England’s Golden Generation: The Worst Eleven


During Sven-Göran Eriksson’s tenure as England manager between the years of 2001 and 2006, it was felt that the England national team had came up with a golden generation of footballer. They had the likes of David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen.

Problem was that Sven and his golden generation just couldn’t get past the quarter final stages of the big international tournaments. There are a few reasons for that, luck and  injuries played apart. Plus the team just wasn’t as good as the English press believed it was.

Another reason was a lack of depth and the fact that the star players would often stifle the progression of young talented options.

So I thought I’d look at eleven players who represented England under Sven’s reign, yet for one reason, or ten, it turned out to be a bit of a disaster for them.

Don’t forget the World Cup starts this week and there are far better teams in Brazil than this one I’ve selected. Checkout all you need to know about each country on this fun site My World Cup Team.

1. Richard Wright:

There were a few keepers to choose from to be fair. David James was never world-class and Rob Green had a few howlers in an England shirt. But for me it has to be Richard Wright.

He had one good season in the Premier League with Ipswich and was selected by Kevin Keegan for Euro 2000. On his England debut he would give away two penalties against Malta. He managed to save the second. But conceded the first after the ball struck the woodwork and bounced off Wright’s head and into the net. That comical debut kind of sums up Wright’s career.

He would join Arsenal and couldn’t dislodge David Seaman as the Gunners number one. His only other England appearance came under the Swede in a 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands. Wright didn’t concede though. He was also in the squad for that famous 5-1 victory in Germany!

But he would never realise his potential. Injury marred his stint at Everton, after returning from one injury Wright then managed to injure himself in the warm up on his return game, falling over a big red sign that read ‘Not in use please practice in temporary goalmouth’.

Wright would then move seven more times. Bizarrely he is now Manchester City’s third choice goalkeeper/mascot, spending two seasons there and playing zero minutes!

2. Wes Brown

Brown was hailed as the next big thing in England. But the player who would go on and represent Manchester United over 350 times just couldn’t live up to the hype.

Injury is a common theme that runs through this list and Wes Brown certainly had his fair share of set backs. But even when fit he failed to really offer composure or assurance at the back.

He received eleven of his twenty-three caps under the Steve McLaren and Fabio Capello regimes, not really distinguished England eras.  After fourteen years with Man Utd, Brown moved on to Sunderland and now fights relegation battles with them.

3. Micheal Ball 

Micheal Ball was a terrific left-back/centre-back in the making. Unfortunately though he didn’t quite make it. Injuries again hampered this former Everton man.

Was selected and used as a sub in Sven’s memorable 3-0 debut win over Spain. Ball seemed destined to keep that spot and be in the England squad for years to come. But a problem with his knees after a £6.5m move to Rangers meant he never returned the same player. He put on a bit of weight, became slower and just couldn’t seem to return to 100% fitness.

Ball would then go on and play for PSV and Man City. A likeable character but again one that couldn’t hit the marks that they were meant too. Would end up at Leicester playing under Sven again, I say playing more like watching.

4. Zat Knight

Dearie me, I had totally forgotten about Mr Knight and his England escapades. Well it was blink and you’ll miss it stuff to be fair. In 2005 Sven decided he wanted to see what Zat could do. It turned out that he couldn’t really do very much. He partnered Wes on his debut as a second half sub against the US. Then he would play a full role in the 3-2 win over Colombia, lets just say Michael Owen’s hat trick saved the England’s defensive blushes that day.

Knight was your typical standard centre half. Nothing more, nothing less. He really didn’t deserve an England career but hey he has two caps, so good luck to him.

Zat Knight is currently a free agent after a five year spell at Bolton, they were relegated during his time there.

5. Jonathan Woodgate

I bet most of you would have thought Anthony Gardner was a shoe-in. But this list isn’t just about duffers (although we do cater for that market too), no its also about the players who just never became the stars we all thought they would be.

Woodgate only managed to get eight caps! He had to content with John Terry, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand. But the thing is, it was thought at one time that Woodgate was the best of the lot.

