Just nine footballers have had the honour of representing England on 100 or more occasions.
Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-half Billy Wright was the first, reaching the landmark in a 1-0 win over Scotland at Wembley in April 1959. The second was Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, who did so in a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland on 21 April 1970, also at Wembley.
The third was West Ham United and England’s finest-ever player and captain, Bobby Moore, who reached his century in a 5-0 win over Scotland at a snowbound Hampden Park in Glasgow on Valentine’s Day 1973.
Moore had represented his country for more than a decade, leading the Three Lions to FIFA World Cup glory in 1966 and to third place at the UEFA European Championship finals two years later, and enjoyed an historic battle with Brazil at the 1970 tournament, after which the great Pele labelled him the best defender he had ever faced.
By February 1973, Moore was 31 and had made more than 600 appearances for West Ham – the Club he had led to FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup glory in 1964 and 1965 respectively – winning the Hammer of the Year award on four occasions.
While most of his fellow World Cup winners had since retired or fallen out of favour with manager Sir Alf Ramsey, Moore continued to be an automatic pick for his country.
By early 1973 the likes of the Charlton brothers, Gordon Banks, and Moore’s long-time former West Ham teammate Geoff Hurst were no longer part of the national squad, while Martin Peters was only recalled for the Scotland match after a nine-month absence from England duty. Alongside the two famed Academy of Football graduates, only midfielder Alan Ball remained from the class of ’66.
Into their boots had stepped the next generation, including goalkeeper Peter Shilton, defender Emlyn Hughes, midfielder Colin Bell and forwards Martin Chivers and Allan Clarke.
They were among the men who shared the pitch with Moore for his landmark 100th appearance. Fittingly, the match had been organised to celebrate another centenary – the formation of the Scottish Football Association.
While England were in a transitional phase, Scotland had a star-studded side, with the likes of Billy Bremner, Kenny Dalglish, Peter Lorimer and Lou Macari, but a series of defensive errors meant they were unable to prevent Moore’s special night from ending in a thumping triumph.
After being led out of the tunnel by their legendary captain, wearing his iconic No6 shirt, England scored three goals in the opening 15 minutes, ending the game as a contest almost before the sound of the national anthems had died down. Second-half strikes from Chivers and Clarke made the final score 5-0 – England’s biggest-ever win on Scottish soil.
However, while modern-day England stars such as David Beckham and Ashley Cole have had the occasion of their 100th caps widely celebrated, little was made of Moore’s amazing achievement.
Indeed, instead of a lavish ceremony or presentation, the most-famous artefact that remains from that historic day 47 years ago is the photograph of Moore sat among 99 boys in the playground of St Edward’s Roman Catholic School, just an accurate long pass from the Boleyn Ground.
Taken by Moore’s friend and photographer Kent Gavin, the now-iconic image shows Moore and the children, arms folded, each of them wearing and England cap.
Back then, players were not awarded a cap for every single game they played, so Gavin had to source some of Wright’s caps to ensure he had 99 to hand out to the boys!
The resulting photograph remains among the most-famous of Moore’s long, illustrious and peerless career for Club and country, and a fitting memento of an unforgettable moment in the history of English football.