10 Great English Footballers Who Wasted Their Talent

Ollie Irish

2nd, November 2010


By Ollie Irish

In the last 20 years, some supremely talented English players have failed to make the most of their ability. For the purposes of this list, we’ve discounted players who failed to fulfil their potential only because of injury (such as Michael Bridges, Jonathan Woodgate, Jamie Redknapp and Darren Anderton). In reverse order, here’s our Top 10 wasted talents:


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10. David James - Jamo should have been England's No.1 keeper for most of the last decade. He's a world-class keeper in almost every way except, crucially, in his own head.

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  1. Tom Jones says:

    David James – ” He’s a world-class keeper in almost every way except, crucially, in his own head” LOL! James has never been close to being world class.
    ” For the purposes of this list, we’ve discounted players who failed to fulfil their potential only because of injury (such as Michael Bridges, Jonathan Woodgate, Jamie Redknapp and Darren Anderton).” Yet you have included Kieron Dyer who have had much more injury trouble than the first 3 of them put together.
    Matt Le Tissier – Are you fuckin’ joking? A great player who didn’t waste any of his talent.
    Paul Gascoigne – Played for Tottenham, Lazio & England. Overrated by media and fans.

  2. Ollie Irish says:

    Speak to anyone in the game in this country, and they’ll tell you just how talented James is. I’ve spoken to more than one of James’ coaches who has said he’s the best keeper they’ve ever worked with.

    But with Dyer, it was also his stinky attitude that cost him.

    So you’re in the first camp re: Le Tissier. Let’s agree to disagree. I think he’s a brilliant player, but one who could have done so much more in the game. What did he win, for example?

    Gazza overrated? Again, let’s agree to disagree. That’s the purpose of such lists.

  3. George says:

    I’m sure you might have seen it, but football365 published something similar to this recently, http://www.football365.com/story/0,17033,8750_6441275,00.html

    I’d like to suggest Michael Owen slightly controversially. He might not fit your criteria due to his injury misfortune, but 10 years ago Owen was one of Liverpool and England’s key men, and a ballon d’or winner. Now he hasn’t played for England in 2 years and sometimes doesn’t even make it as a bench warmer for United. He’s only 30 as well

  4. The Truth says:

    @ Tom Jones,

    Gascoigne’s technical ability was so good, I dare say that the man didn’t even look English. I’m not English, but c’mon, it’s painfully obvious when you see England play that ball skill is not their strong point.
    He played with intelligence, skill, and raw strength when necessary – I’d compare him to Brazilian Ronaldo at times.

    What English player that isn’t a winger runs at opponents like Gazza would? Lampard? Gerrard? Barry? If you want to talk about overrated, those are your men, buddy.

  5. Mizman says:

    I agree ollie, that Matt le tiss could have possibly gained more success at a bigger club, but surely it’s a question of ambition that decides wether you have “wasted” your ability. Matt le tiss turned down bigger clubs to stay at saints because his personal ambition was to play for Southampton

  6. gav says:

    billy kenny at everton

  7. AT says:

    amazed at Tom Jones comment about Gazza being overrated….erm
    Italia 90?
    if anything he was underrated, not only an amazing player but also someone who never shyed away from the camera and made us all laugh

  8. […] 10 Great English Footballers Who Wasted Their Talent » Who Ate all … […]

  9. Roger Moore says:

    Le Tiss was a fantastic player but that does not necessarily mean he was wasted or could have achieved more.

    He worked at Saints because he was free to do what ever he wanted and pretty much able to live the lifestyle he wanted.

    Had he moved to a big club he would have instantly been told to change his lifestyle, improve his fitness and become more of a team player. This would never EVER have happened because he isn’t that type of person, he would never think he underachieved in his career, he was and still is treated as a god in Southampton, something that would never have happened had he moved to a big club.

  10. UTD4LIFE says:

    Interesting article although when you mention Gazza, a player who at times looked like the best player on the planet but never materialized at a big club, i assume your relating to lost potential.

    What about SHEARER? if he would have signed for a big club he might have won more medals than even David May.

    Imagine it was Shearer instead of Andy Cole that night at the Nou camp in 99.

    Nobody remembers back in 96 that when shearer signed for Newcastle they finished second, and while Germany were the champions of Europe and United were beaten by Dortmund in the semi-final, i only wish we could have seen Cantona and Shearer together that night.
    Or when Newcastle were almost relegated in 98 meanwhile utd won the league again but Cole couldn’t put the ball past monaco’s Barthez and went out on away goals.
    Doesn’t matter where you stand on this, if he should have signed or not, like le tissier he chose mediocrity and never fulfilled his potential.

