Posted on

Football Dream Team; England

Written by; Tao MacLeod

In April I wrote an article called Football Dream Team, inspired by a book written by Terry Venebles. Here, El Tel, put in several variations of his ideal eleven-a-side footie teams in different contexts. This prompted me to do my own. In Football Dream Team I put forward an all time, global, 11-a-side selection, plus seven substitutes. In this post I have followed a similar process, but focused on those players who have played for the England national team. 

This is a dream team, that looks back over the years, taking players from different eras of the game. Although all of the players have retired from playing, there are some who have played in the 21st century, as well as those who played as long ago as the 1950’s and 1960’s. This is a celebration of the country that codified the modern game of football, and gave it to the world. I’ve included players from different parts of the country, and who’ve played for a variety of different clubs – some of whom have even gone abroad. One of the things that has struck me, when compiling this team, is the amount of English players who went to play in North America towards the end of their career. When I’ve added the player’s club after his name, I’ve chosen the place they played at during the prime of their career. The formation that I’ve chosen is a 4-3-1-2, similar to Alf Ramsey’s Wingless Wonders side of 1966, as I thought it the best system to get in as many legends as possible, in their desired positions. If anything my choices here are a conversation starter, we would love to hear your views and ideas of what you would change, or even keep the same…

Spurs stand at White Hart Lane. Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast. Copyright Tao MacLeod.


Gordon Banks (Leicester City/Stoke City); a giant of English goalkeeping, he was the English number one during the 1966 World Cup Finals, which ended with victory on home soil. Nicknamed ‘Banks of England’, he spent the larger part of his career playing for Leicester City, where he won the 1964 League Cup, before winning the same trophy with Stoke City, in 1972. George Best’s most famous disallowed goal was almost scored against Gordon Banks, in a match between Northern Ireland and England. Best had flicked the ball out of Banks’s hands and then headed it into the net, before the referee pulled play back for dangerous play. After a car accident, in which he lost the sight of one of his eyes, Banks finished his playing career in the experimental and iconic North American Soccer League (NASL), retiring in 1978. In terms of personal accolades, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and was the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year for an epic six years in a row, between 1966 and 1971. 

Right Back

Gary Neville (Manchester United); he was one of Fergie’s Fledglings, the group of youth team players that emerged from Man. Utd.’s youth academy in the early 1990’s and was the focal point of the documentary the Class of ’92, Neville went onto become a one club man and to captain the first team in the Premier League. Whilst playing at club level, he won eight league titles, three FA Cups, two Champions Leagues (including one treble in 1999 – English League, English Cup, European Cup in a single season) and a FIFA Club World Cup, making him the most decorated English right back of all time. As an England player, Neville had a 12 year international career, playing in three European Championships and two World Cups, gaining 85 caps for the National Team. 

Right Centre Back

Tony Adams (Arsenal); another one club man, he gained the Arsenal captaincy in 1988, at the age of 21. He became a part of the famous Arsenal defensive backline that helped to prompt a successful period for his side, in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. During his domestic playing career, Adams won four league titles (two of which were before the start of the Premier League era), three FA Cups, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup, in 1994. This is made all the more remarkable, being that we now know that he did all of this whilst battling alcoholism. Internationally, Adams made his England tournament debut at Euro 1988, before captaining a very entertaining English side to the semi-finals of the European Championships in 1996. He won 66 caps in total, also appearing as a part of a back three in the 1998 World Cup, before his final tournament appearance at Euro 2000. 

Left Centre Back

Bobby Moore (West Ham United); the first of several players in this dream team who turned out for the East London club. He was the captain of the most successful England team of all time, as he skippered his side to the 1966 World Cup. Widely considered one of the greatest defenders of all time, his intelligence and reading of the game helped him overcome a lack of pace. Pelé even cited that Moore was the greatest defender that he ever played against. As a West Ham player Moore won the FA Cup and Charity Shield in 1964, before finding continental glory winning the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup. As an England player, aside from the 1966 World Cup, he was a part of the squad that came third at the 1968 European Championships, as well as having won six British Home Championships, between 1965 and 1973. After playing for West Ham United, he went across London to play for Fulham, before going with his England team mate Gordon Banks to the NASL, where he finished his playing career. In terms of individual honours, Bobby Moore won the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year in 1964, BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1966 and was runner up in the 1970 Ballon d’Or. Unfortunately, Moore’s story is that of a life cut short. In 1993, the cancer that had plagued him since the mid-1960’s, finally got the better of him. Bobby Moore died at the young age of 51. He would be the captain of this team.

