Celebrating 150 years of soccer, the English FA have enjoyed a landmark year.

Ranking PST’s favorite 150 players in England’s top flight history


The English Football Association recently celebrated what’s been a landmark year for soccer’s oldest governing body when the national team face old foes Germany in a friendly at the home of soccer.

Other events, such as the first-ever soccer game at Buckingham Palace, gala dinners and many other high-profile appearances from legendary players and managers, have stretched throughout the special year as the game the English invented has become the most popular sport in the world.

In 1863 the FA was formed and over the last 150 years so many sensational players have graced the English First Division, and now the Premier League, as fans across the globe have marveled at the talent on display.

To celebrate the English FA’s 150 anniversary, myself and my colleague Mike Prindiville thought it would be great to look back and rank our favorite players that helped shape England’s top flight as it is today. It wasn’t easy, as this list could be extended to 250 and plenty of worth players would’ve been omitted.

Anyway, here it goes, our 150 favorite players in English top flight history is about to be revealed. Do you agree?

Top 20

1. George Best

The loveable playboy who dazzled and delighted us all with his mesmerizing skills sits at the top of our mammoth list, he was an entertainer who always delivered. Best was the darling of Manchester United and Northern Ireland and was the most famous man on the planet in his prime. Two league titles and a European Cup plus 181 goals in 474 games for United say it all. Legend. JPW

2. Sir Bobby Charlton

A United 1-2 at the top and they both played in that remarkable Red Devils team that won the 1968 European Cup at Wembley. Charlton was the symbol of United’s rise from the dark days of the Munich air disaster to champions of Europe. He was a terrific midfielder who possessed a hammer of a shot from distance. Charlton still holds the goalscoring record for United and England. JPW

3. Sir Stanley Matthews

When his name is uttered, old black and white footage of a man dribbling and gliding down the wing spring to mind. Matthews was known as the “Magician” and played until he was 50 years of age. Described as one of the finest crossers of the ball the game has ever seen, his status as the first true great of English soccer remains intact today. Blackpool and Stoke City were the only two teams he played for, as well as representing England. JPW

4. Sir Bobby Moore

Still the only man to captain England to World Cup glory, Moore is revered as the best central defender the Three Lions have ever had. His reading of the game was superb and the effortlessness in which he constantly thwarted opposition forwards was a joy to behold. Famous battles with Brazilian legend Pele live on long in the memory during England’s golden generation. The nation was in mourning following his death at an early age, England’s heroic captain now guards Wembley as his statue sits out front of the home of soccer. West Ham legend, Moore will always be remembered as the man who led England to glory on home soil in 1966. JPW

Ryan Giggs is a legend at United

5. Ryan Giggs

With a little more than a week to go before his 40th birthday, there’s no questioning that Giggs is a Premier League legend. The only player to have ever played and scored in every Premier League season, Giggs has won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and two Champions Leagues. Individually, he’s been named to the Premier League Team of the Year six times, the PFA Team of the Century and the UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team. MP

6. Alan Shearer

Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer and the highest scoring player in the history of the Premier League, Shearer is a god to the Toon Army. He broke Jackie Milburn’s famous goalscoring record and scored 206 times for his hometown club, while also winning a league title with little Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Captained England at both World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, Shearer was the finest striker of his generation. JPW

7. Thierry Henry

Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, Henry’s va-va-voom made him a cult hero in North London and across the globe. He led Arsene Wenger’s revolution with the Gunner from the very start and the young Frenchman turned into one of the greatest strikers the planet has ever seen. Winning a World Cup and European Championship with France and several league championships (including their invincipled season and other domestic honors with Arsenal, Titi will forever by the king of North London. JPW

8. Gary Lineker

England’s second highest goalscorer in history, Lineker’s career was full of poached goals and supreme professionalism as he scored for whatever club he suited up for. Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona all loved his predatory instincts as he scored 281 times in over 500 games during his glittering career. JPW

9. Kenny Dalglish

A fierce competitor and goalscorer for Liverpool, Dalglish netted 199 times in the League and formed a tremendous partnership with Ian Rush. King Kenny was arguably the most successful player-manager the English game has ever known, leading Liverpool to a League and FA Cup double in 1986. Dalglish also endeared himself to Liverpudlians as an inspirational figure following the Hillsborough Disaster. MP

