- Capital: London
- Official Languages: English
- Nicknames: The Three Lions (men); The Lionesses (women)
- Association: The Football Association
- FIFA Code: ENG
- Best World Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1966)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Third Place (2015)
- Best Euros Result (Men): Third Place (1968, 1996)
- Best Euros Result (Women): FINALISTS (1984, 2009)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 3rd (August 2012)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 2nd (March 2018)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 27th (February 1996)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 14th (June 2004)
- Most Capped Player: Fara Williams – 172 caps
- Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney – 53 goals
Being the birthplace of modern codified association football, England will always be considered as one of the most influential countries in international football. The largest and most populous of the four British ‘home nations’, they have continuously produced world-class players and legends of football throughout the numerous decades. However for all of their talent produced throughout the decades, the country’s sole success at senior international level is still only the 1966 World Cup, winning the Jules Rimet Trophy on home soil. In recent times, the English women’s team has improved to become one of the best teams in women’s football, continuously being considered as one of the favourites to win recent international tournaments, but alas they have yet to add to the English trophy tally. Their best performance has been finishing third in the 2015 World Cup – the best finish of an English side in a World Cup outside of the 1966 tournament.
To talk about the 1966 World Cup winners, and 2018’s semi-finals in men’s world football, we interviewed Russell Osborne, the host of the excellent Three Lions Podcast, a regular podcast (available on multiple podcast platforms) which talks about all things involving The Three Lions. To find their accounts, follow the links below:
- Three Lions Podcast Website: https://www.threelionspodcast.com/
- Three Lions Podcast Twitter: @3LionsPodcast
- Links to Three Lions Podcast: iTunes; Spotify; Soundcloud
Talking about the Lionesses, who are one of the strongest women’s team in world football, is Lauren Reid, a member of the excellent Lionesses Supporters Network on Facebook. The link of which is found below:
- Lionesses Supporters Network Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640905779653467/about
Key: RO = Russell Osborne; LR = Lauren Reid
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
RO: I’ll start with the manager. I’ve actually just finished reading a book by Graham Morse, a biography on Sir Walter Winterbottom [which can be found on Amazon HERE], who was England’s first (and longest serving) manager between 1946 and 1962. Whilst the team was still being picked by selectors back then, he was a great coach with forward-thinking and innovative ideas and paved the way for a generation to follow him and lift the World Cup in 1966. It was Walter who introduced the English under age sides, gave Bobby Moore his debut, and encouraged Sir Bobby Robson to take up his coaching badges after his playing career.
Best player; I guess you could look at this from a few different angles. Peter Shilton, won the most caps, Wayne Rooney has scored the most goals, but although I never saw him play, the footage I’ve seen and the regard he was held in, I’d have to say Bobby Moore. They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and there are two particular pictures that sum him up; the one where he is holding the World Cup trophy up, and the one where he is pictured swapping shirts and smiles with Pele.
LR: I think the best England player has to be Lucy Bronze. She’s a strong defender and has won so many awards during her career so far. The best manager has to be Mark Sampson. The way he brought the team together, and coming 3rd in the 2015 Women’s World Cup shows how much he influenced the players and utilised them in their best positions.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
LR: I think Fara Williams is a ‘cult hero’ just for the fact that she’s the most capped England player for both the men and women as well as her backstory. It takes a lot to go from being homeless at such a young age and then becoming England’s most capped player, it’s truly remarkable!
RO: Can’t really look beyond Paul Gascoigne really, a genius on the pitch but had his flaws off it, flaws that many of us can associate to in daily life. Won the hearts of every Englishman with his performances and tears in Italia ’90, scored an amazing goal against Scotland in Euro ’96, and then wrecked Glenn Hoddle’s office after he left him out of the 1998 World Cup squad. Football has changed since then, I don’t think anyone in the current set-up has those sort of ‘qualities’ to really be a cult player in the way that I understand the term.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from the country currently?
RO: Obviously Jack Grealish is being highly spoken of, but he has a fair way to go (for England) before he can be classed as the best, in fact I may contradict myself here and refer back to the previous question, he may become a future England cult hero… We are lucky that we have an abundance of high quality attacking players, Harry Kane is on course to break Wayne Rooney’s English scoring record of 53 goals, Marcus Rashford is doing great things on and off the pitch, Raheem Sterling, take your pick.
LR: Currently, I think the best player on the team is Jordan Nobbs. Although she has been out of the team due to injury, when she’s on the pitch there’s a real difference. Her link up with Lucy Bronze is brilliant. Unfortunately, she goes unnoticed quite a lot which is a shame.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
LR: I think we can do a lot better. Going back to the World Cup last year, we had a few games early in the competition where we could have lost, and with the world class players we have, we shouldn’t be making silly little mistakes. Personally I think Phil Neville has taken the team backwards and I’m hoping Sarina Wiegman can change things around for us in 2021.
RO: Good, but not good enough. Questions have been asked about Gareth Southgate‘s set-up being too defensive minded, stifling the flow to the attacking options. This is in comparison to the flood of goals and flowing football witnessed in the qualification to Euro 2020 (2021), where 31 goals were scored in 8 games, compared to the unsuccessful UEFA Nations League campaign, where only 7 goals were scored in 6 group games and finishing 3rd in the group out of 4 teams. Optimism probably isn’t as high as it maybe was around November 2019 time.
