When Albion meant England

England will play their 1000th men’s senior international against Montenegro at Wembley Stadium tonight. In total, 1244 players have made an international appearance for the side since the first game in November 1872, of which four have been playing for the Albion.

By Alex Stedman • 14 November 2019

By Kieran Cleeves
Lewis Dunk in action on his England debut.

The first was Tommy Cook in 1925, as he became the 488th player to represent the national side. Cook, who served in both world wars, played professionally for the Albion from 1923 to 1929, and also went on to become the manager of the Seagulls in the 1947/48 season. 

Albion’s first-ever England representative played the entirety of the 2-1 victory over Wales, with Frank Roberts’s first-half brace enough to give the side a win at the Vetch Field in Swansea.

Cook also enjoyed a cricket career that saw him make 460 first-class appearances for Sussex. The Cuckfield born centre forward would go on to score over 20,000 runs and take 80 wickets over the course of his 15-year career in the sport that came to an end in 1937.

By REX/Shutterstock
Thomas Cook (third from left, bottom row) in an Albion team photo.

It was 55 years and 93 days until Peter Ward became the second player from the club to represent the national side, as the striker was the 948th individual to make an England appearance. Ward’s introduction as an 85th-minute substitute on 31st May 1980 in a win over Australia, set a record for the shortest ever England career at the time, at six minutes.

Like Cook before him, Ward was 24-years-old when he made his Three Lions debut, with the contest at the Sydney Cricket Ground ending in a 2-1 win for Ron Greenwood’s men.

“That match was a great honour at the time, I’d played for the under-21s and was hoping for more caps for that side to be honest,” says Ward.

By REX/Shutterstock
Peter Ward in action for Albion.

“But they put me in the full squad to go to Australia. I was getting ready to come on for the final 15 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer, the ball didn’t seem to go out of play, I eventually got on! It was a fantastic experience and it’s something I’m very proud of, thousands of people want to play for England and so I’m one of the lucky ones.

“It was at the cricket ground, which was a bit strange - one side was basically a hill. I remember rooming with Frank Lampard senior. I touched the ball quite a few times, I’ve seen videos but it was a long time ago!”

Steve Foster was also 24 when he made his first England appearance, a 4-0 victory over Northern Ireland at Wembley Stadium in 1982. Like Ward before him, Portsmouth-born Foster would be managed by Greenwood, going on to win a further two caps.

An appearance in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands would follow, and a 1-0 victory over Kuwait in Bilbao would be the defender’s last time pulling on an England shirt. The latter game was during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, with qualification for the second round group stage having already been sealed following wins over both France and Czechoslovakia. England would exit the competition at the next hurdle after two 0-0 draws with West Germany and Spain.

By REX/Shutterstock
Steve Foster dons the England shirt.

Lewis Dunk then became the most recent Albion player to represent the country 36 years and 143 days later, taking to the field for Gareth Southgate’s men against USA at Wembley Stadium last November. 

The Wayne Rooney Foundation friendly match in the capital saw Dunk become the oldest Albion player to make his England debut, at 26-years-old. He played the full 90-minutes at Wembley and helped the team keep a clean sheet, as goals from Jesse Lingard, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Callum Wilson gave the home side what turned out to be a comfortable win over the United States.