Is this the best XI of Burnley players capped by England?

England kick-off their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia on Sunday at Wembley, with, for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, no Burnley player in the squad for a major tournament.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 8:00 am
Nick Pope

Nick Pope would have been there, pushing Jordan Pickford hard for the number one jersey, having started four of the last eight internationals, but a niggly knee problem required surgery shortly after the final Premier League game of the season, cruelly ruling him out of the Euros.

Pope, of course, was in the squad at the World Cup in Russia three summers ago, while his former Burnley teammate Tom Heaton was one of the three goalkeepers at France 2016.

But while there will be no Claret on duty with the Three Lions, Burnley have a proud history of representing the country, with 29 players collecting a running total of 98 caps now.

Colin McDonald

So we thought we would select an England XI based on Clarets who have earned caps for the nation.

We start in goal, where there is much competition for places.

Other than the club's recent success in that position, with Heaton and Pope, Burnley have had five keepers capped, from Jack Hillman (1899, one cap), to Jerry Dawson (1921-22, two caps) and Colin McDonald (1958, eight caps).

Cliviger-born Dawson is a Clarets legend, playing over 700 games for Burnley, and his 522 league appearances remains a club record.

James Tarkowski

Hillman spent the best part of a decade, in two spells, with Burnley, and his one England cap came in February 1899 at Roker Park - a 13-2 win over Ireland, the record number of goals scored by England in one game.

However, Hillman is remembered for being banned by the Football Association for a season attempting to bribe Nottingham Forest players, with Burnley threatened by relegation.

It is the earliest recorded case of match fixing in football, offering them £2 each to "take it easy" before upping his offer to £5, only for Burnley to lose 4-0 anyway.

McDonald is the only one of the five to play for England at a major tournament, earning four of his eight caps at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where England went out to Russia in a play-off to reach the quarter-finals.

Brian Miller

His performances led to him being voted the best goalkeeper in the tournament, particularly impressing in a 0-0 draw against eventual winners Brazil.

However, the following year, he suffered a broken leg playing for the Football League against the League of Ireland, and, after complications, was eventually forced to retire at the end of the 1960/61 season.

As regards Heaton (2016-17, three caps) and Pope (2018-, seven caps), you could make an argument for either based on their Burnley careers, but the pick between the sticks has to be McDonald.

At right back, you can select from Jimmy Crabtree (1894-95, three caps), who played left back, left half, right back, right half and centre half, or John Angus (1961, one cap), who sadly died this week.

Burnley's best England XI?

Crabtree started his career at Burnley, but won his caps in his second stint at the club, having played non league football for two seasons with Rossendale United and Heywood Central.

But it was at Aston Villa where he was most successful, winning League Championship medals in 1897, when Villa did the double, adding the FA Cup, 1899 and 1900.

Indeed, according to The Villa News and Record, September 1st, 1906, Crabtree was "One of England's greatest players. Shone in any position. Great as a half-back, but greater, possibly, as a back, kicking cleanly and with rare precision. A keen, skillful tackler, clever at close quarters and equally reliable in the open; cool, resourceful, and brainy. Excelled in the finer points of the game, and one of the most versatile players England has boasted. For many seasons unrivalled in his position."

However, Angus has to get the nod - a First Division champion with Burnley in 1960, the full back from Northumberland missed just one game in the title-winning season, and his 521 appearances are the most of any outfield player in Burnley history.

He was unlucky not to win more than one England cap, with his way to the side largely blocked by Blackpool's Jimmy Armfield.

At left back, Crabtree's competition comes from George Waterfield (1927, one cap), who played in the 3-3 draw with Wales in the Home Nations Championship, alongside fellow Claret Louis Page, and the legendary Dixie Dean, who scored twice.

Waterfield played 371 times for the Clarets, but Crabtree's pedigree just edges him out.

Centre half/back is a trickier pick, with the modern day players - Michael Keane (2017, two caps) and James Tarkowski (2018, two caps) up against players who also played as half backs.

In the early years of the Football League, the 2–3–5 formation was widely used , where, in defence you had a left and right back, and in midfield, a left, centre and right half.

The term "half-back" fell out of use by the early 1970s.

But Burnley players considered to have played at centre half for England are Billy Bannister (1901, one cap), Tommy Boyle (1913, one cap) - Burnley captain and part of the Clarets' legendary halfback line which won the club's only FA Cup in 1014, and first League Championship in 1921, and Jack Hill (1925-27, eight caps).

