Who is the greatest England right-back of all time?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 July 2018

England's Gary Neville is tackled in the Maltese penalty box, during their international friendly football match in Valletta. Photo: Owen Humphreys / PA

England's Gary Neville is tackled in the Maltese penalty box, during their international friendly football match in Valletta. Photo: Owen Humphreys / PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Which one of these five players is England’s greatest right-back of all time?

Jimmy Armfield (1959-1966)

Armfield won 43 caps for England and captained his country on 15 occasions. He played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where he was acclaimed as “the best right-back in the world”. He was also voted “best right-back in Europe” between 1962 and 1964. A groin injury resulted in George Cohen establishing himself as England’s first choice right-back and Armfield was unable to force his way back into the team. He played two further matches in the warm-up to the 1966 World Cup and was included in the winning squad but a toe injury sustained in the pre-tournament appearance against Finland ensured he played no part in the tournament.

George Cohen (1964-1967)

Cohen was an immaculate performer in Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup winning side. Cohen’s unfussy performances were just as vital as the attention-grabbing displays from Bobby Charlton. Cohen maintained his form as England got past Argentina in the last eight. Three days later, one of Cohen’s overlapping runs and near-post passes contributed to Charlton’s winner as the hosts edged past Portugal in the semi-finals. In the final against West Germany, Cohen won his 30th cap as vice-captain and was his usual immaculate self. Cohen played seven of the next eight internationals before Ramsey decided to utilise some younger full backs in England’s campaign for the 1968 European Championships. Cohen’s 37th and final England appearance came in a 2–0 win over Northern Ireland at Wembley on 22 November 1967. George Best described Cohen as “the best full back I ever played against”. Alf Ramsey called Cohen “England’s greatest right back”.

Gary Stevens (1985-1992)

Stevens was given his debut for England in June 1985, and he quickly established himself as first choice right back. Stevens was named in the squad for the 1986 World Cup and played in all of the games as England reached the quarter finals, where they were beaten by Argentina.. The 1988 European Championships was a disaster for Stevens. England went into the second group game against the Netherlands needing to win. Stevens, however, lost the ball to Ruud Gullit down the flank, which led to the opening goal by Marco van Basten. When England qualified for the 1990 World Cup, Stevens was named in the squad but lost his place to Paul Parker, who kept his place up to and including England’s semi-final exit. His international career ended with 46 appearances, although he never scored a goal.

Gary Neville (1995-2007)

Neville was first-choice right-back for England for more than 10 years, representing the nation at three European Championships and two World Cups. He is England’s most-capped right-back with 85 caps. He had been the youngest first choice player in the England team during Euro 1996, playing in each game until the semi-final. He also played in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. A broken foot ruled Neville out of the 2002 World Cup, but was the first-choice right-back by the time of Euro 2004. Neville was selected for England’s 2006 World Cup squad where he earned his 81st cap bringing him up to ninth in the all-time rankings. Neville was an aggressive, tenacious, and hard-tackling player, known for his work-rate, professionalism, determination, and consistency as a defender.

Jamie Carragher (1999-2010)

Carragher represented England at the 2004 European Championship and the 2006 and 2010 World Cup tournaments before retiring with 38 caps. A strong, versatile and consistent old-fashioned defender, who was known in particular for his work-rate, stamina, loyalty, leadership and commitment, as well as his courageous, no-nonsense and hard-tackling playing style, Carragher was gifted with organisational ability, intelligence, concentration, and tactical awareness, which enabled him to excel at reading the game, chase down opponents, and produce last-ditch tackles. Former teammate Jamie Redknapp described him as “ultra competitive and probably the most driven footballer I have ever met”.

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