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The Courier Sport presents: the England best XI draft Part Four

Written by Sport, Sport Features

Wikimedia Commons

The picks are getting harder and harder for our writers as they continue to decide who they want in their all time England XI. Find out how they got on in rounds seven and eight here.

Round Seven

Andrew White: Steve Bloomer

With Moore, Armfield and Butcher at the back, my defence already seemed formidable and so I decided to take a man out of midfield and use a 4-3-3 formation. With Hunt and Hunter already in the side, I needed someone equally as prolific as them. I wanted a team that would have chemistry on the field as opposed to a random team of 11 good English players, so my attention turned to another old-school forward. Steve Bloomer.

Steve Bloomer best known for his time at Derby County, with a bust outside of Pride Park, as well as club anthem “Steve Bloomer’s watchin”, was a suitable pick for my team. He scored an insane 28 goals in 23 caps between the years of 1895 to 1907. He won 8 Home Championships with THE Three Lions and scored in all of his first 10 international appearences, which remains a record. Scoring 19 goas in his first 10 games, he became England’s all-time top scorer on 2nd April 1898. He captained on one occasion and he finished his international career as England’s longest serving player. His goal record was not overtaken until his strike partner in this XI, Viv Woodward overtook him in 1911.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Bloomer as well as Woodward, served in the war. He was held in German prison at Ruhleben, where football became a popular activity at the camp. Bloomer excelled at football and cricket in the camp, winning the annual tournaments for both each year in camp. It is said that when the war finished and he left Ruhleben, a farewell football match was held in his honour.

After the war, he coached Real Union in Spain winning the Copa Del Rey, which during the 1920’s was used as a way to determine the Spanish Champions. With the champion of each regional league qualifying. Bloomer’s union beat Barcelona 5-1 in the Semi-Final and Real Madrid 1-0 in the final.

Alongside Hunt and Woodward he finalises a strike force that would work and score goals for fun. Bloomer and Woodward played alongside each other at the end of Bloomer’s England career and as England’s two most prolific strikers ever, they are great additions to my side.

Tom Hardwick: Harry Maguire

With Pearce and Trippier filling my full back spots, it was time to bring in a fellow Sheffielder and former blade as the first centre back in my England XI. ‘Slabhead’ has picked up 27 caps since making his debut in 2017, strengthening a back line that had consistently caused problems since the departures of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. Maguire gives nothing less than 100% when representing his country, always offering a calm head and defensive solidity, as well as an imposing aerial threat. He was another crucial element of the 2018 team that gave the country such hope, with his thundering header against Sweden setting England on their way to the semi-finals. Still only 27, Maguire has a long international career ahead of him, and he will no doubt justify his inclusion in my squad.

Tom Moorcroft: Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry is the true definition of a legend. He may not score flashy goals, or have the flair of diving recklessly into silly challenges, but he stays true to his game-plan and always delivers. He puts in a shift every time he steps on that pitch, and by just doing his job, getting the ball, and passing it on to whoever might use it, he’s putting his team first.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

This doesn’t mean Barry’s allergic to the odd spout of class. He’s scored a few goals here and there, scoring England’s 2,000th international goal against Sweden in 2011. Through 53 appearances and 3 goals for the Lions, he’s worked tirelessly, as the true catalyst of the England midfield. When he steps on the pitch he has a certain calmness and cool to his play which relaxes those around him, and after 653 appearances in the Prem (an all-time record), he’s certainly seen it all.

When I first got into football around 7-8 years ago, Barry was one of the standout players in the Everton side. Often my mates would ask me “who’s your favourite player”, and after some debate, I decided it was Barry. Whilst footballers may often seem a million miles away from their fans, Barry was the first spark of normal I saw. With a strong and tenacious attitude, he’s not only had a fantastic career, but his cool style of play has supported those around him. So my defensive midfielder, our own Sergio Busquets, is Gareth Barry.

Rebecca Johnson: Des Walker

Image – Wikipedia

Needing another partner to Jack Charlton at centre-half, where else to look than Des Walker?

Walker earned 59 caps for England and established himself as a solid centre-half for the national side. He’s everything you’d want in a modern centre-half, a no-nonsense defender with a bit of pace about him, making him perfect to catch that runner and stop him with a big crunching tackle.