10. Peter Shilton

With 125 appearances, Shilton is England’s most capped player ever. Known for his remarkable agility, Shilton’s career spanned an incredible two decades (he retired at the age of 47) where he won back-to-back European Cups at Nottingham Forest and played in a World Cup semi-final. He will forever be best known, however, as the victim of Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God.” MP

source: Getty Images
England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation

11. Steven Gerrard

Stevie G is Liverpool. The one-club man is one of the best midfielders of all time and remains the only player to have scored in an FA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final and a Champions League Final. Named to the Premier League Team of the Year seven times and the FIFA World XI three times, Gerrard captains the England side for which he has made over 100 appearances. MP

12. Nat Lofthouse

He scored 30 goals in 33 games for England… a sublime goals to game ratio that nobody has ever beaten. Lofthouse was one of the finest forwards England has ever seen as he played for his hometown side Bolton from 1946-60. Was dubbed the “Lion of Vienna” after England beat Austria 3-2 and he scored the winner despite being battered around the pitch. His bravery to stick his head in where it hurt grabbed him many goals, a poacher of epic proportions. JPW

13. David Beckham

A global superstar who has won titles in England, Spain, France and the USA, Becks has done it all. He holds the record for most caps picked up by an outfield player for England (115), his performances on the pitch were always of the highest quality. His crossing ability was phenomenal and his spectacular goals saw him elevate his legendary status further. Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to have him on their side. A true England great. JPW

14. Eric Cantona

Part footballer, part philosopher, part artist, perhaps no man had greater influence on the Premier League than Cantona. Credited by Sir Alex Ferguson as the signing that changed everything for Manchester United, Cantona won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, was part of the Premier League Team of the Year in 1993-94, and was voted the club’s Greatest Ever Player by the magazine Inside United. He’ll forever be known for his kung fu kick of a Crystal Palace supporter but with the bad came so much good, including one of the best goal celebrations of all time – the popped collar stare down. MP

15. Wayne Rooney

When you think of English football it’s impossible not to think of Rooney. The Everton product announced himself to the world with his blistering strike against Arsenal in his first Premier League appearance and he hasn’t looked back since, transferring to Manchester United where he has won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. Individually, Rooney has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times, the Fifa World XI (2011) and was awarded the greatest ever Premier League goal for his bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011. MP

source: Getty Images
Wayne Rooney is poised to become England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer

16. Tony Adams

He’s nicknamed “Mr. Arsenal” for good reason – with 504 total appearances, 255 of which were in the Premier League, no one encompasses the Gunners more than Adams. A fierce defender who had a knack for getting forward and scoring big goals, Adams was named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times and also earned a place in the Team of the Decade (1992/3 – 2001/2) at the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards. MP

17. Kevin Keegan

One of the finest midfielders in English history, Keegan rose from the depths of Scunthorpe United to starring for Liverpool, Southampton, Hamburg and his hometown side Liverpool and won the European player of the year award. For England he was the first name on the team-sheet throughout the 1970’s and Keegan’s delightful perm inspired a generations hairstyles! Magnificent athlete and leader who squeezed out every inch of his talent. JPW

18. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s time in England may have been cut short but it will long live in the memory of fans across the Premier League. Ronaldo remains the most expensive player of all time and made 196 appearances for Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. On an individual level he was named to the Premier League Team of the Year four times and also won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 while at Old Trafford. Arguably the best player in the world, Ronaldo’s time at United will go down as the major turning point in his career. MP

19. John Charles

A world-class center-forward and a world-class center-half, Big John Charles was one of Leeds best ever players. Despite playing half his games in defense, Charles scored 93 goals in 155 League matches before becoming one of the first-ever British players to move abroad, to Juventus in 1957 for a world-record £65,000. The Welshman was adored in Turin where he was affectionately known as King John and would often start up front, score a goal and then move back into defense. MP

20. Paul Gascoigne

Perhaps the best raw talent of any British player on this list, Paul Gascoigne’s career has sadly been overshadowed by his ongoing battles with alcohol. As a player though, few were more unpredictable or inspiring than Gazza, whose performance at the 1990 World Cup was unbelievable and whose goal for England at Euro 96 easily goes down as one of the best ever. MP

