The 90s was a wonderful time for football across Europe, it saw the development of the next generation of superstars, and England was no different.
For the first time in over two decades, the Three Lions genuinely believed that they had a group of players that could win a major tournament. With competition strong from one to eleven, this meant, only the elite were going to be called upon. So, what would make you part of the elite? Maybe a few league titles, a Golden Boot? Even the odd Champions League medal?
Logically, we would all assume that with any of them on your CV, it would most likely make you a shoe-in for a call-up. But, in the case of a select few, your domestic pedigree didn’t mean anything when it came to the international game. Here are a few Premier League legends that didn’t even reach 20 England caps.
Steve Bruce – Zero caps
During a career spanning over two decades, Steve Bruce won 13 trophies including three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a European Cup winners' medal and a European Super Cup. Despite all this, and being named in the Premier Leagues domestic team of the decade, Steve Bruce was unable to gain a single cap for England. Often seen unfit to even make the squad and ranked below the likes of David Unsworth in the England pecking order, Bruce to this day remains one of the greatest defenders to never be capped for his country. Image Source: Twitter
Andy Cole – 15 caps
To this day, Andy Cole is the third all-time Premier League top scorer with a jaw-dropping 187 league goals. Over his six years at Old Trafford, Cole helped United to complete their famous treble during the 1999/2000 season and ended his career with five league titles, two FA Cup medals, one European Cup and was named in the 1999/2000 PFA team of the Year. Cole was unable to settle into the England set up and claimed his first four caps under four different managers. Despite all his natural finishing abilities, former England manager Glenn Hoddle often criticised Cole saying: "he would need six or seven chances to score one". Not a bad ratio for a man who can also add 1993/1994 Golden Boot to his resume. Image Source: Twitter
Matt Le Tissier – Eight caps
Arguably the Premier League's most iconic 'one-club man'? Le Tisser was undoubtedly one of England's most naturally gifted players, a creative No.10 with an eye for goal, Le Tisser ended his career with 100 league goals and 64 assists. After rejecting interest from the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, Le Tisser elected to stay with his beloved Southampton where he was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 1994/1995. In the run up to the 1998 FIFA world Cup, Le Tisser played in an England B team side that beat Russia 4-1. Despite scoring a hat-trick and being named Man of the Match, the Saints icon was deemed surplus to requirements by England manager, Glenn Hoddle (notice a trend) Le Tisser described Hoddle's decision as, a hiatus in his career that his performances never fully recovered from. Image Source: Twitter
Les Ferdinand – 17 caps
The former Tottenham, Newcastle & QPR centre-forward is another notable striking absentee not to make the 20-cap mark. Despite making the Three Lions squad for both the Euro 1996 European Championships and 1998 World Cup, Ferdinand was frequently ranked below the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Alan Shearer, and Micheal Owen. During his career, Ferdinand was named the 1995/1996 PFA Player's Player of the Year and was also named in that year's PFA Team of the Year. After scoring 149 Premier League goals, Ferdinand finished his England career with five goals in his 17 appearances. Image Source: Twitter
Ray Parlour – 10 caps
"The Romford Pele" enjoyed a glittering career during his 12 years at Arsenal. A proud member of their 2003/2004 'Invincibles', Parlour picked up three League titles, four FA Cup medals, three Community Shields and a European Cup Winners' Cup. Parlour, however, was unable to gain a regular place in England's squad. After a famous argument involving then-England manager (brace yourself), Glenn Hoddle and a faith healer called Elleen Drewery, Parlour was exiled into the international wilderness. Parlour's last cap came on November 15th, 2000. Image Source: Twitter
Nigel Winterburn – Two caps
Another Arsenal legend who was unable to recreate his domestic success on the international stage. Winterburn is best known for his part in Arsenal's defensive wall in the 1990's. Alongside Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams & Steve Bould, Winterburn, picked up three League titles, three FA Cups and the 1994 European Cup during his 13 years at Highbury. Despite an impressive list of silverware and an ever present in one of the strongest defences in Premier League history. The Arsenal left-back made his international debut in 1989 but had to wait another four years before claiming his second and final England cap in June of 1993. Image Source: Twitter
Now, in an era that saw England’s best performance coming at the 1996 European Championships, it is hard to deny the fact that England’s squad was brimming with talent, but, for these six Premier League legends they will no doubt feel a little hard done by. Especially knowing the likes of Darius Vassell, Wes Brown & Kieron Dyer all have more international experience than you!
Let’s all hope that sometime soon, very soon, England will be back to having the perfect headache when it comes to team selection.