Colm Williams: Mick Channon

Mick Channon was a Southampton legend, who was part of the legendary FA Cup win in 1976 whilst the Saints were in the Second Division. Channon was a tough player who had over 250 career goals, however was unfortunate that during his career England failed to qualify for three major tournaments. Channon is the most capped England player to not be named in a World Cup or European Championship squad. This robbed him of the chance to fully stake his claim as an England legend despite being 18th joint top scorer for the Three Lions, netting 21 times in 46 caps.  Although his unfortunate with his lack of opportunity at international level, Mick was immortalised due to his signature windmill celebration. 

Pat Harland: Martin Keown

The Arsenal man is a solid addition to my back line, a defensive powerhouse throughout his career. He earned 43 caps for England duing his career, representing England at four major tournaments, including the 1998 and 2002 world cups. In my team he will be partnering with Jamie Carragher in the centre of my defence and form a strong backbone for the team.

Jack Smillie: Johnny Haynes

Well, Johnny Haynes, where do I begin. A Fulham legend through and through, and one of the greatest attacking players to ever grace an England shirt. Haynes found the net 18 times from 56 games, including 22 matches as captain. A 19-year old Haynes scored one and assisted the other in a 2-0 away victory in Belfast on his debut. He never looked back. Haynes went on to represent his nation at the 1958 World Cup and captained the side for the 1962 tournament. He was due to lead out the side on home soil in ‘66 if it wasn’t for a car accident in Blackpool which cut short his international career. Haynes was fiercely loyal and had no weak foot, dubbing him “the maestro”. Haynes’ credibility was certified by being one of the signatories of a letter to The Times in 1958, opposing apartheid in sport and upholding racial equality and equal treatment.

Joe Smith: Emile Heskey

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Yet again, sorry everyone. I feel like it’s my responsibility to give some of England’s least favourable players a chance. Emile Heskey, not the best player, not the worst player, just very very average. However, it’s his mistakes that he’s known for. Whether that’s his plethora of missed sitters or him injuring Rio Ferdinand in training meaning he could no longer play in the 2010 world cup.

Moving past his flaws, Heskey had an impressive 62 appearances for England and during that time scored a less impressive seven goals before retiring from international football in 2010.

Sesh Subramanian: Joe Gomez

When Hendo and Trent got picked one after the other, I knew I had to get in a Liverpool player into my team as a Liverpool fan and who better than the best English centre-back right now? He’s quick, he has a great sense of positioning, he is good in the air and great on the tackle and he can play multiple positions on the pitch including at right back if needed. And all that is without even mentioning his ball playing ability. Gomez is the obvious choice to partner the more tough tackling Sol Campbell at the heart of defence and keep clean sheet after clean sheet.

Stan Gilyead: Mark Wright

A no nonsense centre back, Mark Wright played an important part in England’s best World Cup campaign since ’66, as he helped them reach the semi-finals of Italia ’90. Solid throughout the tournament Wright’s most memorable moment in an England shirt came in the final group game against Egypt, as he scored the only goal of the game to ensure England topped the group. Wright won 45 England caps over his career and also captained Liverpool at club level. A born leader, cool under pressure and solid as a rock Mark Wright is an unsung England hero who according to Roy McFarland “had it all”.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Toby Bryant: Leighton Baines

A legend of a full-back, few players have my heart more than Leighton Baines. Only 30 England caps are far too few for the versatile defender. His assisting prowess at club level did carry over internationally, and I reckon his crosses would pick out Crouchy up front in my side no problem.

Rory Ewart: Bobby Robson (Manager)

Bobby Robson easily goes down as one the most legendary figures in English football history, with his man-management attributing to some of today’s top football managers own coaching styles.

Robson’s time as England manager didn’t begin in the most upbeat of manners, a loss to Denmark meant the national team failed to qualify for the 1984 European Championships, leading to him offering to resign, just two years into the job.

Thankfully, the FA rejected this, and England qualified for the follow-up World Cup in Mexico, where the infamous “Hand of God” goal from Diego Maradona led to England’s elimination.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

The following World Cup saw England come agonisingly close to their first final since 1966, with Robson becoming the first England manager to lead his side to a semi-final on foreign soil. A 1-1 draw leading to a penalty shootout loss to West Germany, with Robson later admitting that “[N]ot a day goes by when [he] does not think about the semi-final”.

