This week, England manager Gareth Southgate was recognised as an ‘Honorary Yorkshireman’, at the White Rose Awards in Harrogate. Southgate has lived in the county ever since his move to Middlesbrough in 2001 and was proud of the accolade, stating on a number of occasions how he has embraced the Yorkshire way of life. It was also well documented that a quarter of Southgate’s England World Cup squad in the summer came from ”god’s own country”. So with that in mind, here are the ten most capped England players that were born in Yorkshire, ranked by their total number of appearances…
10. Stewart Downing
England Caps: 35 (2005-14)
Place Of Birth: Middlesbrough
As stated in a previous post, Middlesbrough is actually in North Yorkshire, so Downing starts us off. The winger made his England debut in February 2005 against Holland at Villa Park whilst playing for his hometown club. Following a successful 2005/06 season where Middlesbrough reached the final of the UEFA Cup, Downing made it into Sven Goran Eriksson’s England squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He made three substitute appearances during that tournament which included the matches against Paraguay and Ecuador. But it was his introduction against minnows Trinidad & Tobago (along with Aaron Lennon) that made the biggest impact, helping England avoid an embarrassing draw in the group stages, eventually winning 2-0. Downing then became a regular starter for England during the infamous reign of his former club manager, Steve McClaren, before he was sacked in November 2007. When Middlesbrough were relegated in 2009, the midfielder never really settled during moves to Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, which hampered his England career. Having the advantage of being one of the only natural left-footed players available he regularly featured in Fabio Capello’s squads, so it was a surprise that Downing didn’t make the squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. However, when Roy Hodgson took over from Capello just before Euro 2012, the winger was named in the 23 to go to Poland & Ukraine – unfortunately not coming off the bench once. His last cap came in a friendly against Scotland in November 2014, but at the age of 33 and playing in the Championship for Middlesbrough, it’s unlikely that Downing will now add to his 35 caps.
9. John Stones
England Caps: 37 (2014-)
Place Of Birth: Barnsley
Born and bred in South Yorkshire, John Stones’ career has skyrocketed since his senior debut for Barnsley in 2011. After just 24 league appearances for the Tykes, Everton signed the centre-back for £3 million. One season later, England manager Roy Hodgson put Stones on the stand-by list (alongside Jon Flanagan) for the 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil. Following their group stage exit, Hodgson included Stones in his squads right through to Euro 2016, where he watched the entire tournament from the bench. That summer Manchester City came in for the defender and signed him for a whopping £47.5 million, making him the second most expensive defender of all time. The following season Stones was an England regular and under manager Gareth Southgate has never looked back. Although he has been in and out of the City side under Pep Guardiola over the last three seasons, Stones was pivotal in England’s defence throughout qualification and into the successful World Cup in Russia. His three-man defensive partnership with fellow South Yorkshire lads, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire, was the foundation that allowed Southgate’s men to score 12 goals during the tournament. Stones himself scored a brace in the second group match against Panama – his first winning me £180 from Paddy Power, thanks John! The talented defender definitely had his reputation enhanced by not playing in the disastrous 2014 and 2016 tournaments, and then doing so well in this year’s World Cup. When Stones plays, England are simply a better side!
8. Paul Robinson
England Caps: 41 (2003-07)
Place Of Birth: Beverley
After playing second fiddle to veteran goalkeeper Nigel Martyn for the first 5 seasons of his career at Leeds United, Robinson finally got his chance to establish himself as first choice at Elland Road at the beginning of the 2002/03 campaign. Playing all 38 Premier League games that season meant England manager Sven Goran Eriksson couldn’t ignore him any longer, and the goalkeeper made his debut in February 2003 as a substitute in the 3-1 shock defeat to Australia at Upton Park. From that squad onwards Robinson was included as back up to David James going in to the Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal. Leeds were relegated in the May of that year, which led to Robinson moving to London to join Tottenham Hotspur, enhancing his national team chances even more. After watching luckless England lose to hosts Portugal on penalties from the bench, the start of the following World Cup qualification campaign gave Robinson his chance. A horrendous mistake from David James in the opening qualifier against Austria cost England the win and his place in the side, so Robinson came in for the next game against Poland and he held on to the number one spot all the way through to the World Cup. England again went out to Portugal on penalties in the quarter-finals, with Robinson unable to save any of the five spot kicks he faced. However, the England keeper kept four clean sheets during the tournament, only conceding in the 2-2 draw against Sweden, when England had already qualified for the next stage. Indeed after that match, Robinson went 655 minutes without conceding a goal for England, until the unfortunate moment that he’s probably remembered for the most for in an England shirt. During the crunch Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia, a back pass from Gary Neville took an unfortunate bobble over the swinging foot of Robinson and went in to the England net. Steve McClaren’s side never recovered from that 2-0 defeat and failed to qualify for the Euros. Following McClaren’s sacking, Robinson never played for England again despite being named in 13 of Fabio Capello’s squads.
