The Courier Sport presents: the England XI draft Part One

Our sports writers kick off the first two rounds of the England XI draft.

Rebecca Johnson
26th March 2020
Image- Wikimedia Commons
In the first part of our England draft, our writers talk us through their first two draft picks for their all time best England XI side.

Round One

Image- Wikimedia Commons

Andrew White: Bobby Moore

Does this pick even need explaining? Done something no other England player ever has- be a World Cup winning captain. Moore was England’s youngest ever captain at the age of 22 and went on to captain the team 90 times, including that infamous World Cup Final. Moore became the first footballer to be named Sports Personality of the Year in 1966, and remained the only one for 24 years. A total of 108 caps for the Three Lions was a record at the time of his retirement- iconic.

Tom Hardwick: Bobby Charlton

Image- Wikimedia Commons

Being second out of the hat gave me the pick of almost every player to have earned an England cap, but the first addition to my team simply had to be Bobby Charlton. Charlton represented his nation 106 times and was renowned for his impressive passing range and untiring stamina, providing a more attacking foil to the defensive work undertaken by his usual midfield partner Nobby Stiles. During the 1966 World Cup, Charlton also emphasised his goalscoring ability, driving forward from midfield during a group stage tie with Mexico and unleashing a ferocious 30-yard strike beyond the helpless keeper. However, Charlton's finest hour as an England international was the semi-final tie against Portugal. Charlton scored twice from the edge of the box to see off Eusebio's side in a 2-1 victory, sending England to the World Cup final and establishing his legacy as an intergral cog in England's greatest ever team.

Tom Moorcroft: Wayne Rooney

Does anything really need to be said about this choice? As much as I want to call him an 'Everton' legend, he's certainly reached that status for his country. Being the youngest England player ever at 17 years and 111 days in 2003, he ended up our all time highest ever goal scorer, with 53 goals in 120 caps. In the classic cliché, he made scoring goals look easy. As his playing days are seemingly slim, the likelihood he’ll ever put the 3 lions back on is unlikely. However, he has surely cemented himself as one of the most prolific strikers we’ve ever seen. If anyone needs reminding, just google ‘Rooney vs Russia 2007’. You won’t be disappointed!

Rebecca Johnson: Paul Gascoigne

Image- Wikipedia

There's only one choice for my first pick and that's Paul Gascoigne, one of the most naturally talented English football players the world has ever seen. Despite being a Newcastle lad, it's hard not to recognise what sheer talent Gazza had. A solid creative midfielder, who is incredibly capable of scoring as well as providing goals, he is everything you want in a midfielder.

Gazza had a sound career for England, racking up 57 caps for his country. He's arguably best remembered for his goal against Scotland in Euro 1996, where he flicked the ball over the defender, got it back at his feet as it fell before volleying it into the Scots' net. A stroke of genuis.

Colm Williams: Gordon Banks

From winning the World Cup in 1966, the late Gordon Banks won FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year six seasons in a row. Banks was blessed with agility and cat-like reflexes, with the ability to make impossible saves.  Keeping 35 clean sheets in 70 caps for England, and described by the great Pele as a “goalkeeper with magic”, he is surely England’s greatest keeper ever.

Pat Harland: David Beckham

The man who has the most recognisable face in world football surely had to be my first pick. With 115 caps he is only 10 behind the record number of appearances by Peter Shilton. His skill with the ball in a free kick or when crossing was some of the best if not the best this country has ever seen. I just counted myself lucky that he hadn't been taken yet.

Jack Smillie: Gary Lineker

Image- Wikipedia

The silver fox-in-the-box striker adeptly mastered the tap-in finish, catapulting him to the third highest goalscorer for England behind Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton. Having never been booked, Lineker has more World Cup goals than any other Englishman, winning the 1986 World Cup golden boot with a tally of 6, before netting 4 more at the 1990 tournament, despite leaving a brown trail. Iconic.

Joe Smith: Michael Owen

A golden boy of English football. From the days where the England squad, despite being beaten, felt unbeatable. One of the few English players to be awarded the Ballon d'Or, the most prestigious prize in football. He also boasts a whopping 89 caps for England and an impressive 40 goals under his belt for the national squad, i'd be silly not to pick Michael Owen for my draft.

Sesh Subramanian: Peter Shilton

England's highest capped player with 125 appearances for the national side, Peter Shilton was one of the world's best ever keepers in his heyday. Regarded as one of the most efficient keepers, Shilton was known for his handling, positional sense, consistency, longevity in the game, together with cat-like reflexes and an astute shot stopping ability. Together with France's Fabien Barthez, Shilton holds the record for most clean sheets in World Cups. An absolute legend who could easily hold his own against any attack in any era.

