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

Written by Sport, Sport Features

England line-up

In the second installment of the draft, our writers share who they picked in rounds three and four.

Round Three

Andrew White: Terry Butcher

Butcher was a standout player at a time where England were faltering before the run to the 1990 World Cup semi-final, a side he captained. He was a brilliant leader and the ultimate British Bulldog. Everyone has seen the photo of a bloodied Butcher in 1989. (Insert photo) he was a warrior for England and if he and Moore were to play together at the same time, it’d be England’s greatest ever pairing.

Italy manager Arrigo Sachi gave Butcher a fitting tribute “Butcher, sempre Butcher” – always Butcher.

A true legend.

Tom Hardwick: Stuart Pearce

Tom Moorcroft: Ashley Cole

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Although he’s unfortunately more known for his actions off the pitch, Ashley Cole has cemented himself as one of the best, if not THE best, LB that both the Premier League and England have ever seen. He managed to take a position more known for the weaker players on a team (to quote Jamie Carragher, you’re either a “failed winger or a failed CB”), and through pure grit and determination become a stand out player on any football pitch. As good up the pitch as he was back, he gave it his all whenever he put the three lions on. One can hope that his football prowess can shine light away from his off-the-field problems. He sadly never scored any goals for England, but the 117 appearances he made for his country surely define him as a legend.

Rebecca Johnson: Jack Charlton

Every team needs a good centre-half and for me, that’s World Cup winner, Jack Charlton.

Often overshadowed by his brother, Bobby Charlton, Jack was an integral part to England’s World Cup set-up, partnering Bobby Moore at the back and acting as a no nonsense “when in doubt, kick it out” centre-half.

Charlton may “only” have 35 caps for England, but in that time he became a crucial part of a solid back four and scored six goals for his country. He slots in at centre-half for me.

Ray Wilson (right)
Image – Wikimedia Commons

Colm Williams: Ray Wilson

Pat Harland: Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford for me was an obvious pick, the youngest player to play for England at a European Championship, one of the hottest talents in world football at the moment, and still only 22. His electric pace and top class finishing made him a sure thing for my team. He’ll bring the goals that my side need.

Jack Smillie: John Terry – I realised that I needed to add some defensive prowess to my XI. As an avid Fulham fan, this selection somewhat hurt, but who can forget Terry’s many goal-line clearances? His bicycle kick save against Trinidad and Tobago in Germany, his goal-line clearance in the same style against Ukraine in 2012, and putting his body on the line against Slovenia in South Africa. Terry’s one of the few English players who always gave his all.

Joe Smith: Ian Wright

He lifted the premier league title for Arsenal and is the clubs second highest scorer. I needed another forward and who better to complete my frontline than Wrighty. Famous once for his speed, and now famous for his football punditry, Ian Wright was and is a huge figure in English football, and hopefully he’ll get me some well deserved points.

Sesh Subramanian: Sol Campbell

The heart of the English central defence from the 1998 World Cup to the 2006 World Cup, Campbell is one of the best all around defenders to have put on the English jersey. A strong tackler, with a great positional sense and aerial ability bar none, Campbell was going to be a threat in the opposition box and someone who could annihilate (yes, annihilate) threats in our own.

Stan Gilyead: Kevin Keegan

Image – Wikipedia

Keegan, the only Englishman to ever win two Ballon D’ors, is an England great. Despite being surrounded by a poor generation of players, which meant he only played in one major tournament, he scored at a rate of one in every three games for England. His inclusion also means that my team won’t have to suffer the indignity of taking to the field without a mulletted player.

Toby Bryant: Raheem Sterling

Despite being only 25-years-old, Raheem Sterling has been an ever-present in the England squad since his debut for the first team in 2012. Hot-headed moments like a red card in the 2014 World Cup and recent Joe Gomez disagreements may dent his reputation, but the winger is a livewire and constant source of creativity. His versatility on the pitch is also a huge benefit.

Rory Ewart: Stanley Matthews

Stanley Matthews is one of only a select few England footballers that receives recognition from all England fans who played before the 1966 World Cup Winning side. Matthews was a player that caught the eye of the very best. Even Franz Beckenbauer, arguably one the greatest defenders to ever grace the game, had to concede that “almost no one in the game could stop him”.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

All the more amazing is the age that Matthews had reached as he bowed out from England dust, collecting his final cap at the grand age of 42, a feat that you will likely never see again, certainly in an England shirt. To top it all off, Stanley Matthews was the inaugural winner of the now highly coveted Ballon d’Or in 1956 – joining a very select group of English players to have won the award.

Dom Lee: Nat Lofthouse

Rounding out my strike partnership is Nat Lofthouse. Admittedly I’ve only seen a handful of highlights from Lofthouse- probably because he played in the 50’s- but what is clear from those that remain is that Lofthouse was a composed, tough striker with a keen eye for goal. He certainly has the numbers to back up what I saw on the black and white photo reels, 30 goals in just 33 games for the three lions. That’s a goals to game ration you simly can’t argue with.

