Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Acast, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Our Favourite XI



Our good friend Chris Nee has recently hit upon a winning format for his wonderful website TwoFootedTackle.com, and it’s called ‘My Favourite XI’. In it, he invites people to submit a fantasy football team made up of players that are special in some way to the author.


To that end, we – that’s Terry, Graham and Chris, your humble Football Fairground spear-carriers - thought we’d get together to create a joint  Favourite XI which we’d initially put together through the medium of our Sound of Football podcast. You can hear our verbal machinations here, but for those of you that can’t bear the sound of our voices, here’s the team we ended up selecting...

Goalkeeper: John Burridge
Look up ‘journeyman’ on Wikipedia, and it should, if there’s any justice in the world, show you a picture of this former Crystal Palace goalkeeper. Actually, he’s everybody’s former goalkeeper as there are probably very few teams in the UK that have never had him on their books. But sheer endurance is only one aspect of his game. As well as being a very gifted shot-stopper, he also liked to entertain the crowd before, during and after every match. A forerunner to the likes of Bruce Grobbelaar, you’d often see Burridge walking on his hands before kick-off to get the crowd in a good mood, a talent which The Big Match was keen to featuring in its opening title sequence for many years. A great bloke, great keeper and a great entertainer.

Defender: Roberto Carlos
Ever wondered how Roberto Carlos was able to hit those powerful, bending banana shots with every free kick? It was all in his thighs. Those great tree trunks for thighs. That, and those enormous run-ups which would start so far away from the ball that opposition defenders could legally block his route because he was more than ten yards back. A Brazilian genius and star of the game that kept the legend of the Seleçao burning through Le Tournoi and beyond.

Defender: Bobby Moore
One of two players born in Barking, Essex to find their way into this team, although that particular criteria was in no way influenced by Chris who was born in Barking, Essex. A tremendous reader of the game and an iconic figure from English football history, Moore proved you didn’t have to be a brain-dead numbskull intent on hoofing the ball left, right and centre in order to succeed.  His intelligence was the key behind his innate ability to make timely tackles and killer passes. Just ask Pele, a man who knows how a well-placed tackle can result in a considerable feeling of impotence.

Defender: Franz Beckenbauer
As close to the perfect defender as you can get. Having robbed opposition strikers of the ball (which he did with great regularity), his first thought was usually to charge upfield to instigate the next attack rather than dwell on his next move. Tactically astute and a great observer of the game, he could cross the ball and pass it as well as anybody. Not only that, but he could strike the ball with great power and accuracy as well as any midfielder or attacker. A member of more winning teams than you can shake a stick at, Beckenbauer was a captain, coach and football ambassador par excellence.

Defender: Tony Adams
Adams earns his place in this team out of sheer respect for his ability to overcome adversity. Having become a fixture in George Graham’s Arsenal side of the late 80’s, his self-confidence took a knock during Italia 90 when Marco Van Basten ran him ragged in a goalless draw between England and Holland. Having been nicknamed ‘Donkey’ by many a non-Arsenal fan, he then had the more serious problem of alcoholism to get the better of, but get the better of it he did. A reformed character growing in experience and skill, he capped off Arsene Wenger’s first league title-winning season with the final goal of the campaign in 1998 against Everton. The goal was as emphatic in its finish as Adams' own victory over his personal demons.

Midfielder: Trevor Brooking
Oozing style and grace on the ball, Brooking could connect defence and attack with his clever passing and intelligent running. Not that he was the quickest of players, but that didn’t matter – his awareness of where his colleagues were on the pitch was all he needed to make magic happen. He also had the confidence to try the odd shot or two and quite often he’d score important goals as a result, as was seen in his stanchion-snagging shot against Hungary in a 1981 World Cup qualifier. Now a Sir with a stand at Upton Park named after him, and rightly so.

Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane
‘Exciting potential’ doesn’t even come close. Whenever Zidane received the ball, anything could happen – 80-yard cross-field passes, defence splitting balls down the centre of the field, volleyed shots... or maybe the sort of safe, connecting balls that people all too often take for granted. Or maybe the running that would pull opposition players out of position... Zinedine Zidane could seemingly do it all, and to great enough effect that he lit up every team he played in.

Midfielder: Paul Gascoigne
Precocious talent, exciting unpredictability... and an unfortunate ability to lose his composure when he least needed to. Paul Gascoigne was the random element that made watching England so great between 1988 and 1998. From the moment he set foot on the pitch for his debut against Albania through his tearful exit in Italia 90 to the sublime chip ‘n’ slam against Scotland in Euro 96, Gazza never gave anything less than 100% in every game. He was also quite good at club level, as fans of Newcastle, Tottenham and Rangers will tell you. Flawed genius? Absolutely, and we wouldn’t have wanted him any other way.

Midfielder: Matthew Le Tissier
A rare thing in the modern game: a one club man, and didn’t Southampton reap the dividend of that? Never mind those people that said Le God didn’t fulfil his potential at national level – here was a man quite happy to show his extraordinary talent for scoring brilliant goals at The Dell throughout his career. Such was the mind-boggling skill and ingenuity he used to put the ball into the net, the Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Month’ competition was rendered pointless for the greater part. No-one else could match him for creativity, technique and originality... oh, and he was deadly from the penalty spot too.

Striker: Dennis Bergkamp
A latter-day legend. Think of all the great goals you’ve seen in your lifetime and you can be almost certain that there’s at least one in there that was scored by the Non-Flying Dutchman for Arsenal or Holland. Part of Bergkamp’s success was his quick feet and ability to control the ball before he put it in the back of the net, while others point to his running off the ball and positional awareness. Few, however, can deny his amazing natural talent to score goals in whatever way he saw fit, and when he retired from international duty, he was first on the Dutch all-time goalscorers list. Peerless.

Striker: Zico
For a nation so blessed with outstanding talent down the years, it’s quite an achievement that Zico was able to stand out so much from almost all the rest. As a member of arguably the greatest side never to win a World Cup, Brazil’s 1982 campaign was illuminated by Zico’s flicks, tricks and wonder goals. Against Scotland, his free kick was so well placed that Alan Rough didn’t even move. Against New Zealand, his bicycle kick had much the same effect on Frank Van Hattum. Though not the greatest striker Brazil has ever seen, he did enough in that one tournament to inspire millions of kids around the world to pick up a ball and play.

Substitutes

Gary Sprake
A man who used his clumsiness and greasy palms as a way of enhancing his career – not only domestically for Leeds, but also in a lengthy spell between the sticks for Wales.

Eric Young
The Ninja from Singapore who left Wimbledon to form the backbone of a Crystal Palace side that finished third in the top flight in 1991. That’s right – third.

Liam Brady
The Irishman with the silky skills and the quality left foot who carved out a niche for himself as a journeyman in Serie A after leaving Arsenal in 1980.

Ian Wright
One of the greatest goalscorers the Premier League has ever seen, notching up nearly 400 despite being something of a late starter.

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