Image- Flickr

Stan Gilyead: Tom Finney

Billy Wright described Sir Tom as the best player he'd ever seen whilst Stanley Matthews ranked him alongside Pele, Maradona, Best and Di Stefano. He scored 30 goals and assisted many more in his 76 games for England and was probably the best player of England's golden post-war generation.

Toby Bryant: Dixie Dean

Dixie Dean's football career was far before my time. Nonetheless, as an Evertonian, he is a name embedded in my mind. When walking to Goodison Park, my grandfather would always stop and admire the statue of the talisman before gushing over his performances. The striker may have only played 16 times for England, but a whopping 18 goals in those performances is impressive stuff.

Rory Ewart: David Seaman

Over Seaman's 14-year England career, he managed to play with a whole host of England players from differing eras of the team. His debut in 1988 was played alongside then England captain Bryan Robson, with his final appearance, of his 75, seeing him witness the 'Golden Generation' of Neville, Scholes and Lampard about to enter the peak years of their respective careers.

Seaman managed to hold down the number one spot for virtually all of the years that he played in England colours, something that legendary keepers of past and present can't even attest to. His England high is likely that Euro 96 tournament in which England lost out to Germany in an agonising semi-final shootout. Despite this, Seaman was still awarded the best goalkeeper award for the whole tournament and registered himself as an all-time great for England.

Dom Lee: Alan Shearer

Image- Geograph

I had the last pick of the round so I was quite nervous about which England legends would be left once we got to pick number 13. I was always going to pick a striker first and who better to fall to me than the Geordie messiah himself Alan Shearer. The striker netted 30 times for England in 63 games and was the top scorer at Euro 96 with 5 goals.

However, I didn't pick Shearer for his numbers, I picked him for his ability. A player who would bully opposition centre backs, Shearer was a physical player but far from a lump. He could score from pretty much anywhere on the pitch and had fantastic decision making which allowed him to pick his targets with ease. While it's true that Shearer arguably had his best years in black and white, he's a great first pick for my all time three lions squad.

Round Two

Dom Lee: Frank Lampard

Image- Wikimedia Commons

Similarly to my first pick I was eager to get some goalscorers in my team. Super Frank Lampard is just that, a goalscorer. A truly one of a kind player, Lampard could command a game from midfield and was as deadly as any striker in front of goal. Part of England's golden generation Lampard was truly one of the most gifted players of his generation and in my opinion England's best ever central midfielder. His runs into the box will complement Shearer's hold up play nicely and his strong leadership skills will be a great asset to my dream team.

Rory Ewart: Geoff Hurst

Geoff Hurst is a unique man. Not that you needed reminding, but he was the first male player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final, with no male player being able to reproduce a feat since then. The 4-2 victory over West Germany was filled with an England legend in every position, however, it will always be remembered as the final which Sir Geoff Hurst made into his own.

In his following years since becoming a world champion, Hurst was able to add to his already healthy tally of goals in an England shirt. By the time of his international retirement in 1972, he managed an extremely impressive 24 goals from 49 caps, which is huge testament to him, given the fact that he was not always the first choice striker for England. Regardless of this, Hurst would a legend for any national team given the feats he achieved in the World Cup Final of '66.

Toby Bryant: Theo Walcott

Right, hear me out. When planning my picks for this, I found the England side has a bit of a shortage of right-midfielders... I believe. David Beckham was my first choice, but sneaky Pat snapped him up. So, Theo Walcott it is. As an Everton fan, it pains me to pick him after his lacklustre turn-outs for us this season, but back in the day, Walcott was as quick as they come with an eye for goal too. Just remember that Euro 2012 match against Sweeden when the winger came on to turn the match around with a goal and assist. Prime Theo Walcott is a sound pick.

Image- Wikipedia

Stan Gilyead: Jimmy Greaves

Greaves, who would've played in the '66 World Cup Final if it wasn't for injury, is probably the best natural finisher to ever play for the Three Lions. Greaves scored an impressive 44 goals in 57 games for his country and holds the record for the most England hat-tricks with six. If you need a goal then Jimmy Greaves is your man.

Sesh Subramanian: Harry Kane

With my own goal protected in the first round, I needed someone to be scoring goals at the other end and who better than the current England captain? At only 26 years of age, Kane has 32 goals in 45 games which is one of most highly efficient ratios in football. Having also shouldered the burden of captaincy, he led by example as England reached the semis of the 2018 World Cup. So a guy who can lead AND can score goals at an alarmingly frequent rate? I'll have him in my team please, thank you.

