10 Oct 2013
In - Football

This week the focus switches from the bread and butter of domestic football to a feast of international showdowns. So we thought we'd mark England's double-header of crucial World Cup qualifiers with a Three Lions-flavoured top five. Read on as Guardian football writer Scott Murray runs down five notable one-cap wonders. And if you enjoy Scott’s article, like it, share it and sign up for our fortnightly football newsletter… 

1. Jimmy Rimmer (1976)
Despite winning the title with Aston Villa in 1981, the saucy-surnamed shot-stopper has a reputation as a nearly man who flirted with glory but never copped a feel. He sat on the bench for Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup final, then famously only managed eight minutes of the 1982 version for Villa before injury forced him to depart the scene. Then there was his England career. He was selected for his international debut as a 28-year-old against Italy in 1976 at a tournament to celebrate the bicentenary of the USA. He was hauled off at half-time with England two goals down. Sure enough, the team rallied to win 3-2. Rimmer never played for his country again.

2. Kevin Davies (2010)
Scotland were hopeful of persuading the big Bolton striker to turn out in blue, but Davies only had eyes for England, so waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, at the age of 33 years and 201 days – England's oldest debutant since Arsenal defender Leslie Compton, who was 38 when he took to the stage against Wales in 1950 – he was given his chance in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro. Whether it was worth the wait remains a moot point. He made no impression coming on as sub in a dire goalless affair – other than the one on Miodrag Dzudovic's head, that is. A yellow card for errant use of the elbow proved to be the sum total of his achievements in an England shirt. In fact, it could be argued that Dzudovic has made more impact on England's history than Davies – he was the player again on the receiving end as Wayne Rooney kicked his way to a Euro 2012 ban. 

3. Charlie George (1976)
George's heyday was at Arsenal, of course, splayed out on the turf in the 1971 FA Cup final, having sealed the double with the most rock-and-roll celebration of all time. The decade stretching out in front of him should have been jam-packed with glorious international moments, but successive England managers decided they could do without all their maverick talent during the 1970s, to highly questionable effect. George's only appearance for England came in 1976 against Ireland. He nearly set up Kevin Keegan with his first pass, but Don Revie hooked him after an hour. “He needs a prolonged spell for his qualities to be assimilated into England's make-up,” argued the Guardian. He never got the chance.

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4. Michael Ricketts (2002)
Ricketts went into 2002 as one of the Premier League's form horses. It was his goal that had propelled Bolton into the top flight at the 2001 play-off final, and his goal that gave the Trotters a stunning victory at league champions Manchester United a few months later. Sven-Goran Eriksson handed him a debut along with Darius Vassell against Holland, but while the Aston Villa striker earned England a draw with a sumptuous overhead kick, all Ricketts mustered was one weak header and he was replaced at half-time. Vassell went to the World Cup that summer; Ricketts didn't score again for Bolton all season.

5. Mike Phelan (1989)
Sir Alex Ferguson never got the chance to play for Scotland, despite a decent career with Dunfermline and Rangers, but at least his former assistant at Manchester United tasted international football. In England's penultimate game of the 1980s, Phelan – recently arrived at Old Trafford from Norwich – was brought on for his club and international captain Bryan Robson at half-time against Italy at Wembley. Soon enough, he had spotted Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga off his line and lobbed towards the unguarded net. Peter Beardsley started celebrating a goal against the favourites for the upcoming World Cup, but the ball floated inches wide. Phelan far from disgraced himself, but he'd never get another run-out for England.

Scott Murray has highlighted five unlikely England call ups. But who has he missed out? Let us know by Tweeting us @ProstateUK with the hashtag #MenUnited.

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