Friday, June 11, 2010 by Paul Grech
Nowadays, the World Cup is being billed as the event that no one can miss, least of all the players where the pressure to get to play at this stage is today at such a level that not doing so risks getting billed as a failure. Yet a player's greatness is not measured by their appearances in a tournament that comes around every four years. Indeed some of Liverpool's finest players never managed to play in the World Cup
As with many other great players in the club's history, Liddell was Scottish. Liddell was, by all account a fantastic striker who should have graced the World Cup. But, despite playing twenty eight times for Scotland - quite a number considering not only that national teams didn't play as many games back then and that the war robbed him of seven years of his career - Scotland didn't qualify for the 1950 World Cup (or, rather, they withdrew) when Liddell was still at his peak whilst he wasn't chosen for the 1954 competition.
Looking back, it seems incredible that Wales never got to a major championship even when they could count not only on Ian Rush - perhaps the finest striker of his era - but also others of the quality of Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe and Mark Hughes. Unfortunately, they never did make it denying Rush from the ability to show his worth on the highest stage.
As someone who had served in the Rhodesian army, it took a long time for Grobbelaar to become a fixture for the national team of the country of his birth, Zimbabwe. Indeed, it was only when his career was winding down that he got the opportunity to do so. Despite having some good players in the side, notably Peter Ndlovu, Zimbabwe never really managed to maintain a serious challenge to gain qualification.
Heighway was such a brilliant winger that his name is still sung at Anfield today. Sadly for him (well, as far as international football is concerned) he also happened to be Irish in the pre-Jack Charlton days when qualification to major tournaments was still little more than a dream.
Much like Jamie Carragher a couple of decades later, Smith was never much appreciated outside of Anfield. Indeed, for a player who won so much both domestically and on the international stage and was such an influential figure for such a long time, he deserved much more attention from his national team. Yet that wasn't forthcoming and Smith only earned one cap.
Ian St. John
These days, St. John comes across as a somewhat vitriolic figure who isn't very keen on foreign managers. His criticism of Gerard Houllier first and more recently of Rafael Benitez has somewhat soured his reputation but this was one of the key players on whom Bill Shankly based his revolution, turning Liverpool from a mid-table Second Division side to English champions in the space of three seasons. Yet, despite a wealth of talent, the Scottish sides of St. John's era found it hard to qualify for the World Cup.
Looking back, it looks astounding that a left back who won so many titles with Liverpool never really made the grade with England but that's what happened with Kennedy. Kenny Sansom was the favoured left-back when he was playing and seeing that he had a fantastic record of never missing games with injuries, opportunities for Kennedy were limited so that he played only twice for England and never in the World Cup.
Having made his breakthrough for Liverpool, Emlyn Hughes was chosen in the England squad that made it to the World Cup in 1970 but never got to play in what was to be the final hurrah for Alf Ramsey's team. That was to be as close as he would get because England failed to qualify for the next two competitions (1974 and 1978).
His story is, in a way, similar to that of Emlyn Huges in that McDermott was a member in the English squad for the 1982 World Cup but couldn't get a look-in in a midfield where Bryan Robson and Peter Reid were the preferred partnership. It reinforces the view that McDermott, a vital member in Liverpool's all-conquering side, was one of the most under-rated players of his generation.
Since the home nations only started paying any attention to the World Cup in the second half of last century, no Liverpool players from the pre-war era have been considered.