Written by Sam Greasley-Machin (@Greasley_Machin)
Thursday marks the 1000th England international football game for the men’s national side as the Three Lions host Montenegro, with the chance to confirm their place at the European Championships next summer.
Since England’s debut match against Scotland over 147 years ago, the national side has accumulated 568 wins and 189 loses with 2,188 players making their claim as an England international selected by 19 managers, but only one major trophy. Of those 2,188 players there has been a fair share of flops lost in the history books, but also a host of extraordinary talent over the years from which we’ll attempt to pick an all-time greatest England starting 11, substitutes and manger.
Manager – Sir Alf Ramsey
1966 will unsurprisingly be a recurring theme throughout this XI with the World Cup winning side the only English side to win a major tournament or even reach a final. So without much controversy Sir Alf Ramsey takes the managers spot for his heroics with his ‘wingless wonders’.
Goalkeeper – Gordon Banks
Regarded as one of the best, if not the best, goalkeepers of all time Gordon Banks was of course also part of the World Cup winning side. The notorious shot-stopper featured 73 times for the Three Lions and is most notably known for his wonder save against Pele in 1970, to some people the best save of all time. Nonetheless a goalkeeping great who’s legacy has inspired many great goalkeepers that followed him.
Right-back – Gary Neville
One of the greatest right-backs of his generation and one of the best to be produced by England, Gary Neville featured 85 times for the national side. Known for his industrious work-rate and fantastic tackling ability Neville was rarely beaten one-on-one.
Centre-back – Sir Bobby Moore
Captain of the 1966 side Sir Bobby Moore is the best defensive player to wear the Three Lions shirt making 102 appearances. Without question the most iconic English player of all time and most likely the first name the majority of England fans would think to put in their best XI.
Centre-back – Tony Adams
Part of the side that reached the 1996 European semi Tony Adams is renowned as one of the best central defenders to ever play in the UK thanks to his defence prowess and discipline. Making 66 appearances for England, Adams also made captaincy featuring in four tournaments and is the only player to compete for the Three Lions in major tournaments across three separate decades.
Left-back – Ashley Cole
Regarded as the best left-back to play in the Premier League, Ashley Cole also obtained 107 international caps making him the most capped English full-back of all time. Lightning pace and incredible positioning, Cole was known as the best left-back in the world for much of his career.
Right-midfielder – David Beckham
Famous for his trademark free-kicks and long range shooting, David Beckham earned 102 caps for England, 59 of which he was captain. ‘Becks’ single-handedly carried the Three Lions to 2002 World Cup and was the first player to score in three different World Cups for England.
Centre-midfielder – Paul Gascoigne
Widely regarded as England’s most naturally gifted player ever and one of the best to wear the shirt Paul Gascoigne was famously part of the 96 Euro side. Despite off-field troubles and injuries Gazza still earned 57 appearances for England with some of the most memorable performances on the pitch including his wonder goal versus Scotland at Euro ‘96.
Centre-midfielder – Sir Bobby Charlton
Seen as some by the best ever English player, Sir Bobby Charlton was an integral part of the World Cup winning side. Until recently, Charlton held the goalscoring record finding the back of net 49 times in106 appearances, of course this was beaten by Wanye Rooney, but the record stood for many years and took some beating. Known for his sublime passing and long range strike Sir Bobby’s legacy will live on for generations.
Left-midfielder – Sir Stanley Matthews
The first English footballer to receive a knighthood and the only player to earn the honour while still playing, Stanley Matthews earned the name the ‘Wizard of the dribble’. Notorious for his infamous long-shots, Matthews is also the oldest player to ever be called up to represent his country at the age of 42. Across his career he earned 54 caps between 1934-1950 and was also the first player to win the European Player of the Year accolade.
Striker – Wayne Rooney
Perhaps overlooked in his career, but Wayne Rooney’s England record speaks for itself as he became the all-time leading goalscorer with 53 goals in 120 appearances which also makes him the most capped outfield player. Scoring at 17-years-old Rooney is England’s youngest goal-scorer, of course he went onto score many more and while it is argued plenty of his goals were against lesser opposition it’s not how they were scored that goes down in the history books, just how many were scored.
Striker – Jimmy Greaves
44 goals in 57 games means Jimmy Greaves has the best goal to game record of any England player ever. The striker has scored six international hat-tricks, which is yet to be beaten by anyone playing for the Three Lions. Greaves had played a crucial part in the 1966 World Cup campaign until he was injured late in the group stages – although his replacement Geoff Hurst worked out alright.
Substitutes: Peter Shilton, George Cohen, John Terry, Terry Butcher, Bobby Robson, Duncan Edwards, Tom Finney, Gary Lineker, Geoff Hurst.
No doubt this all time best England XI might cause some controversies so get involved and comment your suggestions below and follow the discussion on Twitter @NerveSport.