Seven previous England major tournament bolters – & how they fared

Quick Reads

Former Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea players have all found themselves as surprise selections to travel to a major tournament with England.

Gareth Southgate has named his squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia on Wednesday afternoon, with Nick Pope and Ruben Loftus-Cheek included ahead of Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere.

And we’ve taken a look back at seven players whose inclusions raised a few eyebrows ahead of major tournaments.

Jack Wilshere – Euro 2016

Wilshere is one of the big names to miss out on selection for this summer’s World Cup, after re-establishing himself at Arsenal this season with 38 appearances in all competitions.

That is in direct contrast to two years ago, when he made Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2016 after a campaign in which he made just one start for the Gunners.

“He is a special player,” Hodgson said upon the announcement of the squad. “We don’t have lots and lots of Jack Wilshere available.”

Wilshere started the tournament as backup to Eric Dier, Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli in midfield, but was handed a start in the tepid 0-0 draw with Slovakia.

He lasted just 55 minutes of that match before being substituted, and failed to make an impact as a half-time replacement as England were knocked out by Iceland.

Martin Kelly – Euro 2012

Honestly, if we asked you before you read this article who wore the No.5 shirt for England at Euro 2012, you would have struggled to guess Martin Kelly, wouldn’t you?

Kelly had made 12 Premier League appearances for Liverpool in 2011-12, only to find himself in the squad due to a myriad of problems in defence.

Rio Ferdinand had been ignored amid his brother Anton’s accusations of racial abuse against England captain John Terry, while Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Kyle Walker all suffered injuries.

Having played two minutes in a warm-up match against Norway, Kelly was ill with a virus for much of the tournament and failed to make an appearance, meaning his international career must surely be among the shortest ever?

Jamie Carragher – World Cup 2010

Despite his extensive experience, Carragher was still a surprise call-up for the tournament in South Africa.

Having retired from international football in 2007, the Liverpool defender was convinced by Fabio Capello to make a return as cover at centre-back and right-back.

“In another five years I probably won’t kick a ball again for the rest of my life so the chance to play at the highest level again was obvious,” he said.

With Rio Ferdinand suffering an injury on the eve of the tournament, Ledley King started alongside John Terry in the opening match against USA, only to pick up an injury himself.

Carragher played the whole second half and was handed a start for the draw with Algeria, but was suspended for the final group match against Slovenia, with Matthew Upson preferred for the knockout defeat to Germany.

Theo Walcott – World Cup 2006

The one which immediately springs to mind. Walcott’s experience of senior football totalled 23 appearances and five goals for second-tier Southampton at the time of his shock inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad.

Walcott had joined Arsenal in the January but had failed to appear for the first team, yet the 17-year-old was still selected ahead of Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent.

In 2015, Walcott told the Evening Standard: “I was thrown into the limelight straight away having not even played a Premier League game and suddenly you are surrounded by these top-quality players and you are thinking, ‘Do I deserve to be here?’

“I just had to deal with it. I’ve had a lot of experience since then and earned quite a few caps. Being around top players helps you learn but it was too early in my career.”

Eriksson did not call upon the services of the attacker, who continues to wait for his first appearance at a World Cup, having been a surprise exclusion in 2010.

Trevor Sinclair – World Cup 2002

When Sinclair flew back from an training camp unhappy at being left on the standby list for the World Cup while his wife was pregnant at home, he probably didn’t expect to go on to play in four of England’s five matches at the tournament.

Steven Gerrard and Kieron Dyer had been named despite picking up injuries, although Sinclair was at least named as Dyer’s backup ahead of Steve McManaman, who had just come off the back of winning his second Champions League title with Real Madrid.

Gerrard was eventually ruled out and replaced by Danny Murphy, but Sinclair found himself in the squad a day later when Murphy was injured in training.

Further fortune presented itself when Owen Hargreaves was struck by injury after just 19 minutes against Argentina, allowing Sinclair to cement his role on the left flank.

Steve Bull – World Cup 1990

Italia 90. Sir Bobby. Gazza’s tears. Lineker’s goals. World In Motion. Bloody penalties. England taking a second-tier striker to a major tournament. Absolutely yes.

Bull had scored a ludicrous 129 goals in the previous three seasons as he fired Wolves from the Fourth Division to the Second with back-to-back promotions.

The striker played four times at the tournament with three substitute appearances and one start against Egypt, although he failed to score.

In a brilliant interview with MUNDIAL which is guaranteed to warm your heart, Bull said: “I cannot believe players moan about being bored at a World Cup.

“One thing I’ll never forget is that my local paper, the Express & Star, came over to follow me for six weeks, and they turned up with two black bin liners full of cards and messages from the people of Wolverhampton wishing me luck. I opened every single one. Thinking of it now is giving me goose bumps.”

Tony Dorigo – World Cup 1990

Dorigo’s whole England career came as something of a surprise given he was born and raised in Australia.

The left-back was in fact an eye-catching inclusion in the squads for two major tournaments: Euro 88 and Italia 90.

An uncapped Dorigo travelled to Germany in 1988 due to Stuart Pearce’s injury but failed to appear with Kenny Samson firmly established as first choice.

Two years later, the Chelsea man was once again included but was yet to start for England, beating off competition from Nigel Winterburn to act as understudy to Pearce.

Dorigo was finally handed his first start for his adopted country at the tournament, creating David Platt’s goal as England were beaten 2-1 by Italy in the third-place play-off.

READ: Tony Dorigo on the cult of David Batty: Pillow fights and breaking jaws


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