England captain World Cup record: How Beckham, Gerrard & every Three Lions skipper fared in finals

David Beckham England 2002 World CupGetty

There is no more prestigious position in football than captaining your country, with the armband only passed to those deemed worthy of such a role.

To be appointed skipper is to be acknowledged as a leader and a person capable of summoning up the spirit in those around you to go chasing collective goals.

At this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia, 32 men are taking to the field looking to provide the inspiration and guidance to those around them in an attempt to deliver the grandest of prizes.

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In the case of England, a new era will be opened, with Tottenham striker Harry Kane having been charged with the task of following in some illustrious footsteps and making the Three Lions roar once more.

Although Gareth Southgate's side do not face as much pressure as previous Three Lions teams heading into the World Cup, a lot of weight rests on Kane's shoulders and he has only increased that by saying they will tackle the tournament "head on" and setting sights on winning the Golden Boot.

The striker will enhance his already glowing reputation if he shows he is a strong leader throughout their campaign in Russia, and will follow in the footsteps of the famous figures who wore the armband on the big stage for England before him. 

Billy Wright: 1950, 1954 & 1958

The Wolverhampton Wanderers legend made 105 appearances for England, with 90 of those caps secured as captain – a tally nobody before or since can claim to have bettered. He led the Three Lions in their first three World Cup outings during the 1950s, taking in appearances at events in Brazil, Switzerland and Sweden. He would taste just two victories on the grandest of stages, however, with an infamous 1-0 defeat to the United States in 1950 arguably his lowest ebb. A quarter-final defeat to Uruguay in 1954 was as far as he got in the competition.

John Haynes: 1962

Having been a regular source of goals at club level during an iconic spell with Fulham, Haynes was considered to be the ideal candidate to lead his country. He did earn 56 caps while netting 18 goals for England, but none of those efforts came at the 1962 World Cup in Chile. The Three Lions would make it through the group stage and into the quarter-finals, but they ultimately came unstuck against eventual winners Brazil. Haynes suffered an unfortunate car accident shortly after the finals and ended up being overlooked in 1966.

Bobby Moore: 1966 & 1970

England 1966 Bobby Moore

The most iconic of England captains and so far the only man to have got his hands on a major international honour. Like Wright before him, Moore skippered his country on 90 occasions – taking in 108 appearances in all. The West Ham legend was the man chosen to lead the way on home soil in 1966, and his talismanic presence at the heart of the defence helped the Three Lions to the most stunning of successes. The image of him being hoisted aloft by jubilant team-mates on the Wembley turf, Jules Rimet trophy in hand, is one which will live forever in English football folklore.

Mick Mills: 1982

A versatile operator who was switched between right and left-back while taking in 42 appearances for England, Ipswich icon Mills was handed the armband for the 1982 World Cup finals after forcing his way back into contention under Ron Greenwood following an initial spell as a reserve. The Three Lions would make it to the second group stage in Spain but, despite being unbeaten in the competition, bowed out following goalless draws with the hosts and West Germany. Five of Mills’ eight games as skipper came at the 1982 event.

Bryan Robson: 1986 & 1990

Having established a reputation as ‘Captain Marvel’ with Manchester United, Robson was considered to be not only England’s finest skipper but also their best player by the time the 1986 World Cup rolled around. Injuries were, however, to prove a problem for the talismanic midfielder throughout his career and they eventually brought his campaigns in Mexico and Italy to a close – with a shoulder problem picked up during a group stage clash with Morocco in 1986 and another knock suffered against the Netherlands four years later.

Peter Shilton: 1986 & 1990

Diego Maradona Peter Shilton Argentina England 1986 World Cup

With Bryan Robson having been laid low in Mexico, Bobby Robson opted to shift the armband from the heart of his side to the last line of defence. Shilton had been part of the England set-up for 16 years when given the chance to skipper his country on the world stage. He had the armband on when beaten by Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ and ‘Goal of the Century’ in 1986, while the last of his record-breaking haul of 125 caps came in a third-place play-off at Italia ’90 – with international retirement announced at 40 years of age.

Terry Butcher: 1990

By the time England were left cursing their luck from the penalty spot during a semi-final date with West Germany in 1990, Bobby Robson had made another big captaincy call. Bryan Robson had started as skipper, Shilton had then taken over again, while Butcher inherited the armband for the knockout stages. A man who had shed plenty of blood, sweat and tears for the good of the Three Lions cause down the years came agonisingly close to getting a shot at the most prestigious prize in football, but ended up heading into retirement with 77 caps and a sense of what could have been.

Alan Shearer: 1998

Appointed England captain by Glenn Hoddle for the 1998 World Cup qualification campaign, the prolific Newcastle striker would retain the armband until slipping into international retirement on the back of Euro 2000. Shearer would grace just one World Cup finals over the course of his distinguished career, with further penalty heartache suffered by a man who endured similar at Euro ’96. England, despite the efforts of a young Michael Owen, crashed out to Argentina in the second round.

David Beckham: 2002 & 2006

David Beckham England Argentina 2002 World Cup

Beckham shouldered much of the blame for the defeat to Argentina in 1998, with his red card for a petulant kick out at Diego Simeone considered to have cost England dear. ‘Golden Balls’ was, however, to earn redemption in some style, with his next outing at a World Cup finals seeing him fill captaincy duties. Beckham, who almost single-handedly carried the Three Lions to the 2002 finals, was only half-fit in Korea & Japan after suffering a pre-tournament broken metatarsal, but did exorcise his demons against Argentina from the penalty spot. He also skippered England in 2006, but once again penalties and red cards proved to be their undoing.

Steven Gerrard: 2010 & 2014

Having shown himself to be a talismanic presence while captaining Liverpool, the all-action midfielder was the logical choice to succeed Beckham once the poster boy of English football started to fade from the spotlight. He was unable to produce his brilliant best on a regular basis for the Three Lions, but did try and drag them through a testing period under Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson. Gerrard announced his international retirement after enduring a humbling group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Frank Lampard: 2014

Gerrard did not start what proved to be his final appearance for England, with Hodgson having opted to tinker with a side which underwhelmed horribly on Brazilian soil. A final group stage fixture against Costa Rica saw the armband passed to Chelsea stalwart Lampard, but he also struggled to provide the necessary motivation and the Three Lions limped home after collecting no victories and just one point from a sorry campaign which intensified the calls for sweeping changes to be made.

Harry Kane: 2018

Harry Kane England

Kane scored within 80 seconds of his senior debut as he stepped off the bench to replace Wayne Rooney in the Euro 2016 qualifier with Lithuania in March 2015. That was a sign of things to come and just three years later the prolific Tottenham striker has been handed the armband by Gareth Southgate. A man who already has 13 international goals to his name in just 24 appearances will become England’s youngest World Cup captain when he takes to the field against Tunisia on June 18 at the age of 24. The question is, how far can he take the Three Lions?

How England captains have fared at the World Cup

Billy Wright102441415
John Haynes411256
Bobby Moore10712157
Mick Mills532061
Bryan Robson403112
Peter Shilton530294
Terry Butcher321053
Alan Shearer421174
David Beckham10541125
Steven Gerrard612359
Frank Lampard101000