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

Written by Sport, Sport Features

The final two rounds see some classic barrel scraping from the writers as they try and finish off their team.

Round Eleven

Andrew White: Mick Mills

Left-Back is a problem that England have a noticeable absence of quality at throughout the history of the national team. With Cole, Sansom and Pearce already gone, the task of a quality left-back became a lot harder. One player that has arguably been lost in history is Mick Mills. England full-back between 1972-1982, Mills accumulated 42 caps and captained England to the 1982 World Cup. Equally gifted at both right-back and left-back, Mills played at both positions for England. Confusion over his best position caused problems for him during his England career but that is exactly the sort of managerial headache I’d like my manager to have. Versatility is never a bad thing. For some context in 1978, he played eight games for England with 6 at left-back and two at right-back. At the 82 World Cup, he started two games at right-back and one as left back. What is noticeable however, is the one constant in that team was Mills. He was selected over Phil Neal when right-back and over Kenny Samsom when left-back, both of whom are England greats in their own right.

Mills was a magnificent player who wasn’t afraid to sacrifice himself for the team and with that selflessness and versatility at the full-back position, he fits perfectly into my team. Football fans (other than Ipswich where he is the all-time appearance holder) may have largely forgotten about Mills, but he was a great player and fully merits his inclusion in this team.

(Dare I say it, he’s my most underrated pick.)

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Tom Hardwick: William Foulke

My team was still without a goalkeeper at this late stage, so I decided to delve back into the late 1800s and draft William Foulke. He is not only a member of the illustrious one-cap wonder club (with David Nugent and Francis Jeffers) but he is most likely the heaviest player England have ever fielded. ‘Fatty Foulke’, as he was known, was 6 foot 4, making him as tall as Geordie target man Andy Carrol. He was reported as weighing a colossal 24 stone towards the end of his career, which my extensive scientific research tells me is the same as 2 Riyadh Mahrez’s with a half a Jesse Lingard for good measure.

In fairness to Foulke, he was a decent player too. Despite only making one England appearance against Wales in 1897, he won 2 FA Cups and the First Division at Sheffield United before a move to Chelsea. He also owned a pub in Sheffield and would walk around with his FA Cup medals on a chain around his neck- perhaps a bit over the top, but a man of his stature probably isn’t going to be told to do otherwise. He was described in match reports as being ‘as big as a mountain but as agile as a cat’, and if it’s a toss up between him and Rob Green in between the sticks for my side, I know who wins.

Tom Moorcroft: Jesse Lingard

I think the less said about this choice the better really. The pressure certainly got to me, all my notes went out the window, and I had to pick someone to finalise my XI. I thought about my team; I had prolific goalscorers, stunning shot-stoppers, and some of the most consistent lads in the business. However, what I really needed was some comic relief, someone who could keep the lads together off the pitch and relax them before the games. This man was JLingz.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

I haven’t seen a man categorised by his dance moves since the likes of Peter Crouch and the robot. In those odd moments when he bags a goal, you can rest assured that Jesse will run to a corner and pull out a few shapes for the fans. We’ve seen the conventional dab, the milly-rock, the pied piper and even the teapot, so what he might not make up for in goals, he makes up for in flair. I even think that a few lads on the team will be eager to set him up for a strike, in the hopes they can see just what dance move he’ll come out with next.

While notably deemed as a ‘young prospect’ by Man U fans, this 27 year old has had 24 appearances, and nabbed 4 goals, in his England career. While the future is somewhat still bright for Jesse, we’ll have to hope for a run of form before he puts the three lions on again.

Rebecca Johnson: Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Perhaps an odd choice in an England all-time XI, but Loftus-Cheek is one of those consistently good players I’ve seen wearing an England shirt. He thrived for England’s youth sides and won Player of the Tournament in the U21’s Toulon Tournament in 2016. When he isn’t hampered by injury woes, he is an asset for any side, even on his debut in 2017 he won Man of the Match against Germany.

Loftus-Cheek is a player starting to show his capabilities for his national team. Although he didn’t get a lot of playing time at the 2018 World Cup, what you did see was a calm and collected midfielder who doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything and relishes a challenge, an attitude that is to be commended in a player. With a big physical dominance on the pitch, able to produce goal-scoring opportunities or get back and defend, Loftus-Cheek has the potential to become one of England’s greats and he makes it in my team as a protégé to learn from those around him.

