Currently ranked fourth in the FIFA rankings, England has emerged as a formidable force in women's football. With recent victories in the 2022 European Championships and the 2023 Women's Finalissima, the Lionesses have solidified their position as title contenders for the upcoming 2023 Women's World Cup.
Behind their success lies a group of exceptional players who have shouldered the responsibility of leading the team. Let's delve into the remarkable careers of the top 10 most capped Lionesses who have played a pivotal role in shaping the team's journey.
The Top Capped Players
The current crop of world-beating Lionesses has had plenty of inspirational figures to look up to. Their skill, dedication, and leadership have propelled the team to new heights. Let's take a look at these long-serving servants of the beautiful game and their contribution to England emerging as a force to reckon with.
Ellen White – 113 caps
The Arsenal youth academy graduate ironically made her mark on the game in Chelsea colours. She served England for 12 years after coming through the under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-23 levels, making her debut for the first team in 2010. Her clinical finishing and intelligent movement made her a reliable goal-scorer, becoming England's all-time top goalscorer in the process. She formed a formidable partnership with Kelly Smith, whose record she broke.
Kelly Smith – 117 caps
With her tenacity and ability to make an impact in crucial moments, Smith established herself as a vital part of the Lionesses squad for twenty years. A true icon of English women's football, she was at the helm of their successes from 1995 to 2015. After a goal-laden career, she announced her international retirement after finishing in third place at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Gillian Coultard – 119 caps
Gillian Coultard MBE, the former England captain, is one of the country's most-capped internationals with 119 appearances. She became the first woman to surpass 100 international appearances for England. Known for her all-action midfield play, she played a key role in Doncaster Belles' success. Coultard retired in 2000 to focus on coaching and was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.
Steph Houghton – 121 caps
A natural leader and rock-solid defender, Houghton captained the Lionesses with distinction before handing it over to Leah Williamson. She represented England at various youth levels, including U16 schools, U19, U20, U21, and U23 teams, showcasing her talent from an early age. Transitioning from a striker to midfield and eventually settling into a defensive role, Houghton has become a stalwart in both Manchester City and England.
Rachel Yankey – 129 caps
A skilful and dynamic winger, Yankey primarily played as a left winger or forward. Her illustrious club career spanned 13 years at Arsenal, where she is ranked among the Arsenal Ladies Legends. Her speed, technical ability, and creativity on the flanks have posed constant threats to opposition defences, contributing to England's attacking prowess. Yankey was an integral part of the England squads that reached the quarterfinals at the 2007 and the 2011 World Cup.
Casey Stoney – 130 caps
Stoney's leadership and defensive prowess made her an inspiration to her teammates. Her composure, tactical understanding, and ability to organize the defence were invaluable in England's quest for success. In addition to her services for the Lionesses, she enjoyed a lengthy club career primarily at Arsenal, spanning 13 years, and also played for Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Lincoln, and Liverpool. After retiring from playing, Stoney transitioned to coaching, leading Manchester United Women's team to promotion to the Women's Super League in her debut season in 2018. She is currently at the helm of San Diego Wave in the US.
Alex Scott – 140 caps
Scott's ability to read the game, make timely interceptions, and provide a threat going forward made her an important figure for club and country. She achieved prominence as a right-back for Arsenal in the FA WSL and also made 140 appearances for the England national team, while also representing Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics. After retiring from playing, Scott transitioned to a successful career as a sports presenter and pundit, working with prominent media outlets such as the BBC, Sky Sports, and ITV.
Karen Carney – 144 caps
Carney's creative flair, agility, and technical skills made her an indispensable asset to England. With her ability to unlock defences and contribute to the team's attacking prowess, she was a key contributor to England's success. Carney had a notable career playing as a winger and midfielder for Birmingham City, Arsenal, and Chelsea. She earned an impressive 144 caps for England and following her retirement from playing, transitioned into a successful career as a sports journalist and pundit, working with esteemed media outlets such as Sky Sports, Amazon Prime, BBC Sport, and The Guardian.
Jill Scott – 161 caps
Known for her versatility and dominant presence in midfield, Scott was a linchpin of the Lionesses. With her physicality, tactical awareness, and ability to contribute both defensively and offensively, she consistently proved her value to the team. She earned an impressive 161 caps for the England women's national football team, scoring 27 goals. The Sunderland native enjoyed a successful career playing as a midfielder for Sunderland, Everton, Manchester City, and Aston Villa. Since hanging up her boots, Scott has transitioned into a sports pundit and commentator role.
Fara Williams – 172 caps
At the pinnacle of English stars lie Fara Williams. She stands tall as the most capped player in England's women's football history. Her midfield prowess, technical ability, and incredible work rate have been instrumental in England's achievements. Williams' experience and leadership have guided the team through numerous campaigns. Williams was not part of the squad that added international glory to their ranks, hanging up her boots after a prolific career as a central midfielder. During her playing career, she represented Chelsea, Charlton Athletic, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Reading.