Joe Smith: Ron Springett

I know what you're thinking, "Who the hell is Ron Springett?'. A question I was faced in the draft chat seconds after i picked him. With a decent 33 appearances under his belt for England, Springett was a goalkeeping force to be reckoned with. England's first choice keeper in the 1962 Chile world cup and was also on the bench for England's 1966 world cup win. An unsung hero of English football.

Image- Flickr

Jack Smillie: Steven Gerrard

It’s simply undeniable that Steven Gerrard proudly gave his all for his country in his 14-year international career. He’s the fourth most-capped English player, having represented his nation at 3 Euros and 3 World Cups. Gerrard was officially made captain before the 2012 World Cup, where he made the team of the tournament. English football may have been in a bad place c. 2010 but there’s no doubt that Gerrard is one of the most tactically-aware midfielders this nation has ever seen.

Pat Harland: Paul Scholes

Image- Wikimedia Commons

The criminally undervalued Man United man had to be my second pick because of his laser-guided passes and exquisite strikes from midfield. Despite Gerrard and Lampard both being favoured more by the various England managers, Paul Scholes the humble hardworking player he is adjusted his role to the left of midfield. It was such a shame that he was so mismanaged that I had no other choice than to pick him for my team.

Colm Williams: Rio Ferdinand

Making his debut just eight days after his 19th birthday, Rio Ferdinand is one of the most gifted defenders to play for England. Despite being part of the underachieving ‘Golden Generation’, he enjoyed an unrivalled club career at Manchester United as one of the greatest centre-backs in Europe for around a decade. With 81 caps Ferdinand is the second most capped black player for the Three Lions.

Rebecca Johnson: Teddy Sheringham

As the draft rumbled on, all the strikers I was after were suddenly disappearing, causing a change in tactics for me. I quickly picked Teddy Sheringham has my up front option before there was no one half-decent left.

The Spurs man earned 51 caps for England, yet only got 11 goals. He was somewhat underlooked in favour of the likes of Alan Shearer and eventually Michael Owen, however, Sheringham's ability as a second striker, was key for England. He would drop off from the main striker and create chances for others on the pitch.

Tom Moorcroft: Tony Adams

Image- Flickr

With some popular choices of more recent CBs were picked, and the legend of Bobby Moore being an instant choice, I had a think back to who might've inspired some of the younger lads. One man came to mind: Mr Arsenal himself, Tony Adams

Adams definitely deserves a spot in the all-time back line. The England and Arsenal captain had 66 appearances for us, in a career that lasted from 1988-2002. Not only was he a hard-as-nails centre back, taking on the ideology which paved the way for the likes of Terry and Ferdinand, he also nabbed a few goals for us too. The 6’ 3’’ brick wall ensured that no matter what happened to England up front, they weren’t conceding at the back.

Tom Hardwick: John Barnes

John Barnes has it all: goalscoring winger, rap extraordinaire, and winner of a Times poll that established him as England's greatest ever left-footed player. After almost helping England salvage a draw with Argentina at the '86 World Cup with an assist for Gary Lineker, there were calls for Barnes to become a regular. The 1990 World Cup saw the release of the now-classic 'World in Motion', and Barnes was unlucky to sustain an injury after volleying England ahead against Belgium, before his goal was wrongly ruled out for offside. Barnes was a nightmare for defenders on his day, causing mayhem with his blistering pace and finishing ability. 79 caps and 11 goals was a great return for a player whose international career was inhibited by injury and prejudice, and he deserves to be ranked as one of England's best wingers.

Andrew White: Bryan Robson

I’ve attempted to make this an XI that’d fit perfectly together, rather than random partnerships of great players that won’t work, (looking at you Gerrard and Lampard). Robson exemplifies this as he’s a player that would work in any system. Befittingly nicknamed “captain marvel”, Robson was a grafter while also technically gifted and elegant on the ball. He could do both. Robson was capped 90 times for England, leaving him fifth all time at the time of his retirement. I’m building a team of leaders and Robson is exactly that, he captained England 65 times, behind only Bobby Moore and Billy Wright in the all time list. Despite Captain Marvel being cruelly dealt with injuries ruling him out of the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, he did shine on the biggest stage of them all, famously scoring against France after 27 seconds in 1982.

To top it all off, legendary manager Bobby Robson stated that Bryan Robson was the best British player he ever worked with.

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