No City player has ever played for England, of course*, but a decent handful have lined up against them down the years. Robert Snodgrass and David Marshall are in contention to do so for Scotland this weekend, so we’re looking back at five others. No overseas City player has ever done it against England while on our books**, so they’re all from the British Isles…
1: Stuart Elliott
City’s great hero of the lower divisions under Peter Taylor also became a semi-regular Northern Ireland international after joining the Tigers. Two of his 38 appearances came against England when the two sides were put in the same qualifying group for the 2006 World Cup, with wildly mixed results.
Elliott made little impact in England’s 4-0 win at Old Trafford in March 2005, marked out of the game as he was by Gary Neville, but six months later at Windsor Park he was up against the less experienced – and less good – Luke Young and was able to contribute to a fine team performance that resulted in a shock 1-0 win for Lawrie Sanchez’s side. Elliott is the player following in as David Healy’s shot hits the back of the net.
Even by the mid 2000s, City had few international players at any level of the global game, and there was genuine interest in Elliott’s escapades with his country beyond the usual prayers – perhaps appropriately, in his case – that he wouldn’t come back with an injury at a time when we were over-reliant on his goals.
Elliott is only the second City player to feature twice against England for his country while on the books with the club – his fellow Ulsterman Terry Neill was the first.
2: Dave Roberts
Massively underrated and admirably hirsute centre back of the 1970s, spoken of in equal terms to modern heroes of the defensive art by those who saw him play, and a semi-regular for Wales at a time when they had temerity to get to the last eight of the European Championships.
Within his 11 appearances for Wales as a City player, Roberts wore the wonderful 70s Welsh kit with that yellow bordered stripe down from each armpit of the red shirt a number of times. One such game was against England at Wembley in the 1977 Home Championship, which Wales won 1-0 courtesy of a first half penalty from Leighton James.
It was only as a late sub for Leighton Phillips that Roberts made his appearance, but he stiffened up a Wales rearguard that manfully held off swathes of second half England attacks (which included ex-City striker Stuart Pearson) to clinch what remains their only ever win at Wembley. He left City after relegation in 1978, a year before his international manager Mike Smith came to Boothferry Park.
3: Gerry Bowler
A largely unremarkable centre half who spent just one season with City but during that time played in a dually infamous game against England.
Firstly, England won 9-2 (NINE-TWO, as the earliest vidiprinter would have it) with Jack Rowley scoring four times for England in a match played at Manchester City’s old Maine Road ground. Bowler’s debut had come in the previous tie against Scotland, which had ended in an 8-2 (EIGHT-TWO) defeat. Few international careers have started so unpromisingly, you could say, though Bowler was played out of position on both occasions.
Beyond the on-pitch incompetence, though, political storms were brewing as Bowler and co were playing for what was effectively a united Ireland side, as two teams existed but players from either side of the border were eligible for each, leading to the ludicrous situation of some players featuring in two different sides during a World Cup qualifying campaign. FIFA put a stop to it afterwards and the FAI and the IFA were told to pick players born within their own borders only (until Jack Charlton and others found a way round it a generation later).
Bowler, born in Londonderry, only played for the incarnation north of the border anyway, preventing us from having the novelty of a player to be picked by two different national associations. He featured in all three games in that 1949/50 tournament (the third was a goalless draw against Wales) and at the end of that season he left City for Millwall and his international career ended simultaneously.
4: Andy Robertson
Not just played, but scored. Good day all round for City fans that care about the international team – win the match but see a promising City player, still in new and fresh surroundings at both levels of the game, score a cracking consolation for the opposition. And this was when he was a meagre 20 years of age and still a year away from getting his first goal for City.
Robertson is only the second serving City player to score against England – Neill, again, was the first, in 1972 (Neill is the first at pretty much everything when it comes to linking City players with international football) – and the gifted left back would have been first pick to play at Wembley this weekend but for his injury. Whether the Scotland hierarchy have checked the birth history of Josh Tymon’s family is unclear.
5: Alan Jarvis
Tireless midfielder of the mid 1960s, one of the workhorses that did all the unglamorous stuff while the likes of Chilton and Wagstaff took the glory, Wrexham-born Jarvis acquired all three of his Wales caps in a six month period following City’s Third Division title win of 1966.
The second of these appearances was in a 5-1 cuffing by an England side whose success in the World Cup certainly ran City a close second for most impressive footballing achievement of the year. Alf Ramsey’s men carried an aura and a mystique that made lesser men weaken visibly, and he notably picked the exact same winning XI from July that year (for the sixth and final game in a row, in fact), with Jarvis having to do battle with the likes of Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball, both at the top of their game in the middle of the park.
Jarvis stayed at City until 1971 but found himself marginalised at club level as the likes of Malcolm Lord and Billy Wilkinson began to get more games. His international career ended almost as soon as it began.
*Gordon Wright was registered with Cambridge University at the time of his only full England cap.
**Jozy Altidore was never a fully-registered Hull City player and his loan spell with the Tigers was over by the time he lined up for the USA against England at the 2010 World Cup.