Euro2020 Special – Top Ten Three Lions Autobiographies (Part 1)

With the Euros just around the corner, we’ve got 51 matches across 30 undiluted days to look forward to, and an opportunity for England to bring home the trophy (or not, as the case may be). And there’s plenty in the way of England football autobiographies to keep you going if you really want to get into the spirit. From old classics brought out by Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard, to newer releases from Stuart Pearce and Andrew Cole, and the 74 books from David Beckham (but who’s counting), there are already some great autobiographies from the Three Lions out there, but there’s always room for more. So here’s my top ten autobiographies of former England players that I’d like to read:

  1. Paul Ince

I had to double and triple-check that the player nicknamed ‘The Guvnor’, the midfielder with two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, three Charity Shields, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Super Cup to his name, and that’s just whilst at Manchester United – as well as over 50 England caps – has never written an autobiography, but he hasn’t. An alumni of West Ham, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Wolves, and a key cog in both Euro96 and the 1998 World Cup, before a managerial career spanning Swindon Town, Macclesfield Town, Milton Keyes Dons, Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and Blackpool, Paul Ince has had a remarkable football life and surely has some stories to tell, not least as ‘Gazza’s minder’ on England duty.

  1. David James

There are probably few England goalkeepers more iconic than David James, whether that’s doing his stuff between the sticks or trying his hand up front for Manchester City. It’s said that goalkeepers are a different breed and there’s no doubt there’s something mercurial about James. As well as being part of Liverpool’s Spice Boys generation and an FA Cup winner at Portsmouth, James served as first-choice keeper in Euro2004 and the 2010 World Cup. His playing career spanned some 10 clubs, including outings in both Iceland and India, and he sits fourth on the list of all-time Premier League appearances, is second only to Petr Cech for clean sheets and tops the charts for penalty saves. Away from the pitch, he is an accomplished artist and competed on Strictly Come Dancing, but it’s his on-the-pitch life, in some memorable teams with some memorable players and managers that James’ story really lies.

  1. Jermain Defoe

If it was up to me, Jermain Defoe’s 57 England caps running up to 2017 would be double that number, but alas (maybe thankfully), I’m not the England manager. There is no doubting though Defoe’s goalscoring instinct, continuing to get his name on the scoresheet north of the border as his Rangers side secured the 2020/21 league title. Starting with West Ham, his move to Tottenham probably did him no favours with the claret side of London, but it was with the Lilywhites where he really made his mark across two spells and a loan. Wherever he has played, including for the national team, Defoe has found the net, and yet he’s probably suffered from the tag of super sub – indeed, he’s the Premier League’s top scorer as a sub. However, he’s also the eighth-highest goalscorer in Premier League history and still isn’t too shabby at 38. When he eventually hangs up his boots, there will be one incredible journey to look back on.

  1. Danny Rose

There are a multitude of voices and stories in football, though often, it seems, we only get to hear a few of these. In recent years, however, Danny Rose has stood out above the parapet to offer a snapshot of himself and his experience in football, and it hasn’t always been glowing. As his 14-year association with Tottenham recently came to an end, having been one of the latest to fall out of favour with Jose Mourinho, his future currently remains uncertain, but at his height he was one of the best left-backs in the country. Rose’s off-the-pitch struggles have made headlines, but his speaking out on depression was not only a significant move for him but for football, and one that merits a lot of respect and support. Rose deserves the right to share his story as much or as little as he wishes, but I’m sure there will be many, both within football and beyond, for whom Rose’s story will be pertinent.

  1. Micah Richards

Is there any more entertaining a pundit than Micah Richards? Whether he’s being completely fanatical about Manchester City, telling Phil Foden he loves him live on TV or cementing his bromance with a reluctant Roy Keane, Micah Richards was made for the gig. On the pitch, he was part of the transformation that saw Manchester City enter the footballing elite following that historic first title in over forty years, alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli. His decade at City was followed by less auspicious spells at Fiorentina and Aston Villa, whilst only 13 England caps surely doesn’t do the defender justice. He did feature in the 2012 Olympic football team, but whilst it’s his career at the Etihad that he’ll be remembered for, his TV career may yet surpass even that. Who knows, perhaps even a book with Roy Keane could be on the cards – now that would be worth a read.

