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England’s all-time dream team

Being the home of football, England and its people have a special relationship with the beautiful game – a relationship best described as love-hate.

While the prevailing emotions from the Three Lions’ campaigns at major tournaments over the years have been heartbreak and disappointment, some truly gifted footballers have represented the nation in the process.

A lot is understandably made of donning that white shirt and wearing those Three Lions on your chest, and the following eleven might just be the best to ever do it.

GK: Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks is one of the game’s finest-ever goalkeepers / STAFF/GettyImages

While it’s incredibly difficult to select an all-time XI for a nation that has produced a litany of world-class stars, selecting just one player to fill the goalkeeping spot is near-impossible. In the end, however, Gordon Banks has to take it with a very honourable mention going to England’s all-time leading appearance-maker Peter Shilton.

Widely regarded as making football’s greatest-ever save to deny Pele in 1970, the awe-inspiring shot-stopper kept four clean sheets as he played all six games of England’s triumphant World Cup campaign in 1966.

RB: Gary Neville

Foot : World Cup 2002 / Preview

Gary Neville in action for England / Tim de Waele/GettyImages

Gary Neville might have been an unspectacular full-back, but he was as dependable as anything.

His bravery, strength and resoluteness saw him hold down a starting place during Manchester United’s most successful era over the course of 15 years, while also being a stalwart for England over the best part of a decade and earning 85 caps in the process.

CB: Bobby Moore

Alan Ball, Bobby Charlton, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton

Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup trophy / Central Press/GettyImages

Revered throughout football and even idolised by some of the game’s biggest names, Bobby Moore was an exceptional leader as well as footballer.

The West Ham legend was imperious on the pitch, with an awareness of the game that allowed him to dominate from the back. A supreme ball player with a natural conveyance of authority, Moore was also a gifted captain and is still the only man to lead the Three Lions to a World Cup triumph, of course.

CB: Billy Wright


Billy Wright was a remarkably consistent performer for club and country / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

It feels like madness to not name Rio Ferdinand or John Terry in an all-time England XI, but Billy Wright’s exploits are too grand not to acknowledge.

The centre-back spent his entire career with Wolves, captaining the club during its most decorated era as he led them to FA Cup glory in 1949 and three top-flight triumphs in the 1950s. Wright also became the first player in the world to earn 100 international caps, doing so as England’s skipper.

LB: Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole won England’s Player of the Year in 2010 / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

There can be few objections to placing Ashley Cole on the left side of defence in England’s all-time dream team.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea man earned a whopping 107 caps over 13 years for the Three Lions – a consistency that was a reflection of his outstanding club career. One of the best left-backs the game has ever seen, Cole won 16 honours over his spells at the Gunners and the Blues while also making the UEFA Team of the Year twice and winning England’s Player of the Year in 2010.

RM: David Beckham

You can’t score a free kick like that and not be included in this side.

The moment of David Beckham’s international career will always be that iconic, whipped set-piece that rocketed into the top corner to send England to the 2002 World Cup at the hands of Greece, but his exploits and influence over a 13-year residency in the Three Lions camp and 115 caps will never be forgotten, either.

CM: Paul Gascoigne

England v Scotland

The ‘dentist chair’ celebration / Stu Forster/GettyImages

While there are players like Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes who could quite easily make anyone’s all-time XI, there has never been anyone quite like Paul Gascoigne – and we still don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

The chaotic but ingenious midfielder was beyond words, plagued by a lack of discipline and blessed with a natural footballing ability that you and I could only dream of.

Gascoigne will live in the memory for one of England’s greatest-ever goals, bagging that phenomenally taken strike against Scotland at EURO ’96, before referencing a scandalous night out with the subsequent ‘dentist chair’ celebration – the perfect epitome of Gazza.

CM: Bobby Charlton

bobby moore, Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton alongside Bobby Moore – two stars of the 1966 World Cup / Express/GettyImages

England’s all-time dream team wouldn’t be complete without the great Bobby Charlton.

The Manchester United legend overcame adversity and tragedy after the 1958 Munich Air Disaster to become a giant of the game. Alongside his honours and individual magic with the Red Devils, the midfielder was a pillar of quality and consistency for England.

Over the course of his 106 caps, Charlton managed 49 goals and was a key component in the glory of 1966, winning the Ballon d’Or the same year.

LM: Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is an icon of English football / Mark Thompson/GettyImages

It wouldn’t be England without a world-class central midfielder playing out wide, would it?

In truth, it is simply too difficult to leave someone like Steven Gerrard out of England’s all-time XI – only three players have trumped his 114 caps for the country – so we’ve put him in where we can.

Often described as a dream-like, comic book-style footballer, the Liverpool legend’s dynamism and aggression – complimented by an unbelievable talent for striking the ball and picking a pass – made him one of the game’s iconic midfielders.

ST: Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney

No one has scored more times for England than Wayne Rooney / Matthew Ashton – AMA/GettyImages

While the prevailing theme of Wayne Rooney’s England captaincy was despondency at major tournaments, the forward was rarely anything but a model leader with the Three Lions on his chest. As he would do over the course of his sensational Manchester United career, he gave everything for the shirt.

And his passion is reflected in his title of England’s all-time leading goal-scorer. With 52 international strikes to his name, no one has netted more times for the Three Lions than Rooney – although, with Harry Kane knocking about, he might not be able to for too much longer.

ST: Gary Lineker

English forward Gary Lineker (R) kicks t

Gary Lineker is England’s top World Cup goal-scorer / STAFF/GettyImages

Gary Lineker himself would likely tell you he belongs nowhere near England’s all-time XI, but he’d be wrong – we’ve opted to name him over the likes of Alan Shearer, Jimmy Greaves and Michael Owen.

The former Leicester, Tottenham and Barcelona striker turned household TV presenter was a world-class goal-scorer in his day and, although the Three Lions have seen plenty of those, Lineker’s 10 World Cup strikes (six of which came as he won the 1986 tournament’s Golden Boot) are matched by no other Englishman, earning him his place in this lineup.

How many other players could use a football pitch as bog roll and still make their nation’s all-time XI, eh?

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