Emile Heskey has claimed Gary Neville urged his England teammates to go on strike in support of Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand was handed an eight-month ban in December 2003 for a failed drugs test and would miss England’s Euro 2004 campaign.
Neville and Heskey were both part of the squad for the tournament with the Three Lions eventually losing to Portugal in the quarter-finals.
But Heskey has claimed Neville wanted England’s players to go on strike because of Ferdinand’s ban.
“Gary Neville, who was the self-appointed union representative for us, I guess, urged us all to refuse to play for England to support Rio,” Heskey writes in his autobiography.
“I was still a young player in the squad and I just nodded my head and was happy to go along with whatever the rest of the group wanted. Gary kept pushing us all not to play and I think people didn’t feel completely comfortable about it.
“Everyone liked Rio, but everyone wanted to play. It was a little bit like the Gary Neville Show, and I guess if Rio had asked us to back him, we would have, without all the threats.”
Heskey has already riled one of his former teammates by doubting Steven Gerrard’s managerial credentials.
The former Liverpool striker suggested Gerrard’s skin colour was behind the decision to hand him the Rangers job, with other BAME managers overlooked.
“I can point towards medals. Sol has got more than Stevie. Ashley Cole’s got more than any of them.
“They are going to get those jobs. I can only point towards skin colours.:
But ahead of his side’s win over Feyenoord, Gerrard said: “I don’t have anything to say on that.
“I don’t really look out for any interviews that Emile Heskey does.”