Peter Young
7 February 2001
England Football Online
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Comment: Downgrading Billy Wright

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Does FIFA or the F.A. decide how many caps England's old captain earned?

See also:  

England's Official Internationals:  The Disputed Matches

On the Guardian’s Football Unlimited website today,  the weekly column its authors presume to call "The Knowledge" says:  "William Ambrose Wright CBE played a total of 104 times for England between 1947 and 1959. And in case you're questioning that total - most authors claim that Wright played for England 105 times - Fifa decided not to recognise England's 4-4 draw with a Fifa select XI on October 21 1953, which meant Wright effectively lost one cap."  The column also says Wright "went on to captain his country a world-record 90 times (an honour he shares with Bobby Moore), leading his country to three World Cups (1950, 1954 and 1958) and becoming the first-ever footballer to win 100 caps. His 104th and final international was the 8-1 mauling of the United States in 1959."

Our website says Wright played for England 105 times because he appeared 105 times for England in matches the Football Association recognises as official and because the Football Association credits him with 105 appearances for England.  In short, Wright played for England 105 times because the Football Association says he did.  It’s as simple as that, and nothing FIFA decides can change it.  Here’s the note--neither published nor acknowledged-- we sent to "The Knowledge":

"You imply that 'most authors' are incorrect in crediting Billy Wright with 105 caps because Fifa decided not to recognise the 1953 match against the Rest of Europe (Fifa Select XI) as a full international.  Fifa does, indeed, list Wright as having 104 caps following its belated retroactive desanctification of a match long listed in England's official match records.  Yet, despite Fifa's finickiness, the Football Association continues to list this match in its official results list [describing the opponent as FIFA rather than as the Rest of Europe] and to credit Wright with 105 caps.  So it's a question of which authority the author chooses to follow, isn't it?  You choose Fifa; 'most authors' choose the organisation that keeps the official records of the England national team, the Football Association. 

 "You go on to say Wright captained England a world-record 90 times, an honour he shares with Bobby Moore.  But one of the matches in which Wright served as captain was that very 1953 Rest of Europe match, which, given your adherence to Fifa's authority, would mean Wright only captained England 89 times and that Moore alone holds the record.  While recognising that Emerson condemned 'foolish consistency' as 'the hobgoblin of little minds,' I think you ought to be consistent here one way or the other.

 "By the way, I was privileged to witness Billy Wright earn his last and 105th cap against the U.S.A. at the old Wrigley Field baseball park in Los Angeles on May 28, 1959.  You can read a little story about it under 'Features' on this England website."