7. David Batty
England Caps: 42 (1991-99)
Place Of Birth: Leeds
Coming through the youth system at Leeds United, Batty epitomizes Yorkshire grit and determination. The tough tackling midfielder was one of the most underrated players of the 90s, his work-rate and unselfish play for the good of the team earning him credit from every manager that he played under. Manager Graham Taylor gave Batty his first cap in May 1991, as a substitute at Wembley in the 3-1 victory over USSR. His role in Leeds’ successful 1991/92 league championship winning side earned him a regular spot under Taylor and it’s often forgotten that the midfielder was part of England’s Euro ’92 squad in Sweden, even filling in at right-back following an injury crisis. A move to Blackburn Rovers in 1993 saw him challenging for top division honours once again, but new England manager Terry Venables only gave Batty three caps during his two years in charge, apparently not having room for him and Paul Ince in the same side. When Venables left after Euro ’96, Glenn Hoddle took over and immediately re-installed Batty to the squad. In fact the Newcastle (for whom he signed in 1996) midfielder, played in 7 out of the 8 World Cup qualifiers for Hoddle – including the famous 0-0 draw with Italy in Rome that secured qualification. Given the number 8 squad number in the World Cup squad, Batty started 3 matches at France ’98, including the second round game against Argentina, which ended England’s World Cup. The game ended 2-2 after extra time and the 10 men of England were knocked out on penalties again, with Batty missing the vital kick. There are stories from his England teammates that day that Batty just shrugged off the miss afterwards, refusing to be upset like the many English penalty takers who had missed before and since. Kevin Keegan replaced Hoddle as manager in early 1999, just after Batty had made the £4.4 million move ‘back home’ to Leeds. He continued to be a regular for his country until his final cap in October 1999, where he was sent off in a vital Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland. Do you think he was bothered that his international career ended that way? Of course not, this was David Batty.
6. Kyle Walker
England Caps: 44 (2011-)
Place Of Birth: Sheffield
When Tottenham Hotspur signed Kyle Walker from his hometown club Sheffield United in 2009, the right-back had to be patient for his first team chance as he was loaned back to Sheff Utd and then to QPR & Aston Villa during his first two seasons. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp made Walker his first choice right-back at the start of the 2011/12 campaign, a season in which he won PFA Young Player Of The Year and was named in the PFA Team Of The Year. This didn’t go unnoticed by England manager Roy Hodgson, who played Walker in most of the qualifiers for Euro 2012, until suspension allowed Glen Johnson to win his place back. The Spurs defender was unlucky to miss Euro 2012 with a toe injury and then World Cup 2014 in Brazil due to a pelvic problem. However in 2015 when Johnson lost his place in the squad, Walker was able to make the right-back spot his own, finally making his bow in an international tournament at Euro 2016 in France. Unfortunately for Walker it didn’t go according to plan and England struggled to get out of an easy group that contained Russia, Slovakia and Wales. It was the second-round match against Iceland where it ultimately all came crashing down, as England were beaten 2-1 in probably their most embarrassing defeat of all time. Walker himself was heavily criticised for his role in Iceland’s opening goal for losing his man at a long throw-in. Hodgson lost his job and after just one game under Sam Allardyce, Gareth Southgate took over and steered England to this year’s World Cup finals in Russia. In the lead up to that tournament, Southgate experimented with a three-man defence where Walker would play on the right hand side. Even though this was a position that the right-back had never played before, the gamble paid off and Walker ended up playing an important role during England’s route to the semi-finals. While the defender is plying his trade at Manchester City and is an England regular, Walker still finds the time to go home and cheer on his boyhood club Sheffield United as they attempt to get back in the Premier League. You can take the lad out of Yorkshire…
