So here’s the next instalment in my all-time teams segment. As always this provoked a lot of thought and even now I’m still not sure on the selection but I’ve got to go with it. A lot of people think football was invented with the onset of the Premier League. Of course it wasn’t and one day I will do my all-time top flight XI but for now I’m limiting it to the Premier League.
Remember, the Premier League all started in the 1992-93 season taking over from the old First Division. I can still see the first televised game now when Nottingham Forest played host to Liverpool at the City Ground. Teddy Sheringham scored the winner as Forest came out on top 1-0. A lot of great players have come and gone since then.
Just like my first all-time team I’m going to use the classic 4-4-2 formation. I’m old skool. Anyway enough small talk. Here we go……
PETER SCHMEICHEL I would say this is probably the easiest decision of the lot. A truly fantastic keeper who probably saved 10-15 points a season for the dominant Utd sides of the 90s and early 2000’s. An amazing shot-stopper who absolutely dominated his penalty area. He was also a leader of those Utd teams and a huge presence. David Seaman is one name that came up as a possible rival but let’s be honest, this wasn’t even close.
GARY NEVILLE Gary Neville was always that player the opposition fans loved to hate. Even the most ardent of his those couldn’t deny he was a very good defender. Very, very consistent. Always a 7/10 player. He very rarely made mistakes. A vital cog in the Utd machine. Again not many other pretenders to this spot if I’m honest.
ASHLEY COLE At his peak THE best left-back in the world bar none. I don’t think there was a right-sided player that could beat him. Fabulous defender. Great pace, sure tackler, could read the game and so dangerous going forward. The ultimate left-back and a huge cog in the Chelsea team especially under Jose Mourinho.
RIO FERDINAND Tough decision this. There have been many excellent centre-backs in the Premier League era. In terms of the prototype ball-playing centre half, Rio had the lot! So strong and smooth in the tackle, had great pace, could read the game and he was so good on the ball, he could have played in the midfield. A Rolls-Royce of a player!
JOHN TERRY The lynchpin of the successful Chelsea sides of the early 2000s and beyond. Became Chelsea captain in 2003 and is still the club captain to this day. Fearless, aggressive in the tackle and again a great reader of the game. He was also of THE great leaders of his generation.
STEVEN GERRARD For me, the most talented midfielder of the Premier League era. Where do you start with him? Fabulous technique! A powerhouse right foot! Incredible will to win. Loved a tackle! Scored so many incredible goals and so many important goals. He basically carried Liverpool FC on his back for a decade. A tragedy that he never won the Premier League.
PATRICK VIEIRA For me, the spot alongside Gerrard was a toss-up between Vieira and Roy Keane. After much deliberation, Vieira just sneaks it for me due to his superior technique and ability on the ball. Vieira made the game look so easy and yet was one of the most aggressive players of this or any other generation. Brilliant tackler, superb passer and was so elegant on the ball. The driving force of the Gunners historic ‘Invincibles’ side in 2004.
RYAN GIGGS If I’m honest, my favourite left sided player was David Ginola but you cannot have an all-time Prem side without Giggs. Made his debut at the age of 17 and went on to terrorise defences for the next 20 years. Dazzling footwork, blistering pace and exceptional balance made him almost unplayable at his peak. The most decorated player, in terms of medals won, of his generation.
CRISTIANO RONALDO This guy was only in the Prem for 5 years but my word, what a player! We all know what he’s gone on to become at Real Madrid but it was his time at Old Trafford where he made his name. When he first came into the United side he was all tricks but not enough end product. Under Sir Alex Ferguson his game matured and he became THE most dangerous player in the top flight culminating in him scoring an incredible 42 goals in 2007-08. David Beckham ran him very close for this spot but Ronaldo’s outrageous ability gets him the place.
THIERRY HENRY I can still remember the first time I saw Henry play. It was for Monaco against Newcastle in a European game in the late 90’s. He was about 18 and I remember thinking he was the fastest player I had ever seen on a football pitch. He was incredible. Arsene Wenger brought him to the Premier League in 2000. He harnessed that speed and allied that to Henry’s natural ability and turned Henry in arguably the most dangerous striker the English top-flight has ever seen. It was like watching man against boys at times with him.
ALAN SHEARER The all-time record goalscorer in the Premier League with an incredible 260 goals. He was the complete centre-forward. Fabulous in the air, strong as an ox, could hold the ball up, great crosser and an incredible striker of the ball with either foot. He was also exceptional from dead balls and penalties. Just a brilliant striker.
SIR ALEX FERGUSON Pretty obvious choice. The manager who changed the landscape of English football. 13 league titles in 26 years as Utd manager says it all.
THE NEARLY MEN
So that’s my eleven. There are some players left out of this squad where it’s almost an offence to do so but I had no choice. Here’s a list of just some of the great talent that were knocking on the door.
DAVID SEAMAN Great keeper but I couldn’t see any further than Schmeichel.
DENNIS IRWIN I can’t remember him having a bad game. Could play on both sides. Two-footed with great technical ability. So dangerous on set-pieces. A certainty had it not been for Ashley Cole.
TONY ADAMS One of the great leaders in top flight history and an exceptional defender.
JAAP STAM Came so close to getting in. An absolute colossus of an defender. He was scary to look at even on TV. Fergie must still regret turfing him out to this day.
ROY KEANE Amazing presence and the driving force behind United’s surge to dominance under Ferguson. Ferociously intense. Almost impossible to separate him and Vieira.
PAUL SCHOLES In a different formation he gets in. Fabulously gifted player.
FRANK LAMPARD For me Gerrard always a better player but he does hold the Premier League scoring record for a midfielder.
GARETH BALE Will surely come back to the Premier League one day. For the three years before his move to Real Madrid he was arguably the best player in the league.
GIANFRANCO ZOLA At his peak he was one of the top 5 players in the world. Fantastic playmaker for Chelsea in the 90’s.
DAVID BECKHAM THE best crosser of a ball I have ever seen. He had a wand of a right foot and his range of passing was exceptional. Wonderful technique and if I was to put Ronaldo up top then Beckham would walk into the side.
DAVID GINOLA What a player! One of my favourite players to watch. Effortlessly gifted with either foot. The ultimate entertainer! One of the original foreign stars of the Premier League.
DENNIS BERGKAMP The one player more than any other that I felt guilty not putting in the side. If I was playing a link man as opposed to two out and out strikers then Bergkamp gets in. Absolute top drawer!
DIDIER DROGBA An absolute monster of a striker. So powerful, so athletic and so clinical. One of THE great big match strikers. Always produced in the big games. Another who came so close to making my team.
ERIC CANTONA Without doubt, the most enigmatic figure in Premier League history. The original flawed genius. He was an artist on the pitch and the main creative force behind Utd’s rise to the top in the 90’s. Sadly, he is remembered most for his kung-fu kick at a Crystal Palace fan in 1993 which got him an unprecedented 9-game ban but what a player.
Well that’s it! These all-time squads always elicit much opinion and debate. Please do share with me your thoughts on this. Do tell me what you think was right and wrong. Have I missed anyone? Send me your XI’s.
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I look forward to your responses.
Speak to you all soon!