Queen Elizabeth II: Every footballing figure knighted during her reign

Charlton and Ferguson.

Queen Elizabeth II reigned as ruler of the United Kingdom and beyond between 1952 and 2022.

The world was saddened to learn the news that Her Majesty had passed away at Balmoral Castle on Thursday, ending the second-longest reign of any monarch in history.

An untold number of tributes have been extended to the Queen’s memory and millions of people around the world have offered their condolences to the Royal Family.

The Queen and sport

The same can also be said of the sporting world with countless scheduled fixtures for the weekend postponed out of respect to the late Queen.

Her Majesty was a great lover of sport herself: most notably horse racing in which she played an active role as an owner and breeder, culminating in triumphant moments such as Estimate’s 2013 Gold Cup win.

The Queen was also present at a very many historic footballing occasions such as the 1966 World Cup final, Euro ’96 final and a number of FA Cup climaxes.

And while the debate as to which football club she actually supported will no doubt rumble on, what we do know for certain is that the Queen heralded a very many key figures in the beautiful game across her reign.

Knighthoods and other awards

There are a number of honours bestowed upon esteemed individuals by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family such as the OBE, CBE, MBE and more.

However, arguably the most prestigious of all accolades that the British monarch can grant are knighthoods and damehoods which entitle the recipients to use the ‘Sir’ and ‘Dame’ before their names.

It’s an honour often reserved for the most revered of high-achievers and has, on occasion, been granted to footballing figures for their achievements in the world of sport.

We’ve all heard people say ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’ and ‘Sir Bobby Charlton’, but how many individuals in football have enjoyed the honour of having the royal sword placed on each one of their shoulders?

Tribute paid to the Queen.
Tennis – U.S. Open – Flushing Meadows, New York, United States – September 8, 2022 A minutes silence before the match after the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth REUTERS/Mike Segar

Who was knighted during her reign?

Well, thanks to an incredibly helpful round-up by Goal earlier this summer, we are indeed able to list for you every football-related figure to be knighted during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

So, to celebrate the late Queen’s intrinsic connection to the world of sport, including football, be sure to check out every individual related to the beautiful game to either become a knight or dame between 1953 and 2022:

1. Stanley Matthews (1965)

The very first Ballon d’Or winner was also the first footballer to be knighted and remains the only player to pick up the accolade while their career was still ongoing. Matthews really was one of a king and even has an FA Cup final named after him to prove it.

Matthews in his Blackpool days.
circa 1950: English star football player Stanley Matthews, the first ever footballer to receive a knighthood. (Photo by Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

2. Alf Ramsey (1967)

The brains behind England’s 1966 triumph. He endures as the only manager to lead the Three Lions to World Cup glory.

3. Matt Busby (1968)

The legendary manager who made Manchester United the first ever English European Champions, coaching icons of the game such as George Best, Denis Law and another knight still to come…

Busby's statue at Old Trafford.
Football – Manchester United Ground Views – Old Trafford – 06/07 , 16/10/06 General View of Old Trafford – Manchester United Stadium / Matt Busby Statue Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Carl Recine

4. Walter Winterbottom (1978)

The very first England manager. Winterbottom held the puppet strings for the men’s national team between 1946 and 1962, leading the country to four consecutive World Cup tournaments.

5. John Smith (1990)

The chairman of Liverpool Football Club for 17 years between 1973 and 1990, Smith’s leadership spanned the most successful era in the club’s history.

6. Bert Millichip (1991)

A former chairman of the Football Association who won the FIFA Order of Merit in 1998, Millichip has since become viewed by many as a controversial figure.

7. Bobby Charlton (1994)

A World Cup, Ballon d’Or and European Cup winner, Charlton is not just one of only eight players who can lay claim to that hat-trick of accolades, but he might just be the greatest male footballer that England produced during the Queen’s reign.

Charlton is a Man Utd legend.
Football – Manchester United Photocall – undated Bobby Charlton – Manchester United Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Sporting Pictures

8. Tom Finney (1998)

Another one of the greatest players to ever wear three lions on their chest, Finney scored 30 goals in 76 caps for the national team and remains immortalised in statue form at Deepdale due to his legendary status at Preston North End.

9. Geoff Hurst (1998)

A timeless West Ham United striker, yes, but most importantly, Hurst was the man who scored what remains the only hat-trick in a World Cup final to ensure that football came home in 1966.

10. Alex Ferguson (1999)

A man who needs no introduction. Ferguson is rightfully revered by most as the greatest football manager of all time, bringing European glory to Aberdeen and leading Manchester United to every trophy under the sun between 1986 and 2013.

Ferguson with the Premier League trophy.
Football – Manchester United v Swansea City – Barclays Premier League – Old Trafford – 12/5/13 Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates winning the Barclays Premier League with the trophy Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

11. Bobby Robson (2002)

A 20-cap England international himself who went onto manage the Three Lions within a whisker of something truly special at Italia 90, Robson might well be the most loved footballing figure that the nation has ever seen.

12. Trevor Brooking (2004)

Adored at West Ham United so much that there’s a stand named after him, Brooking won two FA Cups and played over 600 times for his beloved Hammers. Also capped 47 times for England.

13. Dave Richards (2006)

Richards was garlanded for his services to sport having been made chairman of the Premier League in 1999 and was later installed as Deputy Chairman for England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

14. Kenny Dalglish (2018)

Dalglish is most people’s choice as the greatest player in Liverpool history having won six league titles, three European Cups and five domestic cups in over 500 appearances of pure footballing magic.

Dalglish scores for Liverpool.
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 03: Liverpool player manager Kenny Dalglish celebrates after scoring the winning goal that gives Liverpool the Division One Championship for the 1985/86 season after beating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on May 3, 1986 in London, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Also: Sue Campbell (2020)

The only woman on the list, Campbell was appointed Head of Women’s Football with The Football Association and then became Director of Women’s Football two years later.

Campbell at a Euro 2022 event.
Soccer Football – Women’s Euro 2022 Kick Off Event – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – July 5, 2022 Sports administrator Sue Campbell, Baroness Campbell of Loughborough during the Women’s Euro 2022 Kick Off event Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Note: Pele received an honorary knighthood in 1997, but he would need to become a British citizen for his accolade to count as a full knighthood.

An incredible honour

What an honour it must have been for those esteemed individuals to have their achievements and work acknowledged by one of the most respected people in history.

It truly is a delight that the very highest echelons of British society keeps a close eye on the sporting world that we love so much and no doubt there will be plenty more footballing figures to become Sirs and Dames under King Charles III.

There are, after all, more than a few deserving individuals amongst the Euro 2022 winners…

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