And we do mean f*** all. No Second Division titles, no Turkish Cups, no nothing…
10) Trevor Sinclair
The recipient of 150 hours of unpaid work, a driving disqualification and a £500 fine for calling a police officer a “white c***” last year, Trevor Sinclair never actually won a club trophy – despite being able to claim more Premier League assists than Raheem Sterling, Mikel Arteta and David Ginola.
He has won a Goal of the Season gong for that overhead kick and finished as runner-up in the Hammer of the Year award to Paolo Di Canio, but club honours somehow evaded him at Blackpool, QPR, West Ham, Manchester City, Cardiff City and Lancaster City. But would he really swap a place in Blackpool’s Hall of Fame for a League Cup medal? Yes, of course he would.
As it stands, Sinclair is in a very elite group of England World Cup quarter-finalists who have never actually won an trophy; even sodding Danny Mills won a League Cup.
9) Kieron Dyer
The proud owner of 33 England caps and yet the genuinely talented Kieron Dyer never finished higher than third in the league nor played in an actual cup final, having joined Newcastle just after their back-to-back FA Cup final defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United. That under-achievement – and it is an under-achievement considering his natural ability – feels apt as Dyer’s story is one marked by persistent injury and foolishness.
Dyer was so desperate for trophies that he entered I’m a Celebrity in 2015. Although he lasted longer than Chris Eubank and Tony Hadley, he was no Vicky Pattison (who is?); he came fourth. Foiled again.
As Barney Ronay wrote on his retirement in 2013: ‘He never won a trophy or any individual award of note. He leaves effectively no mark at all, his most memorable act on a football pitch being punched by a team-mate in 2005. His career is, in outline, a modern sporting absurdity.’
Oh and Lee Bowyer won a League Cup as a player and League One promotion as a manager. Sorry fella.
8) Aaron Hughes
The next time someone wonders who has made the most Premier League appearances without ever winning a single trophy of any sort, refer them to Aaron William Hughes and request that they ask no more strange questions. Northern Ireland’s favourite 39-year-old utility man played 455 games in England’s top flight but won silverware neither there, Australia, India nor even Scotland.
Hughes’ commitment to the cause even went as far as to losing the 2001 Intertoto Cup on away goals to Troyes, leaving Newcastle a year before they ended those decades of hurt by winning the 2006 edition against Lillestrom. The defender was not included in the Magpies’ squad for either the 1998 or 1999 FA Cup finals – is it any wonder they lost both comfortably?
A couple of seasons at Aston Villa bore no tangible reward, while seven years at Fulham almost delivered unfathomable Europa League glory. Hughes did not miss a single minute from the Cottagers’ final group game to their extra-time defeat in the 2010 final to Atletico Madrid.
Hughes did not make the squad for last month’s Scottish Cup final, forced to watch as his Hearts side were agonisingly beaten 2-1 by Celtic after taking the lead. “As an older player, it would be a nice thing to have a trophy that I can look back on when I’m finished,” he said last February. “For all the games and all the years and all the different things I’ve done, I’ve never been lucky enough to actually win a cup.”
Sign him up, Pep.
7) Leighton Baines
Sliding doors and all that: Leighton Baines came close to joining Manchester United in 2013. Had he been sold, he might have had a medal collection to mirror Marouane Fellaini’s haul of FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League; instead he has three times come close to claiming a medal and has emerged with jack all. He was in the Wigan side that finished second in the Championship and then reached a League Cup final in which they were comprehensively beaten by Manchester United. He then joined Everton and reached the FA Cup final in 2009 only to lose to Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea.
“During my time and in recent seasons we have just been beneath, we have come close a few times with cup finals, semi-finals, trips to Wembley but falling at the final hurdle,” said Baines in summer 2017 as he allowed himself to dream after a window of significant spending. He is still dreaming but at 34 and now comprehensively displaced by Lucas Digne, time is absolutely not on Baines’ side.
6) Danny Rose
For good or bad, the careers of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose will forever be entwined and therefore inevitably compared. England international full-backs born in Yorkshire in 1990, both of whom realised their potential in the same precocious Tottenham side. But while one flew the coup, the other is yet to stretch his wings.
It is not for the want of trying. Rose did his best to engineer a move in the summer of 2017. “Time is running out and I do want to win trophies,” he said, presumably wary of becoming the next Trevor Sinclair or Kieron Dyer. “I don’t want to play football for 15 years and not have one trophy or one medal. Sorry, that’s not what I am about. I wouldn’t be happy with that. I want to win something.”
The words of Walker – “it’s like trying to describe the birth of your children, you can’t. And you can’t describe the feeling of winning trophies, either” – will hardly help. His former teammate has added five pieces of silverware and even a Community Shield in just two seasons at Manchester City. Rose’s Champions League runner-up medal will look lovely next to its 2015 League Cup counterpart.
“You lift up the trophy, everyone is singing, all that stuff,” Walker added last month. “It’s strange but it’s incredible – ask anyone who is a winner.” Ouch.
