Last week, I ‘bigged up’ Cameron Jerome for an England call-up. Partly through yellow and green goggles but mainly through no other English striker – other than the ‘Hurri-Kane’ whose in a purple patch that Prince would be proud of – showing better form going into this international break.
Much consternation, even bitterness, was shown by City fans at Roy Hodgson’s omission of John Ruddy from the squad, particularly after Fraser Forster dropped out through injury.
Instead, he plumped for a former holder of the Canaries No. 1 jersey, Rob Green, who had been given the ‘Napoleon Bonaparte treatment’ – exiled from the international stage since that clanger that gave the USA a draw in the opening game in the 2010 World Cup.
Since then Green has been up to and down from the Premier League twice. Some hope maybe for Ruddy?
Green was recently quoted as saying, “I would swap an England recall for three points in QPR’s relegation battle.” A sad reflection of club over country priorities that rarely was the case before Sky TV’s tsunami of cash crashed onto the footballing landscape.
While not much comfort to Ruddy, he does however join an impressive sub-group of keepers who were ‘legends’ for their respective clubs but one-hit wonders for England: Alex Stepney, Phil Parkes and Nigel Spink.
At Grant Holt’s Premier League peak in 2011-12, there was a sniff of three lions recognition but that drifted on the wind as Ricky Lambert muscled himself into Hodgson’s thoughts. Holt never got the chance to join Phil Boyer and Kevin Reeves as the only City centre-forwards to mix it on the big stage.
In short, the group of *Norwich heroes who have managed to pull on the England shirt is shockingly exclusive – just seven with a total of sixteen caps and in the main thanks to Bobby Robson.
Maybe that’s a reflection of Robson who was broad-minded enough to reward players from unfashionable clubs – having managed one himself – but also a credit to Ken Brown and the great squad and success he brought to Norfolk’s finest between 1983 and 1986 when twelve of those caps were awarded.
With the 30th anniversary of the Milk Cup final win at Wembley coming last week, it’s no surprise that three of those seven (Barham, Watson and Woods) played in that final against Sunderland.
Barrel-chested centre back Dave Watson comes out on top individually with six caps.
Kevin Reeves – in 1979 – remains the only City player to ever have played for England in a ‘proper’ international that really mattered.
It seems cruel that so many of our finest hall-of-famers never got even a sniff of a squad place at the highest level, particularly so when you consider that Dennis Wise got 21 caps, Carlton Palmer 18 and the goal machine Emile Heskey a whopping 62 over an 11 year period.
A handful of City players were subsequently picked after they had moved on and I’m sure Chris Sutton treasures the twelve minutes of action he saw in a friendly against Cameroon in 1997 while a Blackburn player.
Danny Mills too, but I won’t waste any more words on him.
On the other hand, we’ve been privileged to see the likes of Martin Peters and Mick Channon, both of whom magnificently represented England before their twilight years at Carrow Road.
But who’ll be next on that desperately undersized list? Jonny Howson maybe?
Impossible to tell of course.
Should Alex Neil get us to the top flight next season, the squad will need re-building and strengthening to stand any chance of, first of all, survival and secondly, cementing a place in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Neil has done a damn fine job to date with a squad of players brought in by four previous managers, going back to Glenn Roeder who signed Wes Hoolahan. Neil’s only full signing so far, Tony Andreu, has been conspicuous by his absence on the field of battle. Besides, he’s French, so no chance of an England call-up.
The true test of the new manager will be the quality of the players he brings in as he builds his own team, reflecting his own style and image.
Whether that will include any future England stars is unknown. I hope we retain the home-grown core feel to the club and the following brief inventory of England caps will grow.
* The full roll call of Norwich City full England internationals:
Mark Barham – 2 caps – both against Australia in friendlies in 1983 (Bobby Robson)
Phil Boyer – 1 cap – Wales (friendly) in 1976 (Don Revie)
Robert Green – 1 cap – Colombia (friendly) in 2005 (Sven Goran Eriksson)
Kevin Reeves – 1 cap – Bulgaria (European qualifier) in 1979 (Ron Greenwood)
John Ruddy – 1 cap – Italy (friendly) in 2012 (Roy Hodgson)
Dave Watson – 6 caps – 4 friendlies plus Mexico & Scotland in minor tournaments in 1984-6 (Bobby Robson)
Chris Woods – 4 caps (all friendlies) in 1985-86 (Bobby Robson)
A total of 16, of which just 3 were competitive games with just 1 being in a European Championship qualifier. None participated in World Cup qualifiers, or European Championship or World Cup finals.