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Six of the Best – England World Cup emergences

In the latest of our recollections of England at past World Cups, we look back at six occasions when players went to tournaments with no more than a handful of caps but ended up featuring prominently and subsequently enjoying long international careers…

Bobby Moore – 1962

Four years before skipping England to World Cup glory, it looked as though the only big event in Bobby Moore’s life during the summer of 1962 would be his marriage to Tina Dean. But the 21-year-old West Ham United player would be a late call-up to the England World Cup squad, with injuries to Bobby Robson and Peter Swan enabling Moore and Maurice Norman to stake a claim and make their international debuts in the last warm-up match against Peru.

The pair seized the chance and featured in all four England matches in the World Cup in Chile. Norman went on to win 23 caps but was out of the picture by the time of the 1966 World Cup, but for Moore there was no looking back. In 1963 he captained the side for the first time and he went on to earn 108 caps, leading the side on their most famous day and becoming one of the most iconic English players of all time.

Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters – 1966

A cheat perhaps to include two players here, but the England careers of Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters would forever be intrinsically linked. The West Ham duo started 1966 uncapped, their England debuts following in February and May respectively. By the time the tournament started Hurst had been capped five times, Peters three. They watched on during the opening match against Uruguay, before Peters came into the side in the second game against Mexico. He kept his place and was joined by Hurst against Argentina in the quarter-finals. Hurst made the most of his opportunity following an injury to Jimmy Greaves by heading in the winner from a cross by Peters. He never looked back.

The final would, of course, see both men make history by finding the net with Hurst grabbing a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over West Germany. It represented a remarkable change of fortune for two players who had only recently made their international bows and they were now firmly established in Sir Alf Ramsey’s plans. They both scored a goal during the 1970 World Cup and continued to play for England beyond that, Hurst earning the last of his 49 caps in 1972 and Peters making 67 appearances until 1974.

Terry Butcher – 1982

The rest of our players highlighted today made their debuts in the run-up to the finals, but for defender Terry Butcher the pattern was a little different. He won his first cap against Australia in May 1980, but played just once more for England before appearing against Wales and Scotland in the weeks before the 1982 World Cup. But that was enough for Ron Greenwood to select the Ipswich Town man in the side for the opening World Cup match against France. The move paid immediate dividends as Butcher headed on for Bryan Robson to score after 27 seconds and he started four of England’s five matches, missing only the dead rubber against Kuwait.

The appointment of his Ipswich boss Bobby Robson as England manager further boosted Butcher’s England prospects and he went on to earn 77 caps and play at three World Cups before retiring from international football in 1990 – most memorably playing on while covered in blood against Sweden in 1989.

Peter Beardsley – 1986

At the start of the 1986 World Cup, England manager Bobby Robson went with the pairing of Mark Hateley and Gary Lineker. But it failed to bear fruit in the first two matches against Portugal and Morocco and Robson opted to make changes for the decisive group game against Poland. Big man Hateley was sacrificed for the diminutive Beardsley, whose first cap had only arrived in January against Egypt.

The move paid off, Beardsley’s inventiveness seeming to galvanise Lineker as he netted six goals in the next three games – with Beardsley also chipping in with a goal against Paraguay. Beardsley had just five caps to his name prior to the finals, but he was now a first choice forward and he featured prominently during the remainder of Robson’s reign. His England career enjoyed an Indian summer under Terry Venables, with the last of his 59 caps coming as a 35-year-old against China shortly before Euro ’96.

David Platt – 1990

While Italia ’90 may have introduced Paul Gascoigne to the rest of the world, he already had 11 England caps to his name prior to his finals. But fellow midfielder David Platt had been capped just five times before the tournament, all bar one as substitute. That trend looked to continue during the tournament, as he came off the bench against the Netherlands, Egypt and Belgium. It was in the latter game that the Aston Villa star’s England career really took off, brilliantly volleying in a last-gasp winner.

Platt now took his place in the starting-line-up and proved the natural successor to Bryan Robson as a goalscoring midfielder as he netted against Cameroon in the quarter-finals and Italy in the third place play-off, as well as in the semi-final penalty-shoot-out against West Germany. He was now a key player for England and would remain a vital source of goals, while also wearing the captain’s armband on a number of occasions. He netted 27 times in 62 caps, his last appearance coming against Germany in the Euro ’96 semi-final at Wembley.

An honourable mention here too for Paul Parker, who had just five caps before Italia ’90 but started six matches in Italy as he was preferred to previous regular right back Gary Stevens. However, he would only collect a further eight caps for his country.

Michael Owen – 1998

The year of 1998 was one to remember for Michael Owen. At the start of it he had just turned 18 and it was only a few months after his Liverpool debut. By the end he was an established England international, BBC Sports Personality of the Year and his wondergoal against Argentina during the World Cup was regularly being replayed.

Owen’s debut had arrived in February against Chile and, in an era of strong striking options, he took his place in Glenn Hoddle’s squad for the World Cup in France. He came off the bench for the games against Tunisia and Romania, but a goal in the latter boosted his reputation and earned him a starting place against Colombia. He retained it against Argentina and, though the night ended in shoot-out heartache, Owen would make headlines for his tremendous solo goal.

The teenager now seemed to have the world at his feet and there was great optimism about his England career. Although injuries would affect things later on, he still registered 40 goals in 89 caps to confirm his goalscoring prowess – as did his record of netting in four successive major tournaments.

englandmemories View All

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

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