Following in famous footsteps today (Wednesday), Steven Gerrard brims with pride at joining such luminaries as Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore in the England 100 club. Yet Gerrard admits that the boys of '66 are the real history men.
"They'll always be heroes of mine and heroes of the English public," reflected Gerrard of Charlton, Moore and the other nine who conquered the world. "In football, the 'hero' and 'legend' status is given out far too easily. As far as playing for England goes there are 11 heroes. The rest haven't really delivered. If they [Moore and Charlton] are 10s [in the -ratings], I'm six or seven." This is classic Gerrard: self-critical, humble, -patriotic, hungry.
The honour of reaching 100 caps means so much. "It's something I never thought I'd achieve,'' said Gerrard, recalling the highs and lows of his career. "Getting turned down at the national school at 14 and not getting picked for the England Under-15s, there have been times when I never thought I'd even get one cap. To be here on the eve of 100 is an unbelievable achievement.
"The good thing about it for my children and their kids is when I'm an old man they can see my name alongside the lads who've already passed 100 caps. When I speak about it the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There's been great players before me and ones I've played with who haven't done it.
"The advice I've always tried to stick to is what my dad said to me when I was eight, going to the Liverpool centre of excellence: 'you get out of football what you put in. If you work hard, make the sacrifices and you're willing to learn and you have the talent - you'll have a good career'." As well as the advice, Gerrard took his father's Honda when reporting for England duty for the first time in 2000. "I wasn't really aware of the car set-up with England where you get a car to come and pick you up. Being a bit nervous I was more comfortable going with my own people. I'm still like that to this day, I don't really use FA cars. I drive my own car or get a friend to drive me."
On his second summons, leading to his debut against Ukraine in 2000, the Liverpool midfielder drove south with Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, leading to some redecoration of his room at Burnham Beeches.
"My birthday always falls when England are together, 30 May. I travelled down to that get-together with them two so they knew it was my birthday. I came in after training and my room was upside down. I told them how carefully I'd packed my bag and my mum had done my undies, ironed all my socks. It was just all in the bath. You know the foam bath you get washed with? That was just all over the place. It took me three hours straightening the room out.'' Fowler has still never admitted liability. "He still doesn't, no."
Euro 2000 brought a first bout of homesickness. "I still struggle to this day with being away for four to six weeks. I'm a family man and more comfortable with people around me who I've grown up with. Being in hotels and away in different countries I'm not really a fan of but it's worth going through it to get the buzzes of winning in an England shirt."
His greatest buzz with England came in 2001, against Germany in Munich, a 5-1 win immortalised in Football Association cuff links.
"It's difficult to beat that because of who it was against, how emphatic the result was in their back yard and it being a World Cup qualifier." He buried a fine shot just before half-time. "That's up there in my top three. I scored a volley against Macedonia at Southampton [in 2002] - that was a decent strike. I ran past three men in the area and scored at Wembley against Hungary [in 2010]. I don't know how I did it."
A month after his best moment came Gerrard's worst display. "I always go back to Greece when Beckham scored the 'worldy' free-kick. That was a disappointing individual performance by me. That game was on the back of me being out a bit late, past bedtime, that's a bad memory."
The England of that era, Beckham and Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen, was "the strongest England team I've played in," Gerrard continued. "It had great balance between young and experienced players. We had some world-class players in that team. The 'Golden Generation' is something I don't really like talking about but when you look at that team from front to back it was really strong." Asked who was the best player he has played alongside for England, Gerrard replied: "Probably Scholes. Just because his game is very similar to mine and I appreciate what he's got. I like him as a person. What he's done at United as well. To see him in training and play alongside him.'' (Gerrard also name checked Wayne Rooney).
"I totally agree with what a lot of you guys [media] have written that that group of players underachieved at big tournaments. That team should certainly have got to a semi-final. We were unlucky at times in the penalty shoot-out but that's certainly a regret now. That group of players should have done better." Why? "It's a mixture of everything. It's the fans. It's yous [media]. It's because we've got the best league. It's because every other country is so desperate to beat us. As a player you need to show responsibility.
"There have been times when I've found the shirt a bit of a weight. We get criticism at times. It's not so much the ratings. It's that if you have a bad game or a nightmare you know the coverage is worldwide. Playing for England's a tough gig - 'you will perform'." Against some formidable opponents - including the one he rates the best: "Zinedine Zidane. Magical feet. Special" - the pressure was relentless. "Everyone watches England. When I speak to the foreign lads in my dressing-room, as soon as they come off the pitch in their game they think 'how did England get on?' Everyone wants a piece of England.
"Everyone's interested in England even players who are playing in teams ranked above us. I admit my performances have never always been great but it has not been because of not wanting to be here, lack of effort or it not mattering to me as much as club football. I've always tried to give my best for England.
"Taking a penalty for England in a tournament is a million times more difficult than a penalty in a normal game, in a normal situation. The new players haven't experienced the disappointment that I have."
After the shoot-out misery of Euro 2012, Gerrard considered retiring internationally. "It wasn't a close call but when you are at that age  and you have another setback at England level it crosses your mind from time to time. But being the captain and the buzz I get for England outweighs the thoughts of knocking it on the head.
"Having players like Jack Wilshere coming through, it's worth carrying on for a couple more years and seeing if things change and a bit of luck comes our way. If we can produce more players on Jack's level maybe we've got a chance of going far in a tournament. He's a fantastic talent." Gerrard understands the pressures on the new generation.
"There's a lot more coverage, social media. There are a lot more eyes, cameras, opinions, TV channels. It's even bigger than when I came in. It's a lot more difficult for the young lads. Some of them won't be able to [cope]. That's fact. Some will find it too hard, some won't be good enough. Some won't work hard enough for it."
So he goes out of his way to be extra welcoming. "I don't want any young lads to fear me. I'm approachable. First thing I do when someone comes into the group is that I go to their room and speak to them. I know how intimidating it can be in this set-up. Not just because of me but because it's England and it's new and you're young. For Wilfried Zaha coming up from the Championship, he's not playing against these players every week. He doesn't get the chance to speak to them. I spoke to him this morning and told him that if he needs anything I'm here.
"When the likes of Alan Shearer, Tony Adams and Gareth Southgate put their arm around me and spoke to me it made me feel a bit more tall, bit more welcome, bit more free. You feel comfortable at training."
England's captain admits that being England manager interests him one day. "Yes, of course. I'm going to do my coaching badges after my England days are finished and I've time on my international break. But I'll only be a coach or a manager if I feel I'm good enough." He'll miss England when he steps down after the 2014 World Cup, remembering: "The scoring at tournaments, getting wins at tournaments. The barmy army when they get behind you. When you see the TV and the way the country completely changes on the eve of a tournament - that's the buzz for me."