My Greatest Ever Welsh XI
#2 — Scott Salter
This is the second part of an ongoing series documenting the greatest ever Wales teams from various fans.
When Craig mentioned that we should do a series where we all choose our greatest all-time Wales XI, my mind instantly was racing. How was it possible to choose just eleven players?
In some positions, it was easy. Wales hasn’t always been blessed with amazing players, but in some it was incredibly difficult. The likes of Bale, Giggs and Bellamy, to name a few, can all play on the left wing — how would I choose?
It will be interesting to see how both my side compares with that of Tomos and Craig, with age and experience playing a factor.
Here’s my musings (and chosen eleven) in a classic 4–4–2 formation:
Candidates: Neville Southall, Wayne Hennessey and Jack Kelsey
We start with one of the hardest positions in the eleven. Wales have been blessed with some top quality goalkeepers over the years (and some bad ones) so it’s a tough decision.
In Southall, Wales had possibly the greatest British goalkeepers of all time.
Wayne Hennessey probably isn’t in the same category as Southall or Kelsey, but was absolutely solid in a historic Euro 2016 campaign for the Welsh. It puts him in the reckoning in my eyes.
Jack Kelsey made 48 appearances for Wales and was the number 1 in our last ever major tournament; the 1958 World Cup. He is widely regarded as Arsenal’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Decision: I can’t look past big Nev, Wales’ record appearance maker, for this one.
Candidates: Alf Sherwood, Joey Jones and Chris Coleman
Up first is Alf Sherwood, the king of the slide tackle and Stanley Matthews’ toughest ever opponent. Winning 41 caps for Wales, the ex-miner was one of the most dedicated full-backs you’ll see.
Joey Jones was a popular player for Liverpool and made 72 caps for the Welsh side. He won two European Cups and a UEFA Cup during an illustrious career.
Chris Coleman is a fan favourite now as manager, but was an equally talented left back for Wales. He was dedicated, but his career was ruined by injury.
Decision: So, so tough to call between Sherwood and Jones. The former was dedicated and you can’t ignore praise from Sir Stanley Matthews, but Joey Jones wins this slot due to a higher number of caps and his success in the game.
Candidates: John Charles, James Collins, Kevin Ratcliffe and Ashley Williams
Where to start with John Charles? One of the greatest players to play the game in Britain, he was equally as effective up front as he was in defence. I’ve stuck him at centre back in this team, though, to enable other options up top.
‘Ginge’ as Collins is affectionately known has been a loyal player to Wales and won of the most important in recent years. A dedicated, no-nonsense player.
Kevin Ratcliffe is hugely respected player and won 59 caps for Wales. He won a lot as Everton captain, which is hard to ignore.
Ashley Williams made history as Wales captain last year, leading the side to their first major tournament since 1958. He has regularly been one of the side’s best players for a while and brings valuable leadership. His importance was shown also during the Euros in France.
Decision: The first spot automatically goes to John Charles, a Welsh legend, but the second spot is harder to choose. I’m giving it to Ashley Williams, who made history last year.
Candidates: Chris Gunter, Peter Rodrigues and Roy Paul
Chris Gunter is up first, who I think it is a player that does not get enough recognition for Wales. He’s solid if unspectacular, I know, but it’s hard to ignore that he has made almost 80 appearances for the national side.
Peter Rodrigues is up next, a man who lifted the FA Cup as Southampton captain. He had 8 years of service for Wales as an attacking full-back.
Last, but not least, Roy Paul was did play at left back at times but was primarily a right-back. He was a solid defender, who made 33 caps for the Welsh side.
Decision: Not the area of highest quality, but Gunter gets the nod for me. He’s been immense since Chris Coleman became boss.
Candidates: Ryan Giggs, Gary Speed, Fred Keenor and Aaron Ramsey
Right, I know that Ryan Giggs played most of his career as a left-winger, but I’m going to move him to the centre of midfield in my side to make room for others. Giggs was never as good for Wales as he was for Manchester United, but he is still one of the best British players of all time.
The late Gary Speed was the Welsh captain as I grew up and was undoubtedly a big influence on me. A great player and manager, sorely missed by everyone in Wales.
Fred Keenor made history in 1927 by winning the FA Cup with Cardiff City — the first and only side to take the cup outside of England. An important player and leader for both club and country.
Aaron Ramsey is a talented midfielder and is key to Chris Coleman’s side alongside Gareth Bale. With many years ahead of him, he could become the best Welsh midfielder ever.
Decision: A position of undoubted quality, but Ryan Giggs and Gary Speed get the nod from me.
Candidates: Cliff Jones, Gareth Bale and Leighton James
First up is Cliff Jones, a crucial member of Tottenham Hotspur’s 1960–61 double-winning side and 1963 European Cup Winners Cup winning side.
Man of the moment Gareth Bale is up next, who is also the most expensive player in football history. The Real Madrid man led Wales to this year’s European Championships and showed his class whilst in France, grabbing some crucial goals as we reached the semi-finals.
Last but not least, Swansea favourite Leighton James, who scored 10 goals in 54 games for Wales.
Decision: No matter how good Jones and James were, they can’t compete with Gareth Bale, who I believe will rival John Charles as the greatest Welshman of all time.
Candidates: Ivor Allchurch, Simon Davies and Billy Meredith
Ivor Allchurch was the golden boy of Welsh football and scored 249 goals in 691 games during his career. For Wales, he registered 23 goals in 65 games for Wales.
Simon Davies was one of Wales’ best players as I grew up, but was hampered by injury. He still had a stellar career, impressing for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur.
One of the early superstars of British football, Billy Meredith played for both Manchester sides. He scored 11 goals in 48 games for Wales.
Decision: Ivor Allchurch and Billy Meredith battle it out for this position, but it is the former that takes the spot as the golden boy of Welsh football.
Candidates: Ian Rush, Craig Bellamy, Mark Hughes, John Toshack
Ian Rush is one of the most prolific strikers in British football history and holds the record as Wales’ top ever goalscorer. He’s also Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorer.
Craig Bellamy is a marmite football, but has always been an idol of mine. Growing up, he led the line for Wales and also returned home to guide Cardiff to the Premier League. A passionate player loved by fans.
Mark Hughes is another big name striker who scored important goals for Manchester United. Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Finally, John Toshack. He scored 195 goals in 471 games for Liverpool, Cardiff and Swansea, as well as 13 goals for Wales.
Decision: What a tough position to choose from — even with Charles moved to centre back! Ian Rush and John Toshack get the nod to form my strike partnership.
4–4–2: Neville Southall, Chris Gunter, John Charles © , Ashley Williams, Joey Jones, Ivor Allchurch, Gary Speed, Ryan Giggs, Gareth Bale, Ian Rush, John Toshack.
So there you have it my greatest Welsh 11. What are your thoughts on my team? Any you disagree with? What would be your team? Please get in touch with the site!
By Scott Salter
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