Playing for their country should be the pinnacle of any player’s career. Most people would give their right arm to stand and sing the national anthem wearing the colours of their nation, but in recent years, it seems as if national service has become a chore for some. The constant pressure on players, especially England’s, to perform has become a source of much frustration to the professionals and the criticisms they face is often not worth the hassle.
Although some like David Beckham and indeed David James, who said he would never retire from international duty, would always make themselves available for England, more and more players are simply dropping out of the international scene for no particular reason. Here are ten figures who ended their international careers for no apparent reason:
1. Michael Carrick
Carrick recently announced he would reconsider his England future having previously stated he was unavailable for selection after the 2010 World Cup. Carrick made Fabio Capello’s 23 man squad, but having travelled with the party, he failed to make a single appearance. This caused him to rule himself out of contention for Euro 2012 despite injuries to Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry and England had to call up Jordan Henderson instead. It seems that Carrick has taken his bat home having not been considered despite solid form for Manchester United over the last couple of years, so I’d plead with him not to reconsider his decision.
2. Ben Foster
Another case of ‘I’m not good enough so I’m going to sulk about it.’ Foster retired in May 2011 despite the fact he was comfortably England’s second best goalkeeper, but the West Brom stopper said he didn’t see the point of international selection if Joe Hart was always going to be number one. Having once been England’s next big goalkeeping hope, Foster won just five caps and also failed to make the breakthrough at Manchester United. It’s fair to say his career’s been somewhat of a disappointment.
3. Ryan Giggs
The greatest player in Premier League history is also one of the unluckiest in terms of internationals. Giggs has never played in a major tournament despite his career spanning two decades and only got close when Wales lost a Euro 2004 playoff to Russia. He retired from international duty in 2008, having won just 64 caps, but you get the feeling Giggs could have gone on much longer. He picks and chooses his games for Manchester United these days and he could have done the same for important international games. If Wales had reached a major tournament since his decision to quit, Giggs would have surely changed his mind.
4. Paul Robinson
Robinson was once England’s number one but lost his place having made a series of high profile blunders for club and country. After winning 41 caps, Robbo was left out in the wilderness after he let a Roman Pavlyuchenko shot slip out of his grasp in a defeat to Russia. He was recalled after the 2010 World Cup though and was expected to take up the number two slot behind Joe Hart. However, Robinson said he wasn’t prepared to simply sit on the bench and wait for injuries and chose to end his international career ahead of a friendly with Hungary.
5. Emile Heskey
After a promising start at international level, where his partnership with Michael Owen proved a decent one in the 2002 World Cup, Heskey became the scapegoat of the squad because of his inability to find the back of the net. With England struggling in their Euro 2008 campaign, Heskey earned himself a recall to help get Owen firing again and the trick worked. Once Fabio Capello took over, Heskey still made the squad, playing alongside Wayne Rooney, but once again, he simply couldn’t score. After a miserable World Cup, Heskey chose to retire rather than face all the flak from the media, quitting his country after just seven goals in 62, a record worse than Paraguay goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert.
6. Paul Scholes
The midfield magician is one of England’s most naturally gifted players in recent years, but his talents have been almost wasted at international level. Scholes retired after Euro 2004, having been shifted out onto the left hand side to accommodate Gerrard and Lampard. At the age of just 29, he quit England duty to concentrate on Manchester United, but how England could have done with him. As Gerrard and Lampard failed to function in the middle time and time again, Scholes resisted calls to return, even up to Euro 2012.
7. Jamie Carragher
Carragher actually retired from international duty in 2007, having failed to force his way past Rio Ferdinand, John Terry or Sol Campbell despite his excellent form for Liverpool. However, in 2010 with England heading to South Africa, Carragher sniffed a chance to earn an international recall and announced a subsequent U-turn. However, he was still overlooked for Ledley King and Matthew Upson and therefore after the tournament he swiftly ended his brief second spell with the Three Lions.
8. Stephen Ireland
Technically, Stephen Ireland retired from Republic of Ireland duty at the age of 21. His decisions to make himself unavailable are still mystifying and Ireland, in 2007, lied to coach Steve Staunton, saying he couldn’t travel to a game because his grandmother had died. This turned out not to be the case, but no one could quite understand why Ireland didn’t want to play for his country. He has remained in exile ever since and his career has gone off the boil somewhat as well.
9. Wes Brown
Another victim of the Terry/Ferdinand/Campbell trio that dominated the heart of the English defence for so many years. Brown was one of the most naturally gifted players Sir Alex Ferguson had ever seen, but his inability to stay fit cost him dear. In 2010, having been left out of the World Cup squad, Brown, like Robinson, was called up for the friendly against Hungary, but pulled out, not wanting to sit on the bench for both club and country!
10. Dimitar Berbatov
The Bulgarian striker has always been known for his languid playing style, but in 2010, he showed that he was just as lazy off the field as well. Berbatov retired from international football to ‘concentrate on his club career’ (look how well that went!) However, he had faced plenty of criticism in his home country after Bulgaria failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and Berbatov simply couldn’t be bothered playing in a rubbish side anymore!