Last week Manchester United’s Phil Jones claimed his first senior England cap in a 2-2 draw with Montenegro, joining teammates Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling in taking their first steps on the international stage. While they were almost certainly the first of many for United’s prodigious trio, there are the unfortunate few in the football universe who have had the dubious honour of making one appearance for their respective nation, but never received that call from their respective coach again. Be it through disastrous mistakes, sheer bad luck or the manager in question coming to their senses, the closest this unlucky bunch have come to a second cap is through a swift visit to the stadium’s club shop. Here is my One Cap Wonders Starting XI.
Goalkeeper – Jimmy Rimmer (England)
Rimmer spent eleven years at Old Trafford, chiefly as United number 1 Alex Stepney’s understudy, taking a place on the bench during United’s 1968 European Cup triumph, before moving on to Arsenal. It was during his time in north London when England manager Don Revie gave Rimmer the shout for an exhibition match against Italy. Rimmer’s England career lasted a mere 45 minutes, conceding two goals in the first half against before being hauled off by Revie, replaced by Joe Corrigan, and was never to wear the Three Lions shirt again. His bad luck didn’t end there. He found himself being hauled off prematurely once again in the 1982 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich whilst playing for Aston Villa after just nine minutes, this time due to a persistent neck injury he had picked up the previous week.
Defender – Anthony Gardner (England)
With Rio Ferdinand, Gareth Southgate, Sol Campbell and Martin Keown all ruled out for a variety of injury and drug-related reasons for a friendly tie in Gothenburg against Sweden in 2004, Tottenham’s Anthony Gardner was given the nod. 22-year-old Gardner had enjoyed an impressive start to the 2003/04 season and was called in by Sven Goran Eriksson, replacing Jonathon Woodgate in the second half, but his introduction did little to prevent Zlatan Ibrahimovic snatching a winner for the Swedes. Gardner’s call up was one of many unusual decisions during Sven’s (on-pitch) experimental phase, a period which saw a number of first timers invited into the England fold, including Darius Vassell, James Beattie, Celtic’s Alan Thompson, J Lloyd Samuel, three ball boys and the bloke who drives the equipment van for Sky Sports.
Manchester-born Paul Butler was called up for his one and only appearance for the Republic of Ireland in 2000 by Mick McCarthy, for a friendly against the Czech Republic, courtesy of an Irish-born step-father. Given the task of marking a 6 foot 4 mountain of a man in the form Jan Koller was always going to be a tall task (pun wholeheartedly intended) for most, and not one you would kindly bestow on a defensive debutant. Koller gave the hapless Butler a torrid evening, snatching a brace as the teams went in at half time tied at 2-2. Butler was hauled off by McCarthy, never to appear on the Irish team sheet again, and Ireland went on to win 3-2. Paul was replaced to save further error and embarrassment by one Phil Babb. That should say it all.
Defender – William Prunier (France)
Manchester United fans privy to William Prunier’s defensive misdemeanours during his ill-fated spell at the club during the 1995/96 season won’t be surprised to see him feature on the list. Or perhaps they will, unable to fathom how the man many have labelled as the worst ever foreign Premier League import possibly managed to turn out for the French national side. A solitary appearance against Brazil in a 2-0 home loss at Parc des Princes in 1992 while playing for AJ Auxerre proves otherwise, however.
Defender – Michael Ball (England)
It’s hard to imagine Michael Ball as a fresh-faced youngster, let alone as one who was being touted as a potential solution to England’s troublesome left back position, following Stuart Pearce’s departure. But after a solid few seasons at Everton, he earned the call up for Sven Goran Eriksson’s first England game, a 3-0 victory over Spain at Villa Park, replaced at half time by Charlton’s Chris Powell, also making his debut at the tender age of 31. Powell went on to make a further 4 appearances in the Three Lions shirt, before Ashley Cole eventually stepped in. Ball sloped of to Scotland and Holland for a few years, and never played for England again.