Left Back

Ashley Cole (Arsenal/Chelsea); one of the best full backs of his generation, I can’t think of a more successful English left back than this particular player. Having come through the youth teams at North London club Arsenal, he was a part of the club’s invincible team that went undefeated for an entire season on the way to winning the Premier League in 2004. He then went onto appear in Arsenal’s first ever Champions League Final, in 2006, losing out to Barcelona, before completing a big news transfer to cross town rivals Chelsea. This is where he stacked up even more winners medals, both domestically and continentally. Throughout his club career, Cole has won seven FA Cups, three league titles, the Champions League, in 2012, and the Europa League, in 2013. He finally left London in 2014, moving to Italian team Roma, before heading off to the reformed American championship Major League Soccer (MLS), turning out for LA Galaxy. He finished his career with Derby County, in 2019. As an international player, Cole played 107 times for England, being selected for five major tournaments. This included three World Cups, Korea/Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, as well as two European Championships, Portugal 2004 (where he was mentioned in the tournament all-star team) and Poland/Ukraine 2012. 

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Centre Right Midfielder

Paul Scholes (Manchester United); a truly wonderful player, with technique and vision, how good would England have been if he was used properly? Originally, Scholesy had started out as a striker during his youth career, he had moved to an attacking midfielder, by the time he was playing regularly for the Man. Utd. first team. He eventually wound up as a deep lying playmaker, before he retired from playing for a second time. Alongside England team mate, Gary Neville, he was a part of Fergie’s Fledglings, the group of youth team players that came through the United youth ranks in the early 1990’s. A winner of 11 league titles, three FA Cups and two Champions Leagues, he was a part of the 1999 treble winning side that won all three major honours in one season. Internationally, Scholes played in three major tournaments in a row, the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup. However, he was often played out of position in order to accommodate Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. He announced that he would retire from international duty in 2004, before his 30th birthday. 

Central Midfielder

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool); a player who could have gone anywhere in the world during his prime, he stayed with the team he supported as a boy and went on to captain his club to a Champions League victory. One of the best English players to have never won the English league, he was done pretty much everything else in his career. Three League Cups, two FA Cups, a Champions League, a UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup are all titles that he has won in an eighteen year career. The 2006 FA Cup Final was an epic contest, in which Gerrard scored a screamer of an equalising goal in the last minute normal time, before scoring one of the penalties on the way to victory. Also, he started a famous comeback for Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League Final against AC Milan, where they came from behind to win, again, on penalties. Unfortunately, he was injured for the 2002 World Cup, but he did play in 2006 and was England captain for 2010, as well as playing in three European Championships. 

Centre Left Midfielder

Paul Gascoigne (Tottenham Hotspur/Lazio/Rangers); a player who has been described as a genius with the ball, it has been remarked that Gazza would often pass to team mates knowing full well that they had to give it back to him. Aside from showing how much he enjoyed having the ball at his feet (possibly greedy), it also tells us to how good he was. A set piece taker, he famously scored a belter of a free kick for Spurs, against North London rivals Arsenal, in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final. Hailing from Gateshead, County Durham, he was picked up by local team Newcastle United, where he showed promise as a youngster, winning the PFA Young Payer of the Year Award, in 1988. He then secured a move to Tottenham, where he won the previously mentioned FA Cup. However, it was during the 1990 World Cup where he became a star. Gascoigne’s creativity became the beating heart of the English midfield as the national team throughout the tournament. England went on to finish fourth, losing their semi-final on penalties to a German team playing for a recently unified country back home. Gazza’s tears in the same match, after earning a match ban from the World Cup Final, showed his human side. It also indicated a more vulnerable side that we would see later on, as he battled injuries and mental health issues in his personal and professional life. As his star continued to rise, he moved to Italian side Lazio at the age of 25, before going to play for Glaswegian team Rangers. It was here that he had his most successful period of his career, winning the Scottish Premiership twice, as well as the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup, between 1995 and 1998. Gazza played in three major tournaments for England. Aside from the 1990 World Cup, he was involved in the disappointing Euro ’92, as well as the rather more entertaining Euro ’96. It was the latter tournament that he helped to create further good memories for the English football fans, scoring a spectacular goal against Scotland, helping to demolish a Dutch side, before going all the way to the semi-finals, before losing yet again to Germany, on penalties. In total, Gascoigne played 57 times for England, scoring ten times, before being controversially dropped from the 1998 World Cup. He became a bit of a journeyman, in his club career, after this, playing for a variety of sides, including Chinese side Gansu Tianma. A legend of English football, he is one of the game’s greatest characters. 