Colm Williams: Jimmy Dickinson

He was a one club legend, making 764 appearances for Portsmouth. He is the second most capped player by one club in English football history. The majority of his club career was in the First Division however he stayed at Pompey despite being relegated to the Second and Third Divisions. This loyalty and passion is key for a player in the national side. Dickinson gained 48 caps for England mainly as a defensive left winger, although some at left back. This versatility is key as Dickinson would be able to adapt to any change of tactics. 

Pat Harland: Sven Goran Erikssen (manager)

Image – Wikipedia

Sven, arguably one of the best managers England has had, although he didn’t win any trophies he made it to the quarter-finals of both the world cups he managed in. Also achieving the quarters for the 2004 Euro’s. Of the 67 games he managed, 40 of those were wins. Despite his short career as a player, retiring after only 9 years of senior football at 27 his managerial one is very different, with what you could call a journeyman career he headed teams in ten different countries. He is also a very experienced manager at the international level having managed four sides in international tournaments. With Alf Ramsay gone who better to take over the side than the man that the FA themselves have ranked as the second most successful England manager. Despite media criticism he is one of the great managers of the game and was responsible for the upward trajectory of the England team now to be in the position it is. He started it all off again when he brought them up 12 places in the FIFA world rankings. Not the most aware guy, but a sound manager had to be my pick.

Jack Smillie: Ben Chilwell

Image – Wikimedia Commons

I had two men left on my shortlist for the left back role: Ben Chilwell and Wayne Bridge. But seeming as I already have John Terry in my defence, I thought Chilwell would be the safer option. You know, team chemistry and that. Nonetheless, Chilwell is part of a new breed of English fullbacks. Daring, attacking and with license to roam, Chilwell is at the start of English career. With only 11 appearances thus far, Chilwell took England to third place in the Nations League and looks to be a core component of Southgate’s plans moving forwards.

Joe Smith: Joe Mercer (Manager)

Every great team needs a great caretaker manager. That’s the saying isn’t it? Okay so Joe Mercer wasn’t an official manager but a caretaker one, but i checked the rule book and it still counts. He was the gaffer for seven games. His squad one three, drew three and lost one. Not too shabby if you ask me, especially for a step-in manager. Can he be the one to take my frankly shambolic draft team to glory? Yes he bloody can.

Sesh Subramanian: Micah Richards

Micah Richards was unlucky not to have played more for England – his career’s prime coinciding with Fabio Capello’s tenure as England manager who completely froze him out. A Premier League winner with Manchester City, Richards has the know how to win games and could be a good defensive as well as attacking option on the right hand side of defence.

Stan Gilyead: David Watson

I’ll admit that by this late stage of the draft I was scraping the barrel a bit, but considering all the players that had been taken I think Watson’s a solid pick. A former England captain Dave Watson would provide leadership at the back. The no nonsense defender won 65 caps for England, the most of any England player not to play in a World Cup, and helped England to their first major tournament in a decade as they qualified for Euro 1980. A seasoned pro, Watson made 276 first division appearances for Manchester City, Southampton and Stoke, I think he makes a solid if unspectacular last player pick.

Toby Bryant: Joleon Lescott

Image – Wikimedia Commons

This late in the game, I was stretched for options at centre-back. Wes Brown sprung to mind but a lack of any substantial run internationally meant he wasn’t a viable choice. Former Everton defender, Joleon Lescott, however, enjoyed stints under Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. A timely first goal came against France in England’s opening match of Euro 2012.

Rory Ewart: Roger Byrne

A Walter Winterbottom favourite, Byrne was a pivotal member of the national team throughout the 1950s. Perhaps lacking in natural ability, his clear work ethic and football brain meant that, as a full-back, he began to add himself into attacking play at a time before this became fashionable to do.

Byrne holds a unique record in that he earned each of his 33 England caps in succession to one and other, a consecutive run that is yet to be beaten. He was highly tipped for England captaincy, and likely many more caps if it weren’t for his tragic death in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958. He was 28. Had he arrived home, Byrne would have found out that his wife, Joy, was pregnant with their first child.

Dom Lee: Neil Franklin

Another Stokie and possibly the best footballer you’ve never heard of! No really there’s even a book about it! Neil Franklin was capped 27 times for England but one bad decision cost him the recognition which others got ahead of him. After a falling out with then Stoke City boss Bob McGrory, Franklin decided to leave England just months before the 1950 World Cup and declined his place in the squad. His destination? Colombia. Franklin made a measly 6 appearances for Independiente Santa Fe before returning to England and Hull City. However, his England chances were gone. Despite this Franklin was widely recognised as one of England’s greatest defenders and placed huge importance on being a technically good footballer as well as a tough defender. If only Franklin had not fallen out with McGrory all those years back we may think of Franklin as highly as we do players such as Billy Wright and Bobby Moore.

