Whilst a striker is often the headline writer in big football matches, the real artistry is often produced further down the field. Midfielders come in all shapes and sizes; they’re enforcers and ball-winners, they’re passers and creative players. Sometimes, they’re mavericks, unpredictably brilliant and fatally flawed.
The England team has seen some truly wonderful midfield players over the years, from the supremely functional to the outlandishly talented. We look back at four of the greatest.
Where else could you start other than Bobby Charlton? 49 goals in 106 outings for England point to his talents – a record that took half a century to be overtaken. He operated in an era where England caps were not easy to come by and yet he stood the test of time.
He could score, create and he lifted the World Cup for his country as well. He wasn’t quite a one-club man, as he turned out for Preston as his career wound down, but his name is synonymous with Manchester United.
An article by the BBC details how he had a portrait unveiled in the National Football Museum – just one tribute in a lifetime of awards and acknowledgements.
From a player who achieved everything to one who could have gone so much further, ‘Gazza’ might have been flawed, but he was also a genius. He delighted a generation of football fans with his sublime skills as well as his amusing antics.
Coral’s guide to famous goal celebrations shows how one of Gazza’s most iconic moments was in a match against Scotland in Euro 96. He almost took England to a major tournament win that year, ending up an inch away from a sensational winner against Germany in the semi-final.
He was dropped from the 1998 World Cup squad by the next midfielder on our list and that began a sharp decline, which has led him down a dark path.
Glenn Hoddle is not a luxury player; he’s a gift from God. They were the words used by The Standard to describe the former Tottenham Hotspur and Monaco midfielder, words that surely do his immense talent justice.
Hoddle was a player ahead of his time, with the vision and artistry not associated with the English game at the time. The international set up has always struggled to find an adequate role for those touches by genius, and Hoddle is another example of a player who should have achieved so much more.
He later managed the national side and attracted controversy with some of his comments, but they should never detract from his slick, cultured performances with the Three Lions on his chest.
What might England have achieved in the early eighties if this combative midfielder hadn’t suffered two injuries? In 1982 he scored the quickest goal of the tournament against France, announcing himself on the world stage. When the 1986 tournament came around he was in his pomp, arguably the jewel in England’s crown. An aggravated shoulder injury cut his tournament short, with England eventually getting to the last eight.
Four years later he was injured again, this time an Achilles problem put him out the tournament as West Germany ended English hopes in the semi-final. Despite these major tournament blows, he still got 90 caps for his country and would have surely surpassed Bobby Charlton had he stayed fit.
Why not also check out the lowdown on the greatest strikers to have played in England’s top flight? And let us know if you think we’ve missed anyone out in the comments section below.