Where Does Steven Gerrard Fit in England's 100 Cap Club?
Steven Gerrard will etch his name into English football's history books tonight as he becomes one of just six men to reach the 100 international caps milestone for.
Joining such legendary names as Sir Bobby Moore, Sir Bobby Charlton, the soon to be knighted David Beckham, Peter Shilton and the great Billy Wright, is no mean feat for Gerrard to have achieved, but where does the Liverpool skipper stand when compared to such noteworthy figures of the English game?
Billy Wright retired from football in 1959, just seven years before England hoisted the great Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley. While Wright missed out on the opportunity to be a World Cup winner like two of the men on our list, he made the remarkable achievement of being the first of these five men to reach the 100 cap mark.
Not just content with that, however, Wright also set the record for the most appearances in an England shirt while wearing the captains armband. His 90 games as the on-the-pitch leader of England is a record that still stands to this day.
The only man to hold a candle to that record (and who eventually equaled Billy's 90 games as England's captain) was Bobby Moore.
Moore made his international debut in a pre-tournament friendly before the 1962 World Cup, and from that day he was considered an automatic selection on any England team sheet.
Moore was, of course, the man who lifted the World Cup for England in '66 and was the lynchpin of England's defence for another seven years until his final game against Italy in a friendly match in 1973.
Moore played alongside Sir Bobby Charlton, the Manchester United and England midfield hero of the 1960s and 1970s. A fellow World Cup winner in '66, Charlton mesmerized crowds with his powerful attacking play, his physicality while leading the first line of the defence, and his incredible shooting from close range and from distance.
He scored 199 goals for United and 49 for his country from the front of midfield, and is one of the most beloved men in the English game for his actions both off and on the pitch.
Peter Shilton is England's most capped player with 125 international call-ups to his name. Considered one of the finest goalkeepers the country has ever produced, along with Gordon Banks, Shilton is often remembered for his involvement in the 1986 World Cup, most specifically as the goalkeeper who was eaten by Diego Maradonna's hand of god.
The keeper, who played for a total of 11 different club sides, had an England career that spanned 20 years, a reflection of both the quality of his play, and his mental fitness while playing at the highest level of football.
Finally we have David Beckham, a man whose name is recognised universally throughout the world. Like him or loath him, Beckham's contribution to the national team has been phenomenal during his time as an England player.
He began his international career in 1996, during a friendly game against Moldova, but it was the 1998 World Cup in France where Beckham blew onto the international scene.
His first national team goal was a freekick—naturally—against Columbia in the third group game of the tournament, and was a kick in the teeth to then manager Glenn Hoddle, who had controversially dropped Beckham for their opening two group matches.
Since then, Beckham has provided pivotal assists (including the cross for Alan Shearer's goal in England's 1-0 win over Germany at Euro 2000), vital goals, and memorable performances, epitomized by his showing against Greece in England's final qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup.
Beckham almost single-handedly pulled England back into the game as they trailed Greece 2-1 in the dying minutes of what had been a miserable afternoon for English football.
A win or a draw would see the side head to Japan and South Korea for the World Cup, and with one of the last touches of the game, Beckham struck a stunning freekick into the back of the net to take England back to the biggest tournament on the planet.
So where does Gerrard stand between these greats of the game?
His record for England is by no means a poor one. He has won 64 games of the 99 he's played so far for his country, and he's captained the side on 24 occasions, winning 54 percent of those games.
The 19 goals scored for his country is by no means a poor tally to have racked up over 99 games, especially when we consider that Gerrard has played the majority of these fixtures as a central midfielder, rather then in a more attacking role up the pitch.
But it's difficult to pick out a game when Gerrard has ever controlled the flow and speed of a tie from the centre of the park when on international duty. Others who have played, or do still, play in this role, the Andrea Pirlo's of football, can manipulate the game and control the tempo and distribution of the ball for a full 90 minutes.
Gerrard has done this for his club side on a number of occasions, and possesses the ability to grab a Premier League game by the scruff of its neck and drag his beloved Liverpool back into any tie.
But this ability seems to fall short when wearing an England shirt. As a member of England's "Golden Generation," he, like so many others of his era, have let down the international football supporter— although it has to be said that the Liverpool talisman has impressed in a England shirt far more then others during the last 6 years.
September 1, 2001, was the last time I can remember seeing Gerrar absolutely boss a game for England, and that night, the side went on to beat Germany 5-1 in Munich. Since then, though, we have been treated to a few great, and some good, but generally merely solid performances from a man largely regarded as one of the world's best.
Maybe it's the weight of expectation that he's been carrying as a member of said "Golden Generation," maybe it's the stark contrast in performances for his club and for his country, or maybe it's the lack of tools and the system managers have provided for him at international level.
Whatever the reason, Gerrard ranks well bellow the other 5 men in England's 100 cap club, and has a lot of catching up to do, before he comes close to their achievements.
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