By Martin Tighe
As the anticipation builds for this Friday’s clash of the Auld Enemy at Wembley, both sets of supporters are debating what systems and players should be used to outfox their opponent.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your view of the current national managers, those decisions rest on the shoulders of Gordon Strachan and Gareth Southgate. Over the years there have been many surprises flung upon the unsuspecting public when it comes to the players representing Scotland and England, selections that have caused us to choke on our pint or light a fag at the wrong end (that’s from personal experience).
Those players that caused such bewilderment for many are embedded in the minds of Scotland and England fans. So lets take a look at the players who maybe shouldn’t have been handed a cap (and who perhaps won them in a lucky bag) in this combined worst XI from Scotland and England.
Before we start off with the goalkeeper, we’ll stick to a 4-4-2 formation and try to imagine that modern managers still want to be positive by playing two strikers!
Robert Green will forever be remembered for his costly blunder in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His butterfingers let a Clint Dempsey shot from outside the box slip past him into the net. The goal gave the USA an historic point against England. Green’s England team finished second in the qualifying group which meant they faced Germany in the first knockout stage. They lost 4 – 1 to the Germans.
Kirk Broadfoot. What, seriously? You need an explanation?
Lee Wilkie was a product of the SFA’s much criticised “Carthorse Development Programme”. No, he wasn’t. But at times when you watched him play that was the image that was imprinted in your mind.
Gary Kenneth was somewhat in the mould of his fellow centre half – with the added bonus that he could kick it really, really high in the air. After falling out of favour with the national team he successfully auditioned for John Smiths beer adverts replacing Peter Kay. ‘Ave it!
Michael Ball was living the dream it seemed as he notched up consistent performances for Everton at left-back and centre-half. He was rewarded with a full cap for England against Spain in February, 2001. Later that summer he signed for Rangers in a 6.5 million pound deal. He never played for England again.
Jamie Mackie was born in Dorking, England, but chose to represent Scotland through his Scottish grandfather. He scored twice for Scotland, against the Faroe Islands and Cyprus, but only managed to win six caps. A lot was expected from the QPR player but his impact on the national side was short lived and he failed to live up to the early promise.
Ian Black, the marauding midfielder who initially came to prominence playing in the highlands, had somewhat of a meteoric rise in Scottish football. He moved from Inverness Caledonian Thistle to Hearts, then to Rangers. Things then started to unravel for Black and the mask of a slight bampot appeared to slip. He won his only full cap against Austria whilst plying his trade in the bottom tier of Scottish football with Rangers. He has the great honour of being booed onto the park as he came on as a substitute.
Carlton Palmer was a mainstay in the England side of Graham Taylor. He won 18 caps but the lanky Sheffield Wednesday midfielder was often the target of criticism of the majority of England fans. Immobile and lacking in pace, he managed one goal for his country against San Marino.
Matt Jarvis was in the form of his life at Wolves when he was given the chance to represent England in an international friendly against Ghana at Wembley. He played 20 minutes for England and it appears that he didn’t exactly set the heather alight. Incidentally, he became the first Wolves player since Steve Bull (who just missed out on being selected for this side) to be capped for England. Esteemed company indeed.
Chris Iwelumo was somewhat of a football nomad at the start of his career. The effort and persistence paid off for the big striker when he was called up for Scotland in 2008. Unfortunately, all that hard graft was for nothing as he missed an outrageous sitter against Norway at Hampden in a crucial World Cup qualifying match that ended goalless. His international hopes died on that day, along with Scotland’s chances of reaching the 2010 World Cup.
Francis Jeffers was the ‘Wayne Rooney’ before Wayne Rooney. Making his debut for Everton aged 16, the young Jeffers was destined for greatness. He was prolific at under-21 level for England and his early promise was rewarded in 2003 with a full cap against Australia in which he scored. Plagued by injury, Jeffers struggled on with his career and despite an 8 million pounds move to Arsenal, he could never regain that early promise.