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England's Greatest

Heskey and Owen's partnership caused the best defenders problems
While browsing twitter recently I came across the 'Twitter Trend' #Englandsgreatest. Many fans were putting good cases towards their favourite players, while others were tweeting the fairly obvious and boring Emile Heskey jokes... yawn. While Heskey had a fairly average England career, playing 62 times and supporting Michael Owen in their integral partnership for both club and country, he certainly isn't in my top ten!

An England cap has slowly decreased in value over the past ten years, Beckham got his 115 caps in 13 years while it took 20 years for Shilton to grab his 125. The sheer amount of friendlies that are organised nowadays mean that even the most average player can nab a cap (Messrs Ricketts, Jeffers, Bothroyd and Nugent). This makes Charlton, Moore, Shilton and Wrights 100 plus caps look quite incredible.

Hundreds have been capped but only a few have become legends. Just the seven have played over one hundred games and only one team have won a tournament. Many will argue for 'The Famous' in Beckham, 'The Legends' in Charlton and Moore, 'The Goalscorer' in Lineker, 'The Most Capped' in Shilton or 'The Sheer Craziness' in Gazza.

Beckhams free kick against Greece in 2001
Beckham is definitely up there. His influence on the England teams he played with was massive, and as he whipped that ball past the Greek keeper Antonios Nikopolidis from 35 yards he became an England Legend. It was the greatest free kick I have ever seen and to do it in stoppage time with your team needing a goal to qualify for the World Cup, the pressure on his shoulders must have been unreal. Sadly for Beckham there were many a controversy, getting sent off against Argentina in the second round of the World Cup in 98 for a impetuous kick at Simeone providing the catalyst for national criticism and hatred. Beckham was blamed for the World Cup exit and his reputation was destroyed by the papers. Golden balls came back wonderfully from this, but with the controversy and the fact he never played in one of the great England teams, means he isn't for me England's greatest.

Gazza's famous Dentist chair celebration vs. Scotland in 96'
Lineker and Gascoigne on the other hand did play in a great team, anybody who watched the 1990 World cup will know that this was England's best chance of winning a trophy since 1966, and to lose on penalties to the German's in the semi finals was devastating for all involved. In theory if Gascoigne hadn't got emotional about missing the final, (due to a yellow card received from a silly diving challenge) England would have probably won, he may have scored that golden last minute chance and would have taken a penalty ahead of Chris Waddle who... well you know the rest. Gascoigne, unlike Beckham returned a hero due to his crying antics, everyone loved him, and by 96 he was a national legend helped by his dentist chair celebration. Lineker was the best finisher you'll see, similar to Klose for the Germans nowadays you were almost guaranteed a goal. He finished his career a goal behind the great Bobby Charlton in Englands all time goalscoring standings, and I doubt anyone regrets a missed penalty more than his against Brazil.  Never booked or sent off in his whole career he was a true role model, and has since taken a firm place in the nations hearts due to his Walkers crisp adverts and presenter of Match of The Day. He can also boast the highest goals per game ratio for England in recent years, but like Gazza and Golden Balls, never won a trophy. Unlike Gascoigne and Beckham he didn't get a classic nickname (unless you count 'Crisp Man'), For me Gazza and Crisp Man come 4th and 3rd respectively.

Lineker and Gascoigne played together for Spurs and England 
England's captain Moore with the World Cup in 66'
England's only trophy of course came in 1966, beating West Germany at Wembley 4-2 in one of the classic games of all-time. Two crucial members of that team were the two Bobby's Charlton and Moore, both along with goalkeeper Gordon Banks and George Cohen  made the team of the tournament. Both have received great plaudits Pele stated that Moore was the greatest defender he had ever played against. Moore was comfortable with the ball at his feet, calmness personified. The England defence didn't concede a goal until the semi finals this summed up Moore's influence and his tackle against Jairzinho in the 1970 world cup oozed class.

In a recent BBC documentary Sir Alex Ferguson stated that Bobby Charlton was the greatest player of all time. Top of the England goalscoring standings with 49 goals and reaching 106 caps for his country Charlton's performances for England were better than anyone else and not many (maybe only Pele) had  a bigger influence for their country. He was blessed with a wonderful shooting ability and scored a wide range of goals some that beggar belief. His creativeness and versatility were other attributes that put him above the rest and in 1966 this was shown when he virtually played German legend Franz Beckenbauer out of the game.
Charlton and Moore with the World Cup in  66'

I simply can't spilt the two Bobby's, without either England wouldn't have won the World Cup in 66' and it would simply be unfair on whoever I placed second. Make up your own minds, maybe I've missed a legend, I doubt I've missed the greatest, and before the inevitable jokes and incredibly hilarious banter machines they call funny football fans comment I DEFINITELY DID NOT MISS EMILE HESKEY!!!

James Cartwright 19/02/13 Follow me on twitter @James_H_C


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