Wednesday, 25 November 2015

England football one cap wonders

A look back this week on the twelve footballers who made their only England appearance in the 1980s. Including a couple of trips to Australia, a profitable visit to Iceland for two players, hard luck tales, and a woeful performance in Saudi Arabia that did little to help the cause of players and manager alike.

Peter Ward: Australia (a) 1980

In the modern era it seems that any youngster who plays at least 12 minutes in the Premier League is immediately given an England cap, and in this regard Brighton's Peter Ward can probably count himself as a victim of his time. A hat-trick for the Under-21s against Norway in October 1977 certainly got the press excited, The Times noting that "Ward gave the smartest demonstration of goal poaching since Jimmy Greaves, and justified the claims of his Brighton manager, Alan Mullery, that he is destined for a bright, senior international future".

Unfortunately things didn't turn out as expected. Ward was included in the full international squad to take on Luxembourg a month after his Under-21s Goldstone Ground heroics, yet he didn't make it on to the pitch. Within a month he was seemingly out of the picture again, and although he continued to bang in the goals for Brighton, Ward's hopes of international recognition appeared to have evaporated.

But out of the blue came hope for Ward, as he was named in Ron Greenwood's party to visit Australia as part of the hosts' football centenary celebrations. In truth the squad was essentially a B-team selection; none of the players made it into England's XI for the Euro 1980 opener against Belgium, with Greenwood also deprived of Nottingham Forest players participating in the small matter of a European Cup final 3 days before the Sydney date. The fixture was given full international status though, at least giving Ward and Alan Sunderland (see later) the honour of an England cap.

Ward's England career may have lasted only six minutes 48 seconds, but it's a full 408 seconds longer than most of us will ever manage for our country. "Lots of very good players never get to play for England," Ward relates in his biography He Shot, He Scored. "It was an honour and one of my proudest moments. It was only five years after I'd left Burton Albion, so to go from non-league to winning a cap in that amount of time was special".

Alan Sunderland: Australia (a) 1980

The man Ward replaced at the Sydney Cricket Ground would also never get to taste senior international football again. Arsenal's Alan Sunderland had enjoyed a fine season at Arsenal, top scorer in their ultimately heartbreaking 1979/80 campaign, and after gaining four England B caps he was an obvious choice to make the trip down under. And at least he got a full 85 minutes to try and show his worth.

Indeed Sunderland would come close to scoring on his debut, keeper Greg Woodhouse smothering his effort as Sunderland found himself through on goal. Would his England career have progressed further if he had taken his chance? Who knows. But as soon as Sunderland shook hands with Ward on May 31, 1980, his one shot at glory had been and gone. He would never again get the opportunity to wear the Three Lions again in a full international.

"He should have played 30 times for England," David O'Leary commented in My Story in 1988. "Players got in the England side around that time who were not in the same class as Sundy." Terry Neill, his manager at Arsenal, was also gushing in his praise for Sunderland: "He was almost the complete all-round footballer, who could play in any position. He had more technical skill than Kevin Keegan and I believe he could have gone as far as Keegan in the game."

Tellingly though, Neill also reveals his frustration in his Revelations of a Football Manager book. "All he needed was some drive. I often despaired, wondering what to do with him to help him achieve his potential." For a player who scored 92 goals for Arsenal, including an FA Cup final winner and a hat-trick against Tottenham, just the one cap does feel a little inadequate.

Steve Perryman: Iceland (a) 1982

"We're on our way. We are Ron's 22." Well, in May 1982 this wasn't quite true. Before Ron Greenwood announced his 22-man squad for Spain 82, a group of forty players was named for a set of matches against Holland, Scotland and Finland, with an extra B international also scheduled in Iceland. Such was the low key nature of the Reykjavik fixture that Bobby Robson was to take charge of the squad - the senior England team had a friendly to play in Helsinki the next day - with the team comprised of players considered not to be in Greenwood's thoughts for his first XI in Spain.

Despite a 13-year career with Tottenham, including winning a number of domestic and European honours, Steve Perryman had yet to be capped by England as the 1982 World Cup neared, and even though he was named in Greenwood's 40, he was very much on the periphery of the England set-up. His 20 minute substitute appearance against Iceland highlighted the fact that in reality Perryman would not be on the plane to sunny Spain. But a decision taken after the match would make his cameo a little more significant.

The 1-1 draw was hardly thrilling from an English perspective, yet Icelandic officials were not of the same opinion, persuading the FA to upgrade the match to a senior international. So Perryman eventually did have an England cap as a reward for his fine club career, unlike Steve Bruce, who won pots galore for Manchester United but was somehow never deemed good enough to represent his country. Come to think of it, Steve Bould only won 2 caps, so I'm beginning to wonder if this is some kind of anti-Steve bias, although in my case lack of ability may have had something to do with my limited international appearances.

Paul Goddard: Iceland (a) 1982

Another man to benefit from the persuasiveness of the Icelandic powers-that-be was West Ham's Paul Goddard. The centre forward entered the fray after 40 minutes, replacing the injured Cyrille Regis who would miss out on the World Cup due to his hamstring strain, and the 21-year-old certainly made an impact. His 69th minute equaliser saved England's blushes, and although he did not make the World Cup, Goddard's hopes for the future looked bright.

