England's forgotten 2018 World Cup stars: where are they now?

Henry Burt
Phil Jones' last England caps came in 2018
Phil Jones' last England caps came in 2018 / GIUSEPPE CACACE/GettyImages
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The Mandela Effect is a psychological phenomenon in which scores of people find themselves sharing the same false memory, in spite of said memory never taking place.

It got its name from the widespread belief that South African human rights activist Nelson Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s - despite Mandela leaving prison and going on to become President of South Africa, not passing away until 2013.

Another example of the Mandela Effect can be found within England's 2018 World Cup squad. Millions of England fans will tell you that this was, at the time, the most well-rounded England squad in decades, full of well-liked players and entirely deserving of its eventual run to the semi-finals that year.

Or was it?


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Upon closer inspection of that squad, readers might be shocked to find that Gareth Southgate's first England tournament squad actually contained Phil Jones. Yes, that Phil Jones. The one who has been at Manchester United since 1904 despite playing just 12 games in that time. The eternal joke of English football, the gurning wonder in the flesh. That Phil Jones.

This really begs the question: what else don't we remember about the 2018 England squad? Who else stowed away on the plane to Russia without us realising, and where are they now?

Let's take a look at some forgotten England names of yore.

1. Danny Rose

Danny Rose, Lukas Masopust
Danny Rose's England career could have amounted to more / Thomas Eisenhuth/GettyImages

It seems hard to believe now, but Danny Rose travelled to Russia as comfortably England's best left-back, and one of the best in the Premier League at the time.

This was the era when Luke Shaw was still being bullied by Jose Mourinho, while Ben Chilwell was little more than a twinkle in Claude Puel's eye. While injuries cut Rose's top-level career short, the then-Spurs defender was a no-brainer for inclusion back in 2018.

2. Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard
Lingard was key to the 2018 squad / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Southgate's England was tactically still in its infancy back in 2018, with the manager settling on a slightly stodgy 5-3-2 formation for the World Cup.

Though it provided defensive solidity, it also inhibited the side at times going forward - and forced us to watch Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli all take turns at playing out of position in a three-man midfield.

Lingard was the only one of those three to come close to making the role his own, however, even scoring a stunning goal from distance in England's thrashing of Panama.

A lack of playing time at Manchester United saw Lingard's role in the squad wane after the World Cup - although he did briefly return to the fold following some good form on loan at West Ham.

3. Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy
Vardy scored 7 goals in 26 appearances for England / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Before people who don't know ball were clamouring for Southgate to drop Harry Kane for Callum Wilson, they were doing the same thing but with Jamie Vardy.

Kane won the Golden Boot in Russia, scoring six goals and severely limiting Vardy's playing time. The Leicester striker retired from international duty after this, citing a desire to elongate his career at club level. In hindsight, that seems a wise decision - at 35, Vardy is still banging in the goals and looks as fit as ever.

4. Jack Butland

Jack Butland
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride / Alex Morton/GettyImages

One of the names on this list that has aged particularly poorly, it's hard to imagine Jack Butland anywhere near the England squad now after fading into obscurity following Stoke's relegation from the Premier League.

Surprisingly, no Premier League clubs came in to rescue Butland from the Championship and while he now plays in the top flight for Crystal Palace, his days as an international-standard goalkeeper are behind him. He'll always have his nine caps, though.

5. Danny Welbeck

Danny Welbeck
Welbeck was still an Arsenal player in 2018 / Alex Morton/GettyImages

Don't worry, we don't remember Danny Welbeck being at the 2018 World Cup either.

While the former Manchester United striker's 16 goals in 42 international appearances is a decent record, it's hard to imagine him getting in the squad nowadays.

This speaks to the quality of striker available to Southgate today, with the likes of Wilson, Ivan Toney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all significantly ahead of Welbeck in the pecking order.

6. Gary Cahill

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH60-SWE-ENG
Cahill's last outing in an England shirt / EMMANUEL DUNAND/GettyImages

Gary Cahill made 61 appearances for England and represented his country in four major tournaments. However, the former Chelsea defender made just one appearance at the 2018 World Cup, featuring in the dead rubber group match against Belgium.

Cahill retired from international duty after this, telling Southgate not to call on him unless there was an injury crisis.

7. Phil Jones

Phil Jones
Jones has 27 England caps / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

If you were English and played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, you were all but guaranteed an England call-up at some point. Wes Brown and Tom Cleverley can attest to this.

Which brings us to the inspiration behind this article, Mr. Philip Jones himself. Given the disappointing trajectory his career took following his move to United from Blackburn Rovers in 2011, it's a little surprising he was still featuring for England as late as 2018.

While Jones' reputation was more than a little harsh, it's safe to say England's defensive options have only gotten better in the last four years.

8. Fabian Delph

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia"Belgium v England"
Delph was coming off a career-best season / VI-Images/GettyImages

While he was never a regular in the England side, Fabian Delph's inclusion in 2018 made total sense.

Having just won his first Premier League title filling in as an auxiliary left-back for Manchester City, Delph's versatility made him the ideal utility player to have in the squad.

Along with the aforementioned Cahill, Delph is one of two players on this list to have since retired from the game altogether.

9. Ashley Young

Ashley Young
Young started England's first two group matches in Russia / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Though he was already an elder statesman of the squad by 2018, Ashley Young was still a central figure in the squad that went to Russia.

Playing as an inverted left wing-back, the former Manchester United man was another player with the versatility to make himself indispensable at the time.

Now aged 37, Young has returned to former club Aston Villa and is still playing regular Premier League football. He might not be an England legend, but that's still very impressive.

10. Dele Alli

Dele Alli
Dele had the world at his feet in 2018 / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

We're all familiar with the plight of Dele Alli by now, but it's still astounding to see how far he has fallen in just four years.

Having burst onto the scene following his move to Spurs in 2015, Dele was a rising star within the England squad and scored the second goal in the quarter-final victory over Sweden.

After several years of declining performances at Spurs, Dele moved to Everton in January 2022 before being loaned to Turkish side Besiktas in the summer.

Still only 26 years old, Dele now looks further than ever from recapturing the glory days of 2016 and may well never play for England again.

11. Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Loftus-Cheek's England career has been on hold since 2018 / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Another young midfielder with the world at his feet in 2018, Ruben Loftus-Cheek's career has failed to kick on in the way that many predicted.

A silky and technically strong player, injuries have played a major role in Loftus-Cheek's stagnation and he has failed to hold down a first-team place at Chelsea under a succession of managers.

He's still at Chelsea today, occasionally delivering a performance that has fans drooling over a potential return to the England fold. As of now, however, that doesn't look very likely.


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