Lewis Dunk joined a very select band of Albion players last weekend, when he was called up to the England squad for the Nations League games against Croatia and Spain.
If he gets any time on the pitch, he will become just the fourth player in Albion’s history to win a full England cap.
The last of these was Steve Foster, who gained three caps in 1982. The first of these was for a Home International fixture against Northern Ireland at Wembley. Foster signed for Albion in the summer of 1979, in time for our first season in the top flight. He won the player of the year award in that first campaign and was made club captain in 1981.
In the 81/82 season he was again magnificent in the heart of our defence and fully deserved his call-up by Ron Greenwood. For the game against Northern Ireland, Foster was paired with Dave Watson, a veteran of 64 caps at the time. England won 4-0 and after another good performance in a friendly against Holland, Foster made the World Cup squad for the finals in Spain.
Terry Butcher and Phil Thompson were Greenwood’s preferred pairing, but for the final group game against Kuwait, Foster became the only Albion player to ever play for England at a World Cup finals tournament. Greenwood resigned immediately afterwards and his successor Bobby Robson preferred Russell Osman to Foster.
Two years previously, at the end of the 1979/80 season, Greenwood had taken an England squad to Australia, as part of the Australian FA Centenary. It was a youthful squad, including a number of up and coming players, such as Glenn Hoddle and Bryan Robson.
Also travelling with the squad was Albion’s Peter Ward. After a golden goal-scoring period, dating back to his league debut in March 1976, Ward had enjoyed a good first season in Division One.
He was comfortably Albion’s top scorer with 16 goals, and many Albion fans felt his call-up was long overdue. He had been included in the preliminary 40-man squad for that summer’s European Championships and was hoping to impress the management further in the one-off fixture.
With England 2-0 up, Wardy was given the nod to strip off. After an agonising wait to go on, he finally made his bow, replacing Arsenal’s Alan Sunderland.
There were just eight minutes to go but Peter Ward had his full England cap. He was never selected again, but this never bothered him.
In Matthew Horner’s biography of Wardy, ‘He Shot, He Scored’, the man himself is quoted as saying “It was an honour and one of my proudest moments. It was only five years after I’d left Burton Albion”.
For information on our first full England international, we have to go back to 1925 and a true Albion legend. Tommy Cook was born in Cuckfield and after serving in the Great War, signed for Albion as an amateur in August 1921. After switching to centre-forward, he went on to make 209 appearances, scoring 123 goals. This is still the record peacetime total for an Albion player.
He attracted the attention of the England selectors and was selected for the game against Wales on February 28, 1925. This was an incredible feat for a Third Division player and he helped England to a 2-1 victory. He continued to play for Albion until 1929, combining this with an equally successful career as a county cricketer. He scored over 20,000 runs for Sussex and came within a whisker of making an England appearance in the summer game.
Dunk has some big Albion boots to fill but judging by his form for the Seagulls over the past few years, there may be many caps around the corner.
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