The best of the rest…

21. Paul Scholes

22. Dennis Bergkamp

23. Dixie Dean

24. Roy Keane

25. Dennis Law

26. Alan Ball

27. Frank Lampard

28. Bert Trauttman

29. Billy Wright

30. Ian Rush

31. Michael Owen

32. Didier Drogba

33. Gordon Banks

34. Graeme Souness

35. Peter Schmeichel

36. Liam Brady

37. John Terry

38. Bryan Robson

39. Patrick Vieira

40. Ashley Cole

41. Stan Mortensen

42. Robin van Persie

43. Pat Jennings

44. Geoff Hurst

45. Duncan Edwards

46. Johnny Haynes

47. Mark Hughes

48. Cliff Bastin

49. John Barnes

50. Gareth Bale

51. Andy Cole

52. Matthew Le Tissier

53. Luis Suarez

54. Neville Southall

55. Jurgen Klinsmann

56. Trevor Francis

57. Tom Finney

58. Jackie Milburn

59. Ruud van Nistelrooy

60. Marcel Desailly

61. Jimmy Greaves

62. Steve Heighway

63. Patrice Evra

64. Ian Wright

65. Robbie Keane

66. Wilf Mannion

67. Peter Osgood

68. Danny Blanchflower

69. Jim Baxter

70. Petr Cech

71. Gary Speed

72. Steve McManaman

73. Gareth Barry

74. Dave Mackay

75. Gianfranco Zola

76. Ossie Ardiles

77. Joe Mercer

78. Bobby Tambling

79. John Greig

80. Sol Campbell

81. Jimmy Armfield

82. Terry Butcher

83. Pat Rice

84. Teddy Sheringham

85. Paul McGrath

86. Robbie Fowler

87. Malcolm Macdonald

88. Jamie Carragher

89. Johnny Giles

90. Cesc Fabregas

91. Peter Beardsley

92. Dwight Yorke

93. Mark Hateley

94. Dean Saunders

95. Andy Gray

96. Rio Ferdinand

97. Gary Neville

98. Shay Given

99. Carlos Tevez

100. Paul Mariner

101. Juninho

102. Roger Hunt

103. Emmanuel Petit

104. Georgi Kinkladze

105. Les Ferdinand

106. Juninho

107. Harry Gregg

108. Mark Viduka

109. John Aldridge

110. Dennis Mortimer

111. Sergio Aguero

112. Steve Bloomer

113. Billy McNeil

114. Michael Carrick

115. Tommy Taylor

116. Martin Keown

117. Michael Thomas

118. Robert Pires

119. Glenn Hoddle

120. Terry Paine

121. Yaya Toure

122. Alan Gilzean

123. Arjen Robben

124. David James

125. Joe Harvey

126. Ray Wilson

127. Ian Callaghan

128. Kerry Dixon

129. Nemanja Vidic

130. John Robertson

131. David Ginola

132. Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer

133. David Platt

134. Chris Sutton

135. Colin Bell

136. Peter Reid

137. Martin Chivers

138. Vincent Kompany

139. John Toshack

140. Paolo Di Canio

141. Diego Forlan

141. Jermain Defoe

142. Kevin Phillips

143. Jaap Stam

144. Freddie Ljungberg

145. Harry Kewell

146. Stan Collymore

147. Darren Anderton

148. Billy Bonds

149. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

150. Paul Ince

England’s Mark Sampson on growth of women’s soccer, NWSL

Mark Sampson
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Head coach of England women’s national team Mark Sampson is a man who has had his life transformed over the past six months.

[ MORE: English women inspire a nation ]

Since England finished third at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada — the Three Lionesses had failed to win a single knockout game before their exploits in Canada — Sampson and his team have been at the fore of the women’s game getting increased exposure and attendances in England.

[ MORE: Klopp dazzles on Liverpool unveiling ]

With that in mind, ProSoccerTalk caught up with Sampson to discuss his appearance at the Balanced Business Forum (BBF) in London next week, which promotes gender balance in the business world, plus we also spoke to him about what the reaction has been like in England since returning from the World Cup and his plans for his own team, and his own coaching pathway, for the future.

Q: Mark, what is it about the BBF which made you so interested in speaking and getting involved?

A: I have  been fortunate enough to work in women’s football for a number of years now and at a number of levels as well and be around some elite people on and off the field, whether that be on the pitch or away from the pitch in the boardroom. I am very passionate about women’s sport and women in business. It is a great opportunity to share my experiences, particularly over the course of the summer, where I worked with a group of women who were successful and achieved something very special. It is a unique opportunity to share those experiences.

You have seen up close the positive impact of women playing soccer at the elite level. How important is it to develop those qualities in young women?

