England are ready unleash their 26-man squad upon Euro 2020.
Three Lions fans are rubbing their hands together after Gareth Southgate unveiled his arsenal for the summer’s footballing festivities and there’s quiet optimism about their chances of impressing.
We’ll have to wait and see whether England live up to the expectations or fall short of them but either way, their performance will be measured against their national team forebears.
England’s Euros history
And while England have famously never won the Euros, there have been no shortage of top-quality players to sport the Three Lions on their chest in the hope of conquering the continent.
Besides, the young hopes of Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham will be walking in the footsteps of English greats like Wayne Rooney and David Beckham when they take to the Euros stage.
But how exactly do the various eras of England’s Euros history compare? Well, it’s funny you should ask because we’ve set ourselves the unenviable challenge of answering that exact question.
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To do so, we’ve taken every single England player to have been named in an England squad since 2000 and ranked them from best to worst by the medium of Tiermaker.
With tiers ranging from ‘making up the numbers’ to ‘Three Lions royalty’, we’ve considered their impact at Euros tournaments as well as their broader influence on the national team as a whole.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that this is no slight on the lower ranked players because making an England Euros squad in any capacity is something to be incredibly proud of. Fair play to you all.
England’s Euros players since 2000
But housekeeping aside, prepare yourself for a world of controversy and debate by delving into our ultimate ranking of England’s Euros players since the turn of the century:
Making up the numbers
Richard Wright, Ian Walker, Dean Henderson, Tyrone Mings, Rob Green, Jack Butland, Ryan Bertrand, Fraser Forster, Conor Coady, Sam Johnstone, Ben White, Tom Heaton, Phil Jones and Martin Kelly
Look, there are always players in England squads who are quite literally needed to make up the numbers in certain positions and that’s exactly why so many reserve goalkeepers have wound up here.
Mings and Coady might feel hard done by joining them, but in the context of England’s superb centre-backs since 2000, it’s difficult to see them making the cut in any other era and the jury is still out on their international pedigree.
Stewart Downing, Daniel Sturridge and Andy Carroll
There’s no denying that these three were top-class players in their prime, but the hype surrounding them far exceeded their actual contribution to the Three Lions.
Kudos to Sturridge and Carroll for scoring at Euro 2012 and 2016 respectively, but they certainly weren’t the get-out-of-jail-free card that many England fans clamouring for the pair to start made them out to be.
And could there possibly be a clearer definition of the word ‘overrated’ than Downing wiggling his way into the Euro 2012 squad on the back of a goalless season for Liverpool? Nope, sorry, Stewart.
What could have been?
Kieron Dyer, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Kevin Phillips, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dele Alli
Just imagine a world in which Dyer wasn’t blighted with injuries, Phillips continued his European Golden Shoe-winning form, Walcott built on his Croatia hat-trick and Wilshere played like he did against Barcelona every week…
As for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alli, there is still time for them to turn things around and we’d love nothing more than to see that happen, but their plateau in recent years really makes you want to ask the question this tier is named after.
Middle of the road
Ben Chilwell, David James, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Kalvin Phillips, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Paul Robinson, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Leighton Baines, Danny Rose, Ross Barkley, Jordan Pickford, Nathaniel Clyne, Nick Barmby, Wayne Bridge, Adam Lallana, Phil Neville and Darius Vassell
This section pretty much does what it says on the tin. All of these players deserved to be England internationals at major tournaments without ever really having the ability to grab the continent by the horns.
Stones will probably go down as one of our cruellest selections, but some high-profile errors in an England shirt outweigh his Manchester City renaissance, even if we’re only backing him to move in one direction: up.
Emile Heskey, Ledley King, Danny Welbeck, Owen Hargreaves, Joe Cole, Scott Parker, Gareth Southgate, Gareth Barry, Nigel Martyn and Nicky Butt
The players in this tier fit into one of two categories and the first are players who bewilderingly just never got the credit that their top-class ability deserved: King, Hargreaves, Cole, Parker, Barry, Southgate, Martyn and Butt.
Then there are the players who are underrated by way of getting far, far more stick than their solid performances in an England shirt warranted: Welbeck and Heskey.
Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka, Reece James and Declan Rice
We didn’t want to put the cart before the horse ranking these young lions amongst some of the greatest players to ever hail from these shores, but there’s no denying that they’re destined for special things with England.
Luke Shaw, Jamie Carragher, Jermain Defoe, Jadon Sancho, Joe Hart, Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young, Jamie Vardy, Martin Keown, Gary Cahill and Dennis Wise
We’re getting towards the upper echelons of the ranking now and everyone in this tier either has the ability to produce world-class performances or consistently proved their quality over a number of years.
The selection of Hart might raise a few eyebrows, but make no mistake that he was arguably the best goalkeeper in the world when he stuck his tongue out between the sticks at Euro 2012.
Maybe we’ve been a little generous to Young, Vardy and Wise, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they are top-class Premier League players and a trio who always put in a shift when they played for their country.
Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire, Jack Grealish, James Milner, Robbie Fowler and Kyle Walker
In our eyes, these are the best of the best when it comes to England players who have never quite proven themselves to be worthy of that coveted ‘world-class’ label in the international game.
Grealish can probably feel a little lucky to find himself this high up the pecking order, but considering neither ‘future superstar’ nor ‘decent’ really did him justice, we’re unabashedly showering him in praise.
And in a world where we weren’t focusing on England performances in particular, fear not that Fowler would have swaggered into our world-class tier no questions asked. Speaking of which…
Raheem Sterling, David Seaman, Paul Ince, Harry Kane, Tony Adams, Steve McManaman and Sol Campbell
There’s world-class talent wherever you look in this category with Adams, Campbell, Ince and Seaman all straddling Premier League and England action with their stunning displays upon the turn of the century.
Kane is well on his way to becoming England’s all-time record goalscorer, Sterling’s quiet 2020/21 season shouldn’t undermine his undoubted world-class ability and McManaman endures as one of the nation’s most underrated technicians.
Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Gary Neville and John Terry
Just look at the players in this tier. What do we even need to say about them to justify this position? They are, without a shadow of a doubt, some of the greatest players to ever pull on the famous white jersey.
And while it might have been tempting to separate Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes to stir the pot, it’s difficult to argue that one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest when it came to their contribution for England.
Three Lions royalty
Wayne Rooney and David Beckham
How could we not put England’s all-time record goalscorer and one of their longest-serving captains in the highest tier of all? Rooney and Beckham are practically defined by their international displays as much as they are their club careers.
Beckham is probably the more controversial pick, particularly if you hone in on his performances at the Euros, but his name and the phrase ‘Three Lions royalty’ fit hand in glove on the back of his iconic 115 England caps.
So, there you have it, we’ve gone through England’s 21st-century history in the Euros in pain-staking detail and likely alienated half the country in the process.
But football just wouldn’t be football if we all agreed on everything and we can’t wait to see which players in Southgate’s squad inevitability climb the rankings with glittering displays at Euro 2020. Bring it on.