Midfielder – Joey Barton (England)
England’s number one sweetheart earned his solitary cap in a friendly against Spain back in 2007, but it’s amazing what a stint in Strangeways prison can do for a midfielder’s international prospects. A spell at Her Majesty’s pleasure plus a string of additional court cases, on and off pitch punch ups and a further list of transgressions only just shorter than Al Capone’s has pushed Barton ever so slightly down England’s midfield pecking order. A nation’s heart bleeds.
Midfielder – Seth Johnson (England)
A 1-0 defeat at the hands of Italy in 2000 marked a significant moment for two England midfielders that evening. David Beckham was handed the captaincy for the first time in his blossoming career after finally being forgiven for his World Cup 1998 indiscretion and Derby’s Seth Johnson was handed his first England cap. Suffice to say, the careers of the two midfielders have gone down two slightly different tangents. Remembered more for having fistfuls of cash thrown at him by a dim Peter Risdale during his calamitous spell at Leeds United, Johnson received his sole cap after helping Crewe Alexandra survive the drop, and putting on a few tenacious performances during the early days of his Derby County career. Following his move to Leeds however, his international career followed his club career into the abyss.
Midfielder – Danny Wallace (England)
While the majority of names in this eleven can put a lack of further caps down to shocking first impressions or simply being around better players at the time, Danny Wallace could put his sadly brief England career down to strings of injuries, eventually retiring due to the effects of multiple sclerosis. Wallace stormed onto the scene in the 80’s as one of Southampton’s brightest young talents, going on to make over 250 appearances for the Saints. He was awarded his one England cap as a 22-year-old in 1986, netting England’s second in a 4-0 victory of Egypt in Cairo. Wallace signed for Manchester United in 1988, helping Alex Ferguson capture his first accolade in English football when United defeated Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final, but his career was sadly cut short when he was diagnosed with the disease in 1996.
Forward – Andrea Silenzi (Italy)
Remember Adrea Silenzi? No? Neither did I until I was reminded of perhaps his only notable achievement, being the first Italian to play in the Premier League, when he was signed by Nottingham Forest in 1995 for the princely fee of £1.8 million. The Premier League hasn’t been the most fruitful landscape for Italian footballers, and Silenzi was hardly the most inspirational of figures, making ten goalless appearances in the 1995/96 season before sneaking back to Italy. While he had marginally better success at his previous club, Torino, how he managed to snatch a cap for the Azzurri during a warm up match against France prior to Italia 1994, a period where Roberto Baggio, Giafranco Zola, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Daniele Massaro filled the Italy’s attacking options, still generates a great deal of wonderment.
Forward – Joseph Lapira (Ireland)
Again, who, you ask? A product of Steve Staunton’s intricate international scouting system, New York-born Lapira was called up to the Ireland squad for his first appearance in 2007 for a friendly against Ecuador, becoming the first amateur player to turn out in the green shirt since 1964. He was the eleventh debutant on that night and perhaps for the best, it was his last appearance to date. Perhaps for the better, Staunton was given the boot a year later.
Completing an international front line, Nugent came off the bench in a qualifying tie against Andorra in 2007 and still proudly clings to his clinical record of one goal in one appearance. Cleverly positioned in the oppositions box, Jermaine Defoe brilliantly controlled a lofted through ball from Steven Gerrard, and slotted the ball under the onrushing Andorra goalkeeper/school teacher. Some of the pace was taken off the ball, courtesy of the keeper, but it was clear to everyone watching that Defoe’s effort was going to trickle over the line. Except for Dave, who valiantly galloped into the box to smash the ball into the net as it was approximately 0.2 cm away from crossing the line. Nugent tore off, satisfied that he’d just written himself into international football folklore, brandishing a grin that you couldn’t remove with a cricket bat, leaving a distinctly miffed Jermaine Defoe sporting his finest ‘WTF mate’ expression.