Due to their position and mindset, some players only get one chance to score during a whole season, if that. So if they’re lucky enough to represent their country, those same players may never even get a single opportunity to score at that level. With that in mind, here’s a look at the England players who have won the most caps without ever scoring an international goal. In reverse order…
10. JIMMY ARMFIELD (43 caps)
A gentleman on and off the pitch, Jimmy Armfield was a one-club man, spending all his 17 playing years at Blackpool. Internationally he was England’s first choice right-back between 1959-64, even captaining the side on 15 occasions. During this period he played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, and was named best right back in Europe three years running. Unfortunately, a groin injury in the summer of 1964 allowed George Cohen to establish himself in Alf Ramsey’s team and Armfield was demoted to the subs bench in the final two years of his England career. This included watching his teammates lift the 1966 World Cup. Armfield was never bitter, just happy to have made the squad.
He was finally presented with his World Cup winners medal in 2009, after FIFA decided to award one to all squad members, instead of just the starting eleven who collected theirs on the day. Jimmy Armfield only scored 6 goals during his entire career at Blackpool, so it’s hardly a surprise he failed to notch for England. Following his retirement, Armfield (now a manager) led his Leeds United side to a European Cup final in 1975, before settling for a career in the media; working as a summariser for Radio 5 Live for over 30 years. He died in 2018 after a long battle with cancer, aged 82.
9. GARY STEVENS (46 caps)
Part of the very successful Everton side of the mid-1980s, Gary Stevens made the right-back slot his own for England, wearing the number two shirt at three consecutive major tournaments between 1986-90. Praised more for his creativity at times than his actual defending, Stevens played every single minute of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and assisted one of Gary Lineker‘s three goals in the 3-0 group win over Poland. A move to Glasgow Rangers in the summer of 1988 coincided with England’s abysmal Euro ’88 tournament, where the Three Lions flew home early after losing all three group games – Stevens was heavily criticised throughout. His best performance in an England shirt came in a friendly against Italy in November 1989, where Stevens came close to breaking his international duck, not once, but twice, as the game ended 0-0. The emergence of Paul Parker during Italia ’90 meant Stevens lost his place after the opening group game with Republic Of Ireland, as Bobby Robson changed his system to wing backs.
This was the beginning of the end for Stevens at international level, as he was only used on five occasions by new manager Graham Taylor in the two years leading up to Euro ’92. However, an injury crisis meant Taylor recalled him just before the tournament, following injuries to Parker and Lee Dixon, only for Stevens himself to suffer a cruel injury blow, resulting in him pulling out of the squad. As it was too late to replace him, England went into that competition without a recognised right-back; Keith Curle and David Batty both played there at some stage. Gary Stevens actually scored 23 goals during his club career, but for England there wasn’t a single strike to match his attacking efforts.
7= KYLE WALKER (48 caps)
Still playing week in, week out, for champions Manchester City, Kyle Walker must be scratching his head about his exclusion from recent England squads. The right-back actually made his debut for England back in 2011, but missed out on selection for Euro 2012 and World Cup 2014 through injury. In the four years that followed, Walker made himself undroppable to Roy Hodgson and then Gareth Southgate, as his brilliant club form for Spurs led to a £45m move to Man City in 2017. His involvement in England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup was vital, forming a three-man defence with fellow Yorkshiremen, John Stones and Harry Maguire.
Up until this summer’s Nations League finals, Walker was still a first team regular, but the semi-final loss to the Netherlands asked questions of a few players. Despite coming across as a nice man, Southgate can be quite brutal sometimes (just ask Wayne Rooney), and Walker became his most recent big name casualty. Kyle Walker‘s goal tally so far in his career stands at just 8, so it’s not a complete shock he hasn’t scored for his country yet. Unfortunately for Walker, it would probably be more surprising now if he actually won another cap.
7= JIMMY DICKINSON (48 caps)
Another one-club man, Jimmy Dickinson spent 19 years at Portsmouth and still holds the record for most league appearances (764) for Pompey – only John Trollope of Swindon Town has played more games for a single club, with 770. Winning successive league championships with Portsmouth in the late 1940’s catapulted Dickinson into the England team, becoming a regular in Walter Winterbottom side for 7 years, playing in two World Cups. Despite never scoring in the right end for his country, Dickinson does have an unfortunate goal scoring record to his name, as he remains the only England player to have scored an own goal at a World Cup; vs Belgium in 1954.