Boyle simply has to be one of the two centre backs, and I would then go with Tarkowski as the other.

Tarkowski was on standby for the 2018 World Cup, before undergoing hernia surgery, and can consider himself incredibly unlucky not to have won more caps, dropping out of favour since March 2019, despite his performances remaining of a very high standard.

Many wondered whether he would adequately replace Keane after his club record £25m move to Everton in 2017, but I imagine most would now say he has usurped the former Manchester United youngster - who was also unfortunate to be overlooked by Gareth Southgate for the Euros.

In midfield, we have Billy Watson, of that famed Burnley halfback line (1913-19, three caps), the legendary Brian Miller (1961, one cap) - who featured for his beloved Burnley at centre half or left half, but his one England appearance against Austria, alongside Angus, came at right half.

Then we have more orthodox modern midfielders in the elegant duo of Martin Dobson (1974, four caps) and Jack Cork (2017, one cap).

Watson and Miller are hard to separate, but the former gets the nod on account of winning more caps with Burnley, while Dobson has to be the other pick - until Heaton won his first cap in 2016, he was the last Claret to play for England.

On the flanks, as inside or outside rights, we have another Clarets legend in Bob Kelly (1920-25, 11 caps), who broke the British football transfer record when he moved from Burnley to Sunderland for £6,550 in 1925. He made 14 appearances in total for England between 1920 and 1928, scoring eight goals.

Jack Bruton (1928-29, three caps) scored 44 times in 176 games for Burnley before becoming Blackburn Rovers' record signing for £6,500 in December 1929. - imagine that happening these days!

And another Clarets hero who went on to play for Blackburn was the great John Connelly (1959-63, 10 caps) - Connelly was part of Burnley's title-winning side in 1960, and, as a Manchester United player, played in the first game of the 1966 World Cup against Uruguay, which finished goal-less.

Alf Ramsey then dropped Connelly, as his wingless wonders won the Jules Rimet Trophy.

As part of the group who delivered England's only major trophy, however, Connelly is a nailed on pick.

We have more options at outside left/left wing - Jack Yates (1889, one cap), Eddie Mosscrop (1914, two caps), Louis Page (1927, seven caps), Billy Elliott (1952, five caps), Brian Pilkington (1954, one cap), Gordon Harris (1966, one cap) and Ralph Coates (1970-71, two caps), who made 261 appearances for Burnley, before joining Tottenham Hotspur for £190,000, having been a member of the initial squad for the 1970 World Cup, but was not selected for the final pool which travelled to Mexico.

Coates gets the left sided slot, and centre forward is an easier pick with two options available getting selected - Bert Freeman (1912, three caps) and Ray Pointer (1961, three caps).

Both are legendary Burnley forwards, Freeman a 1921 title winner, and fifth all-time Clarets goalscorer, while Pointer was a 1960 title winner, and the second top goalscorer at the club, behind only George Beel.

They would have formed a formidable frontline between them!

Burnley's England internationals (with legacy numbers)

165 - Jack Yates

212 - Jimmy Crabtree

242 - Jack Hillman

264 - Billy Bannister

339 - Bert Freeman

363 - Tommy Boyle

375 - Billy Watson

381 - Eddie Moscrop

396 - Bob Kelly

421 - Jerry Dawson

486 - Jack Hill

513 - George Waterfield

516 - Louis Page

531 - Jack Bruton

716 - Billy Elliott

740 - Brian Pilkington

768 - Colin McDonald

783 - John Connelly

796 - John Angus

797 - Brian Miller

799 - Ray Pointer

841 - Gordon Harris

864 - Ralph Coates

893 - Martin Dobson

1216 - Tom Heaton

1219 - Michael Keane

1229 - Jack Cork

1231 - James Tarkowski

1234 - Nick Pope

Players born in Burnley and Pendle to play for England

212 - Jimmy Crabtree (Burnley)

264 - Billy Bannister (Burnley)

347 - Billy Bradshaw (Padiham, capped with Blackburn Rovers)

421 - Jerry Dawson (Holme in Cliviger)

797 - Brian Miller (Hapton)

1017 - Michael Phelan (Nelson, capped with Manchester United)

1200 - Jay Rodriguez (Burnley, capped with Southampton)