The Greatest XI

Yeah, they get worse. They really do. But I’ve been looking forward to I since at least G as I knew that I could pick some Ians. And boy, have there been some Ians playing Premier League football? Hell yeah. There have been some Ians playing Premier League football and these are my favourites. You are unlikely to be able to make any money on Ladbrokes Free Bet with these boys, but I’ve gambled my reputation on them being winners.

#1 Ian Feuer (West Ham United and Derby County)

You were expecting Ian “Curtains” Walker, weren’t you? Well sorry to disappoint, I saw the chance to select a former Luton Town player and I took it. As a kid, Feuer was the biggest goalkeeper I had ever seen, standing at 6ft 7. Born in Las Vegas to show business parents (imagine how cool that probably wasn’t in reality) the big man arrived in England at West Ham in 1994, but didn’t get a game in his first spell at Upton Park. It was a loan move, which became permanent, to Luton Town that showed the world that the Yanks had a few decent keepers up their sleeves, and his form earned him a move into the Premier League, back at the Hammers. In the end he only played three games for West Ham, before moving to Derby where he played twice. He’s back in Vegas now, baby.

#2 Ian Culverhouse (Norwich City)

25 years ago when this whole Premier League thing was just getting going and was all shiny, new and exciting Norwich City were, surprisingly, title contenders. Mind you, so were Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers. One of the reasons, as you will see, that Norwich were title contenders was the fact they built their team around players with sensible names – like Ian, Jeremy, Bryan, Chris, Mark and er, Ruel. Anyway, Culverhouse was their right back and the first of three Norwich Ians to make the side.

#3 Ian Harte (Leeds United, Sunderland and Reading)

If you struggle to believe that Norwich City nearly won the Premier League then you will certainly think I am lying when I remind you that Leeds United were once the team with the best young players, David O’Leary was a super cool manager and Peter Risdale was about to write a book on how to run a Premier League winning club. Playing left back in that side was Ian Harte, who was a Fantasy League must back in those days. Harte scored 36 goals in his Premier League career and registered 26 assists which is, I can tell you, a damn sight more than Matteo Darmian will notch up in his time over here.

#4 Ian Evatt (Blackpool)

I know! Blackpool were in the Premier League! Unthinkable really, but Ian Holloway (guess who the gaffer of this lot might be) managed to get the Tangerines promoted and keep the Oystons in check. However, it was just for one season but Ian Evatt notched up 42 games that year. He joined them in League One and was with them until they got relegated back to the Championship, playing every single game and watching aghast as Holloway tried to stay in the top flight playing like Barcelona.

#5 Ian Butterworth (Norwich City)

Ian number two from East Anglia. He was a commanding presence in the middle of the defence at Norwich and if he ever made a mistake it was normally the fault of Chris Sutton. Butterworth, again, was massively under-rated as a player. He played in the Bayern Munich win and the Inter defeat yet his next club was Kings Lynn. That, I am sure you would agree, was a fall from grace.

#6 Ian Crook (Norwich City)

And they say England didn’t produce technically gifted footballers in the 80’s. Rubbish. Glenn Hoddle, Ray Wilkins, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, Mark Wright, Matt Le Tissier and Trevor Steven are the ones that immediately spring to mind, and then this guy. Ian Crook. My word could he pass a ball. Normally out to the right for Ruel Fox to leg it on but Crook was one of those lads on the very first Championship Manager with 20 for passing. A cracking, cracking player who should have played for a bigger club.

#7 Ian Selley (Arsenal)

However, you do need a bit of balance in a midfield and that is where someone like Ian Selley comes in. Never in a million years should he have been a Premier League footballer – if anything, him and Steve Morrow being anywhere near the Arsenal first team was reason enough to sack George Graham even without a few brown envelopes. But Selley was dependable, he would do what he was asked which was, typically, run around a lot and break the game up. To his credit, he played in the Cup Winners Cup Final win over Parma where Graham’s whole game plan was based around ruining the match. It worked though.

#8 Ian Wright (Crystal Palace, Arsenal and West Ham United)

Not a bad option up front, hey? Ian Wright, former non-league wannabe that worked hard and made his dream happen. Criminally underused by England, totally respected by Arsene Wenger. Hell, he’s even become a half decent pundit. Wright was, for me, the second best striker in England behind Shearer at his best but was also unfortunate that his style never really suited the managers at the time. He held the Arsenal goalscoring record for a while and scored a goal against Everton that should always be remembered.

#9 Ian Rush (Liverpool, Leeds United and Newcastle United)

But is Wright even the best striker called Ian in the side? Some might argue not. Now, the Premier League didn’t see the very best of Ian Rush as he was starting to get on a bit but Rushie was the man of the 80’s but still scored a few in the Premier League so has to be picked. I say a few, he got 48 which is more than respectable especially as he was playing in fairly mediocre Liverpool sides by that point. Whether he’d actually be able to play well with Ian Wright and the next Ian up-front we will never know.

#10 Ian Marshall (Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Leicester City)

Now, people might not like this selection but I don’t care. The early Premier League years was awash with centre backs that could genuinely do a good job up front. I’m not talking about Chris Samba coming on for Villa last week as an emergency striker, I mean guys that could actually start up top and do a very good job. Chris Sutton was possibly a better defender than striker, and in his early Norwich days did both. Paul Warhurst got moved to play striker at Sheffield Wednesday and was lethal. At one point, Leicester City had Matty Elliott, Steve Walsh and this guy, Ian Marshall, all capable of starting at the back and finishing the games as strikers if needs be. Marshall’s best season return for goals was 10 for Ipswich Town but he didn’t play up top every week. 33 goals in 159 appearances is better than some actual strikers will finish their career with.

#11 Ian Woan (Nottingham Forest)

Imagine being a youth player coming through at Forest at the back end of Brian Clough’s career. Just imagine. Ian Woan could play, and Clough loved his style. All left foot, very languid but deceptively good, Woan played 132 times for Forest in the Premier League and, at a time when England were struggling for a quality lefty to give the team “balance”, should have represented his country.

The Gaffer

It can only be Ian Holloway, can’t it? And not just because he is the only one called Ian I can think of…