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One Cap Wonders – Danny Wallace

The 1980s was a good time for Southampton, with players like Kevin Keegan choosing to ply their trade at The Dell and Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer later coming through the ranks. They finished second in the First Division in 1984 and twice came close to repeating their 1976 FA Cup success. And one of the players to shine through the decade was homegrown youngster Danny Wallace.

Wallace emerged through the Saints’ youth ranks to make his debut at 16 in 1980. It was the start of nine years playing for Southampton, that would include him scoring the BBC Goal of the Season against Liverpool in 1983-84 and lining-up alongside younger brothers Ray and Rod. There were also 14 England under-21 caps for winger Danny to collect, playing his part as they finished as European champions in 1984.

One Cap, One Goal
in 1986, Wallace earned his big break with England. Just days after his 22nd birthday he was called up to the full side for a friendly in Egypt. The rare January fixture had not been met with universal support from club managers, but it afforded Bobby Robson’s side the chance to meet African opposition before facing Morocco in the World Cup finals. With FA Cup replays and League Cup ties clashing with the trip, England were under-strength in Cairo.

The match would be best remembered for Peter Beardsley beginning his successful England career, but Wallace was to make the most tangible impact by scoring from close range (see above pic) in the comfortable 4-0 win. As he tucked the ball home, Wallace must have started believing he could be on the plane to Mexico that summer. At the very least, scoring would surely earn him another cap.

But it wasn’t to be and Wallace would never be picked again, seeing players such as John Barnes and Chris Waddle dominate the wing positions. But at club level his reputation was strong enough for Alex Ferguson to fork out more than £1 million in September 1989 to sign him for Manchester United, helping them win the FA Cup that season. But most of United’s successes in the 1990s would be achieved without him, as he wound down his professional career with Millwall (loan), Birmingham City and Wycombe Wanderers.

In 1996 Wallace was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he showed great courage in going on to complete the London Marathon in five and a half days in 2006 for the Danny Wallace Foundation to help others with the condition. A great achievement that puts any football success or frustration into perspective.

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Blogging about the history of the England national football team, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.

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