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Friday, 27 March 2009

One Cap Wonder- Sven's Experiments

At the end of his tenure in the England job Sven-Goran Eriksson was under fire as a manager who never altered his team shape and resisted bringing in new faces. It wasn't always like that though.

The Swede created no fewer than 41 new caps during his time in charge which covered just 67 internationals.Many went on to be regulars and most had several chances to show what they could do- but no less than eight of them haven't added to their one appearance.

The eight are a varied bunch and they vary widely in ability from those who were lucky to even get a sniff of an England shirt, to players where it's hard to understand why they didn't win more.

Some unfortunates only got their chance in one of Eriksson's notorious substitute shuffles in a friendly and can't even show 90 minutes for their time in his squads.

The pair that go back farthest are Michael Ball and Gavin McCann. Both got the second half of England's 3-0 friendly win over Spain at  Villa Park in February 2001- Eriksson's first game in charge.

Both are still active in the Premiership but never made it back. Ball suffered by the emergence of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge in his position. McCann, honest pro that he is, never really looked like an England midfielder.

Michael Ricketts is held up as not so much an experiment as an example of when a manager gets it wrong.To be fair to the Swede, Ricketts did make a rampaging start of his Premiership career with Bolton but his star waned quickly.

The striker won selection against Holland in February 2002, a match that finished 1-1. After Bolton Ricketts had a career studded with moves and a gradual move down the league. He's currently with Walsall.

Lee Bowyer and David Dunn are two midfielders who both should have had more opportunities and were capped in the same game against Portugal in September 2002.

Bowyer was a brilliant performer in the Leeds United side which was formidable at the turn of the Millennium but his much-publicised off-field behaviour stopped his England career in its tracks. Dunn was less likely to win a hatful of caps but surely would have been given another shot were it not for a catalogue of serious injury.

Francis Jeffers burst on the scene as a goalscorer at Everton and was once Arsene Wenger's preferred choice as his 'fox in the box'. He was the golden boy at Goodison before Wayne Rooney and he actually scored in his one game.

Unfortunately that game was the low point of Eriksson's farcical substitution policy when he rotated just about the whole side; England went down 3-1 to Australia when the Swede surely missed the cultural significance of a loss to Aussies.

Alan Thompson's selection against Sweden in 2004 can be put down to England's perennial issue with the left side which bedevilled the team at that time. The Celtic man was an excellent club footballer but the England experiment wasn't renewed.

Finally Antony Gardner, now at Hull but then at Spurs, played alongside Thompson is the same 1-0 defeat in Sweden.In 2004 Terry, Campbell, Woodgate, King, Ferdinand and Carragger were all names ahead in the pecking order for centre back, so Gardner's single cap is no surprise.

By 2004 Eriksson had stopped experimenting, He did make new internationals after that date but only Zat Knight was a potential one-capper- the others have won more caps. The big defender played two in a row on the 2005 summer tour to the USA when many regulars were absent and is unlikely to return to England duty.

So far, Fabio Capello has created six new caps in his eleven games in charge.

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