England's Future and its Past: Harry Kane and the All Time Top XI
Rarely have expectations been lower for an England side as it prepares to meet Lithuania at home on Friday.
The once proud national team has taken on the identity of its ineffectual but eminently likeable manager Roy Hodgson – humble, hard-working yet unable to deliver.
But there is one bright spark that could yet reawaken the slumbering football giant as a genuine football superpower - Tottenham's boy wonder Harry Kane.
The fact that England is putting all its hopes on an untried international striker shows just how much the country needs to believe in a savior, even if he is only 21-years-old. He'd better get a goal or two on Friday because it will be an altogether different proposition in next Tuesday's friendly with Italy.
Kane has scored 29 goals in all competitions so far for Spurs this season, a remarkable feat since he couldn't even make his club's starting eleven at the start of the season. As usual, Hodgson is going into the international break trying to play down expectations surrounding Kane, who seems level headed enough to handle the pressure. Let's hope that by the end of the long weekend his manager is singing his praises.
Perhaos England fans have something to look forward to after all.
IIn the meantime, it seemed a good time to put together my best England team of all time, most of them plucked from a time when England expected to come out on top.
Not everybody will agree with my selection and I’d love to hear your all-time elevens.
Somehow I don’t think any of the following would be too worried about facing Lithuania, the 94th rated team in the world.
Gordon Banks – Goalkeeper (1963-72) 73 caps, 0 goals
Back in the days England had a production line of top class goalkeepers, Banks was Mr. Reliable for 73 caps during a nine-year period, most notably in the 1966 World Cup triumph. But he is best remembered for possibly the best save of all time in the 1-0 Word Cup loss to Brazil when he reached down at an impossible angle to flick Pele’s forceful downward header over the bar. He won the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award six times in a row from 1966-71.
Ray Wilson – Left Back (1960-1968) 63 caps, 0 goals
He virtually invented the idea of the overlapping full back and was the oldest member of the 1966 team at 32. He became an undertaker after his playing days were over.
Bobby Moore – Central Defender (1962-73) 108 caps, 2 goals
He may have lacked pace but the mercurial Moore made up for it in sheer class and reading of the game. Pele described this Rolls Royce of players as “the greatest defender I ever played against. And, of course, he’s the only England captain ever to raise the Jules Rimet trophy.
Tony Adams – Central Defender (1987-2000) 66 caps, 5 goals
A towering presence at the back who led by example, inspiring his team through his gutsy displays. Another one-club man who was the bedrock of Arsenal’s success, making 669 appearances for the Gunners and winning League titles in three different decades.
Gary Neville - Right Back (1995-2007) 85 caps, 0 goals
England’s most capped right back played with fight and fire and sometimes got in trouble for it, but nobody could question his commitment. A one-team Manchester United man, he made David Beckham look good for club and country.
Bryan Robson – Midfield (1980-91) 90 caps, 26 goals
Captain Marvel provided the grit and drive that any international team needs to prosper. His injuries cost the team badly in 1986 and 1990 – Sir Bobby Robson believed they could have been the difference-maker in going all the way – but he ruled the dressing room for club and country with a rule of iron and was a role model to his teammates.
Bobby Charlton – Midfield/Striker (1958-1970) 106 caps, 49 goals
One of the most respected players in football to this day, he had outstanding passing ability and a ferocious long range shot. The centerpiece of the 1966 World Cup team, he is one of just three Englishmen to win the coveted Balon d’Or. He survived the 1958 Munich Air Disaster to spend most of his career with his beloved Manchester United.
Paul Gasgoigne – Midfield (1987-98) 57 caps, 10 goals
The enigmatic Geordie was a born footballer and played the game like he was still at the park with his mates. I was at the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Italy when Gazza was in tears after picking up a booking that would have put him out of the final had England beaten Germany. Who cares what he did off the field when he brought so much enjoyment on it?
Jimmy Greaves – Striker (1959-1967) 57 caps, 44 goals
One of the most prolific strikers of all time, Greaves was a natural born poacher who always knew exactly where to be to score. His 357 goals make him the highest goalscorer in the history of English top-flight football and he has scored more hat-tricks – six – for England than anyone else.
Alan Shearer – Striker (1992-2000)
An old-school center forward who would score goals in any era. With a strike rate of almost a goal every two games he deserved a better team around him because if there was one thing you could rely on with Shearer it was that if you could get him the ball there was a good chance he’d put it in the net.
Stanley Matthews - Winger (1934-1957) 54 caps, 11 goals
The only footballer to be knighted while still playing, the vegetarian teetotaler kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50. The “Wizard of the Dribble” played for less fashionable teams Stoke City and Blackpool. He didn’t tackle much, rarely headed the ball and didn’t have a left foot, but Franz Beckenbauer said that the speed and skill Matthews possessed meant that "almost no one in the game could stop him.”