Alas Goddard would have to make do with a played one scored one record at international level, along with the likes of Danny Wallace (more of which later), Francis Jeffers and David Nugent. He would feature in the England Under-21 team that won the 1982 European Championships, but would never again get a chance to add to his perfect record. Still, it's not a bad club to be in I guess.

Nick Pickering and Nigel Spink: Australia (a) 1983

And so to another trip down under, England taking part in a three-match tour in May/June 1983, and a chance for Bobby Robson to try and forget about the struggles of European Championship qualifying (fat chance). Unsurprisingly the England squad lacked a number of key men - many clubs embarking on end of season tours - resulting in seven players making their debuts: Danny Thomas, Mark Barham, Steve Williams, John Gregory, Paul Walsh, Nick Pickering and Nigel Spink.

Five of that group would go on to add to their first cap, but Pickering and Spink would not be so lucky. The first two matches had hardly been a rip-roaring success - a 0-0 draw followed by an equally turgid 1-0 England win - so by the time the teams met for the last time in Brisbane, the value of the tour was being questioned. Pickering and Spink are possibly thankful though that they were in the right place at the right time.

19-year-old Pickering was so delighted at his call-up that he immediately phoned his mum back in the North East to tell her the good news, the Sunderland left-back taking over from Derek Statham, who in turn was deputising for Kenny Sansom. Nigel Spink came on at half-time for Peter Shilton, keeping a clean sheet as England limped to a poor 1-1 draw, denied a victory when Trevor Francis missed a twice-taken penalty. Two draws and a 1-0 win; hardly the boost Robson was looking for before England's next fixture against Denmark.

Come September most of the Australian tour party were ignored, as England's fortunes went from bad to worse. Spink would find his way permanently blocked by Shilton, Chris Woods, and even Gary Bailey, with Pickering unable to get past Sansom or the numerous midfielders selected by Robson. But an England cap each, and a few notable cup triumphs between the pair, make pretty good reading on any footballing CV.

Brian Stein: France (a) 1984

Bobby Robson was floundering come 1984. Failure to qualify for the European Championships heaped pressure on the England boss, and led to calls for a complete overhaul of the squad. Changes were made for the February friendly in France, the Luton strike force of Paul Walsh and Brian Stein earning call-ups, with Robson desperately trying to find a solution to his goal scoring issues. On the face of it, selecting the duo looked sensible, especially as Walsh and Stein had scored seven goals in the last three England Under-21 matches. But things refused to run smoothly for Robson at the time.

A Michel Platini inspired France emphasised the gulf in class between the two nations, as his two goals - the second coming after comical defending by England - gave the French a comfortable victory. Stein failed to impress, although he wasn't alone in that regard, Robson's men completely overwhelmed. Not many England matches were shown live in my formative years, but I had seen two in the space of five months (Denmark at home being the other), and was starting to realise that maybe England were not all that good at football.

"He lacked the pace to succeed as a striker at the top level," stated the Daily Mirror's Frank McGhee, in relation to Stein's debut, with Stuart Jones of The Times just as harsh in stating that Stein was "a huge disappointment" and "looked overawed by the occasion". Unsurprisingly Stein never got the chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Timing is crucial in sport, and Stein was unlucky in this respect. Taking on that French team away from home on your international debut was never going to be an easy introduction, and so it would prove.

Peter Davenport: Republic of Ireland (h) 1985

Definitely a case of what-if with the next one cap wonder. Peter Davenport had a debut to remember - certainly better than Gary Bailey, who had a stinker with Liam Brady's consolation - the Nottingham Forest striker setting up Gary Lineker for his first international goal in the 17 minutes he was on the pitch. There seemed very little danger of Davenport joining the one cap club.

Indeed Davenport was named in Robson's touring squad for the Mexico 1985 matches against West Germany and Mexico, as well as a friendly in America. But fate then reared its ugly head; Davenport tore a hamstring against Ipswich, missing his window of opportunity, as Kerry Dixon and Peter Beardsley jumped ahead of him in Robson's plans.

In this Lancashire Evening Post article, Davenport tells an endearing Bobby Robson related tale of how he came off the bench for his one and only cap. With Mark Hateley injured, Davenport's moment was about to arrive. "Bobby Robson, the England manager, turned to Don Howe and and said, 'We better send on the boy Devonshire', who was a midfield player. Don said to him, 'Don't you mean Davenport?'. I've got a video of the game and you can clearly lip-read Bobby getting my name wrong! Alan Devonshire was not even in the squad."

"But I came on and set up a goal for Gary Lineker, and that was nice. I just felt so incredibly proud, like I had reached the pinnacle really".

Danny Wallace: Egypt (a) 1986

In a way it is reassuring to know that even in the "good old days" the FA were happy to organise apparently meaningless friendlies at the most inopportune of times. England's trip to Egypt in January 1986 was widely condemned, Brian Clough and Emlyn Hughes particularly forthright in their views, most right-minded people wondering why such a match had been scheduled after the hectic Christmas schedule and during an FA Cup fourth round replay week.