In his career, teams spent a total of £37.5m on Jonathan. He enjoyed great purple patches at Leeds, Middlesbrough and during a season at Spurs. But Woodgate could never do it for a prolonged spell.

As ever injuries played their part but you also get the feeling that Woodgate was never fully committed to prove he could be a world class centre-back. Now thirty-four the one time Real Madrid player seems content back in Teesside with Boro, in the Championship.

 6. Gavin McCann

Uninspiring, plain, standard, pedestrian and ordinary… Just a few of the words that spring to mind when it comes to describing Gavin McCann.

A decent, at best, player in the EPL. How Gavin quite got into the England set-up is anyones guess.

He didn’t make much of a contribution but like Ball his only cap came in a 3-0 win over Spain in 2011. Spain went on to become world and european champions, while McCann won nothing!

The player was so dull I can’t even think of anything else to say.

7. Kieron Dyer

Another one who suffered from injuries. Maybe the FA and clubs need to spend more money on doctors, fitness instructors and on sports science as it looks like they aren’t working at the moment.

Obviously Beckham was the main man during this era but whenever Dyer played he just failed to inject any imagination or have much of an impact. Not the worst player in this team but not out of place either.

Again I question why he hanged around so long and ask was he fully committed at becoming the best player he could be? He definitely had something but lost it very quickly.

His last six years in the game went by without much football but in truth even when he played he didn’t do enough to suggest he had the world at his feet. Don’t worry I’m sure he has plenty of reasons in the bank for him to become too concern on what I write.

8. Jermaine Jenas

Again he was heralded as a potential world great. Another major theme here is the British press getting too excited too early, when it comes to judging a player.

He had decent spells with Newcastle and Tottenham but did he really do enough to merit twenty-one caps for England? Probably not. He never dictated games or become that dynamic box to box midfielder that everyone was crying out for. When people remark on England’ midfielders of that generation; Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard will deserve to be mentioned, I doubt anyone can class Jenas in that category.

Of course injuries again would tell but I doubt Jenas would ever have become the star that people thought back in his early days.

Now with QPR, he unfortunately suffered from yet another serious injury toward the end of last season.

9. Francis Jeffers

His England record is actually perfect, one goal in one appearance. Problem was that he never kicked on from that, unlike another former Toffee (Wayne Rooney) who also made his debut against Australia on the 12th of February 2003. Since then Rooney became a legend for club and country, while Jeffers has become a journeyman forward in desperate search of goals.

Arsenal once paid £8m for tis man. He would then travel to Scotland, Australia, Malta and down the divisions in England, ending up in League Two with lowly Accrington Stanley.

The ‘fox in a box’ would take part in 279 matches as a professional player scoring just 52 goals.

10. James Beattie

At one time he was a decent, consistent scorer in the Premier League but he couldn’t do the same for England, much like Andy Cole, Andy Johnson and Kevin Phillips.

It says a lot that Beattie would also make his debut against the Aussie’s in 2003 and would play four more times than Jeffers yet never manage a goal. His style and standard of play meant he wasn’t suited or good enough for international football.

He is now manager of Accrington Stanley, where he was briefly reunited with Franny Jeffers! His career will probably be best remembered for an altercation involving himself and his gaffer Tony Pulis, who was naked at the time.

11. Alan Thompson

Played for an hour against Sweden in a 1-0 defeat back in 2004.

During the ‘golden generation’ era, left-wing was always England’s problem area. Thompson had enjoyed a successful period with Celtic; winning championships, playing European football and scoring plenty of goals. He had a very gifted left foot and was good at set-pieces.

Problem was David Beckham took the set-pieces and that Thompson lacked the pace needed for international football especially when you had an equally slow Beckham on the right. The left needed someone that was fast, for the rare occasions that the ball ended up in that area of the field.

Thompson may have deserved more than is solitary cap but he was found wanting against the Swedes and was never deemed good enough for a recall.

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