Ian Wright features in an England XI who never made the World Cup cut

Ian Wright with an England flag Credit: Alamy
Ian Wright with an England flag Credit: Alamy

Gareth Southgate’s difficult decision on which England players to pick and who to leave at home will certainly be leaving a few players upset. Some have the heartache of missing out on international tournaments through injury and others have the pain of getting dropped from the final squad.

Here’s an XI made up from those who made the preliminary selection but got left at home and never ended up going to a World Cup.


Goalkeeper: Gordon West
Unlike his modern-day Everton counterpart Jordan Pickford, long serving Toffees goalkeeper Gordon West didn’t get much of a look-in for England, having the misfortune of playing in the same era as the legendary Gordon Banks. He won just three caps in his career, all after the 1966 World Cup, when he failed to make the final 22 who went on to win the trophy on home soil. If you fancy a goalkeeper challenge, try naming the two ‘keepers who did make the squad alongside Banks.


Right-back: Paul Reaney
The start of Leeds United’s golden era under Don Revie resulted in many Englishmen from Elland Road being called up to the national squad, ending a long period in exile from the Three Lions set-up for the club. The uncompromising duo of Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter represented the Yorkshire-based side in ’66, but a young Paul Reaney was one of the 18 players dropped from the original 40. Injury kept Reaney out four years later as England looked to defend the World Cup and a failure to qualify for the ’74 and ’78 tournaments meant he never got the chance to shine on the biggest stage of all.


Left-back: Phil Neville
Destined to forever come up short on the England World Cup ladder, Phil Neville went to three European Championships with the Three Lions (although he probably wishes he stayed at home for Euro 2000) but never made the cut for a World Cup squad. The younger Neville missed out in 1998, 2002 and 2006, with his only experience of the tournament coming in 2019, when he coached the women’s team as they reached the semis in France. It’s fair to say they’ve done a little better since his departure though.


Centre-back: David Watson
This is the former Sunderland, Manchester City and Stoke centre-back David Watson, as opposed to the long-serving Everton defender of the same name, although the Toffees legend did miss out on making the final 22 in 1986. The older Watson was a superb defender during the seventies and can consider himself unlucky to have played in an era when England failed to qualify for two consecutive World Cups. Despite winning 65 caps, the only major tournament he made was the Euros in 1980, as he was one of the 18 cut from the original 40 selected for Spain ’82.


Centre-back: Roy McFarland
A hero at Derby County as part of two title-winning squads in the seventies, Roy McFarland had everything you’d want in a centre-back and looked destined to become a long-term fixture in the England squad. Unfortunately, injuries blighted his career and he ended up with just 28 caps for the Three Lions, none of them coming in an international tournament. The 1970 World Cup in Mexico came slightly too early for McFarland, who was an uncapped 22-year-old at the time. He made Alf Ramsey’s provisional squad but was left at home in favour of experienced defenders like Jack Charlton, Brian Labone and iconic captain Bobby Moore.


Right-wing: Mike Summerbee
A key figure in Manchester City’s title-winning side of 1968 and an assist for the only goal of the game at Wembley in the ’69 FA Cup final, Mike Summerbee was at the top of his game in the late sixties and was part of Alf Ramsey’s European Championship squad in Italy. Famous for his wingless wonder tactics, Ramsey opted to leave Summerbee on the reserve list for the 1970 World Cup, alongside Maine Road team-mate Alan Oakes.


Left wing: Peter Thompson
Whilst Summerbee might consider himself unfortunate to miss out on a trip to Mexico, his disappointment would have paled in comparison to the frustration Peter Thompson must have felt on not making the final 22 in 1970. The Liverpool winger also made the provisional squads in ’62 and ’66, meaning he narrowly missed out on playing at a World Cup three tournaments in a row.


Defensive midfield: Duncan Edwards
By far the most tragic tale of this XI, the Munich air disaster of 1958 robbed Manchester United star Duncan Edwards of his life and England of perhaps its greatest ever talent. The crown jewel of the Busby Babes, Edwards seemed destined to inspire club and country to success, comfortably slotting into the national side at the tender age of 18. He was uncapped before the 1954 World Cup, having made less than 30 senior appearances for the Red Devils at the time, but he did make the provisional squad of 40 before being considered too inexperienced to make the final 22. His death in the February of ’58, alongside United captain Roger Byrne and striker Tommy Taylor, severely weakened the Three Lions side heading to Sweden that summer.


Attacking midfield: Len Shackleton
Having a colossus like Edwards behind him would’ve suited the extraordinarily gifted and forward-minded Len Shackleton. The Sunderland legend was never one for tracking back, preferring to entertain the crowds with an unrivalled talent on the ball as opposed to off it. His showmanship made him a much-loved figure at Roker Park but the England selectors weren’t so amused by the clown prince, leaving him out of the 1950 and 1954 World Cup squads. He ended his career with just five international caps to his name.


Striker: Brian Clough
Like Shackleton, Brian Clough wasn’t trusted at the FA either, famously being overlooked the England manager job despite incredible success at club level with Derby County and Nottingham Forest. However, he did manage to represent his country during his playing days as a prolific striker, winning two caps for the Three Lions in 1959. He was part of the 40-man party selected for the World Cup in Sweden a year earlier but was one of the 18 players who failed to make the final selection. An injury sustained in 1962 cut his career short, with Clough retiring whilst still in twenties, ending any dreams of returning to the international stage.


Striker: Ian Wright
Despite Ian Wright’s superb goal return at Arsenal throughout the nineties, he was regularly overlooked on the international scene and never made it to a major tournament with the Three Lions. Wright was still uncapped whilst a Crystal Palace player when England travelled to Italy 1990 and a failure to qualify under Graham Taylor four years later meant a trip to the USA was off the cards. At 34, it looked as if the Gunners legend might finally play at a World Cup, having made the provisional squad of 30 for France ’98, but injury ended up ruling him out and he was one of the eight players dropped by Glenn Hoddle.

James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs


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