England may no longer be the football powerhouses they once were but the founders of the game have had some wonderfully talented players and it should come as no surprise then, that they have had some superb goal scorers in their time. This list features players who were playing over 110 years ago as well as some more familiar faces, some of whom still don the famous white shirt today. Unsurprisingly, the list mainly features strikers, with only one or two midfielders sneaking into the top 10.
Between them, these 10 players have amassed a total of 375 goals in 734 games for their country. Most managed over half a century of caps, although one remarkably only played 23 times for the three lions. Notable omissions include Steven Gerrard, who retired from international football after last years World Cup disappointment, and Geoff Hurst, a World Cup winner in 1966 and the only man to ever score a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
Hurst and Gerrard managed 24 and 21 international goals respectively and Hurst in particular, shows that this list arguably does not necessarily go to show England’s most important, or even ‘best’ goalscorers. Hurst’s hat-trick against West Germany in 1966 was undoubtedly of greater significance than Peter Crouch’s hat-trick against Jamaica in 2006, however, both count for the same on this list.
10 T9. Vivian Woodward - 29 Goals
Tied with Frank Lampard at 29 goals is the oldest and perhaps most remarkable goalscorer on this list. Vivian Woodward played for England from 1903 until 1911 in which time he played only 23 games, but still managed to score 29 goals, an average of 1.26 goals a game, the best goals-per-game record on this list by some distance. Woodward’s father prevented him from turning professional for many years, in favor of careers in tennis, cricket or architecture, but he did eventually turn professional, making over 100 appearances for both Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as winning two Olympic gold medals with Great Britain. Woodward is noted for his ball control, pace and tremendous aerial ability. He was injured whilst serving in World War I in 1916 and forced to retire from football.
9 T9. Frank Lampard - *29 Goals
One of only two players still playing the game on this list, Frank Lampard comes in tenth place with 29 goals in 106 appearances for England. ‘Super Frank’, as he is more affectionately known, will most commonly be found on Manchester City’s bench these days. However, Lampard is more fondly remembered as one of the most prolific midfielders in England and Chelsea history. Lampard is the Blues all-time top goalscorer with 211 goals, an incredible figure for a central midfielder.
His total of 29 goals for England should of course be 30, as his long-range strike against Germany in the 2010 World Cup was wrongly deemed to not have crossed the line. Lampard retired from international football, like Gerrard, after last years World Cup but continues to score goals when called upon at club level.
8 T6. Tom Finney - 30 Goals
Legendary status may be handed out all too freely today but with regard to the late Tom Finney, it is surely quite legitimate. The ultimate one-club man perhaps, Finney spent his entire career at Preston North End, where he is remembered with almost godlike status. Bill Shankley famously said of the winger that he “would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age - even if he had been wearing an overcoat. He had the opposition so frightened that they'd have a man marking him when warming up!"
Finney was ultimately disappointed with his international career, having gone to three World Cups with England in 1950, 1954 and 1958. It was generally believed that those super talented teams should have won at least one. The blame, however, could not have been laid at the door of the ‘Phantom Winger’, as he was known, Finney scored 30 goals in 76 caps from the wing, a great achievement.
7 T6. Alan Shearer - 30 Goals
Another more familiar face to slightly younger football fans out there is Alan Shearer. The Premier League’s all-time top scorer is also England’s seventh highest scorer with 30 goals. More recent, perhaps, but Shearer is often noted for his more old-fashioned centre-forward play. Big, strong and capable of a venomous shot, Shearer was the epitome of an English centre-forward. If a good ball was put into the box, you could bet your bottom dollar that Shearer would get his head on the end of it.
A Newcastle and Blackburn legend, Shearer made 63 appearances for England, achieving almost a 1-in-2 goal scoring record. Shearer’s finest hour for England came in the 1996 European Championships, where he won the Golden Boot scoring five goals including goals against the likes of Holland and Germany, who eventually knocked England out on penalties in the semi-finals.
6 T6. Nat Lofthouse - 30 Goals
Rounding off our triad of players tied for 30 goals is the 50’s star Nat Lofthouse. Like Finney, Lofthouse was a one-club man, playing his entire career for Bolton Wanderers from 1946 to 1960. The Austrians nicknamed Lofthouse ‘The Tank’ after a famous 3-2 England victory in 1952. Lofthouse however, was much more than just a brute. Not dissimilar to Shearer in terms of his playing style, he had a superb football brain and a sixth sense for sniffing out chances. His record of 30 goals in 33 games is the second best in terms of goals per game, behind Vivian Woodward.
