The sound you can hear is the sound of the bottom of a content barrel being scraped. Over the course of a football season, you create a long list of ideas and some end up higher on the list than others. This one, well it is safe to say that this one is the Sunderland of the content league table. It is so far adrift at the bottom I don’t know why you are still even reading. But seeing as you are, I bring you the Greatest XI of Alans to have ever played Premier League football. Yeah, you read that correctly. You really did.
1. Alan Kelly (Blackburn Rovers & Sheffield United)
Poor Alan Kelly wasn’t even my first choice for the number one jersey. I was planning to select Alan Knight of Portsmouth who I was delighted to notice on the Premier League list of Alans. However, Knight never made it onto the pitch as a Premier League player so cannot be selected due to my very strict criteria. Alan Kelly, however, easily the best Alan to play in goal for a Premier League side. He managed to get relegated with United but won the League Cup with Blackburn, so you can see why he was picked. I mean, I was spoilt for choice.
2. Alan Hutton (Tottenham, Sunderland and Aston Villa
No team of Alans would be complete without the Scottish Cafu. The Scot seemed initially reluctant to move from Rangers to the Premier League, but considering it was Tottenham chasing him I can understand his point. Hutts struggled to recreate his Rangers form which, of course, had nothing to do with that fact that the Scottish Premier League is a completely Micky Mouse standard. Spurs weren’t too impressed that their £9m had been spent wisely and shipped him out to Sunderland – in the days before a loan move to Sunderland was considered the ultimate slap in the face for your standing as a professional footballer. Sunderland were keen to buy him but didn’t have the money as they had, presumably, pissed it up against another wall. Hutton was a crucial part of Tottenham’s first ever Champions League run when they made it to the Quarter Finals. I know, Spurs fans can only dream of that now. Hutton was last seen on the sinking ship HMS Aston Villa.
3. Alan Wright (Blackburn and Aston Villa)
If I remember rightly, or should I say Wrightly, Alan wasn’t the tallest left back I have ever seen. Wrighty managed to get himself noticed when playing in the 4th Division for Blackpool and became (here you go trivia fans) Kenny Dalglish’s first signing as Blackburn Rovers manager for £500k. Brian Little decided that men that are small or with names that suggest smallness should stick together and paid £1m to take him to Aston Villa where Wright is still the guy with the 3rd most appearances in Europe for the club. See, this column is full of useful facts.
4. Alan Stubbs (Bolton Wanderers and Everton)
Stubbsy not only makes the Greatest XI of Alans, he would make a Greatest Nose XI as well. He was Bolton’s captain when they made it back to the Premier League via the playoffs in 94/95. However, he was keen to get away as soon as possible, understandable when he was rooming with Jason McAteer. He ended up going to Celtic first, before returning to England and Everton. With players like John Stones being en vogue currently, Stubbs had his career a few years too early. He could pass a ball beautifully and, crucially, could actually defend as well. How he never played for England properly, I’ll never know.
5. Alan McDonald (QPR)
476 matches for QPR and a cornerstone of their side that finished 5th in the Premier League back in 1993. Yes, QPR were once the highest ranked London side in the Premier League, incredible. The big central defender also won 52 caps for Northern Ireland and was, really, a defender from a different time of football. Still, he and Stubbsy would scare the hell out of the opposition just by looking at him.
6. Allan Nielsen (Tottenham & Watford)
Yeah, he counts. The Danish international started his career with a single appearance for Bayern Munich and ended at Watford. Is it worth even filling in the gaps? Well OK, he was at Tottenham for four years and they won the League Cup in 1999 when he was there. Oh, it says he scored the winner with a diving header? You won’t be getting that far forward in this team Allan.
7. Paul Allen (Tottenham & Southampton)
Back before football even existed, when the Premier League was the First Division and teams other than the top four won the FA Cup, Paul Allen was the youngest player to play in an FA Cup Final and got cruelly taken out when clean through on goal. Fast forward a decade or so and I was amazed to learn he had actually played in the Premier League. Then I remembered. I had successfully converted Paul Allen to a sweeper on the first ever Championship Manager, so of course, he played in the Premier League.
8. Joe Allen (Swansea City, Liverpool & Stoke City)
This team needs a playmaker, so the Welsh Pirlo makes the side. What can I say about Joe Allen? I still don’t know why Liverpool sold him, he is the real reason Wales are quite good at the moment.
9. Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers & Newcastle United)
Well, obviously. The record goalscorer in the Premier League is called Alan. Stick that up your jumper, all you foreign striker people. Not only did Alan Shearer possess the finest thunderbolt of a right foot in the game, he had the classic celebration for someone called Alan. Minimal fuss, one arm raised, job done. Three golden boot awards and 260 goals. Just imagine if he’d not got injured twice.
10. Alen Boksic (Middlesbrough)
You may not think it right now, but Middlesbrough used to sign some really cool, exciting attacking players and allow them to go and attack. Juninho, Ravanelli, Emerson, Boksic, Mark Viduka and, er, Craig Hignett have all delighted the Riverside crowds over the years. Boksic was a special talent and a huge signing for them at the time. Injury meant we didn’t see the best of him in the Premier League, but 22 goals in 60 or so games isn’t the worst return ever.
11. Alan Thompson (Bolton Wanderers & Aston Villa)
I seem to recall that some years ago we were moaning that there were no decent left footed English players. Er, hello. Thommo was brilliant and, yet again, completely overlooked because he played for an unfancied side. He provides lovely balance to this midfield and he’s on free kicks as well. Yeah, sorry, Joe.
Those that didn’t quite make it…
I think Alan Smith (Leeds United and Manchester United) can feel disappointed, as can Alan Smith (Arsenal). Alan Fettis will have fancied his chances of playing in goal, and I am a fool for not picking Alan Cork who played First Division for Wimbledon but was still kicking around at Sheffield United by the time the Premier League kicked in. Clive, Martin and Bradley Allen will be looking at their cousin Paul with envy and Rory Allen has already tweeted me to remind me that he was once a hot prospect at Tottenham.
Where do we go from here? Well, on to B I would presume…