England’s Goalscoring Failures

Scoring goals is what the game is about. Although, sometimes it may seem that stopping them is what the game has become about. In England, we have been blessed with some goalscorers of the highest quality. Players who have scored hundreds of goals throughout their careers.


But some of these have failed at international level. Before people point out that most England players have failed, I am only talking about strikers here. So here is my top ten of English strikers that failed at international level. Please bare in mind that this list is only my opinion and I do not expect anyone else to agree fully with it. Also I am only looking at players during the Premiership era, not before.


10 – Alan Shearer – 1994 – 1996, 63 caps, 30 goals


Okay, yes, what the hell is Alan Shearer doing in this list, right? Well, it is all too easily forgotten that Alan Shearer went two years without scoring for England before his goal against Switzerland in the opening game of Euro ’96. Quite why Shearer went through this period of international goalscoring wilderness is bizarre to say the least. The fact is that no other striker would be afforded that kind of luxury. But in 1996 Shearer proved his critics wrong. Venables showed immense loyalty to the Toon hero and was rewarded by Shearer throughout Euro ’96 But the 1994 – 1996 Alan Shearer belongs on this list.


9 – Jermain Defoe, 48 caps, 15 goals (To date)


Jermain Defoe should have a lot more goals than his tally of 15 for England. The Spurs striker has struggled to be a regular starter for the Lily Whites of late but make no mistake the man is an out and out goalscorer. His turn of speed and ability to make chances for himself out of nothing have made him into one of the most feared strikers in England. Although he has played a bit part role for England, his goalscoring prowess deserves far more goals for England. Having made nearly half a century of appearances for the 3 the Lions, his return of 15 goals, although not the worst, is not befitting of his talents. Considering the majority of England’s games come against inferior, or supposedly inferior, teams, Defoe should showcase a better goals to games tally.


8 – Chris Sutton, 1 cap, 0 goals


Sutton’s refusal to play for the England B team signalled the premature end of his intentional career. But he did form one half of the feared SAS partnership with Alan Shearer during the 90’s, and enjoyed a sucessful career, the highlight being winning the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Sutton began his career at Norwich were he quickly grabbed the attention of the bigger clubs. He became the most expensive player in England when Blackburn paid £5million pounds for him in 1994. The former Celtic striker was a constant threat in the air during his playing days and later sealed a £10million pound move to Chelsea. Although his refusal to play for the England B team didn’t help his cause, he should have played a more prominent role for England during his prime.


7 – James Beattie, 5 caps, 0 goals


James Beattie might not strike you as an international striker but he has scored 90 premiership goals during his career. A big money move to Everton failed to bring Beattie to the big time, where he only managed 13 goals in 76 games. He struggled badly and never convinced the Goodison faithful with his performances. It was at Southampton that the player enjoyed his most successful spell. He later went on to play for Rangers and Blackpool but his career never recovered to the heights he enjoyed at Southampton.


6 – Kevin Davies, 1 cap, 0 goals


So how can Kevin Davies be in this list having only played once for England? Well, I am looking at players who are good strikers that haven’t transformed that onto the international stage. I am not looking at why, although if I was then certainly Kevin wouldn’t be in that list. However, we can not deny that Kevin Davies should have won more than his solitary cap. Kevin Davies transformed himself at Bolton. The young Kevin Davies that I remember busting onto the scene at Southampton was not the same sort of player Kevin is now. His game is much more about physical strength now than it used to be. A 1998 £7.5 million pound move to Blackburn didn’t work out as planned but the burly forward has changed his game and proved an important player for Bolton during his career.


5 – Les Ferdinand, 17 caps, 5 goals


The ex Q.P.R forward was the man who Keegan hand picked to replace former goal hero Andy Cole. Ferdinand did not disappoint as he hit 50 goals in 84 appearances for the Toon Army. Big Les had strength, speed and power as well as an explosive shot. He formed a successful partnership with Alan Shearer and ended up as runner up in both seasons he was at Newcastle. He moved to Spurs in 1997 but struggled with injury in his first season at White Heart Lane. Another striker that didn’t cut the mustard in an England shirt despite his obvious talents.


4 – Kevin Phillips, 8 caps, 0 goals


Kevin Phillips was the most prolific striker in the English Premiership for a couple of seasons. Phillips’ most productive spell was for Sunderland between 1997 and 2003. This was one of the factors that apparently held Phillips back. People pointed to the fact that he wasn’t playing for a top 5 club as a reason that his international career stalled. Not even winning the European Golden Boot was enough to give him a run in the England team. Phillips never really understood why he was constantly overlooked and neither did many fans and critics.


3 – Ian Wright, 33 caps, 9 goals


The Arsenal legend was another goal machine that failed to become the England striker his quality deserved. Wright won more caps than most on this list but never really convinced as a international striker. Arsenal paid the hefty sum of £2.5 million pounds for the London born lad in 1991, and he went on to more than pay back his transfer fee in a brilliant career. When Arsene Wenger took over at Highbury, it was expected the end Wright’s Arsenal career was in sight but Wright won over the cultured French coach with his natural instinct in front of goal. Wright formed a lethal partnership with Dutch ace Dennis Bergkamp but never really made the grade for England.


2 – Andy Cole, 15 caps, 1 goal


Andy Cole was loved at Newcastle. He just could not stop scoring. Then the unthinkable happened. In January 1995, with Newcastle and Manchester United going head to head for the title, Kevin Keegan sold the striker to Manchester United for £6 Million pounds plus Keith Gillespie. Angry Geordie fans stormed over to St. James Park where Keegan famously came out and asked them to “trust me.” Although Cole struggled to cope with the expectations at Old Trafford, he later adjusted into the role of Untied’s number 9. Andy Cole forged an exciting partnership with Dwight Yorke which culminated in Manchester Untied winning the 1999 Champions league. Cole seemed to be the ultimate confidence player. Unfortunately for England, he never carried the same confidence he had at Newcastle.


1 – Robbie Fowler, 26 caps, 7 goals


Robbie Fowler was perhaps the most naturally gifted goalscorer I have ever seen. He scored all sorts of goals – left foot, right foot, headers, tap ins, screamers – he had the lot. In a career where he could no wrong at Anfield, where he is simply known as God, his international career never got off the ground. It is one of football’s greatest mysteries how Fowler did not become one of England’s finest strikers. Fowler exploded onto the football scene and seem to have all the attributes needed to fulfil his full potential at international level. But sadly, it never happened.


Watch Fowler at his best


Kam Gill