Nobody likes to see the football season drawing to a close, especially in years like this one, when there’s no major summer tournament to fill in the gap between seasons. One of the compensations though is that it gives the opportunity to play the ‘pick your squad of the season’ game. You know, the one where you go through all the teams in the Premier League and play Fantasy Football, but this time with no cash restraints, no club restraints and on-one to argue with, because it’s your team! OK, I lied about the ‘nobody to argue with’ bit, as everybody will have an opinion, and if you can find anyone that agrees with your team, you’re luckier than me. At worst, it’s always good for a debate over a pint or two.
OK, I’m going to kick off the debate, but as I’m looking for eleven starters and a bench of seven plus manager and assistant, I’m going to do it over four parts. This is the first one and I’m going to start with the manager, assistant and my bench.
Picking the manager is a bit of a no-brainer, it has to be the serial trophy winner, Sir Alex Ferguson. Let’s be honest, love him or hate him – and like Marmite and Margret Thatcher, it’s probably one or the other – you have to admit that he’s the nearest anyone can get to earning the title of football genius. To serve alongside him, I want a younger coach, of a similar background who can learn at the feet of the Scot. Fitting the bill is Steve Clarke of West Bromwich Albion. Not only is the character right, he’s also a Scot, so there’s a good synergy there.
Moving to my bench, I’ve indulged my greed and gone for seven players. There’s a ‘keeper, two defenders, two midfield players and two strikers. This is the interesting bit where when I lay out my reserves, people will think what an idiot for not having this or that guy in the starting eleven, but it’s my team and when we’ve done, I’d love to hear yours, but for good or ill, here’s my subs.
My back-up goalkeeper is Swansea’s Dutchman, Michel Vorm. The guy was outstanding in the early season, and as per an article that I wrote a few weeks ago, don’t be surprised if the summer brings a move to a higher profile club. His reliability and agility mark him out as a player very much on the up. For my two defenders, I’ve gone for a full back and a centre back. Nothing if not logical, eh? My full back is Evertons' Baines. Consistent throughout the season, his dead ball prowess is an inconsiderable bonus and has led to a number of Everton’s goals this season. The centre back is Manchester City’s Nastasic. The young Serbian rather crept under the radar in amongst the big money players populating City’s squad, but in a quiet, unassuming way he has developed into a solid and dependable player, whose worth was best shown when higher profile colleague Vincent Kompany was out injured.
Moving into midfield my two players both play for London clubs, and although fulfill broadly similar roles, their style is very different. Chelsea’s Juan Mata is unlucky to miss out on a first eleven spot and has been one of the few consistent shining lights in Chelsea’s season. His ability to not only create openings, but to score as well is fundamental to the Blues’ modus operandi. In North London, Jack Wilshere is a different type of player, but of equal worth to his team. When he plays well, he gives a certain dynamic to the Gunners’ performance not provided by anyone else.
Covering for my strikers are two different types of players. First there is the irrepressible Wayne Rooney. What? Rooney not starting? I’m afraid not. This season he has been outshone in the striker stakes at Old Trafford – bit of a clue there as to who does get in – but although not as free-scoring, his contribution to the team is still massively significant, so a place on my bench is the least he deserves. My final sub is a player few will have heard before this season got underway. Returning to South Wales, I’ve gone for Swansea striker Michu. His unerring finishing ability has sometimes masked the skill displayed as a more deep-lying forward, capable of providing that essential link in progressive.
So, there we are, that’s my management team and bench. Next time, I’ll be looking at the goalkeeper and back four. I’d love to hear your comments. Tell me your team, and let the debate commence!