England Football Facts

Article: Weird & Wonderful England National Team Facts

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By Brian Beard | 19th MAR 2020

So we are all going to have to wait and see if England can secure the European Championship, until 2021, on home soil but we can still reflect on some of the milestones and achievements already stockpiled in the history of the world`s oldest international football team.

Most football fans know that the first ever international, Scotland v England, in November 1872, finished goalless but it wasn’t until the following year that football saw its very first international goal. And it was the Right Honourable William Kenyon-Slaney who had the honour of being that very first scorer of an international goal. He eventually scored twice in the 4-2 win over Scotland, at Kennington Oval on March 8th 1873 thus, also becoming the first scorer of a brace for England.

A couple of years later CW Alcock, Charles William, became the first England captain to score an England goal when he netted in the 2-2 draw with Scotland, at Kennington Oval. It was Alcock`s one and only cap but he was already assured of his place in football history as he was the driving force behind the creation of the FA Cup.

In the early years of international football many a player earned a single cap and those players were usually what might be termed `experienced` and selection committees awarded caps as favours. But in 1879 James Prinsip, at 17 years and 252 days became the youngest international when he played in the 5-4 victory over Scotland. It was a record that stood for 124 years until Wayne Rooney was first capped in 2003.

The game in which Prinsip played was also the first occasion England benefited from an own-goal. The match deciding goal came when Scotland goalkeeper Robert Parlane helped a Norman Bailey throw-in into his own net.

It took 10 years for an England hat-trick to be scored but in typical fashion after waiting that long, two came along at once, in 1882. In England’s 13-0 victory, over Ireland in Knocke, a record that still stands, Howard Vaughton scored five times. Arthur `Digger` Brown netted four. Unfortunately match reports are rare and so it is almost impossible to decide who has the distinction of being England`s first hat-trick hero. Vaughton scored in the 3rd minute but times of the goals do not exist beyond, ironically, the 13th minute

More history was made, on March 21st 1885 at  Kennington Oval, London when England hosted Scotland at Kennington Oval. James Forrest, the Blackburn Rovers half-back, became the first professional footballer to play for England. Scotland protested, regarding his status, and so Forrest had to play in a different jersey to the rest of the England players, to differentiate from them, amateurs all. At his club Forrest earned £1 a week. He got £1 playing for England so Blackburn reasoned they didn’t need to pay him that week.

James Forrest played 11 games for England but another of the one-cap wonders of the era, John Brodie, created his own slice of history with a `triple-oncer`. When England beat Ireland 6-1 at Anfield Road on March 2nd 1889, Brodie made his debut, captained his country and scored. It was his only international goal and his only cap.

The following year, 1890,  England fielded two separate teams on the same day. It was March 15th when Wales were beaten 3-1 at The Racecourse, Wrexham while the other England side were winning 9-1 against Ireland in Belfast.

A few years ago as part of its marketing strategy the Football Association came up with the Team England concept. But more than a century earlier there was a true `Team England.` It was March 12th 1894 when, for the first time, and only time in history, England had all eleven players from the same club. It was for the 5-1 win over Wales, in Wrexham, that the entire England XI were from Corinthians FC.

Before the 2019-20 season was halted Sheffield United were making a strong bid for Champions` League football but the Blades had already written several paragraphs in football history. One of those entries centres on the only true Romany ever to play for England, Rabbi Hawell, of Sheffield United, made a scoring debut for England in the 9-0 victory over Ireland at the Derby County Cricket Club on March 9th 1895.

Howell may have only won two caps in his short international career but it was far longer than was enjoyed, if that is the right word, by Jim Barrett in the 1920s. October 22nd 1928 saw the shortest international career for any player starting an England game. West Ham defender Jim `Tiny` Barrett, who was a shade under 6 feet tall, was injured after just four minutes of the game at Goodison Park and had to be carried off. It was his only cap.

The fastest ever England hat-trick was scored by Willie Hall, against Ireland, on November 16th 1938, at Old Trafford, Manchester. It took him just 3.5 minutes to get three of England`s total in the 7-0 victory, between the 34th and 38th minute.

Substitutes scoring a goal always makes good news and Jimmy Mullen became England`s first substitute in an international for which caps were awarded. He replaced Jackie Milburn and then made his second mark on history  when he became the first sub to score by netting in the 4-1 win away to Belgium, in Brussels, May 18th 1950.

When it comes to England and goals there were few better, statistically, than Jimmy Greaves. Fitting then that England’s 1,000 international goal was scored in the second minute of the 5-1 win over Wales, at Wembley on November 23rd 1960 by Jimmy. Greaves was one of the many to feel the full force of Norman `Bites yer Legs Hunter, in club football but not many people know that Norman has his own place in England international history. When he came on for Joe Baker in the 2-0 friendly win in Madrid, v Spain- December 8th 1965- he became the first England player to win a first cap as a substitute.

Now, we’ve all seen them and some of us have even been at games where the road signs for one-way traffic should have been erected. One such occasion came when England won 1-0 away to Malta on February 3rd 1971 in a European Championship qualifier when they set new milestones.

England had NO goal-kicks, Malta won NO corners and in the entire game Gordon Banks touched the ball four times ALL BACK PASSES.

On the night Wayne Rooney scored his 52nd international goal in the 2-1 win over Australia, at the Stadium of Light- May 27th 2016, Marcus Rashford  became the youngest England goal scorer just 138 seconds after kick-off, at 18 years and 209 days. He also set a new record for making his England debut after a new low in terms of first team games, just 18 which makes his double entry into the record books nicely symmetrical.

Jermaine Defoe, before the suspension of football, was still scoring goals, for Glasgow Rangers but he has an equally impressive England record, for goals and substitute appearances. He took his record for substitute appearances to 35 when he came on for Jake Livermore at Hampden Park in the 2-2 draw with Scotland, June 10th, 2017. It was England`s 35th qualifier unbeaten.

Coming a little more up to date Jadon Sancho became the first player, born in the 21st century, to represent the senior England side when he made his debut in the 0-0 draw in Croatia- October 12th 2018- behind closed doors. It was England`s 400th clean sheet.

More obscure but lovely England facts to come.


By Brian Beard, Associate Historian to the Football Association.

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