Q. Are there any English players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
RO: We are fortunate that we have a good crop of young players across the positions who could feature prominently in the future, and perhaps the building of St. George’s Park [England’s national football centre] is paying off. There was the 2017 triple success where the the U20’s and U17’s won their respective World Cups and the Under 19’s were European Champions, with all these teams featured the likes of Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who have all featured during the 8 games in 2020. Gareth Southgate gave 12 players their debut in this time too, so we are looking to the future, but the players that do excite me are Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka.
LR: We need to focus on a few younger players, I love how Leah Williamson, Keira Walsh and Chloe Kelly play. I can’t wait for them to get a little bit more experience and push into the starting half more often. I feel like Leah and Keira could be potential captains one day.
Q. Looking at England’s illustrious international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
LR: I loved our game against the USA in the 2019 She Believes Cup. If finished 2-2 and we showed how relentless we can be. Despite not winning, we held onto the result which then meant we went on to win the whole tournament.
RO: So many to choose from! Obviously beating Scotland is always fun, I wish I’d been at the 5-1 game in Munich, but obviously the 1966 World Cup final. Whilst may not have been the best performance, it was the best result, which past England teams have failed to match since. Has the current side got it in them? I’m not sure, but it gives future teams something to aspire to.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
RO: Plenty! Anytime we leave a tournament is always a low point, penalties come to mind, plus I’m thinking South Africa 2010 and 4-1 defeat to Germany. Losing to Hungary back in the 1950’s would have been interesting to witness, and seeing how people reacted to that, because at the time, we as a nation, the pioneers of the game, thought we were almost invincible, and Hungary taught us to think again. Losing to 0-1 America in the 1950 World Cup can be regarded as a low point too.
LR: I think our 3rd place playoff game in the 2019 World Cup against Sweden wasn’t good enough. We should have won that game but again we made sloppy mistakes which, in the end, we paid for. It was heart-breaking to watch the girls after the match but we had to move on.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the English national team?
LR: The best thing about being a fan of the national team is the atmosphere. When you’re at the stadium and everyone is excited to watch the game. People are chanting and it’s just so nice. The way the players interact with the fans after the game adds a nice touch as well.
The worst part about being a fan has to be the sexist and homophobic comments that are made. If you look on social media the women get a lot of hate and as a fan we also get hate for supporting them. I know in the past I’ve had to deal with comments being made but and some things can get quite bad at times. It’s unfair.
RO: The best things are being able to regularly see good football being played by some great individual players. With the way qualifying is now organised, qualification for tournaments are almost a given, with the last time we failed to qualify was for the 2008 European Championships hosted by Austria & Switzerland. The level of support the national team receives with supporters in attendance is constantly amazing, regularly the biggest attendance of a matchday, and away games always have a big oversubscribed following.
Sadly the downsides are still the negative press that England supporters receive from the media – one smashed glass and all England fans are branded hooligans. Also the inflated prices that airlines will charge when they know England fans are travelling is a frustration.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
RO: Hmmm, I’m not really sure, tunes tend to come around with tournaments. With the last World Cup and preceding qualification campaign there was the “England’s going to Russia, drinking all your vodka, England’s going all the way” song, but that’s kind of died of death, although it has to be said, no-one has been in a ground of late to sing anything or start anything new. There is the “En-ger-land, En-ger-land, En-ger-land!” chant, but I think with international football, original songs & chants don’t really come around that often, more the sort of adapted club songs. Although you’ll always hear the national anthem being sung at the start of the second half, usually instigated by the official supporters’ band.
LR: Personally I haven’t heard of any, I’m sure there are but I just know that we sing the national anthem. I hope that in the future there is a chant that is developed that everyone sings.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
LR: I love the 2019 World Cup away shirt. The berry crush and the design is just so nice. And the fact that it was just for the women’s team added that little bit more pride to it.
RO: As a bit of a shirt fan/collector, I’ve got most of the shirts dating back to 1986 when the team were associated with Umbro. Obviously before that they wore Admiral shirts and are now under Nike‘s wing of which I’m not the biggest fan of. Back in 1988 the team had a set of three Umbro shirts, white home, red away and sky blue third (which was never worn), I’ve got all of those and particularly like the blue one, all have a great grandad collar, think Newcastle’s classic Adidas-made, Newcastle Brown Ale-sponsored shirt. But I do like the 2002 home shirt with the red vertical stripe down it, with that classic image of Beckham celebrating in it at the Stretford End after scoring in the last minute against Greece. It’s also got personal memories as I remember wearing it to the first World Cup I attended in Japan 2002.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the English national team?
RO: Obviously to try and win a trophy in my lifetime, the 1997 Tournoi de France doesn’t really cut it. To see an England captain lift a trophy, be it the Euros or World Cup would be amazing, I may even settle for the Nations League. Having only memories of lost semi-finals wear thin after a while. Of course I want to see good football being played, and young players come through staking their claims for regular games, but ultimately to add to that sole 1966 victory.
LR: I hope that when Sarina Wiegman comes in [scheduled to take over as the new Lionesses’ manager in September 2021] we will have more of a fighting spirit. We need to use the young players to our advantage and the mangers need to stop having favourites. Some of the older players are past there prime and are potentially not good enough to play in the 2022 Euros and the upcoming World Cup in 2023.
A massive thank you to Russell from the Three Lions Podcast for answering our questions on The Three Lions, and Lauren from the Lionesses Supporters Network for answering the questions on the Lionesses. Remember you can find their excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.