England’s Best Ever Left-Footed Players – Ranked

England's Best Ever Left-Footed Players - Ranked

English footballing vocabulary consists of innumerable, unbreakable pairings.

The only way to depict a goalless draw as an exciting spectacle will inevitably involve the word ‘pulsating’; and regardless of a player’s skill or technical ability, only a left foot can be described as ‘cultured’.

Perhaps by virtue of their novelty, a left-footed player is treated with special reverence.

England’s men’s national team, across multiple generations, have endured either a feast or famine when it comes to south paws. Whether the manager has shunted an awkward righty to the other flank or widened their recruitment net to anyone on these Isles with a vague control of left side, there have always been issues in their absence.

Yet, on the unevenly spread instances when a left-footer has risen to the international set up, some of the finest players to don that white shirt have been lefties…

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge breaking out his signature celebration on international duty 

Perhaps a fortunate beneficiary of the scarcity of left-footers to end up on this list, Sturridge, when fully fit and firing – an admittedly rare occurrence – did more than many for England in major tournaments.

Not only can he lay claim to the winning goal in a European Championships match, Sturridge has as many World Cup goals as the nation’s all-time leading scorer Wayne Rooney.

Graeme Le Saux
Graeme Le Saux had the daunting task of following Stuart Pearce as England’s first-choice left-back 

Graeme Le Saux remains the ultimate solution to ‘England’s left-side problem’ – despite Steve Guppy’s best efforts – when he rose to the fore in the 1990s.

Robbie Fowler
Robbie Fowler had limited opportunities in an England shirt despite his remarkable form at club level 

Long before his Indian summer in Australia, Thailand and, fittingly, India, Robbie Fowler exploded onto the scene as a ruthlessly efficient teenage finisher for Liverpool.

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Yet, despite his standing at club level – highlighted by his nickname of ‘God’ – Fowler had limited opportunities for his country.

Kenny Sansom
Kenny Sansom amassed 86 caps in an England career spanning almost a decade 

In terms of selection Kenny Sansom was at the other end of the spectrum compared to Fowler. Between 1984 and 1987 the former Arsenal left-back played 37 consecutive internationals, a record only two other Englishmen can better.

While the fans of Queens Park Rangers were lucky enough to witness Stan Bowles’ beguiling skills – which the former home secretary and Hoops fan Alan Johnson described as ‘impish wizardry’ – on hundreds of occasions, England were only treated to his talents for five caps.

Emlyn Hughes of England clears the ball as Martin O''Neil of Northern Ireland looks on
Emlyn Hughes in action against Northern Ireland 

While the man tellingly nicknamed ‘Crazy Horse’ had no hesitancy when dishing out his own brand of biting criticism for England’s left-sided players as a pundit, Hughes warranted little other than praise during his own distinguished playing career. Although, his character off the field may have elicited a slightly different response.

As a player famous for having his 1953 FA Cup final hat-trick overshadowed, Stan Mortensen’s four-goal haul on his England debut also had to share the spotlight. Not only did Tommy Lawton achieve the same feat in that 10-0 drubbing of Portugal, but he also netted the fastest England goal recorded at the time.

Stuart Pearce of England
Four years after turning out for non-league Wealdstone, Stuart Pearce made his international debut in 1987 

The sinister chant of ‘Psycho is a German!’ rang around many top flight grounds when Nottingham Forest rocked up in the season after Stuart Pearce’s cruel penalty miss at the 1990 World Cup.

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Yet, Pearce lived up to his emotionless reputation, bouncing back to not only win Forest’s player of the season award that campaign but return to the same heights with England, famously putting those spot-kick demons to bed in the successful penalty shootout against Spain in Euro 1996.

As the oldest member of the side which faced West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, Wilson was the modest, experienced and crucial cog in England’s unchanged defence throughout the tournament.

A footballer ahead of his time when it came to his business savvy off the field, Johnny Haynes was similarly revolutionary with the ball at his feet.

His unparalleled eye for a pass saw him transcend the football pyramid – earning 32 of his 56 England caps while Fulham were in the second tier.

The reluctant pop artist showed little hesitancy once he’d stepped across the white lines. One of countless generational talents who were forced to bend to the will of England’s system, rather than have a side built around them, Waddle was still able to carve out a distinguished international career.

Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole emerged as one of the few truly world class players England could call upon in the 2000s 

With Le Saux long retired, Ashley Cole emerged as the next prime example of the solution to the aforementioned sinistral drought at the turn of the millennium, firmly establishing himself as one of the few England players of the modern era who could feasibly squirm their way into a World XI.

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The goalscoring wide man who vied with the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and George Best for the status of Britain’s greatest winger had no stauncher advocate than the legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.

One of Shankly’s innumerable eulogies for Finney saw the Scotsman declare: “Tommy [he was always Tommy to Shankly] Finney was grisly strong. Tommy could run for a week. I’d have played him in his overcoat. There would have been four men marking him when we were kickin’ in.”

Jimmy Greaves once lamented that he felt ‘robbed’ by his reputation as a great goalscorer but nothing more. Yet, while his passing range and timing of a tackle may not have been the subject of endless hagiography, one can be forgiven for being blinded by an outrageous prolificacy which earned him 44 goals in 57 England outings.

John Barnes
Despite John Barnes’ bewitching dribbles and skills, the former Watford and Liverpool midfielder faced plenty of criticism while on international duty 

Ironically, John Barnes’ most famous moment in an England shirt – arguably the greatest goal any player clad in Three Lions has ever scored – was struck with his right foot.

However, the hip-swaying dribble which saw Barnes weave effortlessly through Brazil’s defence in the Maracanã, is what makes the goal memorable and was conducted with the ball seemingly tied to the laces on his left boot.

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