Playmaker/Number 10

Bobby Charlton (Manchester United); in the debate of whether great players from older generations could play the modern game, I truly believe that he could. Throughout his career, Charlton had played as a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a winger and as a forward, meaning that he was tactically versatile. He was also equally good with either foot. As a member of the 1966 World Cup winning side, he played just behind the forward line, scoring several goals along the way. As an England player, he played in three World Cups, winning one of them, as well as being a part of the squad that finished third at Euro ’68. Charlton also won five British Home Championships outright, between 1961 and 1969. Domestically, he was a member of the Busby Babes Manchester United team that was involved in the Munich Air Disaster. He survived, but the tragedy stayed with him. The European Cup victory in 1968 was a part of the journey that he shared with manager Sir Matt Busby. During this time he also won three English League titles and the 1963 FA Cup. In terms of individual accolades, he won the prodigious Ballon d’Or in 1966, as well as being the runner up in 1967 and ’68. He was the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the year in 1966, as well as winning the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball in the same year. Charlton was also selected in the World Cup All-Star teams of 1966 and 1970. In the latter end of his career, he turned out for Preston North End, before travelling around the Australian system for a couple of years, enjoying the sunshine in his semi-retirement. 

Right Forward

Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea/AC Milan/Tottenham Hotspur); one of the greatest forwards of all time, he was one of the most gifted goalscorer to grace an English shirt. Coming through the youth teams at West London club Chelsea, his 124 goals in 157 appearances earned him a transfer to Italian giants AC Milan, at the age of 21, winning the Serie A championship. However, Greaves returned to England within a year, arriving at Spurs in 1961, where he stayed for nine years. Here, Greavsie won the FA Cup twice, as well as the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup, before moving on to play for West Ham. Whilst playing for England, he found success in the British Home Championships, throughout the 1960’s. He was also the starting forward for the national team in the 1966 World Cup (having previously played in the 1962 tournament), before being injured in the game against France. His replacement for the Final was Geoff Hurst, the first man to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. In 1963 Jimmy Greaves finished third in Ballon d’Or award selections. 

Left Forward

Wayne Rooney (Everton/Manchester United); another former captain of England, he is currently the most capped outfield England player of all time and until recently his country’s highest goalscorer. A Liverpudlian, Rooney came through at his favourite boyhood team of Everton (apparently he once turned up for trials with Liverpool, as a kid, in full Everton kit). He was earmarked for success early on, making his Premier League debut at the age of 16, scoring the winning goal soon afterwards, against Arsenal. This made Wazza the youngest goalscorer in the League’s history, up to that point. At 18, he was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United. Here, his career really took off. In his 13 years at the club, Rooney won five Premier League titles, the 2008 Champions League, the 2017 Europa League, as well as the 2008 FIFA World Club Cup. He played in six major international tournaments for England. He made his debut for his country, at the age of 17, in a friendly against Australia, before being selected for the 2004 European Championships, being selected for the 2012 and 2016 (where he was named captain) incarnations of the tournament as well. Additionally, Rooney also played in three World Cups, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Amongst his many personal accolades, Rooney won the 2010 Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award. Additionally, he was the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year in 2006 and 2010. He played 120 times for England, scoring 53 goals. After his second stint at Everton, he went off to America to play with D.C. United. He ended his domestic career with Derby County, where, in fact he started his coaching career.

England Dream Team. Click on the image to listen to the half Court Press Podcast.
England Dream Team. Click on the image to listen to the half Court Press Podcast.



David Seaman (Arsenal); his country’s second highest capped goalkeeper, he went on to have a long and glittering career. A Yorkshireman, he came through at Leeds United. However, it is Arsenal that he will always be associated with. Here he won four FA Cups, three English League titles and the 1994 European Cup Winners’s Cup. He was the first choice goalkeeper for England at two European Championships and two World Cups, including the 1996 tournament that captured the hearts of a nation. 


Duncan Edwards (Manchester United); one of the Busby Babes, he unfortunately died at the tender age of 21 in the Munich Air Crash. His was a career cut short, as he had the potential to be an all time great. In his short career, he won two English Championships, as well as the corresponding Charity Shield showcases. In terms of personal accolades, Edwards was inducted in to the English Football Hall of Fame, in 2002, as well as the Football League 100 Legends in 1998. Duncan Edwards was also mentioned in the Professional Football Association Team of the Century, 1907 to 1976. 

