They were great for their clubs, winning silverware and the adulation of fans, but never got the international recognition they deserved...
Ex-West Ham & Liverpool Psycho Julian Dicks And 9 More Overlooked By England…
1) STEVE BRUCE (Manchester United) Position: Centre-back
‘Hilda’ (that’s our new nickname for Bruce) didn’t get his swollen, broken-nosed face from quietly sitting at the heart of Manchester United’s defence while the rest of the team fought their way to multiple Championship glories. This inspirational, no-nonsense rock capitalised the British bulldog spirit, muscling out opposition forwards, while Hughes, Giggs and Cantona inflicted damage at the opposite end of the field. Yet, despite being a mainstay for England’s most successful side of the ’90s, Bruce had to sit at home while the inferior likes of Steve Howey, Keith Curle and Colin Cooper won caps for England. Very odd.
2) BILLY BONDS MBE (West Ham) Position: Right-back, defensive midfielder
Ask any West Ham fan over the age of 40 who West Ham’s greatest staffers were and nearly all of them will say ‘Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds’. A model pro with an engine the size of a Harrier jet, Bonzo ran his claret ‘n blue socks into the ground, using physical strength and sheer determination to ram holes through opposition ranks. A born leader of men, he managed an astonishing 793 first-team games for West Ham, playing into his 40s. The full England team did come calling once – for a World Cup qualifier against Italy in 1977 – but he spent that match sat on the bench, rightly looking glum.
3) JIMMY CASE (Liverpool, Brighton, Southampton) Position: Midfielder
In today’s age, being a key and ever-present member of ‘all-conquering’ giants would pretty much give you a red carpet all the way to the England dressing room. Not so for Liverpool hardman Jimmy Case, an all-rounder whose shot had the power to rupture the organs of anyone who foolishly ventured in the way. A goalscoring central midfielder, Case played a prominent part as Liverpool strolled to four league titles from 1975-80, and also helped his side win THREE European Cups, the UEFA Cup, the European Super Cup and the Football League Cap. All he could muster at international level though was a solitary England U-21 cap. Things add up, alas not.
4) DENNIS MORTIMER (Aston Villa, Coventry City) Position: Midfielder
Not many captains of European Champion sides have failed to gain recognition at international level, but Mr Mortimer is one of those hapless unfortunates. The lynchpin that led Aston Villa to Division One glory in 1981 and European glory in 1982 with a 1-0 victory over the mighty Bayern Munich, he could only manage a couple of paltry U-21 and B-caps at international level – despite the fact England had a World Cup to play at in the same year Mortimer lifted that coveted the European Cup with a giant, look-at-me grin spread across his face.
5) TONY COTON (Watford, Manchester City, Birmingham City) Position: Goalkeeper
The 80s and early 90s wasn’t a great time to be a brilliant English goalkeeper if you fancied international recognition. In the former decade, there were two of England’s finest guardian’s of HM’s onion bag standing in your way in Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence. And then, as mullets fell out of fashion, the moustachioed duo of David Seaman and Nigel Martyn rose to prominence. Still, at club level, the similarly fuzz-lipped Tony Coton was perceived a true hero, offering excellent reflexes and shot-stopping abilities and winning numerous ‘player of the year’ awards at his two longest-serving club sides, Watford and Manchester City. If he were around today, you’d bet your life savings that he’d be England’s undisputed Number One, and definitely not Scott Carson.
6) BRYAN ‘POP’ ROBSON (Newcastle United, West Ham, Sunderland, Carlisle United) Position: Striker
The little Geordie forward allegedly took ballet lessons to improve his balance, and if that’s the case, then every footballer should be donning leotards. In hindsight, it can only have been fierce competition that prevented ‘The Bald Assassin’ from winning a full cap in the 70s, which seems strange considering England failed to qualify for World Cups in both 1974 and 1978. Pop Robson enjoyed a near one-in-two goal ratio at pretty much every club he played for, top-scoring for the majority of those campaigns. He’s almost the Kevin Phillips or Darren Bent of his generation – except both those players won caps.
7) KEVIN CAMPBELL (Arsenal, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, Everton) Position: Striker
After amassing 59 goals in 224 appearances for Arsenal, where he was largely overshadowed by fellow frontmen Ian Wright and Paul Merson, Arsenal’s lofty homegrown striker secured a £3million move to Nottingham Forest. There he enhanced his status with a goal ratio of nearly one-in-two. In his latter days, he got in on the net-bulging act at Everton too, initially arriving on loan from Turkish side Trabzonspor and smashing nine goals in his first eight games. Yet despite his qualities, England never found a place for him. B and U-21 caps were his scant consolation.
8) HOWARD KENDALL (Preston, Everton, Birmingham City, Stoke City) Position: Midfielder
‘Younger’ football fans may just about remember Kendall as the follically challenged guvnor who guided Everton to league glory in 1986, but prior to those years, he was a bit tasty kicking a ball as well. One part of ‘The Holy Trinity’ in Everton’s midfield of the late 60s (alongside Alan Ball and Colin Harvey), Kendall helped The Blues scoop Division One glory in 1970, before cementing his place as captain for several more seasons, too. Yet despite successful spells at a host of other clubs, and captaining the England Youth side to victory in the 1964 Little World Cup Final, his international prowess never got beyond England’s U-23 squad.
9) JULIAN DICKS (West Ham, Liverpool, Birmingham City) Position: Left-back
Only West Ham fans properly appreciated just how good this ferocious hard-tackling captain really was. To the outside world (and possibly Sky’s Andy Gray), he was a dirty, shaven-headed loon, who collected red cards like it was a unsated hobby stemming from childhood. In truth (or at least in claret and blue), he was an inspirational goalscoring defender, who ran hard and mean - despite his alleged diet of fags and pre-match fry-ups – and packed one of the hardest shots known to mankind. We’ll never know just how much of a liability he may have been representing England, although he always used to allege that they’d never pick him unless he “grew his hair”.
10) GARY SHAW (Aston Villa) Position: Striker
In truth, it was only injury that stopped the huge potential of ‘Villain’ Shaw ever being unleashed in the dreary white of England. At just 20 years young, the livewire goal-poacher netted numerous times as Aston Villa romped to the Division One title in 1980-81, with Shaw also picking up the much-coveted PFA Young Player of the Year award. Sadly, a serious knee injury, incurred against Nottingham Forest when he was just 22, meant his career petered out with unspectacular spells at Walsall, Shrewsbury Town and, um, Ernest Borel (not to be confused with an actor from The Wild Bunch). File under ‘an even better Michael Bridges’.
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