5 Michael Owen - 40 Goals
Michael Owen retired two years ago at the relatively young age of 33 and the latter stages of the Englishman’s career were blighted by a series of injuries. It is easy to forget just how good Owen was earlier in his career. When he first broke onto the scene back in 1998, he was phenomenal. He became the youngest player to be capped and the youngest to score for England that year (although both records have since been surpassed) as well as starring in a World Cup, all at the age of 18.
Against Argentina, Owen won a penalty from which England equalized before scoring a sublime individual goal, running from his own half, gliding past defenders and capping it off with a beautifully simple finish. The goal was voted the third greatest England goal of all time in 2013. It was at the 2006 World Cup, however, that Owen’s career was really finished. He sustained a dreadful knee injury and never ‘truly’ recovered, having lost the electric pace which separated him from almost everyone else. Despite this, Owen won a Ballon d’Or, played for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United and managed 40 goals in 89 games for England. Not bad for a career often regarded as a case of what could have been.
4 Jimmy Greaves - 44 Goals
Jimmy Greaves is Tottenham Hotspur’s all-time top scorer, the English first division’s all-time top scorer and has more England hat-tricks (6) than any other player as well as being England’s fourth highest all-time goalscorer. Those statistics are more telling than anything I can say. Greaves was a natural born goalscorer, and did so all his career. Greaves was very quick, particularly off the mark and possessed exceptional positional sense which got him so many of his goals. Greaves cited his relaxed demeanor as the reason for his composure in front of goal and a major factor behind his goal scoring exploits which saw him score more than 400 goals in his 14-year career playing professional football.
3 Wayne Rooney - 46 Goals
In third place it is the only man still playing for the England national team. Since the retirement of Steven Gerrard, Rooney has also been made captain of England. Only three goals off first place in this list, it’s almost certain Rooney will become England’s all-time top scorer, and still only 29, he could begin to open up a considerable gap. You would think then that Rooney is an undisputed England great, however, his reputation among England fans is far from concrete.
One criticism of Rooney is the level of opposition and stage in which the majority of Rooney’s 46 goals have come. Ever since his first major tournament in 2004, Rooney has not made an impact on a major tournament. That’s over 10 years of work. For a player of his calibre, many feel Rooney should have achieved more on the major stage of international football. You can guarantee Rooney will go on to become England’s greatest ever goal scorer, and could stay there a long time. Ot will be interesting to see how highly future generations rate him in light of this feat.
2 Gary Lineker - 48 Goals
Few men have been so solely associated with one attribute than Gary Lineker is with goal scoring. You could watch a game for 80 minutes and not notice he was playing, and then he’d pop up and score twice to win a game for you. Lineker was renowned for scoring goals from in-and-around the six yard box. The perennial ‘fox in the box’, Lineker had the very useful knack of being in the right place at the right time.
Lineker had a better than 1 in 2 record for both club and country in a career that saw him turn out for Leicester, Everton, Tottenham and Barcelona. With 10 goals, Lineker has more goals at World Cup finals than any other England player. Six of them came in the 1986 World Cup where he outscored Diego Maradona to win the Golden Boot and an additional four in the 1990 tournament. In total, Lineker scored 48 goals in 80 games for England, but even more remarkably, in Lineker’s entire 16 year career where he played almost 600 games, he was never once shown a yellow or red card.
1 Bobby Charlton - 49 Goals
In first place, who else but Sir Bobby Charlton. One of the finest players to ever grace the beautiful game, Charlton is England’s all-time top scorer and in many people’s opinions, England’s greatest player of all time. Charlton won almost every honour in the game, including both team and personal honours. A First Division, FA Cup, European Cup and Ballon d’Or winner, few can rival Charlton’s trophy cabinet.
Charlton was of course an integral part of the England’s 1966 World Cup winning team, combining his exquisite dribbling abilities with vision and a tremendous shot, Charlton scored three goals at the tournament including a crucial brace in the semi-finals against Eusebio’s Portugal to take England into the final. Charlton made a total of 106 caps for England, a genuinely remarkable at a time when fewer international fixtures took places. It is likely Charlton’s tally of 49 will soon be overtaken by Wayne Rooney, although one suspects the World Cup winner will forever be remembered more fondly by the England faithful. Charlton’s record is made all the more impressive when one remembers that he was not an out-and-out forward but rather an attacking midfielder.