From the heroes of 1966 to the almost champions of 2021, England have had some of the world greats. The game was invented in England in 1963 with the formation of the Football Association, and has only grown. England has been amongst the best team of all time since it’s inception.
English players have won the World Cup, European Cups, Premier Leagues, any title you can think of. English managers like Brian Clough, Howard Kendell and Sir Bobby Robson can sit alongside the greats of football.
But who is the best ever England team in history?
Here I will look at the best player in each position. Them I will decide which eleven get into the best England team of all time.
Goalkeeper – Gordan Banks (1966)
There could be no other name on this list other than Gordan Banks. He is the first man in on best England team of all time, and there’s no doubting why.
Banks was one of the best keepers in the world during his prime. He was voted as the second greatest keeper of the 20th century – just behind the legendary Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union.
He starred for England as they won the 1966 World Cup on home soil. His extraordinary reflexes coupled with his ability to organise his defence was a key part in England’s victory.
Four years later, at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he continued to prove himself as the best in the world. His famous save against Pele in a 1-0 to Brazil is one of the most famous saves of all time. A header from the Brazil star was blasted into the bottom corner. Banks, unbeknownst to even him, somehow scrambled across the goal to save the shot, and keep the score at 0-0. Pele himself is claimed to have shouted “Goal!” as he headed the ball, so sure of it’s trajectory.
Right Back – Gary Neville (1990s)
Missing Out – George Cohen, Keiran Trippier
“Nobody wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville” Jamie Carragher famously quipped on an episode of Monday Night Football. A statement that does not ring true for Manchester United fans of the 1990s.
Gary Neville, despite how he downplays his achievements in his current broadcasting role, is one of the greatest right backs in Premier League history. His spell at Manchester United lasted almost 20 years, and he wont every trophy imaginable.
He won eight Premier league titles with United and two Champions leagues, but his England career was also not one to sniff at.
Neville made 88 appearances for the Three Lions, He is the most capped right back for England, and held down the starting spot for over 10 years. Neville represented his country at three European Championships, and two World Cups. He was a stalwart for his country, and was part of the England Golden Generation that should have won more than they did.
Centre Back – Bobby Moore (1966)
Missing Out – Rio Ferdinand,
The first name on everyone’s list of England’s greatest team is the captain in 1966, West Ham’s Bobby Moore.
The West Ham skipper was a rock in defence in 1966, with his precise tackling and great passing ability lending well to England’s style of play.
Moore was best known for his reading of the game and ability to anticipate opposition movement. His intelligence separated him from the typical hard-tackling defender that was popular at the time.
Moore was made England captain at the age of 23, and led his country in 108 matches, the most for an outfield player for England until he was overtaken by David Beckham in 2009.
Pele named Moore as the greatest defender he ever played against. He was named Footballer of the Year in 1964. West Ham retired his number 6 shirt in 2008, 15 years after his untimely death.
Centre Back – Rio Ferdinand (2020)
Missing Out – John Terry, Sol Campbell
One of the most competitive positions on the pitch is who to partner Bobby Moore.
While incredible defenders like John Terry, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell and Harry Maguire all could stake their claims, Rio Ferdinand is the man I pick.
Ferdinand was one of the best defenders in the world for England and Manchester United. He won six Premier League titles for Manchester United, and one Champions League title in 2008.
Ferdinand mate 81 appearances for England, playing in three World Cups. He never represented England in a European Championship however. He missed 2004 due to a ban, 2008 due to not qualifying and 2012 to injury.
Ferdinand was one of the best defenders in the world for over 10 years. His partnerships with Terry for England and Vidic for United were some of the best ever seen.
Left Back – Luke Shaw (2020)
Missing Out – Ashley Cole, Stuart Pearce
While Pearce and Cole had longer, more storied careers, Luke Shaw performed on the biggest stage for England.
The Manchester United defender helped England to the final of Euro 2020. He was the third most creative player in the tournament, with three assists.
He scored his first England goal in the final. The left back fired home from a Keiran Trippier cross just 2 minutes into the final, before Italy equalised and beat England on penalties.