His career goal tally is surprisingly low for a midfielder, with only 10 goals in all competitions for Portsmouth, but Dickinson was well known for being a selfless player, concentrating on his fulfilling his role in midfield and leaving the headlines to his forwards. Known as ‘Gentleman Jim’ for never being booked or sent off throughout his career, Jimmy Dickinson is quite simply Portsmouth’s greatest ever player. He managed the side in the late 70s, before tragically dying of a heart attack at the age of 57 in 1982. With his image in the seats at Fratton Park and having the honour of being the club’s most capped player, Dickinson’s legacy will be there for years to come.
6. JORDAN HENDERSON (54 caps)
Liverpool‘s Champions League winning skipper is probably another surprise inclusion on this list, but until/unless he notches for his country, Jordan Henderson will remain England’s most capped midfielder never to score. Very much the most experienced player in the national squad these days, Henderson won his first cap back in 2010 whilst still playing for his hometown club, Sunderland. A £20m move to Liverpool 12 months later certainly enhanced his chances of being an England regular and he went on to play a significant role in the last three major tournaments.
For England, like his club, Henderson has mostly been used in the holding midfield role in front of the back four. Indeed, his goals for Liverpool have certainly dried up in the last few years, scoring no more than twice in any of his last four seasons. This being said, he has over 30 goals to his name since his club career began 11 years ago, but for England his chances in front of goal have largely been non-existent. Even though it obviously doesn’t count as an actual goal for the Three Lions, the only memorable occasion Henderson has had to try and hit the back of the net was during the penalty shootout against Colombia in the second round of the 2018 World Cup, and he missed that! However, there is much more to Henderson’s game than scoring. Like most on this list, he’s a very unselfish player and mainly concentrates on getting his job done for the team. Being captain of the European champions and vice-captain for England shows how important Jordan Henderson is to his sides. A proper leader, who hopefully has many years left to break his international duck yet.
4 = PHIL NEVILLE (59 caps)
He won everything possible for Manchester United, but Phil Neville’s England career, although eventful, did not carry the same success. He made history by being selected for their Euro ’96 squad alongside his brother Gary – the first siblings to both make a tournament squad since the Charlton brothers in 1970. For the next tournament at France ’98, Neville was one of the 6 players who were famously cut by Glenn Hoddle just before the World Cup in La Manga, but his exclusion was overshadowed by the shock announcement that Paul Gascoigne was going home with him. Under Kevin Keegan, Neville found himself as first choice left-back for Euro 2000, but that first team joy soon turned to despair, as his foul to concede a penalty in the final minutes of the last group match against Romania cost England a place in the quarter-finals.
Not used at first under Sven Goran Eriksson, due to the emergence of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge, the full-back made the Euro 2004 squad, but now he had an extra string to his bow following several outings in midfield for United. It’s often forgotten that Phil Neville came on during the quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to Portugal, as a central midfielder. Despite going to three European Championships during his international career, Neville was never selected for a World Cup squad – a record in itself. Due to the defensive nature of Phil Neville’s play, he never managed a goal for England, although he did score 13 times during his career, they mainly came after his position was moved further forward. Perhaps if his switch to midfield had come sooner, the younger Neville brother may have avoided this list.
4 = DES WALKER (59 caps)
”You’ll never beat Des Walker” was the chant sung by Nottingham Forest and England fans alike during the early 90s, and for the first few years of his international career, they were dead right. His lightning pace allowed him to take on anybody in a sprint and this was no more apparent than during the 1990 World Cup. In a three-man defence, Walker was outstanding and could have probably walked into any other team in the world at that point. His excellent form continued into Graham Taylor’s era, where Walker became one of the first names on the team sheet. Even during England’s disappointing group elimination at Euro ’92, the centre-back was one of the only players to come out of the tournament with any credit.
However, the dismal qualification campaign for USA ’94 took it’s toll on Walker, which coincided with his move to Sampdoria, where manager Sven Goran Eriksson chose to play him out of position at full-back. Individual mistakes in the qualifiers at home to Holland and away to Poland and Norway exposed Walker, with his reliable pace deserting him at crucial moments. His final game came in the 7-1 victory away to San Marino, which was made famous for their part time opponents opening the scoring after just eight seconds. At the age of 27, despite his impressive early years for England, Des Walker’s international career was over. As he was always the only centre-back no go to up for set pieces, there was no way he was ever going to score for his country. In fact Walker only ever scored one goal during his entire career – for Nottingham Forest against Luton Town on New Years’ Day 1992. He may not have contributed much going forward, but for a period of time, Walker certainly was unbeatable.