Dom Lee: Lee Dixon

I had to get at least one former Stokie in didn’t I! Lee Dixon is without a doubt one of the finest right backs England have ever produced. However, his England career is mostly one of misfortune as a number of things kept him from producing his best performances for the three lions. Injuries kept him out of Euro ’92, then with England missing the 1994 World Cup Dixon made way for Gary Neville’s ascension to the position. Nonetheless, Dixon is a player who could man mark opposing wingers out of the game and had a cracking shot on him from the edge of the box. He’ll be fantastic bombing up and down my right flank.

Round Eight

Dom Lee: Paul Merson

Clearly a much better player than pundit, Paul Merson in his day was a flying midfielder who could play anywhere in attack. Like Dixon, Merson was part of a failed qualification attempt for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Playing 21 games for England and scoring 3 goals, Merson probably didn’t put in his best performances while in an England shirt but at his best could be an excellent player. So long as I manage to keep him out of the post-game press conferences the controversial Sky Sports pundit might just make a good addition to the team.

Rory Ewart: Gary Cahill

Immediately after the failures of the ‘golden generation’ of England football, the national side went throughout somewhat of a lull phase before the tenure of Gareth Southgate began in 2016. Gary Cahill perhaps is the only true player to have been a key player for the nation throughout this period, who had played no part in the failures of the previous generation.

Image – Wikipedia

Featuring for the first time against Bulgaria in 2010, Cahill would go on to earn 61 England caps in an eight-year spell fort the Three Lions. He would go on to deputies the captaincy under Wayne Rooney in 2014, with him captaining the side on occasion from 2016.

Known largely for his powerful heading ability and raw pace at his prime, Cahill was one of the few guiding lights for England fans in what turned out to be a largely turbulent few years after the international retirements of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in England’s defence, as well as other influential players such as David Beckham.

Toby Bryant: Phil Jagielka

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Can you tell I’m an Everton fan? I know Phil Jagielka isn’t the best bet in central-defence – he’s always been a little short for my liking. Nonetheless, he is a calm head on experienced shoulders. 40 England caps is perhaps more than you’d expect from the now 37-year-old, but appearances across competitions from 2008 to 2016 shows just how reliable Jags is.

Stan Gilyead: Michael Carrick

When Pep Guardiola describes a player as “one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever seen” and Xavi calls them “a complete player” you know they’re good. The man they’re talking about is Michael Carrick, one of the most criminally underused England players of recent decades. His calm presence, extraordinary technique and exquisite range of passing made him a vital part of a highly decorated Manchester United side, but unfortunately due to poor management and the presence of players like Gerrard and Lampard he never really got the chance to showcase his talent in a major international tournament. Despite this Carrick always performed well in his 34 games for England, and in years to come he’ll be thought of as a superb player who was underappreciated by consecutive England managers.

Sesh Subramanian: Jadon Sancho

Possibly the most exciting and skilful winger in English football right now, the Borussia Dortmund player enters his twenties with better stats as a teenager than Messi and Ronaldo. If that isn’t validation enough, I don’t know what is. He is creative, he is wily with a lot of tricks up his sleeve and he can run circles around any defence on any day. He is young and brings flair and speed to a team in a position that has them in its job description.

Joe Smith: Kyle Walker

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Consistent is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Kyle Walker. One of England’s finest modern defenders. He was first called up for England in 2009, before even making an appearance with his first club Sheffield United. His first England match was an U19’s game against Spain, we won’t talk about the score. He played a crucial role in the 2018 world cup making up on of the greatest defensive trios England has ever seen. He’s had a total of 48 caps for England and one goal. An own goal against Belgium, still a goal though? Right?

Jack Smillie: Colin Bell

The name Colin Bell might not be too familiar with many of our readers, but it’s a name you shouldn’t underestimate or overlook. A boy of the North East, Bell was regarded by some as one of England’s finest ever players. Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan and George Best all labeled Bell a brilliant player. The Times listed him as Manchester City’s best ever player. In terms of the national team, Bell came into the fold just after the ‘66 success, appearing 48 times for his country from 1968-1975. A main playmaker in the team, Bell created numerous chances as the team often funnelled their attack through him. Bell tended to dictate the pace of the game, as his side reached the quarter-final of the 1970 World Cup. An all-rounder with impressive stamina, Bell is someone I’d take in my team every day of the week.