  11. a-mac says:

    wile respecting each point commenting on this article, I can’t help that think that ultimately it is a pointless discussion. my reasoning to this comment is that footballers along with all other sportsmen get where the are through hard work, natural talent, skill and most importantly luck, and therefore it is pointless to ponder “what ifs” as there is an abundance of factors which can be commented on. for example, What if Mohammed alai’s bike never got stolen, would none would have ever been blessed with seeing his superior boxing skills? “what if” Lance Armstrong never got diagnosed with testicular cancer, would he have continued with tour de France mediocracy? Or “what if” Nadal’s dad let him quit tennis after picking him up crying after loosing a tennis tournament in his youth???

    Although an exact answer to those questions is impossible to say, I am confident that we would have been looking at a world different to the one we live in today. Therefore I can Justify my belief that the sport and footballing world should be celebrated for what it is now rather that what it could have become!

  12. deckard says:

    michael owen, why the hell isn’t he here. boy wonder, one of the highest rated strikers in the world, but since real madrid he’s done fuck all. injuries aside, he played the majority of matches for england at the major tournaments where he was at, but ALWAYS disappointed. scored a goal here and there against denmark or fucking paraguay but when IT REALLY mattered owen always choked. now he’s lost all credibility he still had by going to man utd despite being a (former) liverpool legend.

    in 10 years time people outside of england will go “owen?, who was he again?”. great shame seeing every striker england’s had since him has been utter shit.

  13. Chris says:


    Alan Shearer – Premier League Record Goalscorer.
    ‘Nuff Said

  14. Mathers says:

    TheTruth speaks the truth. Gazza was twice the player Lampard, Gerrard and Barry are and ever will be.

    I agree Owen should be on this list, his downward spiral is slightly upsetting, early on in his career he looked a dead cert to break the all time English goal scorer record.

  15. Sean says:

    A few talking points.

    I agree about Gazza, but not as #1. People always talk about him being ‘one of the great talents’ instead of ‘one of the great players’. At least there was a brief period where he was truly outstanding for England that people remember him for.

    I’d argue that Collymore should be #1. Gascoigne made 57 appearances and scored 10 times for England. While Stan the man made just 3 appearances for England without scoring or leaving any mark on the national team. The guy had an obscene amount of talent (more so than Gascoigne), he had the pace, power, size and technique to have potentially gone down in history as one of England’s all time great strikers. Instead he will probably best be remembered for battering Ulrika Jonsson.

    I’d fall into the camp that thinks Le Tisser’s loyalty should be commended and that being ‘the big fish in a small pond’ whereby he was the attacking linchpin, actually suited his style of play. He was the kind of player who needed the ball at his feet to be effective and at his best, not sure that would have happened as much at a bigger club. England’s failure to use him correctly (especially under Glenn Hoddle) was particularly annoying.

    Finally, as a United fan. While he was slightly injury prone. I couldn’t agree more about Lee Sharpe. People talk about how unfortunate it was for England that Giggsy is Welsh. If Sharpey had fulfilled his vast potential, left side of midfield would never have been a problem for England. He still remains one of the best crossers of a ball I have ever seen (especially when moving at pace). At least he left us with the Sharpey Shuffle – one of the best goal celebrations ever.

  16. jas says:

    Agree 100% with the comments about Collymore. With the talent he was blessed with, he should have gone on to be one of the worlds greats.

  17. […] 10 Great English Footballers Who Wasted Their Talent » Who Ate all … […]

  18. S-League Player says:

    As an outsider on the other side of the world (ie. Singapore), my personal point of view is that one MAJOR contributing factor to the demise of most of these talented players was that they were all built up by hype too much and too early and they all couldn’t handle it or let it get to their head. Could it be something about the typical British bluster about the next big thing and then typically British style to knock them down at the first opportunity?

    And I’ll agree to disagree about Le Tiss: he chose to stay at Southampton out of loyalty and certainly he could have won everything if he wanted to but instead, having met the man personally when he was in Singapore a couple of years ago, you get the sense that he is without ego. That simple happiness and the affection of his fans mean more to him instead of material wealth and personal glory. So probably, if anything, he was TOO NICE.

  19. leo says:

    May i suggest that Mr. Irish is a bigger under achiver than most on his list. Letiss is a god in Southampton, fowler is a god in liverpool, James is a god in Portsmouth and so on. Mr. Irish may I suggest you find a bigger outlet for your talents, certain walls perhaps!!

  20. jamjam says:

    yep wayne rooney is next!

  21. […] 10 Great English Footballers Who Wasted Their Talent » Who Ate all the Pies […]

  22. […] 10 Great English Footballers Who Wasted Their Talent » Who Ate all … […]

  23. David Matthews says:

    These so called wasters are not a patch on the ones who should be on this list such as: Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Tony Currie and Glen Hoddle. These are players who could have won England the World Cup but were not trusted because of their supreme egotistical talents. England Managers preferred the Milner types. Watch Marsh’s goal against Villa (I think) for Man City.

  24. Geraldo says:

    Three Premier League medals, two FA Cup medals, One League Cup medal, one European Cup Winners Cup medal.

    Lee Sharpe…what an underachieving waste of talent…

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