Published on February 6, 2013 | by Nathan Evans1
FA 150 – Best England starting XI
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA) this year, we at ALN News Online have assembled what we think is the best English team of all-time. Players eligible must have played for England between 1950 and now, and must have played in the World Cup.
As always the goalkeeper comes first. A name that is often mentioned and will be again today is that of Gordon Banks. The Sheffield lad was an outstanding goalkeeper who earned 76 caps for England with an impressive return of 35 clean sheets. It’s often said that if the ball takes a bounce just before it reaches the goalkeeper it makes it difficult to judge and save it. Banks, however, made this look easy when England took on Brazil and he simply palmed Pele’s downwards header around the post for a corner. That was arguably his greatest save but after the success of 1966, it won’t occupy top spot in his list of favourite memories.
In at right-back we have George Cohen, a man who made only 37 appearances for his country but oozed class when he was on the pitch. As the first choice right-back for the success of ’66 he managed to keep a very classy right-back in the form of Jimmy Armfield out of the line-up.
Turning our focus to left-backs now and one player sticks out: Ashley Cole. Cole is about to make his 100th appearance for England and has been a solid and immovable object since making his debut. Current England manager Roy Hodgson recently said: “Reaching 100 matches is an incredible milestone and he deserves an enormous pat on the back.”
Regardless of the things he has done off the pitch he has still been, arguably, England’s best left-back of all time.
Onto the centre-halves, who are always going to be a tough choice. We are going to start with a true hero to the country, Sir Bobby Moore. Remembered as the original workhorse, Moore earned 108 caps for his country and played every single minute of every single one of them. The iconic picture from ’66 is that of Moore being held aloft by his teammates Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson as he held the trophy.
The moment that typifies the character and calmness of this true gentleman was in the dying seconds of the final of the World Cup whilst England were leading 3-2 against West Germany. The Germans were on the attack and the ball lands at his feet just on the edge of his own box. With all of his surrounding teammates screaming at him to get rid of it Moore instead picked out Hurst from 40 yards away. The latter ran on to score and put the result beyond any doubt at 4-2.
The second centre-half is Terry Butcher. In many people’s minds he’s the man that embodies the England team. Butcher made 77 appearances for his country but there is one that stands out in everyone’s minds. That appearance was the World Cup qualifier against Sweden where Butcher suffered a deep cut to his forehead and was given some make-shift stitches by the physio. As the game continued the bandages began to unravel and fall apart. This was mainly down to Butcher’s constant heading of the ball even with his head cut open. By the end of the match many people thought he had changed into England’s away shirt due to the large amount of blood.
Turning an eye to the midfield. We could almost leave the right midfield space blank simply because every single person in the world would probably fill in the same name, Mr Golden Balls himself, David Beckham.
Many have argued that Beckham is possibly the best player to come out of England ever; he is an icon over the entire world, having earned 115 caps for his country. Beckham is the first real celebrity of the British game but the thing that truly made him famous was his right foot. One of, if not the most iconic memory of him in an England shirt is the last minute free-kick against Greece which sent England though to the 2002 World Cup.
In the centre of midfield is Sir Bobby Charlton. What is there to say about this man that people don’t already know? He made 106 appearances for England scoring 49 times. For a midfielder that’s a extraordinary record. Charlton is a true gentleman who was influential in the ’66 World Cup campaign but surprisingly ineffective in the final having been marked out of the game by a young Franz Beckenbauer. That just shows his importance that he was man-marked by the West Germans.
Charlton’s partner in midfield is none other than Steven Gerrard, an influential part of England’s squad for many years now. Having made his 100th appearance recently against Sweden, Gerrard is the current captain of England after the retirement of former captain John Terry. Gerrard seems to have that edge about him that tends to get the team going when they aren’t firing on all cylinders.
What the following man has done off the pitch is irrelevant at this moment as we are discussing the best English football team. Paul Gascoigne was one amazing player with an outstanding amount of ability on the pitch; he had strength, skill and stamina, the three S’s. Having earned 57 caps for England, Gascoigne returned 10 goals, but one goal in particular will stand out in most people’s mind. That goal is the one where he flicks the ball of Scotland’s Colin Hendry’s head and smashes the ball home in Euro ’96.
Michael Owen heads the England goalscorers list. With a record of 40 goals in 89 appearances he was impressive in an England shirt. One has to wonder that maybe if he hadn’t been plagued with so many injuries would his England career have been longer and possibly more successful? We will never know.
If anyone thought Owen’s record was impressive then this one will blow your socks off. Jimmy Greaves played a mere 57 times for his country, returning 44 goals, which is closer to a goal every game than every two like Owen. Playing for four years at Chelsea and almost having a record as good as his one for England with 157 matches 124 goals.
Now there are many players who could make up this list. If you believe that our England team is not in fact the best, please feel free to comment with your chosen XI.