5. Ron Flowers
England Caps: 49 (1955-66)
Place Of Birth: Doncaster
Ron Flowers was born in Edlington, a borough of my hometown Doncaster. Flowers was released by Doncaster Rovers in 1950 without making an appearance and was signed by Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was there where he won three league championships and an FA Cup, eventually forcing his way into the England side. Manager Walter Winterbottom, gave Flowers his debut in May 1955 in a 1-0 friendly defeat to France. Flowers became a regular during the late 50s and early 60s, where he appeared in 40 consecutive matches between November 1958 and April 1962 – a feat only bettered by his captain at the time, Billy Wright. He also has the honour of becoming the first England player to score in a European Championship game, during a qualifying round against France at Hillsborough in 1962. It was in the summer of 1962 where Flowers scored twice for England from the penalty spot during the World Cup in Chile. Indeed the midfielder was widely regarded as England’s greatest penalty taker of all time, scoring 6 penalties from 6 attempts during his international career, until Wayne Rooney surpassed that 100% record with his 7th from 7 in 2016. Flowers’ international days ended as a member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad. In fact he almost played in the final after Jack Charlton was struck down with a cold the night before, but Charlton recovered and Flowers stayed on the sidelines. Almost the perfect finale to his England career.
4. James Milner
England Caps: 61 (2009-16)
Place Of Birth: Leeds
Despite making his Premier League debut for Leeds United at the age of 16 in November 2002, it wasn’t until 2009 that James Milner made his senior international debut. During that time his hometown club were relegated in 2004, which meant a move to Newcastle kept him in the top division. Milner represented England at under-15, under-17 and under-20 level, before under-21 boss Peter Taylor called him up in 2004. There he helped England to a semi-final in the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Championships and a final at the 2009 tournament. The midfielder certainly worked his way up the England ladder and ended up making a record 46 appearances for the under-21 side. It was when he signed for Aston Villa however, that manager Fabio Capello finally called him up to the senior squad. After several caps from the bench, Milner forced his way into the World Cup 2010 squad in South Africa and started on the right wing in three out of England’s four matches, until the disatrious 4-1 second-round defeat to Germany sent them home. A big money move to Manchester City followed that summer, which kept Milner in the starting line-up for most of the qualifying matches for Euro 2012. The midfielder was named in the squad for the finals and started all four of England’s games before they were knocked out on penalties, this time to Italy in the quarter-finals. The next four years of Milner’s England career were very much as a bit-part player; making the squads, but not really getting many minutes on the pitch. Indeed he was named in the World Cup and European Championship squads of 2014 and 2016, but only played in one match between the two – the last group game of the World Cup against Costa Rica, when England were already out. Looking back now it seems ridiculous that a player of Milner’s talent was so underused in those tournaments, and surely no coincidence that the Three Lions failed to impress in either. He retired after Euro 2016 and couldn’t be convinced to rejoin the England squad for the World Cup in Russia, despite his brilliant form for current club Liverpool. Fair play James, you’ve done more than enough for your country, lad.
