Who is the greatest England left midfielder of all time?
PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 July 2018
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Which one of these four players is England’s greatest left midfielder of all time?
Martin Peters (1966-1974)
Known as “the complete midfielder”, Peters was described by England manager Sir Alf Ramsey as being “ten years ahead of his time”. A member of the England team which won the 1966 World Cup, Peters scored in the final against West Germany. In the 1970 World Cup, Peters played in England’s three group games from which they qualified again with West Germany waiting in the last eight. Peters scored against the Germans again before West Germany won 3–2 in extra-time. Peters won his 50th England cap in a qualifier for the 1972 European Championships. England failed to progress due to another defeat against West Germany. After failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, Peters played three more games for England reaching a total of 67 caps and 20 goals.
John Barnes (1983-1995)
In 1984 Barnes scored a goal against Brazil which brought him worldwide fame but also a sense of heavy expectation. Bobby Robson did not use Barnes at the 1986 World Cup until the quarter final against Argentina. England went out of the competition, but Barnes had been recognised for his contribution in the game. He then went on to be a regular starter for his country at both the 1988 European Championships and the 1990 World Cup. At the 1990 World Cup he sustained a groin injury against Belgium shortly after having a volleyed goal wrongly disallowed for offside. He missed the 1992 European Championships due to injury. In his absence, England failed to progress beyond the group stages of the competition. Barnes won 79 caps and scored 11 goals, but he was never seen as a player who peaked when wearing an England shirt. Bobby Robson famously described him as the “Greatest enigma” of his career. Tony Adams said that Barnes “Could pass, move, dribble, had Brazilian style movement... what more could you want?”
Steve McManaman (1994-2001)
McManaman was capped 37 times for England scoring three goals, and with the side only losing three times in the games that he played. McManaman impressed for his country at Euro 96, earning praise from even Pelé, who said he was “one of the best players in Europe” and could be the “best in the world”. Together with teammates David Seaman and Alan Shearer, McManaman was also listed in the official Team of the Tournament, as well as shortlisted behind eventual winner, Jürgen Klinsmann, for the Most Valuable Player award. John Barnes spoke about McManaman in his autobiography in 1999 as “probably the greatest individual talent in English football and has to be presented the correct way”. Unfortunately, McManaman’s free role for England was short-lived as he played only once in Euro 2000, scoring in a famous opening game against Portugal.
Darren Anderton (1994-2001)
Anderton made his England debut against Denmark in 1994 and soon became a regular in the national side. He played an important part in the Euro 96 team that reached the semi-finals and came within inches of putting England into the final when his shot hit the post. Injuries then limited Anderton’s appearances considerably. He was recalled for the 1998 World Cup, starting ahead of an out-of-sorts David Beckham. Hoddle later said in his World Cup Diary that he thought Anderton was equally as good as Beckham at crossing and was a better defender. One notable statistic about Anderton’s England career is that his last five caps were given to him by five different managers. These were: vs Czech Republic (November 1998) by Glenn Hoddle, vs France (February 1999) by Howard Wilkinson, vs France (September 2000) by Kevin Keegan, vs Italy (November 2000) by Peter Taylor and vs Sweden (November 2001) by Sven-Göran Eriksson. Anderton finished with 30 caps and seven goals for his country.