Pat Harland: David James

I started to get worried at how few keepers there were around, so dove in for this pick to ensure I got a good stopper. For his services to football he was awarded an MBE after earning 53 caps for England. Despite his injury worries and being dropped by various managers from the national side he still performed heroics for the side and was the first choice keeper for England for long periods of time. An absolute legend, despite playing for Liverpool, and for my team, a safe pair of hands!

Colm Williams: Shaun Wright Phillips

The adopted son of Ian Wright, Shaun Wright-Phillips was a pacey phenomenon on the wing. Making his debut for Manchester City as just a teenager, he impressed significantly to earn a move to José Mourihno’s Chelsea in 2005. With the ‘Special One’s’ endorsement it is clear Wright-Phillips was a hard working and talented player. Despite missing out on a place in the squad for the 2006 World Cup, he maintained his ambition to be a star for his national side. Wright-Phillips earned his place back for the 2010 World Cup, and went on to score six goals in 36 games for the Three Lions. He showed the resilience that many young players lack in today’s game. 

Rebecca Johnson: Phil Neal

As the draft rumbled on with quality players being taken left, right and centre, I realised that my full-back options were slim, if not non-existent.

In need of a decent full-back, I turned to Phil Neal. Neal earned fifty caps for England, including playing in the 1982 World Cup and even scored five goals throughout his international career. A regular presence for club and country, Neal earns a spot in my back four.

Tom Moorcroft: Phil Neville

Phil Neville, the lesser-renowned Neville brother, might raise questions in this squad. Head of Sport Rebecca Johnson even responded saying: “we really are scraping the barrel”. I can’t really say she’s wrong, as my other suggestions of Walker, Trippier, and the other Neville, had been taken. However, if we take a deeper look at his accolades, we can see he’s actually deserving of the role.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

With two long stints at the titans of industry Manchester United, and the future titans that are Everton, he was a versatile and naturally gifted defender. Being able to play across the back-line when needed, and often as a midfielder, he sadly never got the call up for a World Cup game, often representing his country in the Euros. He had his first England call-up in 1996, aged 19, and was an on and off regular up until 2007. In this time he managed 59 appearances, sadly no goals, and was unfortunately seen as the cause of England’s early exit in Euro 2000. After a risky attempt of a tackle against Romania’s Viorel Moldovan, he gave away the penalty which saw us crash out the competition.

However, with his recent success as the head coach of the England Women’s national team, it’s clear that he has a lot of pride for his country. Phil Neville shows that, whilst he maybe didn’t hit the mark in an England top, he’s reliving his potential with the Lionesses.

Tom Hardwick: Emlyn Hughes

At this stage in the draft, most of the usual suspects have already been chosen, but in Emlyn Hughes I think I have found something of a gem. A utility player who could play in the centre of midfield, as well as at centre back and left back, I will be deploying Hughes as a partner for Maguire. Hughes is best known for winning four First Division Titles and two European Cups as part of the legendary Liverpool sides of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. He won 62 international caps, but holds the dubious honour of being the highest capped England player never to feature in an international tournament. Hughes was part of the squad for the 1970 World Cup, but remained on the bench as a result of Alf Ramsey’s tactical oversight, and was unlucky to appear for England most frequently in the barren years of the ‘70s. Hughes still captained his country on several occasions, and perhaps if he had been 10 years younger, he might have had more success in translating his domestic form to the international stage.

Image – Geograph

Andrew White: Chris Woods

The draft was getting towards the business end and I still didn’t have a man between the sticks. With the likes of Banks, Shilton and Seaman already chosen, the task of finding an adequate goalkeeper became more difficult. Then came Chris Woods. You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Woods, with his most successful spell as a player being at Rangers where he won 3 SPL titles. However, his stats for England are surprisingly impressive. He was performing in some of England’s least successful teams and still managed to keep 25 clean sheets in 43 appearences, giving him the best clean sheet ratio of anyone over 10 caps. He was England’s first choice keeper at Euro 1992, leaving David Seaman as second choice keeper. Keeping two clean sheets in his first two games against Denmark and France is especially impressive. However, England failed to score either and with defeat in the third group game against hosts Sweden, England went home.

Keeping Seaman out of the sticks is no mean feat and Woods did himself proud in an England shirt at a time where not many other players can say the same. The attack in my team will give Woods the wins he deserved and ultimately, recognition.

Last modified: 29th March 2020

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