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England's greatest ever XI including Steven Gerrard, Bobby Moore, Wayne Rooney

Sports Mole selects its all-time England XI ahead of the Three Lions' 1,000th international fixture on Thursday evening.

England will bring up the significant landmark of their 1,000th international match on Thursday evening when they welcome Montenegro to Wembley.

Gareth Southgate's side need just one point from their two remaining qualifiers to guarantee their place at Euro 2020 and will be huge favourites to pick up a sixth win from seven games in Group A.

The contest will also provide an opportunity to celebrate the rich 147-year history of the England men's team, from their first ever match against Scotland in 1872, through to their 1966 World Cup win and right up to the modern day.

The Three Lions have won 568 and lost 189 of their previous 999 outings, scoring 2,188 goals in the process.

Over the years 19 different managers have called upon 1,244 different players, and here Sports Mole takes on the near-impossible task of slimming that down to their best ever XI.

Goalkeeper: Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks saves Pele's shot during the 1970 World Cup© Reuters

England's World Cup-winning goalkeeper and one of the greatest to ever don a pair of gloves, Gordon Banks is perhaps best remembered not for his role in the Three Lions' crowning glory, but rather pulling off a save many deem to be the best of all time four years later.

Banks produced a scarcely-believable stop to deny Brazil's Pele at the 1970 World Cup, flicking the powerful downward header up and over the crossbar when it looked like a certain goal. It was one of many highlights in an international career that spanned 73 caps over nine years from 1963 to 1972, with England's all-time record appearance holder Peter Shilton having to play second fiddle to his former Leicester City and England teammate.

Honourable mentions: Peter Shilton, David Seaman, Joe Hart, Ray Clemence

Right-back: Phil Neal

A position blessed with a glut of consistent performers rather than standout superstars, former Liverpool stalwart Phil Neal is our right-back despite featuring in an England team which regularly underperformed.

Neal only appeared at two major tournaments for his country - the 1980 European Championship and 1982 World Cup - and had a relatively short international career of seven years. However, during that time he won 50 caps and scored five goals in addition to racking up trophy after trophy with Liverpool.

Neal ended his club career with 23 pieces of silverware, including eight top-flight titles and four European Cups.

Honourable mentions: Gary Neville, Viv Anderson, Jimmy Armfield, George Cohen

Centre-backs: Bobby Moore, Billy Wright

England captain Bobby Moore on shoulders of teammates holding aloft the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966© Reuters

No all-time England XI would be complete without the golden boy of English football Bobby Moore, who remains the nation's only World Cup-winning captain having led the Three Lions to glory in 1966. Described by Pele as the best defender he ever faced, Moore's impeccable timing and reading of the game ensured that he made facing some of the greatest ever attackers look easy.

The West Ham United legend was made England captain at just 22 - the youngest to be handed the armband - and went on to lead his country in 90 of his 108 appearances, the latter of which was a national record at the time of his retirement.

The only man who can match Moore's tally of 90 games as England captain is Billy Wright, who was also the most-capped player for the national team at the time of his retirement. Indeed, the Wolverhampton Wanderers stalwart was the first player in international football history to earn a century of caps, going on to reach 105 before retiring in 1959.

Honourable mentions: Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Jack Charlton, Terry Butcher, Des Walker

Left-back: Ashley Cole

Arguably the only England player who consistently replicated his club form for England during the 'Golden Generation', Ashley Cole was widely regarded as one of the world's best full-backs throughout his 13-year international career.

Cole went on to win 107 caps for his country, leaving him as England's highest-capped full-back and sixth on the all-time list. As well as appearing at five major tournaments for the Three Lions, Cole also won three Premier League titles, a record seven FA Cups and the Champions League during his club career.

Honourable mentions: Kenny Sansom, Stuart Pearce, Ray Wilson

Right-midfield: Stanley Matthews

The first real superstar of English football and the measuring stick for wingers for decades, Sir Stanley Matthews boasts a plethora of historic achievements in football - the first player to be knighted while still playing, the first winner of the Ballon d'Or and the FWA Footballer of the Year awards and England's oldest ever player.

