Sheffield United Fan’s Column: The answer to a very difficult question

England's Kyle Walker started his career with Sheffield United
England's Kyle Walker started his career with Sheffield United

When a couple of months ago Kyle Walker and Jamie Vardy started together for England in Lithuania I decided to try and find out when was the previous time that two Sheffield-born players were in the same England line-up.

It was quite a tough task, involving digging through old Rothman’s Yearbooks and various football statistics websites.

Until recently Sheffield did not have a good record when it came to producing top-class players.

Before Walker and Vardy the last Sheffield-born player to represent England was Mel Sterland, who played once in 1988. Other decent Sheffield-born players of this era, such as Scott Sellars, Fraser Digby and John Beresford, never got the same chance, despite playing at a high level.

United and Wednesday were not good enough to have any locally-born players in England contention in the 1970’s, whilst in the 1960’s United’s Mick Jones played for England, but he came from Worksop, as did Alan Hodgkinson before him. Len Badger must have come close a few times but never quite made it.

It’s awful to say it, but Wednesday were actually not a bad side in the 1960’s, and provided a number of England players, notably Ron Springett, but he was a Londoner. Sheffielder Tony Kay played once for England in 1963, by which time he had moved to Everton. Peter Swan, also from Sheffield, played 19 times between 1960 and 1962, and Gerry Young once in 1965, but we can discount him as he was a north-easterner. Surely Swan or Kay must have played alongside the most-famous Sheffield-born England player of all time, World Cup winner Gordon Banks? Well, no. Banks made his England debut in 1963, so he never played with Swan, and in Kay’s only game for England Peter Springett was in goal. Another Sheffield man Johnny Fantham played once for England in 1961, and in the same team as Peter Swan. Surely this must be the one when two Sheffielders last played together for England? But no….

The answer to the question is an unlikely one. United left-back Graham Shaw played five times for England between 1958 and 1962. His last appearance was in a 4-0 win over Wales in November 1962. Also playing in that game was one Fred Hill, for whom it was his second and final England appearance. Who exactly? It turns out that inside-forward Hill was born in Sheffield in 1940, but never played for United or Wednesday. Instead he ended up at Bolton Wanderers, for whom he played between 1957 and 1969. He then went on to Halifax Town, Manchester City, Peterborough United and Hibernians of Cork, before retiring in 1975.

So, when last week England lined up against Germany with Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy in the starting eleven and then Kyle Walker came on for Kieran Trippier it meant there were three Sheffield-born players on the pitch, for a few minutes at least until Vardy went off. If you expect me to find out when this last happened you can think again.

With Barnsley’s John Stones and Doncaster’s Danny Rose also in the team, Dronfield’s Gary Cahill on the bench and another Sheffielder Dominic Calvert-Lewin on standby, it is a boom time for football in the Star’s reporting region. If only our six clubs could attain the same standard…

One final thought about the England game. Gareth Southgate trialled the wing-back formation that United play, but unlike the Blades, the two wide central defenders rarely ventured forward. The only one who tried was Harry, but then he’s been doing that since he was 18. Perhaps Gareth could learn something from our Chris.