International Retirement

England stars continue to desert the national setup when things don’t go their way.

Ben Foster this week decided to put his England career on hold to focus on regaining form and fitness for his club side, Birmingham City. A decision which has been met with scepticism, given that Foster has won the Carling Cup this season, as well as help lead his side to Premier League safety with two matches left to play, yet now decides a further match against Switzerland, would be detrimental to his future plans. This is questioned further, with Joe Hart now firmly established as England’s number one, it would be fair to assume that Foster is unlikely to see match action. This in itself, could be the root cause of the problem, with Foster seeing out the remainder of the campaign, one would think a further appearance, if on the England teamsheet, would not be out of reach.

Should this be a factor in Foster’s decision, the former Manchester United man would not be the first England fringe player to distance himself from the setup. His former United team mate, Paul Scholes retired from international football in 2004, wishing to spend more time with his family. Having scored just a single goal in his last three years of international football, Scholes also found himself out of position, with the emergence of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard seeing Scholes ushered out of his preferred central role, often into a wider role.

Prior to the World Cup, Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson, announced his retirement. After 41 caps, Robinson, by his own admission, was unhappy at no longer being first choice for England and would not be happy warming the bench. Jamie Carragher announced his international retirement in 2007, having grown frustrated at being overlooked in favour of fellow defenders John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. To the Liverpool man’s credit, he answered the call of Fabio Capello and offered reinforcement to a depleted World Cup squad last summer, adding a further three caps to his tally, including his return in a friendly against Mexico, before returning to his self-imposed international exile.

However, excuses in recent times have varied. West Ham United’s on-loan left-back, Wayne Bridge, announced his retirement in 2010, after revelations, involving former Chelsea team mate John Terry, pushed relations to breaking point, with Bridge claiming the two being in the same squad would be damaging to the harmony in the England camp. As Bridge seemingly appeared a martyr following the saga, many felt Terry’s alleged actions had cost England a fine defender. However, with Bridge being a long-term understudy to Ashley Cole, widely considered the world’s best in his position, echoing a pecking order which saw Bridge’s Chelsea departure in 2009, some would question if Bridge would make the apparent sacrifice if he held Cole’s number three shirt on a regular basis.

While many of England’s elite players face hectic schedules with their clubs, some have begun to begrudge international duty, resulting in limited substitute appearances unhelpful to their careers, and duly distance themselves from the setup. However, it is worth noting a story of one famous England understudy. In 1966, one England player found himself on the fringes of a World Cup side. In a time where substitutes were not permitted, this man saw no action in England’s first three matches of the tournament, however, due to injury, was called upon from the quarter-final stage and for the remainder of the tournament. A World Cup final hat-trick, a winners’ medal and a knighthood later, Sir Geoff Hurst remains a fine example of a man committed to representing his nation, in whatever capacity is required. As today’s stars shy away from the chore of playing for England, a distraction from their idol statuses at their clubs, many would learn from looking at the story of an England legend before withdrawing from international football.

Daniel Clarke-

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