Certainly within women’s football we have seen a huge leap in recent years in not only the quality of play on the field but the change in the dynamic in the game as a whole. We are seeing more people watching domestic football, more people supporting the international team, we are seeing more clubs move towards a more professional model, which is creating positions not only for women on the field but off the field. I think women’s football at the moment is seen as a leading light not only in women’s sport but promoting in high positions.

How does all of this slot into your long-term and short-term goals with the English national team?

From our point of view we are obviously keen to promote the team and the game. We still have a lot of work to do at growing the game, whether that be at grassroots level, domestic level or international level. We are not where we want to be at yet. We want to make sure we continue to grow and these kind of opportunities are great for us to share our experiences, share our journeys and make sure that we are continually promoting good practice in women’s sport. The FA are certainly very strong around supporting women’s coaches, grassroots development, women in the boardroom and these are great opportunities to share those experiences and push that message even further.

After being involved at Swansea City and other clubs in the men’s game, what it the biggest differences you’ve seen between men’s and women’s soccer over the years?

The most important thing to mention, always, is that football is football. The great thing is that the women’s game now is getting the respect from people outside of it that maybe it didn’t have in previous years. Certainly there is a long way to go to move it closer to the men’s game but there is far more acceptance now from the men’s game. As a sport and it has got its own identity and people support it. The likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, they are football clubs who have really got behind and jumped on the bandwagon of women’s football and have started to develop really strong models at club level, hence we are seeing better players, better programs and more bums on seats at grounds. That is probably the way for us to go, moving forward, to really connect with the men’s game and ensure women’s football is visible within their clubs.

Since the World Cup, the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) in England has seen attendances rising, is that a big plus for you?

Absolutely. We are really working hard at ground level to push attendances and grow the game and to see it transpire at club matches and international matches is just a pat on the back really, for all the hard work that is going on. There has been hard work going on for many years, many years before I started working in the women’s football and here people haven’t got the rewards they deserve for the work that has been put in but now the rewards are there for everybody to see and the challenge is to continue to grow these partnerships and move the game forward. I still think we have a long way to go but this is a huge opportunity to keeping growing this game.

Can you sum up the reaction and incredible interest levels in the England women’s national team? What has that been like since you returned home after the successful summer?

The best way to describe it is, it is a different world. Jumping straight back off the plane we’ve had far more media interest, many more spectators at grounds, the girls are getting recognized in the street and people are genuinely supporting the team and excited about where this team is going. It has been great because people have been grafting away behind-the-scenes for years with the training, matches and hard work, and now to get to the point where they are being recognized for that, it is a real special time. It has given me even more motivation to keep that going and push it even further.


What is the next step for this team? You have a friendly tournament in China next month and then EURO 2017 which you are qualifying for right now. Surely you will be one of the favorites to win EURO 2017? 

As a nation like England whether that be in men’s or women’s football, you are always going to be one of the favorites for a major championship. That pressure is always going to be there. This team has been great at managing that pressure and seeing it as an opportunity and pushing it. There is a big challenge for us. We have got to always think about the big picture on this one. If we want to be winning these major championships, the World Cups and European Championships, then we have to consistently perform. To do that we need to play the best teams on a regular basis and win matches. A lot of time in international football people think you can turn up at a major tournament and turn it on for two months and go home with a trophy, but the reality of it is you need to be the best team, consistently, going into those tournaments and that has got to be our challenge in the next two to four years. Make sure we are winning football matches, growing our program and growing the game so that when we turn up at major championships, people look at England as a genuine contender.

Looking over at the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the USA, what do you make of the progress they have made?

Since it has come back into the fore, it has been really important. The U.S. are a leading nation of the women’s game and when the previous pro league fell by the wayside I always felt it was important for the women’s game as a whole that America were delivering a professional league. It is great to see the crowds and the quality of the football in America, in terms of how that relates to us, we are different. The culture in England is very different to America and we have got to work out how we are going to be competitive and sometimes the best way to find a competitive edge is to find something new and do something different. We are certainly going to look at what is going on in America, learn lessons of the good and the bad and make sure we find something that works well for our team and our country about growing the game. We have certainly got to give huge credit to the States and not only the work the national team and Jill is doing but domestically. The way they’ve grown the game and their fanbase, every nation is saying that we need to find a way of doing something like this.