5) Dele Alli
This is not the kind of list on which we should find a player previously touted as a £100m-plus target for Real Madrid and Barcelona. And yet here Dele Alli sits, driving and diving in search of a first trophy, having claimed promotion but no League One title with MK Dons. Like Rose, Alli has twice been voted in the Premier League’s best XI by his peers and yet Tottenham have come up short when it comes to actual silverware.
Alli’s own individual form has dipped over the past two seasons. This has been his worst campaign in terms of goals and assists – seven and eight respectively – since the 2013/14 season as a 17-year-old with MK Dons. But he really was so bloody good not long ago. Perhaps a change of scenery is in order?
“He’s a young player, but he’s not a proven player. At the moment, he hasn’t won anything,” were the chastening words of England manager Gareth Southgate in August 2017. Little has changed. But logic would surely suggest that Alli – still only 23 – will end up with a greater haul than Southgate’s own pair of League Cups, Full Members Cup and First Division titles. If he doesn’t, it really has gone quite badly wrong.
4) Kevin Davies
The 1997 Taça de Portugal spares Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s blushes, the 2011 Copa del Rey rescues Emmanuel Adebayor, Jermain Defoe’s belated 2008 League Cup winner’s medal disqualifies him and two Israeli Premier League titles keeps Yakubu off this list. Kevin Davies, with more Premier League goals than Dennis Bergkamp and Cristiano Ronaldo, and as many assists as Paul Scholes and one more than Eden Hazard, has earned his place.
The forward scored in 15 consecutive seasons in England’s top flight, yet one of his closest brushes with silverware came at Second Division Chesterfield in 1997. The striker was key to their astonishing advance to the FA Cup semi-finals, but they fell in a replay against Premier League Middlesbrough. Southampton went one better in 2003, but Davies played just 13 minutes of their entire run to the final.
Davies elbowed and barged his way to a goal in the League Cup final in his first season with Bolton in 2004, but Middlesbrough were again his tormentors.
His highest league finishes came in his second and final seasons as a professional: third with Chesterfield in Division Three in 1995, and again with Preston in the 2015 League One season. Both campaigns ended in play-off glory, but that won’t wash here.
3) Stan Collymore
As Daniel Storey wrote in 2017: ‘England’s very own nearly man. There are many supporters of Nottingham Forest and Liverpool who will talk long into the night about Collymore’s natural talent, but his three England caps and lack of any major career honours is testament to the problems that bubbled under the service.’ As does the fact that he scored fewer Premier League goals than Dean Holdsworth.
Collymore did at least reach one major final, but he lasted only 74 minutes of the absolutely rotten 1996 FA Cup showpiece before watching Eric Cantona score the winner for Manchester United from the bench. The irony is that Collymore had seemingly been close to joining United the summer before only for Sir Alex Ferguson to opt for Andy Cole (five Premier League, a Champions League and two FA Cups).
2) Matt Le Tissier
When Southampton pair Matt Le Tisser and Alan Shearer sat in tears having ended up on the losing side of the Full Members Cup clash with Nottingham Forest in front of almost 68,000 at Wembley, they must have talked about how their chance would come again. For Shearer it would, with the Premier League being claimed three years later. For Le Tissier, that would sadly be as close as he would ever come to glory. He would never finish higher than seventh and the Saints would reach an FA Cup final the year after he left the club.
But he was brilliant. Simply brilliant.
“I’ve no regrets whatsoever,” Le Tissier told FourFourTwo in 2010. “From seven years old I had an ambition to be a professional footballer and I had an ambition to play for England, and I fulfilled both at Southampton. Yes, I knew I probably wouldn’t win any honours, but when you’re at a club that size, staying in the Premier League for 16 years gave me as much pleasure as winning a medal if I’d gone somewhere else. No-one expected us to stay up there for that long. I was so chuffed to be a part of that.”
Which brings us to…
1) Harry Kane
“I don’t see why he wouldn’t stay there for the rest of his career,” says Le Tissier when asked about Harry Kane. And Harry Kane himself intimates the same. But the rest of the footballing world is shifting from foot to foot and wondering when this great, great goalscorer might want to win some trophies instead of individual trinkets. “If he has a hunger for trophies and for notoriety he would have to leave Spurs, if he has no hunger for that, but (wants) recognition and stability, he would stay at Spurs,” Andre Villas-Boas once said, and it was hard to argue. But that was before his former side reached a European Cup final.
Time is at least still on Kane’s side; he is remarkably still only 25. And he already has over 100 Premier League goals, three Golden Boots – one of which was at a World Cup – three appearances in the PFA Team of the Year and a silver medal in the Champions League. He might have been “hidden” in that final, but it will surely not be his last foray onto such a stage.
“I’ve always said that team trophies are what I want to achieve,” Kane said in January 2018. “For me, it’s about winning trophies – that’s always the aim.” He has now come second in Europe, the Premier League and the League Cup, as well as fourth in the actual world.
The Nations League offers an unexpected chance of glory this week, but how long would international honours sate an appetite that has never been served at club level? Perhaps keeping Tottenham at the top table is simply an inversion of the constant battles against relegation that kept Le Tissier happy on the coast.
Sarah Winterburn and Matt Stead