As the England national team prepare to play their landmark 1,000th international at Wembley this evening, we take a look at the Chelsea influence over the past 147 years, including three outings for the Three Lions at Stamford Bridge and the 49 Blues to have represented their country so far…
The first-ever international football fixture was played in Glasgow when Scotland and England went head-to-head in November 1872. However, it wasn’t until 35 years later that a Chelsea player featured for the Three Lions for the first time.
George Hilsdon, known as the ‘Gatling Gun’ due to his habit of peppering the goal with shots from both feet and his prolific scoring record, had already netted four times on his Blues debut when he received his maiden international cap in February 1907. He may not have hit the net in that 1-0 win against Ireland, but he went on to bag 14 goals in eight appearances, including four against Hungary during England's first overseas tour.
The very first Chelsea team put together after our formation in 1905 did include England internationals, signed to help the club make an instant impact on the game, most famously the giant journeyman goalkeeper affectionately referred to as Bill ‘Fatty’ Foulkes.
However, it was Hilsdon who first earned a cap while actually representing Chelsea, and 48 others have since followed his path in the preceding century and more. Click through the list below to take a look at them in order of most recent.
Hilsdon was the first of many fine English strikers that Chelsea have supplied for the national team, from Vivian Woodward and Jimmy Greaves to Tommy Lawton and Tammy Abraham. Another great Blues forward, Roy Bentley, was a member of England’s first-ever World Cup squad in 1950, though that tournament ended in disappointment as Walter Winterbottom’s side crashed out in the first round after an infamous defeat to the part-timers USA.
England's finest footballing moment came 16 years later, when goalkeeper Peter Bonetti became the only English Chelsea player with a World Cup winners' medal. However, being the understudy to Gordon Banks, Bonetti did not play in the tournament itself and consequently did not receive his medal until a ceremony in 2009.
Prior to the 1990s, only Ray Wilkins collected more than 20 England caps while with the Blues, with Greaves, Bentley, Lawton and Victor Woodley the others to hit double figures.
Two of England’s nine centurions are players who enjoyed the best of their club careers in west London and, since retiring, have returned in different coaching roles. Frank Lampard played 106 times, 104 of which came after his move across the capital from West Ham, and scored all 29 of his international goals as a Blue.
Meanwhile, Ashley Cole made 107 appearances in total, 55 as a Chelsea player from 2006 to 2014. Our former left-back is also the record appearance holder at major tournaments, with 22 matches played across five separate tournaments from the 2002 World Cup through to Euro 2012.
Our most recent England debutant is Mason Mount, who picked up his first cap two months ago in a European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria and became the 1,243rd England international. If selected to feature for the first time tonight against Montenegro, or next week in Kosovo, Fikayo Tomori will become the 50th Blue to wear the Three Lions and the 1,245th England international.
There are five former Blues who have been chosen by English football’s governing body to manage the England national team. Winterbottom and Joe Mercer, two of England’s first three managers, were wartime guest players, while Ron Greenwood (1977-1982), Terry Venables (1994-1996) and Glenn Hoddle (1996-1999) also had spells in the hotseat.
Three Lions in SW6
Stamford Bridge has also played its part in the history of England internationals, hosting three of the 1,000 games, all of which ended in victory for the Three Lions. Scotland were beaten 1-0 in April 1913 (the 116th international) before Wales received a 6-0 thumping in November 1929 (game number 169) and Austria succumbed to a 4-3 reverse (match 184) in December 1932 (pictured top).
Although not included among the 1,000 total, England also played a Victory International in SW6 in May 1946 to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Another legendary Chelsea striker, Tommy Lawton, captained the team and got on the scoresheet in a 4-1 win over Switzerland, meaning England have a 100 per cent record at the Bridge.