3. Kevin Keegan
England Caps: 63 (1972-82)
Place Of Birth: Doncaster
It’s still hard to believe that Keegan’s hometown club of Doncaster Rovers released him after a trial because he was too small! From reading his autobiography recently, it’s clear to see that Kevin Keegan never really believed he had natural talent as a footballer, but became successful with hard work and perseverance. Born in the Doncaster borough of Armthorpe, Keegan was distraught when the team he had grown up watching on the Popular Stand at Belle Vue, rejected him. A further knock back from Coventry City followed, before Scunthorpe United signed him. The forward was then scouted by Liverpool at the age of 20 and the rest, as they say, is history. A year after making his Liverpool debut, he was called up by Sir Alf Ramsey and made his first international appearance in November 1972 against Wales. England infamously failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and Ramsey was sacked, replaced by former Leeds United manager Don Revie. Keegan was made captain by Revie in 1976 and retained the armband until his international retirement. Unfortunately for Keegan, the 70s was the worst decade to be involved with the national side, as England failed to qualify for both the 1974 and 1978 World Cups and the 1976 European Championships. In 1977 Keegan left Liverpool and moved to Hamburg in Germany, where he won the European Footballer Of The Year for two consecutive years in 1978 and 1979. He also led Hamburg to the 1980 European Cup Final, where they were defeated by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Following that final, Keegan finally got his chance in a major tournament for England at the 1980 European Championships. Unfortunately the captain couldn’t stop his side from elimation in the group stage, finishing behind Italy and Belgium. England qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain under manager Ron Greenwood and Keegan (now at Southampton) was named in the tournament squad despite carrying a chronic back injury. Unfit to play in any of England’s group games, Keegan had to take drastic measures as he knew this would be his final chance to play in a World Cup. He hired a car in Madrid and drove for 23 hours through the night (1300 miles) to Germany to see his old specialist in Hamburg. He recovered in time to fly back and come on as sub for England’s final game with hosts Spain, where Keegan famously missed an easy header to send his side through to the semi-finals. Bobby Robson took over the national team in 1982 and despite Keegan only being at the age of 31, Robson did not select him in his first squad – a decision that Keegan only found out about though the media. Upset at not being given the courtesy of a phone call from the new manager, Keegan immediately retired from international football and never played for his country again.
2. Gordon Banks
England Caps: 73 (1963-72)
Place Of Birth: Sheffield
Widely regarded as England’s greatest ever goalkeeper, Gordon Banks is the second World Cup winner on this list. Born and raised in Sheffield, Banks was spotted playing in the Yorkshire League by Chesterfield and signed a £3-a-week contract at the age of 16. Leicester City surprisingly came in for Banks in 1959, despite him struggling to hold down a first team place at Saltergate. A year later Banks was given his opportunity and he stayed as Leicester’s number one goalkeeper for the next seven years, helping them to four cup finals in that period. In 1962 Sir Alf Ramsey took over the England team and started to stamp his authority on the side by making wholesale changes in preparation for England hosting the World Cup in 1966. Banks was one of the first beneficiaries, and kept the England goalkeeping jersey right through to the start of the tournament. Indeed Banks didn’t concede a goal in England’s first 4 matches of that World Cup, in the group matches against Uruguay, Mexico, France and the 1-0 quarter-final win over Argentina. It took the great Portuguese striker, Eusebio, to break Banks’ record of not conceding a goal in 721 minutes of play, as he scored a penalty in the semi-final. England still won the match 2-1. The final against West Germany did not go so smoothly for England as they trailed after only 13 minutes, Banks being un-sighted for a Helmut Haller header. England got back in front through Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, before the Germans equalised in the last minute of the game, sending the match into extra time. Geoff Hurst takes all the plaudits for his goals in that period, but it was Banks who was calm under pressure as West Germany continued to pepper his goal with shots. With a World Cup winners medal on his CV, Banks then moved to Stoke and continued to be England’s number one, finishing in third place at the 1968 European Championships. The 1970 World Cup however, is where Banks will be remembered the most. Following a solid 1-0 opening win over Romania in their first game, England faced Brazil in one of the greatest World Cup matches ever. The Brazilians won 1-0, but the highlight will forever be Banks’ incredible save from a Pele header. Jairzinho crossed to the back post for Pele to head the ball down, Banks then dived across and flipped the ball over the crossbar when a goal looked certain. Pele himself shouted ‘Goal!’ as it bounced towards the net. It is has been described by many people around the world as the greatest save of all time. Just before the quarter-final match up with West Germany however, Banks was struck down with food poisoning and had to miss the game, to be replaced by Peter Bonetti. After being 2-0 up England conceded three goals to lose 3-2, with Bonetti taking the blame for the defeat. A near fatal car accident in 1972 cut short Banks’ football career after he unfortunately lost his sight in one eye. Banks kept 35 clean sheets in his 73 international caps. One of the greatest of all time for sure.
