The Greatest XI: G whizz, it is time for Gary

The Greatest XI

Let’s be honest, anyone following this series will have seen G and Gary coming a mile off. It would be wrong of me not have gone with Gary as it means, for once, I can be picky about who I select rather than just grabbing the first eleven names available to me. Without even looking at the official Premier League list of Gazzas and Gals, I have quite a team forming. So, with no further delay…

#1 Gary Walsh (Manchester United, Oldham Athletic, Middlesbrough, Bradford City, Wigan Athletic)

Gary Walsh had a top-flight career that spanned 14 seasons, but only led to 96 appearances. Admittedly, starting out at Manchester United where Peter Schmeichel wears the number one shirt isn’t going to help. For me, Walsh is better remembered for being United’s goalkeeper in the days of a maximum amount of foreign players being allowed in European ties. I still can’t understand how Sir Alex Ferguson thought it was a good idea to drop the big Dane for a 4-0 drubbing at the Nou Camp.

#2 Gary Neville (Manchester United)

It had to be, didn’t it? The best right back in Premier League history, maybe even England’s finest right back ever (sorry Danny Mills). Gary Neville managed 400 Premier League appearances for Manchester United winning the title 8 times as well as numerous other pieces of silverware. Still, even after all that he called it a day on the toilet at West Bromwich Albion having made Jerome Thomas look like Ryan Giggs at his best.

#3 Gary Ablett (Everton)

The late Gary Ablett burst on to the scene at Liverpool before the Premier League kicked off and then played in it for their city rivals, Everton. Ablett was a true gent, a fine defender with a lovely left foot. He played 111 times in the top flight for the Blues and went on to manage the U17 side. Sadly, he passed away in 2012 at the age of 46.

#4 Gary Pallister (Manchester United and Middlesbrough)

Gary Pallister was one of the best English central defenders of his generation and massively under appreciated at international level. Having joined United from Middlesbrough for a lot of money, he was integral to Sir Alex Ferguson turning United into that annoyingly machine-like title winning force in the 90’s. Pallister picked up 4 titles at Old Trafford before being sold back to Middlesbrough where he spent three seasons. All that said, he was never as good as Steve Bruce.

#5 Gary Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City)

You might have noticed the standard has suddenly slipped. Gary Doherty signed for Tottenham Hotspur from Luton Town and was highly rated as a central defender or striker. Sadly, the promise shown at Kenilworth Road never really transferred over to Spurs and he was moved on to Norwich City, always a sign that you have failed, after six seasons of being no-more than a bit-part player at White Hart Lane. The moral of the story? Stay at Luton and be a hero next time.

#6 Gary Megson (Norwich City)

Every team needs a Gary Megson. Ginger, limited in talent but loves a tackle and is happy giving the ball to someone better than him. We catch Megson here at the tail end of his career, seeing out his days at Norwich where he played 46 times before going on to be a pretty decent manager if you like that kind of thing. He can’t have been that bad a player, Brian Clough signed him once. Admittedly, he sold him again five months later having decided he “couldn’t trap a bag of cement” but hey.

#7 Gary O’Neil (Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, West Ham United and Norwich City)

Have you noticed the trend of Norwich City being the final club for some of these players? Well, the final club in the top flight anyway. It’s almost like that is the career path you want to avoid. The moment Norwich come in for you, you know your time as a top flight footballer is coming to an end. O’Neill is no different. Very promising at Portsmouth, captained England at youth level, scored goals from midfield and looked like he was going to be a Harry Redknapp favourite. Then a big money move to Middlesbrough happens. Actually, Middlesbrough are similar to Norwich. Tell me one big money signing that went to Middlesbrough post-Bryan Robson and then went on to better things? I bet you can’t. Actually, West Ham United too. His career is a who’s who of how to ruin your Premier League career.

#8 Gary McAllister (Leeds United, Coventry City and Liverpool)

Now we are back at the races. What a player Gary McAllister was. He made Steven Gerrard, for me. Anyway, back in the days of Howard Wilkinson Gary McAllister graced Elland Road and passed his way to a top flight title, the last First Division winners. He stayed at Leeds for another four seasons before going to Coventry City to help out his old mate, Gordon Strachan. Normally, as an ageing midfielder, you’d reckon that was it for him. But no, there was a final swan song at Liverpool, inspiring them to their treble winning season under Gerard Houllier. By all accounts he is a dickhead as a coach or manager, but what a player this guy was.

#9 Gary Penrice (Queens Park Rangers)

I’ll admit it, I made a mistake. One of the reasons I went for Garys was because I thought Gary Lineker played in the Premier League. I was wrong. He bailed out to Japan just before it all kicked off, and then he hurt his toe. Rubbish. That means I am stuck with Gary Penrice, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful. 17 Premier League goals in 68 appearances for QPR isn’t too bad when you are playing second fiddle to Les Ferdinand, but let’s not kid ourselves. He is no Gary Lineker.

#10 Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Blackpool and Leicester City)

And neither is this guy. He was promoted to the Premier League with Blackpool and Ian Holloway and his six goals were not quite enough to keep them up, no matter how pretty the football was that they played. However, he impressed Leicester City enough to sign him and to give him precisely two starts in two seasons.

#11 Gary Speed (Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers)

What a fine player to have as my final pick today. Gary Speed, RIP, was the left midfielder in that Leeds midfield that had Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary McAllister. That isn’t a bad line up, hey? It’s just a shame they were trying to get Lee Chapman on the end of stuff. Speedo played 535 times in the Premier League and was one of the finest players to ever grace the competition. It says a lot that he is still remembered as a fans favourite at each of his clubs, and the way it ended for him personally was very, very sad.

So who can manage this side, possibly the finest side I have put together so far? There is only one Gary to have managed in the Premier League and that is Gary Megson so, frankly, it’s all his.