Nicknamed 'The Wizard of the Dribble', Matthews's international career spanned 23 years, although the Second World War limited him to 54 caps. The winger made up for his lost time, though, last appearing for England at the age of 42 and going on to play in the top flight until he was 50.

Honourable mentions: David Beckham, Chris Waddle

Centre-midfield: Sir Bobby Charlton, Steven Gerrard

In a hugely competitive area of the team, one sure-fire pick was Sir Bobby Charlton. While Bobby Moore was the talisman behind England's 1966 World Cup win, Charlton was the driving force and most memorably scored twice in the semi-final to down Eusebio's Portugal. The final itself saw him play a more reserved but equally important role to limit the influence of a young Franz Beckenbauer.

Charlton ended his England career with 106 caps and 49 goals to his name - both records at the time of his retirement - and his performances in 1966 saw him win the Ballon d'Or as well as a host of other individual awards that year. At club level he made 758 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 249 goals.

Only five outfield players have played more for England than Bobby Charlton, and one of them partners him in central midfield. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard hung up his boots after the 2014 World Cup having made 114 appearances for his country, including being part of six major tournaments.

While his international career was often criticised for an apparent struggle to play alongside Frank Lampard or a failure to emulate his Liverpool heroics for England, Gerrard was still one of his country's most consistent and high-quality performers throughout the ultimately underwhelming Golden Generation.

Honourable mentions: Bryan Robson, Paul Gascoigne, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Martin Peters, Alan Ball, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilkins, David Platt, Glenn Hoddle

Left-midfield: Sir Tom Finney

Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid to Sir Tom Finney is that there were many who could not choose between him and Sir Stanley Matthews when both were in their pomp. Finney perhaps did not get the same overall level of recognition as his fellow world-class contemporary, but those within the game were in no doubt as to his quality and Matthews himself compared him to the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona, George Best and Alfredo Di Stefano.

The winger's loyalty to hometown club Preston North End was unflinching, spending his entire career with the unfashionable outfit despite numerous offers from elsewhere. At international level he made 76 appearances, scoring 30 goals - a record at the time - thanks largely to his ability to play on either wing or as a centre-forward.

Honourable mentions: John Barnes

Centre-forwards: Wayne Rooney, Gary Lineker

Wayne Rooney playing for England in November 2014© Reuters

There are many who feel Wayne Rooney did not fulfil his potential with England after bursting onto the scene as a breath of fresh air at Euro 2004, but his stats stand up against anyone. The former captain is the most-capped outfield player with 120 appearances and surpassed Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record before ending on 53 - the only player to break the half-century mark for the Three Lions.

Voted England's player of the year four times - twice as many as anyone else since the award was introduced in 2003 - Rooney also broke records at club level with Manchester United, where he scored an unparalleled 253 goals in addition to winning 16 trophies.

Rooney could famously score all types of goal, but England have also been blessed with a number of football's great poachers throughout the years, and Gary Lineker narrowly edges Jimmy Greaves to the second centre-forward role in this team. Lineker agonisingly ended his international career on 48 goals - one short of the then-record held by Bobby Charlton - from just 80 caps.

An unrivalled 10 of those goals came at World Cups, including six at the 1986 tournament as he became the first English player to win the Golden Boot. Four more followed as England reached the semi-finals in 1990, falling just short of a first final since 1966 against West Germany in Italy.

Honourable mentions: Jimmy Greaves, Alan Shearer, Geoff Hurst, Michael Owen, Kevin Keegan, Johnny Haynes, Steve Bloomer, Nat Lofthouse, Tommy Lawton, Harry Kane, Stan Mortensen, Vivian Woodward, Dixie Dean, Roger Hunt

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Wayne Rooney playing for England in November 2014
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