Congratulations to Ashley Cole, who will win his 100th England cap this evening when he plays against Brazil in a friendly tonight.
Rather than take the obvious route, I thought we’d celebrate the group of players Cole joins this evening. The most astonishing thing about the Centurions is that it wasn’t until Billy Wright won his 42nd cap in May 1952 that he broke the record for England’s most capped player – Bob Crompton of Blackburn Rovers had held it for almost forty years. Or to put it another way, Crompton’s record was set before the start of the First World War and wasn’t broken until seven years after the Second World War finished.
Another surprise was that I’d assumed that it’d taken Billy Wright longer to win a century of caps because England had played fewer games in his era. Wrong. Billy Wright and David Beckham’s England careers both lasted fourteen years, whilst Bobby Moore won his caps in just twelve. At the other end of the scale, Peter Shilton earned his 125 caps in 19 years – with the vast majority of them coming after he took over from Ray Clemence in 1982.
So here’s a timeline of who, how and when the Centurions reached their milestones.
28th September 1946:Â Billy Wright makes his full England debut in a 7-2 win over Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast. Wright’s first international appearance was at the start of the year in an unofficial ‘victory international’ against Belgium to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Bobby Charlton is eight years old, Bobby Moore is five.
19th April 1958: England beat Scotland 4-0 at Hampden Park and Bobby Charlton scores on his England debut. Billy Wright wins his 89th cap in the same game and just under a year later wins his 100th cap in another win against Scotland. This little ditty is number one in the charts:
Peter Shilton is seven years old, Bobby Moore has just celebrated his 17th birthday and is a few months away from making his West Ham debut against Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United. Charlton won’t be playing though. He’s recovering from injuries sustained in the Munich Air disaster, which happened 55 years ago today.
28th May 1959: Billy Wright wins his final cap in an 8-1 win over the USA.
20th May 1962: England beat Peru in Lima in a friendly before the World Cup: Bobby Moore makes his first appearance for England, alongside Bobby Charlton who is winning his 34th cap. Elvis is about to take over at Number One with this song…
11th June 1970: Bobby Charlton makes his 105th and last appearance for England, who are beaten 3-2 by West Germany in the quarter finals of the World Cup in Mexico. ‘Back Home’ has just been deposed at Number One by this song and England won’t qualify for another World Cup Finals tournament for 12 years…dark days indeed.
25th November 1970: Peter Shilton makes his England debut in a friendly against East Germany which England win 3-1. Bobby More wins his 85th cap.
14th February 1973: Bobby Moore wins his 100th cap in a 5-0 win over Scotland. Exactly nine months later, Moore makes his last appearance in an England shirt in a 1-0 defeat to Italy. Earlier that day, Captain Mark Phillips had married Princess Anne.
15th June 1988: Peter Shilton wins his 100th cap in the 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands in the European Championship finals. Just over two years later, Shilton makes his last appearance between the sticks in the 3rd place playoff defeat to Italy in the 1990 World Cup: David Beckham is 15 years old and has already signed schoolboy forms for Manchester United. Ashley Cole is nine.
24th February 1993: Bobby Moore dies aged 51.
3rd September 1994: Billy Wright dies in London aged 70.
1st September 1996: England beat Moldova 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Chisinau and David Beckham makes his England debut. Incredibly, the Spice Girls are number one with ‘Wannabe’.
28th February 2001: England beat Spain 3-0 in a friendly at Villa Park and Ashley Cole wins his first cap. David Beckham is making his 38th appearance but the game is overshadowed by the Selby rail crash.
26th March 2008: David Beckham wins his 100th cap in a 1-0 defeat by France. Eighteen months later Beckham makes his final appearance in an England shirt in a 3-0 win over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier.
It’s highly likely that the next Centurion has probably just finished his tea and is about to watch England v Brazil…
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