Historian Brian Beard reflects on his work around England's 999 men's games so far

Monday 11 Nov 2019
England will play their 1000th senior men's international when they face Montenegro on Thursday 14 November

`Investigate and corroborate 995 England international football matches to confirm the game against Montenegro on 14 November 2019 is indeed the 1000th game`.

That was my brief from the FA. Okay, get some books, source appropriate web-sites, check and list, easy, right? Wrong!

Brief number two was to check and confirm the birthplace of every one of the 1242 - at that time - players who wore the Three Lions. Books, web-sites, write a list, easy, right? Wrong! 

Having my own decent library of football books, magazines and newspaper articles was a good foundation on which to build but, like one very used website that begins with a W, all that my own collection provided was a framework, at best.

Fortunately, the substance lacking in that website could be countered by looking elsewhere. So, a pincer movement was required to compile two separate projects; 995 international matches, spread over 147 years and 1242 footballers, over the same period, into one cohesive and accurate record that filled the brief.

Yes, there are numerous sites online that purport to be the definitive source for England information but there is, or was, not one single source with all relevant information pertinent to the matches and the players involved in those matches, save the one I found I was compiling.

Thankfully, and especially useful bearing in mind the obstacles I encountered, there was the safety net of that age old standby, support and sometimes downright rescue that lies in a book, several in fact.

The complete list of 999 England games was compiled and checked by Brian Beard

However, careful scrutiny was still the order of the day. Despite the time honoured process of proof and edit, errors can still occur.

Like the inclusion of Victory Internationals included in the list of England internationals, not recognised as official but still on a list that brought the 1000th game forward by that number of games.

So, when England international matches number 120,121,122 and 123 in 1919 were included, they brought the `apparent` total leading up to game number 1000 forward to the scheduled European Championship qualifier versus Bulgaria in September.

In mitigation of said book, even FIFA has been indecisive in deciding which are and are not official internationals, in the past. Fortunately, one phone call and removing Victory Internationals from the mix meant full steam ahead to verification that the game against Montenegro, will indeed go into the record books with England becoming the first nation to reach 1000 international football matches. 

Then, of course, there was the establishing of a list of England International footballers and their place of birth. That was to prove another ball game entirely due to the changes that county and administration areas underwent in the 147 years up to November 2019.

And one Victorian international who decided to change his name in the middle of one football season and in some sources then became two.

But the list was eventually finalised. And it was nice to finish by adding Tyrone Mings to a very long list and uniquely his own, personal place, in England`s football history.

With all data checked, double checked and cross-checked, quite literally a dozen or more times, taking the total number of checks past a third of a million, it was time for a lie down.

And time to look forward to, maybe, players number 1245, 1246, 1247 and beyond running around Wembley in the historic 1000th England International.

Here`s to the next 1000 games. I think someone else can do that.

By Brian Beard FA associate historian