England’s One Cap Wonders

There are 347 players involved against 43 countries in a club that no one wants to be a part of. It’s the pinnacle of any player’s career but to be branded in such a club is seen as laughable rather than admirable. 52 goals have been scored between them, with five hat-tricks and five braces collected; there is however only one number which is significant. That is ‘The 1 cap wonders club.’

Matthew Jarvis, David Nugent, Dean Ashton, Anthony Gardener and Lee Hendrie are just a few selected names on the long list which makes up the players who have only had one appearance for England, but why do they only get the one game to prove themselves?

Let’s start from the very beginning; Charles John Morice born on 27th May 1850 in Kensington, London was the very first player to only have one appearance for England and then never to return. He played for the Barnes Rugby Football Club (founded in 1862, and rumored to be the oldest football club ever) and his position was forward. He got his chance to show his international ability against Scotland in what was the first ever international match; Charles Morice was 22 at the time and played the whole game. The match ended 0-0 and the English committee (which were then the management) decided that they saw more than enough from Charles that game and never picked him again, making him the very first ever one cap wonder.

Fast forward to 2014; 164 years later, Jon Flanagan plays against Ecuador in a World Cup friendly, he came on as a substitute, replacing injured midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 64th minute. The game ended 2-2, with Rickie Lambert and Wayne Rooney getting the goals for England. Although he is only 21 and has a lot of promise, Jon Flanagan becomes the latest player to feature in the one cap wonder club.

So why are these players only given one game to decide if they’re international quality or not? The answer is usually they are picked when inform and have the press behind that certain player to play for England. It is however the unfortunate truth that England listen to the media regarding who they should and should not play. The most recent player to be picked based on media influence was Jay Bothroyd. Around the time of him being chosen to play in his only appearance against France, he was playing for Cardiff City FC who were then in the Championship. After starting the season well the media poised the question, ‘why can’t Championship players play for England?’ After the lackluster 18 minute performance against France in which they lost 2-1, actions spoke louder than words and proved that listening to the media isn’t always the best way of choosing players.

A lot of the time, players are picked because they’re young and started the season well so are given a chance to see if they can make the step up to international level. Joey Barton was 24 when he played against Spain whilst Lee Bowyer and David Dunn were 25 and 22 respectively when they played against Portugal in their only appearances. To be only given one match, and in most cases these players came on from the bench, proving themselves in such a short time is very unfair.

The latest list of players to have joined the club could change the outlook for future England players. Steven Caulker, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Butland are just a few names who have played just the once for England, but with their call-ups being two years ago (Caulker and Shelvey vs Sweden 2012 and Butland vs Italy 2012) with all three players being very young at the time, a lot has changed. All three players have since moved from the team they played for when featuring for England and have improved greatly. With a lot of the older players falling out of favor or reaching retirement, England may have no other choice but to recall them in the future.

From Morice to Flanagan we have had plenty of players test their skills against other countries trying to stake a claim into why they should be playing for their country, but failing to do so they should look back on their only appearance and be proud to be a part of a club that millions would do just about anything to be in.


  1. Cody (#2) June 11, 2014
  2. francis June 11, 2014

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