The Greatest XI

Who’d have thought this would get as far as a third week? I know, right? It’s amazing what you can get away with putting out there when are desperate of content. I mean, look at some of the crap the tabloids are running this summer. Actually, they do that all year round, don’t they. Anyway, I am back and I have moved on to the third letter in the alphabet and that, for the uninitiated among us, is the letter C. Now, the original plan was to go with Carl but it appears that there have been too few defensive players called Carl since the Premier League got underway and I have no intention of going all Pep Guardiola and playing one, maybe two at the back. I then considered Charlie, and although Messrs Adam, Austin and Daniels would have all got a run out they are a little too recent for my liking. So, where on earth could I come up with a decent name beginning with C, I pondered. And there it was, staring me in the face.

#1 Chris Kirkland (Coventry City, Liverpool, Wigan Athletic)

Chris Kirkland joins a long list of goalkeepers to be offered a medal having not been in the squad, and refused it. I say a long list, I can only think of the late Les Sealey offering his FA Cup winners medal from 1990 to Jim Leighton, and Leighton telling him where to stick it. Actually, Leighton may not have said that. Hell, I don’t know. Back to Kirkland. He should have been on the Istanbul bench in 2005 having played some of the matches leading up to that famous night but he was injured, so he wasn’t. That’s football huh. Anyway, he played Premier League football for Coventry, Liverpool and Wigan in-between all those moments he was injured.

#2 Chris Baird (Southampton, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion)

When I started researching, yes I do actually research this, believe it or not, I assumed Chris Baird would be retired as he has been around for ages. But no! He is still going somewhat strong in the Championship and is only recently retired from Northern Ireland duty. Baird, versatile to a fault, started his life at Southampton and played 68 times for the South Coast club, only obviously falling out with Kelvin Davis once. He moved to Fulham to play under Lawrie Sanchez and hung around longer than his former NI boss. He dropped down a level for a while, before reappearing in the Premier League briefly with WBA. Bairdo got 77 caps for Northern Ireland, primarily as he could play anywhere and was playing in the top flight.

#3 Chris Powell (Derby County, Charlton Athletic, Watford)

Things I did know about Chris Powell. 1 – he is a very nice man. 2 – he was in Sven’s first ever England squad and ended up with 5 caps. 3 – he should be managing a team somewhere as his record is decent. 4 – he played a lot of football under Barry Fry and that is going to have an impact. Things I did not know about Chris Powell. 1 – He started his career alongside Ian Wright at Crystal Palace, but never made it there. 2 – he went on loan to Aldershot, so if I’d actually watched my local side as a kid I’d have seen him play. 3 – he played a lot more Premier League football than I realised, representing Derby, Charlton and Watford in the top flight.

#4 Chris Morgan (Barnsley, Sheffield United)

Everything I have read about Chris Morgan is prefaced by the word “uncompromising”. A proper Yorkshire man this guy, and he adds steel to the defence for sure. He started at Barnsley under Danny Wilson, but playing like Brazil wasn’t a natural fit for Morgan so he will have been delighted as the club tumbled out of the Premier League and headed down to League Two. A more natural fit for Chris Morgan was Neil Warnock, so joining him at Sheffield United was perfect, especially as he will not have minded things like cynical elbows like the one Iain Hume received in 2008. Morgan helped United back into the Premier League where let’s be honest, he was a little bit found out.

#5 Christopher Samba (Blackburn Rovers, Queens Park Rangers)

So if Chris Morgan wasn’t quite good enough for the Premier League, what about Christopher Samba. From memory, I am sure there was a time he was being called the ideal solution to Arsenal’s defensive woes. Mind you, so was that giant at Fulham. Anyone would think Arsenal were craving anyone tall who could head the ball in defence. Samba joined Blackburn from Hertha Berlin and was fortunate enough to cross paths with Sam Allardyce. He was equally unfortunate to cross paths with Steve Kean, leading to a transfer request and a somewhat mercenary move to Russia and Anzhi. Smelling a football mercenary from half a planet away, Harry Redknapp brought him back to the sinking ship that was HMS Queens Park Rangers where they all sunk to the Championship. Luckily for Samba, he was able to forget all the racism he suffered in Russia when another big pay packet was waved under his nose and he was off once more.

#6 Chris Coleman (Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham)

The current Wales manager was actually on the books at Manchester City as a kid but made his professional debut for Swansea long before they were anywhere near top flight football. He was excellent at Palace, alongside the likes of Gareth Southgate, Alan Pardew, Nigel Martyn and Ian Wright before heading to Blackburn. Fulham was his last stint as a player, under Jean Tigana, before a broken leg finished his career and he became Wales’ most successful manager for generations – that said, not much competition and all that. He adds that bit of culture to what I have realised has become a back three…

#7 Chris Bart-Williams (Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest)

Oh Chris, oh Chris. What a player you were going to be. Football fans my age who dabbled in the very early Championship Manager computer games will know that this is an England captain that we missed out on. He and Paul Gascoigne would have dominated teams for years if their lives had gone differently. We don’t really know what happened, he was very good for both clubs but he slowly slipped away from the top flight radar.

# 8 Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion)

Every team needs a set-piece specialist, so where better to find one than someone who has played all his Premier League football for West Brom? Brunt might have started at Wednesday, but he was far too good for them and we have been able to enjoy his wand of a left foot hitting the channels, putting it on the head of the big man and hitting row Z with unnerving class for many seasons now. Wasted? Not a bit of it. Sadly, he was injured for Northern Ireland’s 2006 adventure.

#9 Chris Sutton (Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Birmingham City, Aston Villa)

He had a few clubs, in the end, Sutts. A teenage star with Norwich City, nearly leading them to the Premier League title and beating Bayern Munich, Sutton had the world at his feet. It then got even better for centre-forward, linking up with Alan Shearer at Blackburn and SASing it all the way to the title. Those who know of Sutton’s work now will not be surprised to know that his England career has cut short by falling out with Glenn Hoddle, but even following Blackburn’s relegation he was a big signing for Chelsea at £10m. Sadly, Sutton fell foul of the Chelsea striker curse and had a shocking debut, meaning he would never play well for Chelsea. Short spells at Birmingham and Villa never really saw the man that dominated the early Premier League years and made him a cult hero at Celtic.

#10 Chris Armstrong (Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, Bolton Wanderers)

Chris Armstrong banged in 23 goals for Palace in the the first ever Premier League season. He had a great time in South London, maybe too good a time as he tested positive for cannabis in 1995. This did not stop Spurs a then club record £4.5m for him, and he stayed in North London for seven years, scoring 48 times. He moved to Bolton, barely played once and called it a day, vowing to grow dreadlocks.

#11 Christopher Wreh (Arsenal)

This man is my favourite selection by far. Remember when Arsene signed cracking squad players? Here is one. Allegedly a cousin of George Weah, Wreh was at Monaco with Wenger but nobody knew about him. Wenger was all too happy to bring him to Highbury to provide some backup to Wright, Anelka and Bergkamp and Wreh repaid him, being part of the double winning squad in 1997-98 and scoring the winner in the FA Cup Semi Final. £300k he cost. Remember Arsene, does this bring any part of that side of you back? No? OK then.