Who Has Won The Most Caps For England?

Declan Rice won his 50th cap as he captained England against Belgium at Wembley on Tuesday the 26th of March 2024. The Arsenal midfielder only turned 25 at the start of the year and if he maintains his form and avoids injury he seems almost certain to make it to the more impressive landmark of 100 caps.

Several England players have brought their individual centuries up but which England player stands above all the rest as the most-capped England player of all time? Nine players have made it to triple-digit appearances for the Three Lions, whilst of the footballers still active, Harry Kane is the closest to that incredible landmark. The Bayern Munich man has 89 caps at the time of writing and should make it to 100 before long.

But Kane has some way to go to make it to number one. And whilst England’s record-appearance maker cannot match the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (205 Portugal caps and counting!) the 125 England total they boast is still hugely impressive. But who is it?

Peter Shilton: 125 Caps for England

Butcher, Maradona and Shilton
Butcher, Maradona and Shilton (El Gráfico, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Peter Shilton has now held the record for the most England appearances since 1989 when he overtook Bobby Moore’s tally of 108. There is every chance his incredible benchmark will last for many years yet too, despite advances that have been made in sports science that have helped the likes of Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others extend their careers into their late 30s and beyond.

Shilton made his international bow in 1970 against East Germany and it would be interesting to see how many of his caps were won against countries that no longer even exist today! What makes his 125 caps even more remarkable is that his career overlapped with the legendary Gordon Banks and also brilliant Liverpool and Spurs stopper Ray Clemence, who represented England between 1972 and 1983, winning 61 caps.

Sadly Banks suffered a car crash which caused him to lose an eye and ended his career. However, England still had two brilliant goalies vying for one spot. Indeed, for a time in the 1970s England boss Ron Greenwood could not decide between Shilton and Clemence and played them in alternate games! In the end, Shilton went on to establish himself as the number one, that position becoming concrete once Bobby Robson became England manager.

Of course, “Shilts” never won anything with the Three Lions. He played in several major tournaments though, the highlights being the infamous quarter final of the 1986 World Cup against Diego Maradona’s Argentina, and the semi final defeat by Germany four years later. But at club level and in individual terms he won plenty.

His lengthy career saw him play over 1,000 senior league games between 1966 and 1997. He played almost 350 times for Leicester, winning the old Second Division, but the pinnacle of his time in football came with Nottingham Forest. Brian Clough paid the princely sum of £250,000 to land Shilton in 1977 but it was money well spent as the goalkeeper helped them win the league title in 1977/78 and then the European Cup in each of the following two seasons.

Shilton also won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1977/78, a rare instance of a goalkeeper winning such a prize, was named in the First Division Team of the Year award no fewer than 10 times, and made the World XI on five occasions. At his best, he was truly a world-class player and that excellence, combined with incredible longevity, means he has to go down as one of England’s best players.

England’s Other Cap Centurions

England Fans in front of flag

As said, at the time of writing eight other players have made it to 100 or more caps. That five of those played alongside each other at times does support the theory of a Golden Generation for England in the 2000s, whilst two others were part of the 1966 World Cup-winning team.

Wayne Rooney, 120 Caps

Rooney made his bow for England at the age of just 17 against Australia and little more than a year later he truly announced himself on the world stage by excelling at the Euros. He would go on to score 53 times for the Three Lions, becoming England’s leading goalscorer until he was surpassed by Harry Kane. Despite his many achievements, there remains a lingering feeling that he didn’t quite maximise his vast potential but even so, “Wazza” provided so many great moments for both club and country.

David Beckham, 115 Caps

Beckham is a player that really divides opinion and whilst some argue his off-pitch persona meant he got more credit and exposure than he should have done, others would argue the reverse, that he was actually a better player whose achievements are sometimes overlooked because of the other aspects of his life. Either way, his England career spanned 14 years and brought 17 goals, none more memorable, or important, than his vital late free-kick against Greece in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.

Steven Gerrard, 114 Caps

Gerrard played for the Three Lions between 2000 and 2014, making his last appearance against Costa Rica in England’s dismal 2014 World Cup campaign. He was a player who thrived for his club when the pressure was on and the stakes were high but, like many of that generation, for whatever reason, things were very different for England.

Bobby Moore, 108 Caps

The imperious defender led England to World Cup glory and his elegance, grace and reading of the game were second to none. He skippered his country a record-equalling 90 times and would undoubtedly captain any all-time England XI.

Ashley Cole, 107 Caps

Cole never scored in his England career but what a player he was. At his best he was the sport’s greatest left-back and his pace, tackling, positioning and stamina made him a formidable opponent.

Bobby Charlton, 106 Caps

Charlton has a good claim to being his country’s finest-ever footballer and was the record goalscorer until Rooney, then Kane went past him. Charlton’s 49 goals are even more impressive considering he was not a striker and the Man United legend could grace any side.

Frank Lampard, 106 Caps

Lampard made his bow against Belgium in 1999 and like Gerrard his last game came against Costa Rica in 2014. Their careers had many similarities but if only there could have been a way to get the best out of the pair for England.

Billy Wright, 105 Caps

Wright played for Wolves his whole career and represented England between 1946 and 1959. A superb defender, like Moore, he captained the Three Lions 90 times, including at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cups.

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