Round Twelve

Dom Lee: Wayne Bridge

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Wayne Bridge’s fame is probably due to something else rather than his football, which is pretty unfair considering he was a talented left back. Wayne Bridge had fantastic pace and a thunderous shot which kept him in the England squad for a long time. Unfortunately for him he had his fellow Chelsea man Ashley Cole ahead of him and failed to crack the starting line up on most occasions. Still Bridge made 36 appearances for England which gives him more than enough pedigree to be the player to round out my squad.

Rory Ewart: Steve Coppell

A steady choice for England squads of the late seventies and early eighties, Steve Coppell seemed a fitting final pick where all of the household names had now evaporated.

Earning 42 caps by any stretch is a huge achievement, though Coppell will likely fee he was let down by his own body. A reoccurring issue to his ACL forced Coppell to call time on his career at only 28 – with the injury later revealing that Coppell had no choice but to remove the ACL after retirement.

Despite this, Coppell did achieve notable success in his international career. Perhaps most notably was his single goal in a narrow 1-0 victory over Scotland at Hampden Park in 1978.

Toby Bryant: Glenn Hoddle (manager)

Image – Wikimedia Commons

You’ve got to love Glenn. Qualification for the 1998 World Cup and a phenomenal 60% win rate mark him out as one of the international side’s most underrated. Controversy over Paul Gascoigne’s omission from the side and his own religious beliefs may stain an otherwise solid stint. I trust the man with my steely side.

Stan Gilyead: Kevin Keegan (manager)

My team’s definitely better in attack than defense. We aren’t going to grind out many 1-0s but if we have a manager willing to go all out to try and outscore the opposition we stand a chance. With that in mind there’s only one man for the job. Kevin Keegan. His time in charge of the England team wasn’t hugely successful, but he’s got great pedigree at club level and with a team that suits his almost irresponsibly attacking style he’d be sure to do a good job. Above all Keegan’s got the passion and the will to win for the job, he’d love it if we beat them, love it.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Sesh Subramanian: Joey Barton

Image – Wikipedia

I just needed someone to be physical in midfield and be that tough tackling, no-nonsense midfielder beside Alan Ball and Mason Mount so that the two creative lads could do their thing knowing they had protection behind them. Intercepting moves, tackling hard and the occasional nudge here and there from the man sitting right in front of the back four – that’s Joey Barton’s territory and nobody does it better.

Joe Smith: Callum Wilson

I’m not going to lie to you, there isn’t much to say about Wilson other than, “He’s alright” or “He plays for Bournemouth doesn’t he.” Which I think sums him up quite nicely. He was the first Bournemouth player to score for England, with said goal taking place in a 3-0 victory over the USA in a friendly game at Wembley. Why did I pick Wilson? I was late to the last draft pickings that’s why

Jack Smillie: Robbie Fowler

Image – Wikimedia Commons

For my twelfth and final pick I decided to balance out my formation, solidify the 4-3-3 and select another striker to join my Lineker-Haynes partnership. Fortuitously Robbie Fowler was still available. Admittedly, Fowler enjoyed better form for Liverpool than his national side, but he still bagged 7 goals in 26 appearances, including a goal against Albania at St James’ Park, proving the worth of goal-poaching. Fowler struggled with a serious knee injury ahead of the ‘98 campaign, so missed out, and faced strong competition from other top English strikers. But his creative instinct no doubt places him amongst the English elite.

Pat Harland: Danny Welbeck

The once rising star of Manchester United and England, Danny Welbeck, he has had a career mired with injury. Similar to Theo Walcott or Jack Wilshere, Welbeck was never able to convert his good start into a proper innings, it won’t make me many fans but I will say the one thing that links these three players, Arsenal. Not my preferred striker but with the last pick this is what you have to do, I’m picking Danny based on his good moments, his 42 caps for country coming with 16 goals. No matter his record, his work-rate can’t be faulted and physically he’s as strong and quick as any other man in the team. His intelligent play will work perfectly in my side, he isn’t needed to score goals, he’s needed to help Rashford get them. So although when picking him I was slightly scraping the barrel, in reality what I have is a hidden gem of a player who I hope in my side would reach the potential he hasn’t quite hit.

Image – Wikipedia

Colm Williams: Fabio Capello (manager)

Fabio Capello is one of the most decorated managers of the game. Having won several league titles in Italy and Spain as well as the pinnacle of domestic football the Champions League, whilst manager of giants AC Milan. The Italian during his five year stint as England manager achieved a 66.7% win rate, this is only bettered by Sam Allardyce who was only manager for one game.  Capello has been successful everywhere as a player and a manager making him a clear choice for manager.

