There are only two types of Hull City player to have won caps for the full England team – those who did so before joining City, and those who did so after leaving City. Taking a break for a moment from sticking pins in a knitted effigy of Gareth “as soon as Jake and Harry leave Hull, I’ll pick ’em” Southgate, we give you a quintet of players of the nation who slummed it at City when their best days were “apparently” behind them…
1: Jake Livermore
“Apparently”, indeed. He’s unique among our players with England connections, is Jake, as he is the only one to have played for his country first before and then after his time with the Tigers, emphasising the “but not during” more than is good for our sanity. He never made it as a first team regular at Tottenham yet somehow got an England call-up from Roy Hodgson in August 2012 for a friendly against Italy. He came on as a sub for Frank Lampard with 20 minutes to go, enough time for people to assume his loan spells at MK Dons, Crewe, Derby, Ipswich, Peterborough and Leeds must have been killer, and then returned to the reserves at White Hart Lane.
He joined City in 2013, initially on loan, became a permanent signing after the FA Cup final in 2014 and left at the start of 2017 when West Brom put in a surprise bid. He had barely been allocated his peg in the dressing room when his England recall arrived, allowing us the torturous prospect of wondering if he had impressed Gareth Southgate while playing for City, and therefore would have got the same call if his move to the Midlands hadn’t happened. We’re unlikely to ever know, though if you do bump into the personable England boss any time soon, make sure you ask him.
Livermore, a fine player, has three caps at the time of writing and is in the latest squad, to the continued incredulity of football writers and Mark Noble fans everywhere. Fraizer Campbell, meanwhile, kind of holds an opposite record to Livermore, in that instead of playing for England either side of his City spell, he played for City either side of his England spell. Or if you prefer, instead of playing for England before and after City, he actually did it after and before.
2: Danny Mills
Has anyone ever liked Danny Mills? You can admire him, if you are a Charlton or Leeds fan, as he was a good player for both, albeit one who always seemed to have too much to say for himself and a chip on both shoulders. If he wasn’t at your club he was a personality easy to despise and you can imagine that he was quite adept at starting fights in empty rooms.
Mills was a Leeds player when he was first called up by England in 2001 and the following year he played every minute of England’s campaign at the 2002 World Cup after becoming first choice right back following injury to Gary Neville. He was soon jettisoned when the Manchester United defender regained his fitness and his international career ended in 2004 with 19 caps.
Two years later, out of favour at Manchester City, he came to the Circle on loan as Phil Parkinson desperately sought reinforcements, experience, friends, spies, anything. Mills played at centre back when he first arrived, giving away a penalty after four minutes of his debut for handball (despite the hand that struck the ball actually belonging to someone else) and after initially performing well, he returned to Manchester after nine appearances, by which time it was well known that he was not a popular figure among the City players, something underlined the following season when he and Ian Ashbee had a few ding-dongs during City’s games against Charlton Athletic, where Mills had gone back for a loan spell.
In retirement, Mills cuts a more sympathetic figure and he is a fair-minded and articulate talking head on the game, but his knack for bearing grievances and causing commotions during his playing days is not one easily forgotten.
3: Stan Mortensen
“Never fear, Morty’s here” was the phrase he apparently used on signing for City in 1955, at the age of 34. Mortensen’s career with England had ended two years before via a stellar 23 goals in 25 games, and oddly, on the back of his hat-trick in the FA Cup final of 1953, a feat that remains unique to this day.
City weren’t high fliers by any stretch in 1955 when he joined and Mortensen was long past the peak of his powers, but he scored the only goal on his debut against Port Vale and remained consistent in a side that couldn’t shape up to the standards of their new centre forward. City were relegated in 1956 with Mortensen injured for the last month, and he left in February 1957 with 22 goals from 46 senior games next to his name.
4: Emlyn Hughes
England qualified as holders for the 1970 World Cup and then failed spectacularly to reach any tournaments until the 1980 European Championships, and only one player featured in both squads. Hughes was a utility defender and midfield player of endless exuberance who in 1970 was the youngest squad member in Mexico, there to act as cover for numerous positions, and he never kicked a ball. In 1980, he was the former skipper picked for his unique tournament experience as a squad in wholly new territory went to Italy for the eight-team Euro finals, and again he never kicked a ball; indeed, he had by then played his final England game.
Three years later, he joined City. It was all larks, really; it looked odds-on that Colin Appleton’s hardworking but supremely entertaining team was going to be promoted out of the Fourth Division, and chairman Don Robinson asked his manager if he fancied giving Hughes, now 35, a few games in the City defence to put a few extra bums on seats and attract a camera or two. Appleton agreed and Hughes, a personal friend of Robinson’s as his dad was an old rugby chum, played a handful of matches as City went up in second place. A few years later he joined the board.
Of the 62 caps he won, 59 were while he was winning all and sundry with Liverpool and in the week when he would have turned 70 it’s nicely fitting to note that he remains the most capped England player ever to pull on a City shirt.
5: Anthony Gardner
It never ceases to amaze the football-loving majority that Gardner, one of the most injury prone players not to have his career actually ended by injury, managed to play for England. Never mind whether he was good enough (he wasn’t), just having him fit for any period of time was a novelty in itself, miraculous even. This was a centre back who had eight years with Tottenham Hotspur and only played 114 league games because he was never fit for any acceptable length of time.
His cap came under Sven Goran Eriksson, who sent him on as a half time substitute for John Terry in 2004 against Sweden. Also coming on as a sub at half time to play alongside him was one Gareth Southgate. Sweden won the game 1-0 (Ibrahimović, no less) and Gardner didn’t feature again. In the build up to Euro 2004, Eriksson was exploring all centre back options available as Rio Ferdinand was suspended following his missed drugs test; after this one, he discounted Gardner entirely.
City bought him after a short loan spell in 2008 to partner, and possibly guide, Michael Turner in the art of Premier League defensive mastery yet it was Turner who ended up doing the educating, but mainly to Kamil Zayatte, as Gardner couldn’t stay fit over two seasons and when he was healthy enough to be picked, rarely impressed. After City were relegated, he left for a loan spell at Crystal Palace and joined them permanently, then went to Sheffield Wednesday (as did, later, both Zayatte and Turner, coincidentally). He has been without a club since 2014 but there is no evidence he has actually retired. Maybe he still wants to make up for all the games he missed when he was younger.
We’ve counted 17 players in the post-war period who played for England during the glitzier part of their careers and then joined City afterwards.