3. RAY WILSON (63 caps)
The most experienced player of all the World Cup winners in 1966, Ray Wilson was a permanent fixture at left-back for Alf Ramsey throughout that decade. Having already experienced a major finals at the 1962 tournament in Chile, his calmness in defence was an early indication of how England were to play four years later when they lifted the trophy. And this showed whenever he was next to his centre-back and captain, Bobby Moore, as they only lost three England matches when playing together. Wilson was an ever-present during competition and in the absence of any proper wingers, he and his right-back partner George Cohen offered some degree of speed and penetration down the flanks.
Such was his importance, he continued to keep his place in the side for the 1968 European Championships at the age of 33. Throughout his career, Wilson only scored 6 goals (all for Huddersfield Town), and despite his instinct to get forward and join in the attacks from full-back, he never scored for England. Staying away from the limelight following his retirement, he ran a very successful family Undertaker’s business until 1997. Ray Wilson died in 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimers, but his name will be etched into English football history forever.
2. GARY NEVILLE (85 caps)
Talking about players making a position their own, Gary Neville did just that for 12 years at right-back for England. From his debut in the 1995 Umbro Cup, nobody came close to challenging Neville for his spot, especially with the understanding he had with David Beckham down that right hand side. Euro ’96 was the start of five major tournament selections for Neville and his assist for Alan Shearer in the 2-0 win against Scotland was key to momentum early on. Unfortunately he was suspended for the semi-final with Germany, due to picking up two yellow cards during the competition. England’s progression declined at World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000 and then Neville missed out completely on the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea through a broken metatarsal.
It’s acknowledged by the player himself that Euro 2004 was a big chance during his international career for silverware. Beforehand, Neville was at the forefront of a ridiculous threat by players to strike from the England team in protest of Rio Ferdinand’s ban for missing a drugs test. Luckily that nonsense soon subsided and the Three Lions ended up reaching the quarter-finals, only to be defeated on penalties by hosts Portugal. Neville’s matches in this tournament took him to eleven appearances in a European Championship finals – an English record. Another defeat by spot-kicks to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup followed and Neville played his last match for his country in 2007. In his 19 seasons at Manchester United, he scored just 7 goals in all competitions, but none for England. His best chance came in the dour 0-0 draw with Macedonia under Steve McLaren, when Neville somehow hit the bar from eight yards out. It was a chance that summed up Neville’s attacking threat and McLaren’s England reign all in one go.
1. ASHLEY COLE (107 caps)
The only centurion on this list, it’s fair to say that Ashley Cole is one of England’s greatest servants. His off-field activities often overshadowed his talent on the pitch, but what a player he was. Given his debut by Sven Goran Eriksson in 2001, Cole quickly became first choice left-back. It was actually at the 2002 World Cup where he came closest to scoring, hitting the bar with a cross/shot in the 0-0 group draw with Nigeria. If he was good in that tournament, then it was Euro 2004 where Cole established himself as one of the best defenders in the world. England reached the quarter-finals against Portugal and despite the penalty shootout defeat, Cole was arguably the best player on the pitch, keeping a young Cristiano Ronaldo in his pocket throughout the 2-2 draw; he also tucked away his spot-kick in the shootout.
Cole did no wrong in the 2006 World Cup either, but towards the end of the decade England fans started to get on his back – notably in the 5-1 WC qualifying win over Kazakhstan at Wembley, when a stray pass which led to the visitors consolation goal angered the crowd, who started to boo his every touch of the ball. Despite this, he continued to carry on representing his country, playing in the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012; where he unfortunately missed a vital pen in the shootout quarter-final defeat to Italy. He reached 100 caps in 2013, captaining the side for the one and only time against Brazil. Cole announced his international retirement a year later, following his omission from the 2014 World Cup squad by Roy Hodgson. With over 20 goals from left-back for Arsenal and Chelsea throughout his career, it is definitely surprising that Ashley Cole didn’t manage to score for England, especially when you consider how much he was up and down that left flank. There is no doubt though, that Cole will remain as one of the best players to emerge from England’s ‘Golden Generation’.
11= Mick Mills (42 caps)
11= David Batty (42 caps)
11= Owen Hargreaves (42 caps)
14. Nicky Butt (39 caps)
15. Jamie Carragher (38 caps)
16. George Cohen (37 caps)
17= Ronnie Clayton (35 caps)
17= Stewart Downing (35 caps)
19. Michael Carrick (34 caps)
20= Roger Byrne (33 caps)
20= Kieron Dyer (33 caps)
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