Only twelve men have led England
in World Cup final tournament play. Five of these--Mick Mills, Peter Shilton, Terry
Butcher, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard--were standby captains serving in the absence of
the preferred captain.
Injuries, the fortuities of time and qualification
failures have prevented some of England's most illustrious captains from
wearing the armband at the World Cup finals or at least limited their
appearances as captain on the great stage.
Throughout the six tournaments following
their belated first entry into World Cup competition, England were led by
their first-choice captains--Billy Wright in 1950, 1954 and 1958, Johnny
Haynes in 1962 and Bobby Moore in 1966 and 1970. But the story since
then has been very different.
England failed to qualify for the next two
tournaments, in 1974 and 1978. Manager Alf Ramsey would have stayed on
and might well have continued his faith in Moore had England qualified for
World Cup 1974, although he had given the armband to Martin Peters on occasion
in Moore's absence. Either Kevin Keegan or Emlyn Hughes probably would
have led England at World Cup 1978 had qualification been secured.
Neither ever led an England team at the World Cup.
Keegan was manager Ron
Greenwood's preferred captain and would have led England at World Cup 1982
in Spain had he been fit, but injury kept him out for all but a late substitute
appearance in England's last match at that tournament. Defender Mick Mills filled in as captain,
and Keegan's international career ended on a rather sad note. Because of
England's disastrous qualification record during the 1970's, he had only 26 minutes of playing time in World Cup
Although Bryan Robson
captained England 63 times--second only to Billy Wright and Bobby Moore's
90--he led the side at the World Cup finals in only four matches. He was manager
Bobby Robson's preference for the captaincy at World Cups 1986 and 1990, but
injury forced his exit at the early stages of both tournaments. In Mexico in 1986, a long-standing shoulder injury, aggravated in a warm-up match
against Mexico in Los Angeles, forced him from the pitch during the first half
of the second
group match against Morocco, and he did not play in the tournament again although he remained with the squad. His Manchester
United teammate, Ray Wilkins, took over the captain's armband in the Morocco
match, but shortly drew a red card for a second cautionable offence and had to
yield it to Peter Shilton, who became the third England player to wear the
armband in the match. Wilkins, suspended for the next two matches, did not return for the rest of the
tournament, and it was Shilton who went on to captain England in their
remarkable recovery against Poland and Paraguay and their loss to Argentina in one of the most controversial matches in World Cup history.
Injury again forced Robson's
withdrawal in the second group match at World Cup 1990 in Italy. After
lasting the full 90 minutes in the first match against
the Republic of Ireland, Robson, already playing with a pain-killing injection for
an injured toe, strained his Achilles tendon and had to be taken off after
65 minutes of the second match against Holland. He had to sit out the third match against
Egypt, and, despite the efforts of a faith healer he had flown out to treat him,
he then flew home for surgery.
Peter Shilton and Terry Butcher both filled in as captain. Shilton was
captain for two matches in which Butcher did not play, the third group match against
Egypt and the third-place match against Italy at the end of the tournament.
Butcher took over the captaincy in the big matches against
Belgium, Cameroon and Germany.
Gary Lineker's international career had already reached
its last two years when he became manager Graham Taylor's first-choice captain in the early 1990's as
Robson's England career waned, and he never led the team at the World Cup
finals. Failure to qualify for the 1994 tournament prevented Lineker's successor, David Platt, from
captaining a World Cup side. By the next World Cup finals in 1998, Platt's
international career had ended.
At World Cup 1998 in France, however, England were
led throughout the tournament by manager Glenn Hoddle's preferred captain,
David Beckham, coach Sven-Göran Eriksson's choice as team leader, managed to captain the side in England's
five matches at World Cup 2002 although a broken foot had put his fitness for
the tournament in doubt until the last minute and it was quite apparent
throughout the tournament that he had not fully recovered. He was taken
off in the 63rd minute of the opening match against Sweden, his first game in
more than two months, with Michael Owen, who had captained England in warm-up
matches during Beckham's absence, taking over the armband. But he lasted
the duration in England's four remaining matches. Beckham continued with
the armband for another five Final's matches at the 2006 tournament.
Allowing him to captain as many as ten matches, ranking him alongside Bobby
Moore and Billy Wright.
Fabio Capello's only attempt at the
World stage ended disastrously. In 2010, he took his captain Rio
Ferdinand with him to South Africa, only for Ferdinand to be injured in a
freak training ground accident. The vice-Captain Steven Gerrard took
over the armband responsibilities for the four matches England played.
Roy Hodgson stuck with Steven Gerrard
for the 2014 tournament, but after England were eliminated after only two
matches, Hodgson granted his vice-captain his swansong as Frank Lampard led
out the team one last time.
Gareth Southgate waited until his squad
arrived at St. George's Park in May 2018 for pre-World Cup training before
announcing Harry Kane as his first choice captain.