Rooney Scores 50 goals for England – the data

So Wayne Rooney (I assume in the future it will be Sir Wayne) has broken the England goal scoring record with 50 goals. A lot of discussion has therefore been about if he is the greatest English attacker of all time or not. Let’s look at the data.

The main argument against Rooney being the greatest is his lack of World Cup Finals goals (1; at the 2014 finals). There is also a line about the number of “friendly” goals scored. Lineker (with a total of 48 goals for England, 3rd in the all time list) was recently voted as England’s greatest attacker in a BBC poll, managed 10 goals in World Cup finals (including the 1986 Golden Boot).

So what if we weight goals differently. What if we make friendly goals worth 0.5 a goal, and “finals” goals (i.e. the World Cup Finals and European Championships Finals) as times 2? What does that do to the all time scoring list?

Here I count goals in the old “Home Championship” as ‘1’ (i.e. the same as World Cup and European qualifiers). Although there is an argument to be had that it should be weighted more heavily since it was THE international competition for England before the World Cup got “big” (so pre-1950s). However, for now I’ll leave its weighting as ‘1’.

In that adjusted table we get the following:

Ranking Name Adjusted Goals
1 Wayne Rooney 49
2 Gary Lineker 46
3 Bobby Charlton 43
4 Michael Owen 39
5 Jimmy Greaves 34.5
5 Alan Shearer 34.5

Rooney still number 1!

But okay, perhaps you think friendlies shouldn’t count at all and only competitive fixtures should be counted (the ‘Adjusted Goals’ column is if we again weight finals goals more heavily, the first ranking column is for the ‘non-adjusted’ goals):

Ranking Name Goals Adjusted Goals Adjusted ranking
1 Wayne Rooney 36 42 1
2 Stephen Bloomer 28 28 6
3 Bobby Charlton 27 32 3
4 Michael Owen 26 32 3
5 Gary Lineker 24 34 2
6 Jimmy Greaves 23 24 8

Again, Rooney comes top for both the usual and adjusted goal tallies. In order to knock Rooney off that top spot is to look at goals per cap ratio. We have to make some other rules for when look at this kind of stat because of the people who didn’t play very much. For example, Albert Allen, Francis Bradshaw, John Veitch, John Yates and Rev. Walter Gilliat were all capped once by England, and each scored a hattrick on their one, and only, appearance for England. This gives them a rather impressive 3 goals per cap ratio. If we only consider players who have at least 40 caps:

Ranking Name Goals per cap
1 Jimmy Greaves 0.77
2 Gary Lineker 0.6
3 Peter Crouch 0.52
4 Geoff Hurst 0.49
5 Alan Shearer 0.48
6 Wayne Rooney 0.47

Finally, if you again weighted the goals (since Crouch scored 12 of his 22 goals in friendlies) you would find the order is Greaves, Lineker, Hurst, Shearer, Rooney (Crouch drops from 3rd to 8th).

I am not going to make any conclusions about if Rooney is England’s greatest attacker or not, that is up to you! All the data I’ve used in this post was collected from and is accurate as of today (11th September 2015). If you want to play around with the data I’ve collated all the stats (player names, caps, minutes played and goals scored (separated into individual competitions)) [updated as of September 6th 2016] into an Excel file available here

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