This is the first part of a two part series documenting our writers’ greatest ever Wales teams.
I bet many of us when out with friends (pub an optional extra), have got into a debate over greatest ever football teams. then, after naming those respective sides, a debate has occurred. Well, here is my greatest ever Welsh football side by position, I’ll see you down the pub to debate.
The following is my side, with my thoughts on players who were close to selection and the reasons why I chose the players I did. I would play in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Goalkeeper – A few keepers came to mind when selecting my man between the sticks. Jack Kelsey, ex-Cardiff City was a very good ‘keeper, so was ex-Leeds United player, Gary Sprake and ex Everton and Swansea City keeper Dai Davies. For me, the choice as the keeper has to be Neville Southall. “Big Nev” in the mid 1980’s, was as good a goalkeeper as there was anywhere in the world at that time. He won 92 caps for Wales over a 11 year period. A fabulous keeper.
Right Back – Again, a few candidates here in my view, players such as Mark Delaney, who despite a career cut short due to injury, really was a very talented footballer. He was decent going forward, but was also an excellent defender. Another was Stuart Williams of Wrexham, West Brom and Southampton, a tough tenacious defender. However, my choice is Peter Rodrigues, who played for Cardiff City and Southampton amongst others. Rodrigues was an excellent defender; he played for Wales 40 times, but is probably best remembered for captaining Southampton in their FA Cup victory in 1976 versus Manchester United – an upset at the time.
Left Back – Candidates include Joey Jones, ex-Liverpool who played in the 1977 winning European Cup team amongst many other honours. Pat Van Den Hauwe, a tough defender who was part of the successful Everton team of the mid-80s, but to me the man who for the left back slot is Alf Sherwood, ex-Cardiff and Newport County star. Sherwood was known as the king of the sliding tackle and none other than Sir Stanley Matthews, one of the greatest wingers of all time, said Sherwood was his toughest ever opponent. That will do for me, the 41 times capped player makes my side.
Centre Backs – A few names in the reckoning; such as John Charles, a giant among footballers who could play centre back or centre forward equally as well, Daniel Gabbidon, who when fully fit was an excellent centre back, current captain Ashley Williams, also deserves a mention – he’s been an outstanding player for his country. Mel Charles, Roy Paul and Fred Keenor also deserve to be in the mix, but the two I have selected are Mike England and Kevin Ratcliffe. England, was an outstanding centre back, was strong defensively but could also get the ball down and play. He won 44 caps for his country and also managed Wales for 8 years with distinction. Ratcliffe, was one of the best defenders in Britain in the mid-80s, captaining Everton with a lot of success. He was very quick and a good footballer, winning 59 caps for Wales.
Midfield – I’m going to play with a two in midfield, so I’m looking for a balance. My ball winner and provider, is a hotly contested place. There are a few candidates, including Terry Yorath, an excellent player who played for Leeds United when they were pushing for honours. Barry Horne, Robbie James, Peter Nicholas and Brian Flynn also deserve mentions – fine Welsh players in the eighties and nineties – but my choices for my disciplined central midfielders goes to Gary Speed and Aaron Ramsey. Speed, who played many years for teams including Leeds United and Newcastle, was a magnificent footballer who could play a number of positions. He could be relied on to make the right decision on the football pitch, and would be perfect as my anchor man. He won 85 caps for Wales and also managed his nation until he was tragically taken from us. Ramsey has been a star for a number of years at Arsenal and is still a young player. His best position may arguably be a bit further forward, but for Arsenal he has been used in a two man central midfield in a more withdrawn role, which is where I would ask the 38 times capped international to play, he is too talented not to get in the side.
Left Wing – In all the forward roles, Wales have an abundance of talent to choose from and left wing is no exception. Players such as Leighton James, a fantastic winger for Burnley and Swansea, Gareth Bale and Cliff Jones, a wing genius for Tottenham Hotspur. However to play in a left sided advanced role, I had to select Ryan Giggs. The player had the lot; vision, could beat a player and could score important goals. He won many honours in the game; the 64 capped player at times in the nineties was playing a different game to some of his Welsh team mates, his footballing brain was too advanced for them, he was that good.
Advanced Midfield – A player to play just off the striker, a role that players such as Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey would prosper in, however my choice to play in this role would be Gareth Bale. The player, similarly to Giggs, could have played anywhere across the front line and in this system I would ask them to keep switching. Bale is a fantastic footballer, a great athlete who can score goals from nothing. The 54 times capped player is nightmare for any defender.
Right Wing – Again such great players could play in this position, such as Billy Meredith, Terry Medwin and Alan Curtis, but my choice is Ivor Allchurch. He is one of the greatest footballers that Wales has ever produced, and one of the stars at the 1958 World Cup Finals. He won 68 caps for Wales and in his club career played for Swansea City, Newcastle United and Cardiff City. Magnificent player.
Centre Forward – Again, such tough competition, with great players such as Trevor Ford, Derek Tapscott, Ian Rush, John Toshack and Mark Hughes all fighting for one position, a. But how can I pick a greatest ever Welsh side without arguably the greatest player not just Wales but Britain has ever produced? That being the great John Charles. A man who to this day is still revered in Italy, especially in Turin, where he is remembered almost with God like status after his spell with Juventus. Charles could play centre back or centre forward equally as well, and in my team the 38 times capped international would lead the line. Phenomenal player.
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!