A great of the British game celebrates his birthday today, with Sir Tom Finney reaching the ripe old age of 90.
Lauded as one of the finest players to ever grace these shores, Finney won 76 caps for England and scored almost 200 goals for Preston North End while also playing in three World Cups in a career that was disrupted by World War II.
Finney’s former Preston team-mate Tommy Doherty believes he laid the path for Lionel Messi to walk along while Liverpool’s iconic manager Bill Shankley famously said of him: “Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age ... even if he had been wearing an overcoat”
So is Finney the greatest? GMF brings you a list of ten of the greatest British players of all to find out just who is the greatest British player of all time.
10 - Dave Mackay
The driving force behind Tottenham’s success in the 1960s, Mackay was a tough tackling no holds barred midfielder that helped Spurs claim a historic double in 1961.
The Scottish international also won the F.A Cup three times with Spurs, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the first division title
Mackay also won the Scottish First Division title, the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup for Hearts.
9 - Gordon Banks
Almost certainly the finest goalkeeper these shores have produced, Banks won 76 caps for England and was a member of the World Cup winning team of 1966.
While he was voted as the second greatest goalkeeper of all time behind Lev Yashin by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, perhaps Banks finest moment came in the 1970 World Cup where he pulled of ‘the save of the century’ from Pele’s header.
8 - Ryan Giggs
The only player still playing to make our list, there are few players in world football that can match the CV of Ryan Giggs.
The Welshman has made over 900 appearances for Manchester United, prompting boss Sir Alex Ferguson to say the feat ‘won’t be done again’ and laud him as one of the finest to don the famous red shirt.
Giggs has won 12 league titles (and counting), four F.A Cups, while also claiming two Champions League victories and four league cups.
7 - Paul Gascoigne
Another whose antics somewhat marred his achievements, Gascoigne undoubtedly captured the imagination of the British public with his displays for England and Tottenham in particular.
Gascoigne came to the fore at the 1990 World Cup, where he was named in the team of the tournament, while in 1991 his infamous free-kick against Arsenal in the semi-finals helped Tottenham to glory that year, although he will also be remembered for the tackle on Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles that ended his final.
The Gateshead-born midfielder had spells with Newcastle, Lazio and Rangers, while in 1996 he came to the fore with a spectacular goal at that year’s European Championships against Scotland as England reached the semi-finals.
6 - John Charles
Surely the greatest footballer Wales ever produced (although Cliff Jones may have something to say about that) Charles had spells with Leeds, Roma and Juventus in his illustrious 23 year career.
Charles scored 153 goals during two spells for Leeds, while during his time in Italy he earned the nickname Il Gigante Buono (the gentle giant) as he was never cautioned or sent off during his career.
The Welshman won three Serie A titles and was voted Italian player of the year in 1958, while Leeds’ west stand was named after him in honour of his contribution to the club.
5 - Kenny Dalglish
‘King’ Kenny Dalglish may be better known these days as a manger but in his pomp he was amongst the finest players out there, winning numerous trophies for Liverpool.
During his time on Merseyside he won seven league titles, three European Cups and five domestic trophies, and is currently in his second stint as manager.
Four Four Two magazine voted him as the greatest post-war striker in British football, while George Best lauded him as an equal to Real Madrid legend Alfredeo di Stefano.
4 - George Best
Often branded the first ever celebrity footballer, Best’s exploits off the pitch are almost as famous as his exploits on it.
Famously christened as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, Best won the 1968 European Cup final, scoring his side’s third goal in a 4-1 win, and being named the Ballon D’or winner in the same year. He claimed two first division titles in 1965 and 1967.
Best was voted 16th in the IFFHS World Player of the Century election in 1999, while Pele also named him as one of the greatest living players in 2004
3 - Sir Stanley Matthews
Often heralded as the greatest British player of all time, Matthews has the rare distinction of being knighted while still playing the game.
His greatest moment came in the 1953 F.A Cup final, often known as the Matthews final, where he inspired Blackpool to fight back from 3-1 down to claim a dramatic 4-3 win.
Franz Beckenbauer once said of him: “Almost no one in the game could stop him.”
2 - Bobby Moore
As captain of the World Cup winning squad in 1966, Moore had already earned himself a special place in the hearts of English football fans by the age of 25.
A regal centre back who was described by Pele as the greatest defender he had ever played against, Moore was inducted into the English football hall of fame in 2002 and also made almost 550 appearances for West Ham.
A statue of Moore stands outside the new Wembley stadium, while World Cup winning coach Sir Alf Ramsey described him thusly: "My captain, my leader, my right-hand man. He was the spirit and the heartbeat of the team. A cool, calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup."
1 - Bobby Charlton
England’s record goal scorer, and rightly remembered as one of the finest British players of all time, Charlton’s distinguished career took in over 600 appearances for Manchester United and 106 caps for England.
Charlton, a survivor of the 1958 Munich air disaster, Charlton helped re-form United and was part of the team that secured European Cup glory just ten years later.
A World Cup winner, three time first division champion, a winner of the Ballon D’or, and a regular in most lists of the finest players in the world, Charlton gets GMF’s vote as the greatest British player of all time.
So who are your suggestions for the greatest British player of all time? Honourable mention goes to William ‘Dixie’ Dean, Nat Lofthouse, Denis Law and Kevin Keegan, but who stands above the rest? Is it Finney that actually deserves praise as the best? Leave your comments below!
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