Round Four

Dom Lee: Billy Wright

The first footballer in the world to earn over 100 international caps, Billy Wright is an obvious choice to put in at centre back in my squad. A classic English defender Wright was excellent in the tackle and had a great mind for the game allowing him to control the pitch from his position in the centre of defence. Wright had a stellar international career that saw him play in three world cups and is undoubtedly one of the finest defenders England have ever produced.

Rory Ewart: Trevor Brooking

Written into West Ham folklore, Trevor Brooking may not quite reach the same heights for his national team, but a top player he was for England too.

Known for his tactile, controlled play commanding the centre of midfield, Brooking was perhaps slightly unfortunate to have featured in only two major finals in an England shirt. However, he was able to make his mark in the World Cup Finals of 1978 and Euros in 1980. A true gentleman on the pitch and a huge credit for the national team.

Toby Bryant: Peter Crouch

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Dixie Dean is bound to bang in the goals for my side, so having target man Peter Crouch up there to knock the ball down is a potent combination. What’s more, the former Liverpool and Stoke man has a better goal to game ratio for England than for any club side. 22 goals in 42 appearances is more than one every two fixtures – plenty chance to see that robot dance!

Stan Gilyead: Martin Peters

Sesh Subramanian: Alan Ball Jr.

He was the youngest of the 1966 World Cup winning squad but Alan Ball’s versatility as a central midfielder made him a key part of the side. Among his most famous contributions in an England shirt is the pass to set up Geoff Hurst’s controversial goal. With his incredible work ethic and energy, Ball would be a stellar presence in midfield being both defensively sound and a valuable contributor in attack.

Joe Smith: James Milner

He’s Leeds through and through our James. From my hometown, Horsforth and the main reason we got a new cricket club, thanks to a generous donation, James Milner will always have a place in my heart. I needed a solid midfielder and Jimmy is just the ticket. Although he may be ridiculed for a seemingly boring personality, his playstyle is far from it. He has 61 appearances for England, along with a singular goal. Not bad for a midfielder. He creates opportunity after opportunity and always knows where to place the ball. He did also play for Leeds United which scores bonus points in my book.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Jack Smillie: George Cohen

Pat Harland: Jamie Carragher

One of the toughest blokes in football, not an England favourite but a solid all round defender to keep things tight at the back. Plus any man who has the balls to turn up to a Liverpool trial in a full Everton kit gets my backing, he’ll be the backbone and strength of my team.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Colm Williams: David Platt

Rebecca Johnson: Jordan Pickford

Concerned about the lack of goalkeepers, I had to get a decent pair of hands between the sticks, and who else but Jordan Pickford.

I may be slightly biased, Pickford comes from the same town as me, went to my sixth form and played for my club, Sunderland, but his time in goal for England has been a blast.

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2018. The World Cup was in Russia, boozy beer gardens were jam-packed with punters cheering on England. Pickford had been playing brilliantly throughout the tournament, then in the last 16, England were held by a gritty and dirty Colombian side, a game which boiled down to penalties.

All around England, nails were bitten, hearts were racing and groans were heard as our old foe the penalty spot reared its ugly head. England’s Jordan Henderson missed his penalty, and it was looking like England would fall to the old foe again. Up stepped Mateus Uribe for Colombia to set his side up for victory, he shoots down the middle, Pickford dives to his right, but manages to raise his arm and claw the ball away- he’s only gone and bloody saved it! Eric Dier blasts in the next penalty and England progress to the next stage, thanks to a literal helping hand from their keeper.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Whilst you may argue that the goalkeeper is suddenly slipping out of favour for the likes of Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson, you can’t knock the Sunderland lad’s performance in the World Cup and its build up. Get the rave on and get Pickford in the net.

Tom Moorcroft: Joe Hart

He certainly but all of his ‘Hart’ in whenever on the pitch. Now that I’ve got that horrible joke out of the way, Joe Hart, England’s 2nd most capped GK, was the clearest choice from the keepers that were left. Someone who I’ve seen between the sticks since I first got into football, he was always a big presence in the net.

Towering at 6’5’’, his 17 year career still sees him playing today, viable for an England call up with Burnley. In his younger years he was a regular call-up for England, unfortunately having a few mistakes to his name. Given you get the most stick in net, Hart’s mistake against Iceland in 2016 (a memory many England fans will still be trying to forget), was enough to see many fans turn on him, despite his many years of service. He’s definitely in the backend of his career, but he can look back with a smile on his face and say, in his prime, he did England proud.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

Tom Hardwick: Glenn Hoddle

Andrew White: Roger Hunt

Last modified: 29th March 2020

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