1. David Seaman
England Caps: 75 (1988-2002)
Place Of Birth: Rotherham
Well known for being one of the nicest men on the football scene, David Seaman’s best years as a goalkeeper came later on in his career. Born in Rotherham, Seaman came through the books at Leeds United; the team he had supported as a boy. He was let go before he had played for the first team and signed for Peterborough United in 1982 where he made his professional debut. A transfer to Birmingham City in 1984 was followed by a move to QPR in 1986, enabling Seaman to establish himself as a top flight keeper. England manager Bobby Robson eventually called him up and gave Seaman his first cap in November 1988 – a 1-1 draw away to Saudi Arabia. The goalkeeper added a couple more substitute appearances before being picked in the squad for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Unfortunately for Seaman he picked up an injury just before the tournament started and was replaced by Dave Beasant. This was in the middle of a frustrating period for Seaman, who between 1988-93 was named in 35 squads, but only picked up 12 caps. This was due to Bobby Robson favouring the great Peter Shilton and the next England manager Graham Taylor preferring Chris Woods. In fact Taylor didn’t even pick Seaman (now at Arsenal) for the 1992 European Championships in Sweden, going for Woods and Nigel Martyn. The embarrassing failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup cost Taylor his job and his replacement Terry Venables installed Seaman as his number one goalkeeper from the start. After 2 years of friendly games, Euro ’96 finally kicked off and Seaman turned into one of the stars of the tournament. Following a disappointing opening draw with Switzerland, England were struggling against Scotland when they conceded a penalty, which Seaman saved from Gary McAllister. One minute later from Seaman’s goal-kick, Paul Gascoigne went up the other end and scored a wonder goal. That penalty save turned England’s whole tournament around and they followed it up with a fantastic 4-1 victory against Holland. Then, when England’s quarter-final against Spain ended goalless, Seaman came to the rescue again, saving from Miguel Nadal in the penalty shootout to send them through to the semis. Regrettably this was as far as England went in the competition, a 1-1 draw with Germany in the semi-finals led to another penalty shootout. This time Seaman was unable to save any spot kicks and England went out. New manager Glenn Hoddle kept Seaman as his first choice keeper up to the 1998 World Cup where England again went out on penalties this time to Argentina – even after Seaman had saved one in the shootout. When Kevin Keegan took over in 1999, he also kept faith with Seaman, and the Arsenal keeper played in the first two games of Euro 2000, until he sustained an injury in the warm-up before the final group game with Romania. Seaman was replaced with Nigel Martyn and England lost 3-2, going out of the competition in the group stages. Following Keegan’s dramatic resignation at the last ever match at Wembley, England employed their first ever foreign manager in Sven Goran Eriksson. Despite Seaman’s age creeping up to 40, he remained Eriksson’s first choice keeper, as he was still playing week in, week out for Arsenal. Seaman made a vital save (that is always forgotten) during the 5-1 demolition of Germany in Munich, when the Germans were 1-0 up. Hopes were high going into the 2002 World Cup in Japan & South Korea and England made it to the quarter-finals against the favourites Brazil. However, Seaman was caught off guard by a Ronaldinho free-kick that looked more like a cross that a shot. England lost 2-1 and Seaman was left on the pitch in tears after the game, blaming himself for the defeat. Eriksson kept Seaman in the side for the start of the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, but another fluke goal went in over his head straight from a corner in the 2-2 draw with Macedonia and the Yorkshireman was dropped in favour of David James. This proved to be the last time Seaman pulled on the goalkeeping jersey for England. It always seemed unfair to me that those two lucky goals tarnished the end of his international career, after all the success he had had with England. Not forgetting that this was a man who kept goal for one of the top teams in the country in Arsenal until he lifted the FA Cup in 2003, aged 39. He won 3 league championships, 4 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup during his time at Highbury. Those honours plus a 14 year England career make for impressive reading. The endearing thing for me is that no matter how long he lived in London, he still has that broad South Yorkshire accent. What a bloke!
With Yorkshire being the biggest county in England, it is no wonder that there has been so many important players to have come from the region. In fact, Greater London is the only county in the country which has had more England players than Yorkshire. So enjoy becoming an ‘Honorary Yorkshireman’ Mr. Southgate and keep picking those Yorkshire born players.
Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!
*All caps correct as of 18:00, 18th November 2018
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