The squad Robson took to Cairo reflected the poor timing. In all 13 men were unavailable, as Robson searched frantically for replacements. In came the likes of Gordon Cowans and Ricky Hill, with Danny Wallace and Peter Beardsley both making their debuts in the 4-0 win (a result that flattered England, as Peter Shilton pulled off a number of fine saves). Wallace would cap his debut with England's third goal, and his performance was seen as a bonus in what many viewed as a waste of time.

"He has been going very well and is full of goal threat. He can be a challenger for that left-wing position," declared Robson before the Egypt match when talking about Wallace. Sadly for the Southampton winger, he suffered a similar experience to that of Davenport. Injured for the next game against Israel, Wallace could only watch on as Waddle and Barnes featured, his hopes of making Mexico 86 fading fast. Another case of if-only.

Mel Sterland: Saudi Arabia (a) 1988

After appearing to turn the corner post-Maracana, Bobby Robson was once more in the spotlight following England's woeful Euro 88 showing. A 0-0 draw in the opening World Cup qualifier against Sweden at Wembley was hardly what the doctor ordered, and by the time England made the trip to Saudi Arabia in November for a friendly, the knives were well and truly being sharpened by the press.

The subsequent 1-1 draw did little to appease the dissenters, the infamous 'In the Name of Allah, Go!' headline in The Sun an indication that the tabloid press were far from impressed, although in fairness Robson's team was relatively inexperienced, especially at the back; David Seaman was making his debut, Gary Pallister playing just his second international, with Tony Adams (earning his 17th cap) and Stuart Pearce (8th) part of a defensive unit often exposed by a useful home team.

Another defender would make his debut in Riyadh, yet unlike Seaman he would not go on to enjoy such a long international career. Sheffield Wednesday's Mel Sterland, or Zico to his friends, found himself marooned for the Saudi Arabian goal, turned inside out by Majed Abdullah. He did test the Saudi keeper in the first half with a rasping drive, yet Sterland had obviously not done enough to impress Robson. By the time the next squad was named in February 1989 for the Greece friendly, Sterland was openly gutted at being left out, with Gary Stevens and Ian Snodin preferred. When the latter pulled out with an injury and Sterland's phone didn't ring, the writing was on the wall.

It's interesting to note that out of the 1980s one cap wonders, Sterland is one of four to have come from England's 1984 Under-21 European Championship winning squad (Pickering, Wallace and Stein being the others). So on the one hand England had enjoyed success at this level, but on the other a lot of the 1982 and 1984 European Championship winners did not make it to the next tier, for whatever reason. Maybe the members of those squads were simply not good enough to move on to the bigger stage, but during a troublesome period for the national sport, perhaps a few of them deserved more than just the one tilt at proving themselves.

Brian Marwood: Saudi Arabia (a) 1988

Sterland's former team-mate Brian Marwood got even less time to make an impression, something that was seized upon by the English media, most journalists unhappy that the Arsenal winger was given just nine minutes at the end of the match. Marwood's early season form had been one of the main reasons behind Arsenal's solid start to the campaign, his recent performance in a 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest shown live on ITV a clear indication of a man at the top of his game (he even beat Des Walker for Arsenal's final goal).

Michael Thomas was at least given 81 minutes on his debut, with Alan Smith (22 minutes) also tasting international football for the first time. Yet Marwood remained on the bench and only just managed to sneak past Peter Ward's shortest England career record (both have since been passed by Martin Kelly), an odd decision given his club form. Even during his season in the sun at Arsenal he was unable to add to his one appearance for his country, and by the end of the campaign Marwood's flame had burnt out. But what a year for both Marwood and Arsenal, even if injury did cut the winger's season short.

Mike Phelan: Italy (h) 1989

And so to the twelfth man on the list of players to receive his only England cap during the 1980s. Mike Phelan was brought into Robson's squad to face Italy at Wembley as cover for his Manchester United team-mate Bryan Robson, England's captain marvel suffering from a slight groin strain. Robson only made it until half time, giving Phelan his debut - along with Dave Beasant, Nigel Winterburn, and David Platt - and the debutant came very close to making his mark.

When Walter Zenga came to the edge of his box and punched poorly, the ball fell to the feet of Phelan who, reacting quickly, lobbed an effort towards goal with his left foot. The ball dropped agonisingly wide, but despite this, Phelan enjoyed a solid debut, with the Daily Express' Steve Curry writing that the debutant "showed himself such an able deputy for his team-mate and skipper in the second half". Phelan made it into the next squad for the Yugoslavia friendly, but did not see any action, and gradually drifted from Robson's plans. He would not add to his 45 minutes in an England shirt.

So Phelan missed out on all of the drama of Italia 90, and more importantly did not get a chance to perform on World in Motion. An FA Cup win at the end of the season, with fellow one cap colleague Danny Wallace, possibly dulled the pain slightly though.

No comments:

Post a Comment