Rio Ferdinand (West Ham United/Manchester United); a defender, who mainly played as a centre-back, as a pair in a back four, he could also act as a sweeper, or a defensive midfielder. Former England manager, reportedly, had intentions of using Ferdy more frequently, as a continental styled ball playing defensive player, within a 3-5-2 formation. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition, as Hoddle lost his job, but the idea could have moved English football towards what we see today, several years earlier. Having come through at West Ham United, with several other high quality players, he had a better career than most of them. After leaving London, he spent two years at Leeds, before going to Manchester United, where he became a Champions League and FIFA World Club Cup winner. He was also an England captain for a brief time. 


Frank Lampard (West Ham United/Chelsea); famously his West Ham manager and uncle Harry Redknapp defended him in front of a fans group, after one of them thought that he would never amount to anything. After his move to Chelsea Lampard, Jr. won four FA Cups, three Premier League titles, two League Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League, as well as achieving 106 caps for his country. Not bad for somebody who, supposedly, was only in the West Ham team because his dad was the assistant coach. Lamps was another player who ended up in the MLS at the end of his career, turning out for New York City F.C.

David Beckham (Manchester United/Real Madrid); the most high profile player to have ever turned out for England, he became a pop icon for a generation. Another former England captain, he often played on the right of a four man midfield (creating a good partnership with best mate Gary Neville for club and country). However, it’s been said that he preferred central midfield, which is where he played in the 1999 Champions League Final, that secured the treble that season. A set piece specialist, his right foot was known for it’s ability to stick a ball on a sixpence, from across the pitch. After a falling out with Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, he went off around the world. His first stop was with Spanish giants Real Madrid, where he became one of the Galaticos, before heading off to LA Galaxy (another MLS player), AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. His first league winners medal came in 1996, with his boyhood team, his last was the French Ligue 1 in 2013, via the 2007 Spainish La Liga title. He won the Sir Matt Busby Award in 1997, the UEFA Club Player of the Year, in 1999 and was England Player of the Year, in 2003. 


Geoff Hurst (West Ham United); the first player ever to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final – just don’t ask Scotland’s Ally McCoist what he thinks. A West Ham apprentice at the age of 15, he stayed in East London for the prime years of his career, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. An icon of English football, due to his goalscoring exploits in the victorious 1966 World Cup, he was also a part of the Euro 1968 squad that came third, where he was also named in the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament. Hurst was inducted in to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004. 

Gary Lineker (Barcelona/Tottenham Hotspur); the first English player to win the Golden Boot (top goalscoring award) at a World Cup. His goal scoring exploits were world class. Gary Winston Lineker, started out with his local team Leicester City, where he won his only league title, the English League Second Division in 1980. However, he did take home some rather more prestigious medals later in his career. A move to Everton, was quickly rewarded with a transfer to Barcelona. Here he won the Copa del Rey in 1988 and then the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989. He then won the FA Cup, in 1991 (alongside Gazza). Lineker was also a part of the squad that came fourth at the 1990 World Cup. He finished his career in Japan, playing for Nagoya Grampus.


Terry Venebles (Barcelona/Tottenham Hotspur/England); one of the best coaches of his generation, he has worked and found success all around the world. I’ve picked El-Tel, in part, based on nostalgia. His England team at Euro ’96 made me fall in love with football and sport in general. It was a magical summer, where England took on some of the best teams in the world and very nearly face out on top, whilst playing fun, exciting and entertaining football. That squad wasn’t full of talent that later teams were, but they were the most fun that I’ve seen up until recent years. It was arguably a better functioning team than that of the golden generation of 2002 till 2020, playing with tactical fluidity. Terry Venebles started out coaching Crystal Palace, before moving onto Queens Pare Rangers, finding moderate success in the second tier of the English League. This caught the attention of Barcelona, where he won the 1985 La Liga title, as well as the 1986 Copa del Rey. The same year, his Barca side got to the European Cup final, losing out to a Steaua Bucharest side on penalties. After this, he coached Gazza and Lineker to FA Cup victory in 1991, prompting his hiring as England manager in 1994.  Latterly, he helped to develop football in Australia, helping them to become runners up in the 1997 Confederations Cup. 

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.