You are obviously focused on your job with England right now, but I wanted to ask you about your own future. There are British coaches over in the NWSL, some of your players are over there too. If an opportunity arose in the NWSL or the U.S. in the future, would you consider it? 

Every coach is always going to say they are fully focused on their current job and I am certainly no different to that. In the future there will be some new challenges and I would never say no to anything, and certainly the way the women’s game is growing, and not just for me but every coach, there are going to be more opportunities to go and work at professional football clubs with some great players and some big clubs with big crowds. For any coach that has always got to be the motivation. Can you work at the highest possible level and test yourself?

Finally, in your home country of Wales right now there is euphoria around Gareth Bale and Wales on the brink of sealing qualification to the EURO 2016 championships. How big of a moment is this for soccer in Wales?

Saturday is a huge sporting day for the entire nation in general. We have a huge game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup, followed by an even bigger game for the Welsh national team away at Bosnia in our European Championship campaign. Certainly, Welsh sport at the moment is on a real high and it would be great to see the national team qualify for a major championship. I worked with Gareth Bale as a young kid and he is doing amazing things for himself and for the game in Wales. The staff behind-the-scenes there have worked so hard for so many years to really push the game and develop that team and everyone is really confident now that they will get their reward. It would be awesome for the country to be at a major championship.

Slew of international injuries leaves European clubs scrambling

<> on October 9, 2015 in Logrono, Spain.
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As Euro 2016 qualification is nearing an end, many international teams are pushing to secure a trip to France next summer. Sometimes that comes at a cost that most clubs are forced to bear.

Manchester City saw injuries to superstar attackers Sergio Aguero and David Silva, their leading goalscorer and leading chance creator, during European play yesterday. Even the deepest squad in England – which Manchester City seems to be – will struggle to replace their contributions.

They can at least rest a little more comfortably knowing they’re not the only ones.

Even just across the way, their arch rivals are dealing with an injury of their own. German midfielder and summer signing Bastian Schweinsteiger picked up a thigh injury during the warm-up before Germany’s 1-0 loss to Ireland on Thursday and could miss their match against Everton next weekend.

Defending Premier League champions Chelsea, who have sputtered to start the season, have lost both Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic for the immediate future to similar injuries. The two are important yet out of form players who individually could use some time off, but the squad will still suffer. The pair of Serbians were injured in their country’s 2-0 win over Albania, with both suffering hamstring injuries just eight minutes apart. Chelsea host Aston Villa next weekend with the Blues already bumbling in 16th place.

Other leagues have seen top players go down as well.

Paris Saint-Germain defender David Luiz felt his knee give way in Brazil’s 2-0 loss to Chile, and was immediately replaced by Marquinhos. He’s likely out for his country’s subsequent match against Venezuela, and could miss time at PSG. With the club already down starting goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who pulled a leg muscle in club training Thursday, Luiz will now likely lean on young Marquinhos to cover for him at both the club and country level.

Bayern Munich has lost talented but oft-injured attacker Mario Gotze in the German loss to Ireland for significant time. Gotze tore a groin muscle while reaching for a ball on the touchline and will miss up to three months of play. The Bayern frontman, who has been productive in Champions League play thus far, missed much of last season with ankle trouble.

In Italy, Juventus will be forced to replace Alvaro Morata after the Spaniard’s injury was the only negative part of a 4-0 win over Luxembourg that sealed Euro 2016 qualification. There were fears that he suffered a broken bone in his leg, but instead AS reports he suffered a “traumatic injury” to the calf muscle and will still miss significant time. Juventus, often good with reporting injuries in detail, have not yet released a diagnosis. Morata started the season slowly for Juventus, but was just picking up the pace, owning a goal in each of their Champions League matches thus far and bagging a goal and two assists in a 3-1 league win over Bologna last weekend.

France saw a pair of injuries as Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema went down with a hamstring injury in their 4-0 friendly win over Albania on Thursday and will likely miss time for the La Liga giants as they get ready to face PSG in Champions League play in 11 days. Juventus could be without Paul Pogba next weekend after he sprained his ankle in the match, but the Juventus medical report says he will miss just seven days, leaving him questionable for the visit to Inter.

All this, and there are still more games to be played today, with injuries already striking before any of the matches have kicked off. Ajax, topping the table in the Eredivisie through eight games, will be sweating the fitness of goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen after the 26-year-old was injured in warmups before the Netherlands took on Kazakhstan, with Newcastle’s Tim Krul replacing him in the starting lineup.