One of the most difficult questions that we are all posed with at some point in life is: “What is the best England team of all time?” We have had a lot of good players over the years but which XI represents the cream of the crop? I fully expect to incur the wrath of those of you irate about players who I’ve chosen to omit but may I present the case for the defense.
GK: Peter Shilton
Gordon Banks came a very close second on this one but I’ve opted for Mr Reliable. Although Banks was capable of pulling off the most unlikely of saves, Shilton possessed a greater level of reliability. His record is unsurpassed as not only England’s most capped player (125), but also 66-clean sheets. A League and European Cup winner, Shilton also makes my World XI as the man I most trust between the sticks.
Psycho was England’s finest left back and had the passion, courage and determination required to compete at the highest level in spades. The fact that he is one of only a handful of players to regularly turn out for England whilst playing club football in the second tier (with Nottingham Forest in 93/94) is testament to his ability. His costly penalty miss in Italia 90 was more than compensated for by the goals he scored with his trademark thunderous free kicks.
CB: Bobby Moore
Moore was the obvious choice in the heart of defence and was the first name to appear in my World XI. Graceful and precise in his passing, he was the archetypal sportsman and was, of course, the only Englishman ever to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.
A fearless, commanding centre half, his decision to play on with a severe head wound against Sweden in 1989 remains a defining moment in footballing bravery. England’s back four would undoubtedly benefit from a man like Butcher’s influence in South Africa.
RB: Viv Anderson
Viv was a notable player for more than simply being the first black player to represent England. He was an incredible tackler and quick to press forward. Winning only 30 caps was nothing short of disgraceful in return for the extra dimension he added to the national team throughout the late 70s and 80s.
This has been a problem area for England over the years but Barnes was almost certainly the most naturally gifted player in this position. He outpaced several Brazilian defenders in 1984 to score one of the most breathtaking goals ever seen.
CM: Bobby Charlton
His record as England’s highest ever goalscorer remains intact after 40 years. His attacking flair as a midfielder and ferocious long range shot led to a long and prolific career in an England shirt with Alf Ramsey constructing his World Cup winning side around him in 1966.
Captain Marvel represented England 90 times (65 as skipper) and was almost certainly the best player in England in the late 1980s. Injury limited his appearances in the 1986 and 1990 World Cup campaigns when he could have played a pivotal part in guiding us to only our second appearance in a World Cup final.
RM: David Beckham
This may seem contentious given the fine players who have occupied this position including Alan Ball and Tom Finney but in his prime, there was no finer crosser of the ball or free kick specialist than David Beckham. He is England’s most capped outfield player and was all set to become the only Englishman to feature in five World Cup finals prior to tearing his Achilles.
I’ve chosen him ahead of Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst as a confident and in form Shearer was guaranteed to get goals from anywhere. He was a classic centre forward using his strength and physical presence to great effect whilst also being one of the best headers of the ball I’ve ever seen. He was also one of England’s most dependable penalty takers which have been painfully rare.
FW: Gary Lineker
The man who Shearer replaced. There would be no risk of Lineker being sent off in our England XI as he never even received a yellow card throughout the whole of his professional career. He was one of England’s fastest ever players and can boast an impressive ratio of over one goal for every two games he played for the national side. He was dreadfully unlucky to finish one goal shy of Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 strikes in an England shirt.
More importantly, what’s yours?
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