  1. Joe Hart

Charles Joseph John Hart, aka Joe Hart, was another former City player who was instrumental to Manchester City’s changing fortunes, where he won two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup. Another member of the goalkeepers’ union, Hart was first-choice for England in Euro 2012 and 2016 and the 2014 World Cup, notching up some 75 caps. Domestically, he was the first of only two players (the other being Petr Cech) to win four Golden Glove awards and although he featured only in cup games in 2020/21 for latest club Tottenham, at 34 he remains very much part of the top-flight set-up. Goalkeepers’ careers are invariably full of more ups and downs, and Joe Hart has had his fair share of both.

  1. Joleon Lescott

When Joleon Lescott won promotion to the Premier League with boyhood club Wolves, he must have thought his career was just about to begin, but knee surgery saw him miss the whole 2003/04 season, in which Wolves were instantly relegated. However, when Lescott signed for Everton in 2006, he finally got his opportunity, and even bigger and better times were to come at Manchester City. After winning four trophies at the Etihad, spells at West Brom, Villa, AEK Athens and Sunderland followed, but Lescott had had his moment in the sun, a moment which saw him receive some 26 England caps. Perhaps not a big name in either Man City or England history, but Lescott’s rise to the top is surely the archetypal boy done good story.

  1. Jack Wilshere

When Jack Wilshere burst onto the scene at Arsenal as a mere 16-year-old gracing the first team, he looked to have one of the brightest futures in both domestic and international football ahead of him, epitomised by being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011. Sadly, Wilshere’s career has never reached its promised heights, having been blighted by injury from the outset. Yet in between times, Wilshere managed almost 200 appearances for Arsenal, including two FA Cup triumphs, a Community Shield, and two – yes, two – BBC Goal of the Season awards, as well as some 34 caps for England. Wilshere’s talent dazzled brightly in glimpses, but his story, more than most others’, encapsulates the devastation of injury and the resilience and determination to return again and again. If there is anyone qualified to explain that road to recovery and the tragedy of injury setback, it’s surely Jack Wilshere.

  1. Theo Walcott

England’s youngest ever senior player and youngest hat-trick scorer, Theo Walcott was the quintessential young gun when he came to the world’s attention in an England shirt at the age of 17. It was a meteoric rise for a young man whose career had started at Southampton, before he was catapulted into Arsenal and England. And although he reached nearly 400 appearances for Arsenal, a further 85 for Everton and continues to ply his trade at boyhood club Southampton, like his Arsenal and England team-mate, Jack Wilshere, Walcott’s career has been stop-start due to injury and he too, perhaps never reached his full potential. However, there are few who have had such high expectations placed on their shoulders at such a young age and on such a significant stage and Walcott’s journey has always had that auspicious start looming over it.

  1. Jermaine Jenas

Younger fans may be forgiven for thinking Jermaine Jenas is simply a TV presenter, his recent One Show promotion has certainly made him into a household name, but slightly older supporters will remember Jenas as an athletic midfielder who plied his trade at Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Villa and QPR, as well as representing his country over 20 times. Another young starter, Jenas was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2003, but he, too, was blighted with injuries. Nonetheless, his time at Newcastle saw him play under inspirational leader Bobby Robson and Geordie legend Alan Shearer, whilst his move to Tottenham saw him win the only trophy of his career – the League Cup. Internationally, Jenas remained largely on the fringes, making the squad but not featuring in the 2006 World Cup and his experiences in and around football are a familiar case of so near but yet so far.


Jade Craddock

Tags: , ,
FBR Copyright 20214 All rights reserved.

Posted June 2, 2021 by Editor in category "Top Ten Football Books", "UEFA 2020 Euro Championship


  1. Pingback: Euro2020 Special – Top Ten Three Lions Autobiographies (Part 2) – football book reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.