Rebecca Johnson: Eddie Hapgood

In desperate need of a full-back, and hoping to not have to pick Wayne Bridge, I did a bit of digging and uncovered the story of former England captain, Eddie Hapgood.

Earning 30 caps for England, Hapgood wore the armband 21 times for his side. A solid and dominant full-back, he was an England regular up until the outbreak of the Second World War. From a historian’s perspective, Hapgood was involved in some of the biggest games England have ever played. He was captain of the side at the “Battle of Highbury”, where England played a notoriously dirty Italian side, who were proclaimed World champions earlier in 1934 despite allegations of corruption (see my dissertation for more details). England never competed in the 1934 World Cup, and this was seen as the real World Cup final. Hapgood led his side to a well-earned 3-2 win with a broken nose, with many others in his team suffering injury at the hands of the Italians.

Hapgood was also involved in the infamous “Nazi-salute” game where England players were put under pressure by their government to give a Nazi salute before playing Germany. Unfortunately the Second World War cut Hapgood’s career and severely dented it, he never played the same way after the war and never played for England again. A brilliant, physical full-back, he goes into my squad.

Tom Moorcroft: Walter Winterbottom (manager)

Ironically, my last pick is where it all started for the England national side. If you’re not familiar with this name, he was a trailblazer for future England managers, with 139 games managed and a solid statistic of only 28 losses. The last, but by no means least, choice on my side is Walter Winterbottom.

He began his stint as England head coach in 1946, just after serving as an officer in the RAF during WWII. During this time, his involvement in PE schemes across the UK and courses in the FA led to his appointment as the first England national team manager. He was in charge for four World Cups, of which we made it to the quarter finals twice and the group stage twice. He left his position in 1962, just 4 years before his beloved England would lift the trophy with Alf Ramsey.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Winterbottom may not have had many accolades in his role as England manager, but all things considered, he rose to a significantly difficult challenge. He’s renowned as the father of modern English football, with his coaching regimes and training habits designed to get the best out of his team as possible. He most definitely inspired the coaching habits of Bobby Robson, a future England manager. He died in 2002, and on his 100th birthday, in 2013, a bust was unveiled in his memory at St George’s Park. As legends go, I couldn’t think of many more deserving of the title.

Tom Hardwick: Ron Greenwood

I left my managerial pick to the very last, meaning that the likes of Alf Ramsey, Terry Venables, Bobby Robson and Gareth Southgate had been poached. Ron Greenwood started his managerial career at West Ham, being responsible for the development of England legends such as Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, and winning an FA Cup in 1964 and a European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. Greenwood guided England to the 1980 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup, the latter of which saw England being dumped out after a 0-0 draw with host nation Spain despite not having lost a single game. Greenwood’s teams were solid if not exceptional, and perhaps his greatest achievement was his selection of Viv Greenwood, England’s first ever black player. Greenwood was quoted as saying “yellow, purple or black- if they’re good enough, I’ll pick them”, and while he may not rank in the pantheon of England greats, he helped develop some of the country’s very best whilst doing his bit to combat racism.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Andrew White: Dennis Wise

Chelsea legend Dennis Wise was one of the most talented English midfielders of his generation. With 438 Chelsea appearences, two FA cups; a league cup; one UEFA Cup Winners Cup and one UEFA super cup, he had a glittering career. It is fair to say he didn’t have his best of times in an England shirt. Making his debut in May 1992 he scored the only goal as England beat Turkey in a Euro 1992 qualifier. This proved to be his only goal for England. Overlooked by manager’s Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle for Euro 1996 and the 98’ World Cup respectively, a decision both managers were heavily criticised for, it is fair to say Wise is one of the unluckiest England international’s. He finally got his chance at Euro 2000 and played a key role in England defeating Germany in the group stages, England’s first win over Germany in a major tournament since the 1996 World Cup final. However, England crashed out the tournament after defeats by Portugal and Romania.

In my team, Wise would be a key player, acting as the main playmaker in the team. He would have a fairer chance to show his talents than England ever gave him. His eye for a pass would provide Bloomer, Hunt and Woodward with countless goalscoring opportunities that likely be smashed into the net. At the time of his retirement, Wise was Chelsea’s most successful captain of all-time (since overtaken by John Terry), he wouldn’t shy away from tough situations and that’s the mentality I want in my team.

Robson-Dier- Wise. Some midfield.


Last modified: 31st March 2020

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