Feb. 22, 2021

The Best XI Debate!

The Best XI Debate!

The guys from the Seasiders Podcast are known for a bit of Seasiders mass debating on a Saturday afternoon but the furore that followed the weekend’s “full fat pod” and our “Best XI” definitely got some natives restless!

Firstly, the ground rules….which seem to have been missed by a few which may have been the cause for much mass debating!

The rules were….1) no loan players and 2) (after a hasty last minute tweak) that players nominated were only those that we had seen in the flesh.

Now bearing in mind that three of us are just about in our forties and one is in his fifties you’d think that would cover quite a lot of Pool’s past quality players! How wrong you are!

We’re therefore talking an era starting in approx. 1980 to the present day and anyone knowing their Blackpool FC history will appreciate that the early 80’s were well…much like the music scene really…..to quote The Pogues lead singer Shane McGowan ”in the 70’s we had the Sex Pistols and the punk scene and then in the 80’s along came Howard fucking Jones”. It was all a bit crap….yes you’ll get the odd track like Vienna by Ultravox or Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart but you’ll get an awful lot of Agadoo and Toni Basil along the way!

What I’m trying to say is that we weren’t around to appreciate the Suddick, Green, Ainscow and Bentleys of the tangerine world. We were unfortunately brought up initially on relegations and resignations!! So for those moaning about these past heroes of Bloomfield Road we just aren’t old enough or weren’t young enough to remember these guys.

Selecting a “Best XI” is subjective…as we all know football is a game of opinions and often reminds me of the Paul Calf sketch when Paul and Fat Bob are arguing whether Chuck Norris is harder than Jean Claude Van Damme….! We all see games differently so we’re all going to see players differently…one man’s Keith Southern is another man’s Keith Walwyn!

Let the mass debating commence then!

Keeper – easiest one for the guys this….Matt Gilks…only potential consideration was Steve Banks but given that Gillo played in the higher levels of the football league pyramid whilst at Blackpool then he was a unanimous selection.

Right Back – OK here’s a few to consider, Marvin Bryan, Mike Davies, Shaun Barker, Neal Eardley, Danny Coid & David Bardsley

From the authors perspective Shaun Barker would have got the nod but due to his local living legend status, the pod decided (well John did actually) that Mike “Ginge” Davies should get the right back berth. Why Ginge? Well a one-club man with 310 club appearances, a worldy goal against the Nobbers and "A fast, tricky player with tremendous commitment, the flame-haired terrier often found himself in trouble with over-zealous referees, who didn't always appreciate his approach," wrote Roy Calley in his 1992 book, Blackpool: A Complete Record 1887–1992. "One feels that if every man to have worn a Blackpool shirt over the years had showed as much commitment to the cause as Mike Davies, then the Seasiders would never have fallen from grace." Maybe John was right after all!?!

Left Back – the panel was immediately down to three (ironic) selections. Stephen Crainey, Alan Wright or John Hills. Quite frankly any of these could’ve got the nod but ultimately it was the most recent incumbent in Stephen Crainey who got the number 3 slot. Crainey made 214 appearances for the Pool and quite frankly if Charlie Adam can pick Crainzo in a best eleven then so can we!

Centre Halves – we were actually short of what I think we’d class as Beresi/Cannavarro types here! Good solid pro’s no doubt but whilst Tony Butler, Steve Hetzke and Ian Hughes had all racked up 100+ appearances it was the more recent pairing of Ian Evatt and Peter Clarke who were selected. Evo is a modern era club legend and as part of the 2010 & Prem squad was a shoe-in…Peter Clarke though….?

139 appearances 16 goals….decent enough but ultimately Tim hit the nail on the head when mentioning his presence, his captaincy and his desire and will to win. You only have to think back to his recent appearance against the Seasiders for Tranmere as he showed that at pushing 40 years old he still plays with the same desire and effort now as he did in the early noughties with Pool. So Peter and not the lesser quality version Chris Clarke got the nod! Lots to debate about Clarkey undoubtedly but one we’d all like “in the trenches” with us we’re sure!

Midfield – OK the formation may not be exactly a diamond or even the right positions but we have actually been blessed with a good crop of midfielders from John Deary in the 80’s, Paul Groves & Micky Mellon in the 90’s to more recent players Keith Southern, GTF, Richie Wellens and Tom Ince.

Almost the first player the pod guys mentioned was the wizard that is Wes Hoolahan…arriving from Livingston initially on loan Wes signed for the Pool permanently and basically ran the midfield and quite frankly took the piss against opponents as Blackpool gained promotion in 2007. Who can forget Wes’s “panenka” against PNE!! What a player…300+ appearances for Norwich and still playing for Cambridge aged 38…!

Next, Charlie Adam – der obviously!  Nuff said…!

The other two selections could be argued though and we appreciate that…..!

Firstly “Tricky” Trevor Sinclair….if you’re making your debut at 16 you’re going to be pretty good….normally! However, it was really Trev’s partnership with Dave Bamber that Sinclair will be fondly remembered whether it be supplying the big man crosses or chipping in with his own goals.  He also had a great career away from Bloomfield Road, an overhead kick that’s now on 375,000 YouTube views and is the only member of the best XI to win England caps (12) and represent England in a World Cup whilst in Japan 2002.

Lastly, the midfield general that is Andy Morrison! Described by Sam Allardyce as a “complete nutter” Blackpool fans will remember Morrison’s no nonsense approach to the game and despite making only 53 appearances for the Seasiders he obviously had a huge impact on the pod panel to leave out the likes of Keith Southern and David Vaughan. He could also smack the living daylights out of us with his eyebrows alone so he was never going to be missed out!

After helping the Seasiders get the play offs in 1995/6 only Andy and the rest of the squad at the time will know what happened in that second leg versus Bradford….more of that another time perhaps! For now we’ll remember the good times instead!

So we finally moved on to the two strikers….Bamber? No! Seemingly 85 goals in 189 games isn’t good enough for this panel…it was obviously the penalty miss against Torquay that sticks in the throat some 30 years later!! Even having a song about disco pants wasn’t deemed good enough either apparently!

So who then…? Well Super Brett of course…!!!

As an aside I “think” Brett is the second player in the Best XI who has broken a leg at Bloomfield Road (Sinclair did too I seem to recall!) so there’s another reason for these guys to be selected!!

We all know Brett’s record of scoring in all four divisions but it’s not only his goal record it’s his effort and work rate, his modesty, his scruffiness, and more recently his ability to deliver parcels on time during a global pandemic that sets him above all other men from East Lancashire and beyond! We’ll even forgive him for playing for Preston for crying out loud! Everyone needs a bit of Brett into their life….and he loves a twix too!

Lastly but by no means least in the best XI is Eamonn O’Keefe. In fairness, we could have chosen the aforementioned Bamber, maybe Paul Stewart, DJ Campbell, John Murphy or Tony Ellis. All great strikers of their time and very different types of players too.

However, it was the impact that O’Keefe had on the promotion in 84/85 that lives long in the memory and his record of 17 goals in 19 league starts the following year (one that made O’Keefe the clubs top scorer that season) and an overall record of a mere 36 appearances but a return of 23 goals makes the wee man the final selection of the team.

O’Keefe’s career was unfortunately cut short through injury but he has remained in the town ever since being unofficial ambassador for the club, raising funds for the club in the late 80’s with a fun run when the club was in financial dire straits and his recent vocal involvement against the Oyston regime.

So there we have it…..much to ponder and argue over and it is all about opinions but as Brian Clough once said "we talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right."!

Let the arguments recommence!!