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England's Greatest XI: The Best Of The Three Lions

20/04/2017 10:49
S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

English football has produced some incredible talent over the years, but when it comes to picking the best, who would make it into England's all-time greatest team? We've put together a side of who we think are the best players to ever represent the Three Lions. Who knows, maybe this lot could have even won us another World Cup...

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper

Gordon Banks

No one can really argue that England's all time number 1 should be awarded to anyone other than Gordon Banks. The Sheffield born keeper played a total of 73 times for England, and put in a countless number of outstanding displays in net - most notably during England's only World Cup winning campaign in 1966. Banks will also be forever remembered for THAT save to deny Pele's header in England's World Cup clash with Brazil in 1970. The unbelievable stop, which saw Banks swoop down to his right to claw the ball away, is still considered by many to be the greatest save of all time.

Defence

RB - Gary Neville

The Manchester United legend was unarguably one of the best right-backs of his generation and certainly the finest England has ever produced. Throughout his illustrious career, Neville made the right-back position his own, playing a total of 85 games for The Three Lions. Neville wasn't the most attacking fullback you've ever seen, but instead it was his defensive qualities that outshone many. Neville had an excellent reading of the game, fantastic work-rate, and a tenacious tackling style that meant he was rarely ever beaten in one-on-one battles with opposing wingers.

CB - Bobby Moore (C)

England's greatest ever defender - need I say any more? Bobby Moore famously captained England to their first, and only World Cup triumph. Moore earned a total of 109 caps for his country and always embodied true heroism and leadership. Undoubtedly England's most legendary player (justified his honourable statue that overlooks the new Wembley stadium, I'm certain Moore would be the first name on the team sheet in any football fan's all time XI. Moore was an intelligent football that just oozed class. Pele even stated that Moore was the toughest defender he has played against. Quite a testament!

CB - John Terry

"There's only one England Captain" was the chant commonly shouted from the stands at Stamford Bridge - and this was the indisputable truth up until the controversial 'racism' incident that saw Terry lose the armband and his place in the England side. Despite this, Terry was without doubt one of the greatest defenders England has ever produced. The Chelsea legend was a rock at the back; a strong, commanding and tenacious central defender with an excellent reading of the game. He was also superb in the air, allowing him to score a total of 6 goals in 78 games for England. Terry was named in the all-star team for the 2008 FIFA World Cup for his outright leadership and 'body on the line' defensive displays. Terry and Moore at the back - I don't think anyone can argue with that central pairing.

LB - Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole was regularly labelled as the 'best left back in the world' during his career, and given his incredible consistency for both club and country; the claim is more than justified. The Former Arsenal and Chelsea man made 107 appearances for England, making him England's most capped fullback. Much like Neville on the opposite flank, Cole held down the left-back spot for the majority of his career; which in itself is a testament to his quality. Cole offered more of an attacking threat than Neville, but he could also defend magnificently. Impeccable positioning, blistering pace and an innate ability to cut out danger, arguably made him England's most reliable defender ever.

Midfield

CM - Paul Gascoigne

Despite his injuries and lifestyle issues off the pitch, Gazza was, and still is, regarded as a Three Lions legend. Gascoigne earned a total of 57 caps during his England career, and has been described by many as the most naturally gifted English midfielder ever. Gazza was hard, gritty, and passionate, but above all, he had tremendous technical ability with a football. Gascoigne was certainly a memorable player, known for his drinking habit, off-the pitch arrests, his tears in Italia '90, and THAT goal against Scotland in Euro 96. His unpredictability and entertaining character filtered onto the pitch, making Gazza one of the best players to ever pull on the England shirt.

CM - Bryan Robson

Robson was the complete midfielder. He could pass, tackle, score, was strong in the air, and was simply superb both on and off the ball. The Manchester United Midfield dynamo was capped 90 times for England, captaining the side 65 times and scoring a total of 26 goals in the process. The likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Hoddle would all be worthy of a place in the heart of our all time XI midfield, but Robson just had that something extra, and consistently delivered for his country.

CAM - Bobby Charlton

Another vital part of England's 1966 World Cup success, Sir Bobby Charlton is a true legend of the English game, and arguably our best ever player. Although Geoff Hurst takes the majority of the plaudits for his final hat-trick, Charlton's contribution was equally as important. Until his record was recently broken by Wayne Rooney, Sir Bobby was England's all time leading goal scorer, netting a total of 49 goals in 106 appearances for his country. Charlton was renowned for his attacking prowess and excellent passing ability, in addition to his lethal long-range shooting, which he often used to score his goals from midfield. A top, top player that simply can't be left out of the all time XI.

LM - Tom Finney

Dubbed as perhaps 'the most complete British footballer of all time', Tom Finney, aka "The Preston Plumber" epitomised true footballing brilliance. His name may sometimes get lost amongst the bigger names such as Beckham and his counterpart Stanley Mathews, but Finney was undoubtedly one of, if not the finest, attacking player of the game's post-war years. He played a total of 76 games for England, scoring a very respectable 30 goals, whilst creating plenty for his teammates. During England's clash against Portugal in 1947, Finney was in such electrifying form that Portuguese right back (and captain) Alvaro Cardoso walked off the field in the first half requesting to be substituted. The man had the skills to literally scare defenders off the pitch!

RM - Stanley Matthews

Sir Stanley Matthews is arguably the most gifted winger England has ever had and a genuine legend of the game. Matthews was a magician; a tricky winger who possessed the quick feet, skill, balance and blistering pace to beat any defender he came up against. In 54 caps, the former Stoke City and Blackpool man scored a 11 goals and assisted frequently. Hailed as the 'Wizard of the Dribble', Matthews was praised by many, including Pele; who said the English legend "taught us the way football should be played". Sir Stanley was also renowned for his trademark long shorts that were also as long as his playing career - Matthews is still the oldest ever player to represent England, at 42 years old.

Attack

ST - Jimmy Greaves

Greaves scored a total of 44 goals in 57 games - the best goals per game ration of England's top five goal-scorers. Greaves was actually England's unsung hero in their 1996 World Cup triumph; his goals helped England to progress in the tournament but after suffering an injury in the group stages, he lost his place to Geoff Hurst - luckily, that worked out just fine. You may question why Rooney doesn't make our list. Even though Wayne scored more goals than Greaves, Greave's goals came in just 57 appearances, whereas Rooney took over 100 to reach his tally. The former Spurs and Chelsea front man also scored six international hat-tricks; a stat yet to be beaten by any other English player. Greaves is the greatest out-and-out striker ever to set foot on the playing fields of England; and for this reason, he just gets the nod over Lineker.


Subs

GK - Peter Shilton
CB - Terry Butcher
LB - Stuart Pearce
CM - Duncan Edwards
CM - Glen Hoddle
RM - David Beckham
LM - John Barnes
ST - Alan Shearer
ST - Gary Lineker

This article was written on behalf of Aford Awards; trophy and engraving specialists who supply a wide range of football trophies, medals and cups for all occasions.

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