SIX of the best England players of all time:


Paul Scholes (1997-2004, 66 caps, 14 goals)

Arguably one of the best midfielders in the world over the last decade, Scholes has been a key figure for Manchester United since making his debut for the club in 1993, racking up over 700 appearances in the process. His success on the pitch has seen him pick up a massive ten Premier League titles, along with multiple winners medals in the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Champions League. But it is also Scholes’ attitude that sets him aside.

No, I’m, not talking about his tackling (Scholes has one of the highest tallies of bookings in Premier League history); a one man club, he shows 100% commitment in games and training, while he prefers to live a remarkably quiet life; he is regularly noted as being ‘shy’ due to his demeanour to keep away from the media spotlight.

For England, his fighting spirit and passing ability made him a key player during his years on the international stage, being an important figure at four consecutive major tournaments. A return of 14 goals, including a memorable hat trick versus Poland and a brace against rivals Scotland was added to his creativity at breaking up play and starting attacks.

Perhaps the one thing that will stop Scholes being considered a true great for the Three Lions is his decision to retire prematurely; having been played on the left wing to accommodate an up and coming partnership of Gerrard and Lampard, Scholes announced that he was no longer available for the national side (citing family and club reasons). For all the years where England have failed when it matters most, you can’t help but think that Scholes’ winning attitude could’ve made a difference…

Did you know…? – France maestro Zinedine Zidane once stated his regret at not being afforded the opportunity to line up alongside Scholes, while claiming ‘you rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get’.

Jimmy Greaves (1959-1967, 57 caps, 44 goals)

Arguably the most prolific goalscorer England has ever produced, Jimmy Greaves was somewhat of a phenomenon in front of goal. He enjoyed nine fruitful years at Tottenham throughout the 1960s becoming the club’s all time top goalscorer, having scored over 50 goals more than his nearest rival (266 vs Bobby Smith’s 208). What is even more impressive about this record however, is that his goals per game ratio tops every other player in Tottenham’s top ten (joint with George Hunt, 5th in the list with a ‘pathetic’ 138 goals).

Yet it wasn’t just at Spurs he produced the goods; an even better ratio of 0.78 goals per game at his first club, Chelsea, proves that this was a man who knew where the net was. Along with his two FA Cups, Greaves scored twice in the final of the Cup Winners Cup as Tottenham became the first British club to win European silverware.

But Greaves’ scoring ability was not limited to his club career. While wearing a Three Lions shirt Greaves netted 44 goals, placing him third on the list of top scorers. Yet in accordance of his club exploits, this amount in just 57 appearances provides Greaves with one of the best goals per game ratios in history for the national side. Greaves’ talent can also be reflected on as being part of an elite group; he was one of the members to successfully lift the World Cup in 1966.

Although he didn’t play in the final, missing out to Hurst who was retained following Greaves’ injury, he had still been an important player in the early stages of the tournament. Had he not been injured, we may well have been talking about Greaves the world cup winning goal scorer, and not Sir Geoff… But nevertheless, one of the most prolific goalscorers of the English game, Greaves deservedly gets a mention to be considered as an all time great.

Did you know…? – Greaves holds the record for most hat tricks scored while wearing an England shirt with six.

Gordon Banks (1963-1972, 73 caps, 0 goals)

With many players regularly compiled on ‘greatest’ lists being attackers – after all, they are the ones who score the goals and make the headlines – it is vital not to forget the importance of the man between the sticks. And there are few better than Gordon Banks.

Having established himself as England’s first choice goalkeeper under Sir Alf Ramsey after the World Cup in 1962, Banks was an ever-present during England’s only ever World Cup victory, thus making him the only English goalkeeper to lift the Jules Rimet trophy (although his understudies did receive medals as squad members despite not playing). Added to his credit is the fact that he only conceded 3 goals in the whole tournament, keeping clean sheets the whole way up to the semi final.

Yet surely the pinnacle of a player’s career is to win the world cup with your country? Particularly when it’s your nation’s sole triumph? In Banks’ case; no. For he has another memory that will forever live with him. In the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, England faced a world class Brazil side that boasted a living legend in Pelé.

Despite losing the game 1-0, Banks pulled off arguably the greatest save in history; a low, split second dive to tip the Brazilian’s powerful header, which had bounced right in front of goal, over the crossbar. YouTube will provide testimony to this outstanding save. Banks himself even stated that ‘they won’t remember me for winning the World Cup; it’ll be for that save. That’s how big a thing it is.’

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