his final minutes in an England shirt.

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