Shaw still has a bright future ahead, and at only age 26, has many more moments for England in the future.
Right Midfield – David Beckham (2002)
Missing out – Stanley Matthews
While Stanley Matthews longevity and skill makes him a close second, the right side had to be David Beckham.
Despite his rocky relationship with England fans (such as David Beckham Argentina red card in 1998), Beckham always turned up for his national team.
Beckham turned out 115 times for England, the most of any outfield player until he was surpassed by Wayne Rooney. He was the biggest star in football history, with his incredible crossing and free kicks enchanting the world of football.
Beckham was part of United’s 1999 treble winning side, starring as he came second in the Ballon D’or voting that year. He played for some of the biggest sides in the world, Like Real Madrid, AC Milan and PSG.
Beckham starred for England in 3 world cups. He scored the most memorable goal for England of all time, a free kick in qualifying against Greece.
Central Midfield – Paul Gascoigne (1990)
Missing Out – Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard
The troubled Geordie lit up the country as he volleyed home an extraordinary goal against Scotland in Euro 1996. This was one of his memorable moments for England, and showed the supreme talent of the young midfielder from Newcastle.
Known as “Gazza”, his playful nature and playmaking ability mixed with his hardworking and creativity made him one of the most exciting players in any team he was in.
Gascoigne inspire his team to semi-final defeats to Germany in both Italia 90 and Euro 96. He famously burst into tears at getting a booking in 1990. It would have caused him to miss the final if England lost, and endeared him even more to the general public.
Gazza is still remembered as one of the greatest England ever had, and despite the issues with his personal life, remains fondly remembered in England to this day.
Central Midfield – Bobby Charlton (1966)
Missing Out – Martin Peters, Paul Scholes
Don’t let the awful combover fool you – Bobby Charlton is one of the greatest players to ever kick a football.
Utilised as both a forward and a midfielder, he starred for both Manchester United and England. He started in midfield for United as they defeated Benfica 4-1 in the 1968 European Cup final. This came 10 years after he almost died in the Munich Air Crash, and he used that tragedy as fuel to inspire him and Manchester United to greatest.
He also started in midfield for England. In 1996, he dominated the centre of play as England beat Germany 4-2 after extra time in the final. His incredible long ball to Geoff Hurst set up the final goal.
Charlton was England and United top scorer until both records were taken by Wayne Rooney.
Left Midfield – John Barnes
Missing Out – Raheem Sterling, Steve McManaman
You’ve got to hold and give
But do it at the right time
You can be slow or fast
But you must get to the line
They’ll always hit you and hurt you
Defend and attack
There’s only one way to beat them
Get ’round the back
Catch me if you can
‘Cause I’m the England man
And what you’re looking at
Is the master plan
We ain’t no hooligans
This ain’t a football song
Three lions on my chest
I know we can’t go wrong
Forward – Gary Lineker (1990)
Missing Out – Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney
A crisp striker with an eye for goal, Gary Lineker was one of the best strikers in the world when he played.
He scored over 300 goals in a storied career that took him to clubs like Everton, Barcelona and Tottenham.
Lineker scored 48 times for England in just 80 games. Just one goal behind Bobby Charlton 26 less games.
He won the Golden boot at the 1986 World cup, scoring five times as England were knocked out by Maradona’s Argentina in the quarter-final.
He was England’s all time top scorer in tournaments until his record was overtaken by Harry Kane against Denmark.
Lineker’s legacy has been preserved due to his media work, being the face of football on the BBC. He has hosted Match of the Day since 1999, and has been the face of Walkers crisps since 1994.
Forward – Harry Kane (2020)
Missing Out – Alan Shearer, Sir Geoff Hurst
This list would not be complete without the hero of Euro 2020, and the captain who led the side, Harry Kane.
England came agonisingly close to winning the Euro 2020, losing to Italy on penalties in the final.
Kane inspired the team with his knock out performances, scoring against Germany, Ukraine and the winner against Denmark in the semi-final.
He captained the side to their best ever finish since 1966, and increased his tally for England to 38 goals. This puts him sixth on the all time top scorer list for England, at the age of only 27 years old.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.