Kane, Rooney, Gerrard, Lineker: Who is England's greatest ever male goalscorer?

  • Kobe Tong

Harry Kane is on course to become the greatest male goalscorer that the England national team has ever seen.

With an astonishing four-goal haul in San Marino on Monday night, the Tottenham Hotspur striker moved within touching distance of Wayne Rooney’s record by raising his tally to 48 strikes.

Kane is now just six goals away from pulling clear of Rooney as England’s most prolific marksmen and you wouldn’t put it past him to obliterate the record given that he’s still only 28 years old.

Kane making England history

However, call it controversial, but scoring the most England goals in history doesn’t necessarily make you the greatest goalscorer that the nation has ever seen, even if it does in terms of statistics.

In other words, Thierry Henry’s argument for being the finest striker in Premier League history isn’t automatically illegitimate on the sole basis that Alan Shearer amassed more goals.

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Besides, with everything from games played to the era that they featured in – as well as the good old-fashioned eye test – making a difference, there are many more variables to consider before we label Kane as the GOAT.

So, bearing that in mind, we thought that the time was ripe to create a Tiermaker of the greatest strikers in England history to see where Kane factors into things after his Serravalle scoring spree.

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A long line of English marksmen

To do so, we’ve taken the 20 male players to have scored the most England goals in history as well as a sprinkling of five more players who we think fit some of our tiers too well to leave them out.

It’s also important to note that this is ultimately a subjective exercise, but rest assured that yours truly will be basing their opinion on each players’ England output within the context of their era.

Oh, and the definitions of each tier, which we will outline as we go along, are more important than the order of them, particularly when it comes to the strikers who feature in the ‘underrated’ section.


Ranking England’s greatest goalscorers

Anyhow, enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because we know you’re hungry for debate and controversy. So, check out how we ranked England’s finest goalscorers down below:

What could have been?

Andy Cole, Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler

Have we lost our minds? No, no we haven’t because if we simply focused on the 20 most prolific players in England history then this would have just been a sickly goo of compliments and gushing.

But alas, we wanted to look at a handful of fantastic English strikers who sadly weren’t fantastic England strikers and the whole 1990s era of Premier League masters is the perfect example of that.

Cole sums up the ‘what could have been?’ rhetoric to a T because you would never know from his England record of just one goal in 15 caps that he’s the Premier League’s third-greatest ever goalscorer.

Similarly, Fowler’s seven strikes in 26 games across his international career will forever feel tinged with disappointment when you consider what a phenomena he was for Liverpool in his early days.


Maybe Heskey’s inclusion is a little generous, sure, but his breath-taking early form for Leicester City and Liverpool with over 100 Premier League goals makes just seven England strikes in 62 caps feel regretful.

Great player, good goalscorer

Bryan Robson, Steven Gerrard, Tom Finney, Frank Lampard and Kevin Keegan

All five of these players are bona fide England legends and utterly world-class operators, but are they great, great goalscorers in the context of all the lethal finishers around them? Probably not.

And that’s not their fault, by the way, because although Gerrard and Lampard were very effective in front of goal, they were never tasked with bringing in the bulk of goals on Three Lions duties.

So, don’t think for one second that we’re belittling the fact that Finney, Keegan and co rank amongst the greatest England goalscorers ever, but we simply couldn’t elevate them too highly on ability in front of goal alone.



Teddy Sheringham, Peter Crouch, David Platt and Mick Channon

Don’t read too much into these players’ position amongst the wider order of the tiers, but we simply couldn’t resist pointing out a few England poachers that deserve more credit than they deserve.

For starters, Crouch really is a phenomena in the England cannon because his record of 22 goals in just 42 caps is astonishing to the extent that it probably tops his achievements in the club game.

Sheringham was the perfect foil for Alan Shearer at Euro 96 – dropping a  masterclass in the iconic Netherlands win – and although 11 goals in 51 caps might seem average, the Spurs legend did superbly well to oust so much competition in the 1990s.

As for Platt, scoring every 2.3 games for England when often deployed across midfield really is amazing and his goalscoring should be given far more airtime than just that volley against Belgium.


And how often do you hear Channon spoken about amongst the Three Lions’ finest goalscorers? Not enough often because his goal-per-game ratio for England bests the likes of Rooney and Michael Owen.

Simply lethal

Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Steve Bloomer, Roger Hunt, Tommy Lawton, Nat Lofthouse and Stan Mortenson

Welcome to the realm of unadulteratedly lethal England goalscorers who – for a variety of reasons – don’t quite rank amongst the country’s seven greatest finishers despite their undoubted class.

Shearer and Owen have two of the finest England records in the modern game with 30 and 40 strikes in 63 and 89 caps respectively as well as key goals in international tournaments to boot.

Meanwhile, the late great Hunt is too-often forgotten as Sir Geoff Hurst’s strike partner at the 1966 World Cup and he effortlessly transferred his Liverpool heroics to England duties with 18 strikes in just 34 caps.

As for Lofthouse, the Bolton Wanderers icon is one of England’s greatest strikers with his peerless ability in the air allowing him to plunder 30 goals, three of which came at World Cups, in 33 outings.


And the trio of Bloomer, Lawton and Mortenson all boast outrageous goal-per-game ratios for the Three Lions, even if we need to temper their achievements with the standards of early 20th century football.

Three Lions royalty

Wayne Rooney, Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Bobby Charlton, Vivian Woodward and Gary Lineker

There’s perhaps an argument to be had that some of the players in the previous tier were more prolific goalscorers, but these five have the edge in terms of historic significance for England.

Allow us to demonstrate: Rooney is the country’s all-time record goalscorer, Hurst scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final and Lineker won the World Cup Golden Boot in 1986. Get the picture?

Then, of course, we have arguably England’s finest ever player in the Ballon d’Or-winning Charlton who held the nation’s goalscoring record for decades despite not playing as an out-and-out centre forward.

And we simply couldn’t leave out Woodward due to his significance of boasting the greatest goal-per-game ratio of England’s top 20 scorers with a barely-believable record of 29 goals in only 23 appearances.


Out of this world

Harry Kane and Jimmy Greaves

Spurs fans rejoice because Kane and Greaves are the creme de al creme of England goalscorers both for their insane striking instincts as well as their impeccable scoring records for their country.

Kane just had to finish in the highest tier of all because 48 goals in just 67 caps, as well as the most goals in international tournaments and competitive games, is beggar belief at only 28 years old.

We’re not saying that he’s a better player than Rooney or Charlton, fear not, but given that he’s on course to score anywhere between 60 and 100 England goals, he simply had to take top spot.

And he’s amongst esteemed company in Greaves because the late great is arguably the most natural goalscorer that the country has ever seen – and his record for England borders on jaw-dropping.

With 44 strikes in just 57 games, Greaves’ superhuman goalscoring rate really makes you wonder whether he would have been the undisputed GOAT in another era under different circumstances.


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Kane on course for number one status

The Three Lions really have been lucky in the striking department, haven’t they?

Kane is just the latest in a long line of prolific England strikers from Lineker to Greaves and Hurst to Rooney with each era producing at least one player who always delivered on the international stage.

And not only is it a matter of time before Kane will objectively become the greatest of them all, we’re inclined to think that his England record will become so extraordinary that he’ll be nailed on as the subjective choice to boot.


Besides, if England draw San Marino in another couple of qualifying campaigns then he’ll probably have 100 goals for the Three Lions by the time he’s finished.



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