Friday, 11 November 2011

VBL's All Time Thistle XI

This has been tough. Really tough. I wrote down a shortlist of players for each position and ended up with nearly 30 instead of 11.

I have selected a team that is not only full of excellent individuals, but I’ve tried to pick players who I think would play well with each other.

As everyone else has pointed out, we have been blessed with some cracking goalkeepers over the past two decades, making this selection one of the most difficult. I’ve opted for Kenny Arthur on the basis of his excellent shot stopping and incredible bounebackability. Kenny played around 250 games for Thistle over his 10 years, which suggests that he was out of the team for about 10 games every season. Many came and tried to displace Kenny (David Klein, Garry Gow, Michael Brown and Bud to name a few) but only Jonny Tuffey succeeded. He was part of the double winning team, and it was his penalty save against Saint Mirren that was vital in the First Division winning season.

Left Wing Back:
I need a wing back who is going to terrorise the opposition’s right back and, given the formation, needs to have a good enough engine to get up and down the touchline for the whole game. I considered a young Archie for this position, but he was too gallus. Jered Stirling and David McCallum both had lovely left feet, but not the required stamina. Marc Twaddle fits the bill. His pace was electric when he was on top form and he linked up well with the midfield, particularly Gary Harkins. He was also fond of having a go at the linesman, which often gave him some protection from opposition players. He was able to get away with flying into tackles and was awarded some dubious free kicks.

Right Wing Back:
James “Banjo” McKinstry was a cool, laid back player. A sharp contrast to Twaddle on the other flank. He will be allowed to go forward in this formation, and will receive sufficient cover in defence which is his main weakness. He was a classic Lambie signing. Lambie had Banjo playing above himself week in, week out and it’s for his performances in the early part of the First Division winning season that he finds himself in this team. He also scored an absolute peach against Clyde at Firhill, one of my favourite ever goals.

Left Centre Back:
Paul Deas was a standout performer in 2002, and he is unlucky not to be in this squad. I considered playing John Robertson here, even although he would be slightly out of position. I really need a left footer though, as Twaddle will be further up the park for the most part and will be unable to protect the back 3. I have gone for the current club captain, Alan Archibald. Although all of his pace is gone now, Archie was a cracking centre back for us a couple of seasons ago and that’s why he’s made the team. No nonsense defending, which can be frustrating but I think we need someone in the team who can put the likes of Nacho Novo up in the air and can find Row Z when need be. Archie is our man.

Right Centre Back:
Stephen Craigan is still one of the best readers of the game in Scotland. I have absolutely no doubt that his transition into football journalism will be seamless as he can analyse a game and be two steps ahead of the opposition. It’s hard to remember a Thistle player who, when he put his foot on the ball, reassured the Rellow Army as much as he did. He could be a hard man when he needed to be, like Archie, but his classy distribution sets him apart from his partner on the left side of defence.

Centre Back:
Only one man could fill this position. Archie and Craigan will ensure that this man will have all the protection he requires to play his game. Imagine two blockers in an American Football game protecting their quarterback, their playmaker. Their Scott Paterson. Had it not been for Shaggy’s injuries, I have no doubt that he would have played at the highest level and would have represented his country. He oozed class, always had a calm head and could maraud forward at ease before splitting the midfield with a measured pass. Yes, a bit of a luxury, but when he takes the ball forward I expect Twaddle or Banjo to drop back.

Left Midfield:
He might have written one of the worst books I have ever read, but Chic Charnley was a bit good at football. How this man never got a call-up, I will never know. Gary MacKenzie???!?!? Sigh. Anyway. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail as everyone knows about Chic. An incredible left foot. He’s in the team to link up with Twaddle and occasionally swing a cross in from deep. He will also be asked to switch play from left to right and hang back when the team is attacking to pick up the pieces.

Central Midfield:
The most difficult position to fill. There are a number of top drawer players knocking on my door to play here. I’ve went for Danny Lennon. Captain Fantastic. This guy could read the game as though it was a graphic novel. He can collect the ball from the defence and spray passes to the wingbacks. He will also be responsible for pointing a lot.

Right Midfield:
Because Chico will be sitting back during attacks, I need my midfielder on the other side of the pitch to be someone who could join in the attack. Someone who could drive on from deep and offer an aerial option from Charnley’s freekicks. Big. Mad. Mental. Martin Hardie. Scored an incredible amount of goals for a midfielder and is still one of my favourite players ever. His tenacity and aggression was matched by his passing and finishing. Not the most elegant of players, but he will give me his all in every single game. He knows how to celebrate a goal, too.

When Gerry Britton was on top form, he was the best and most unpredictable striker in the league. He is gangly, tall and very difficult to play against. I’ll be looking for Gerry to have his back to goal, slip the ball to the wing backs and get on the end of crosses. He is capable of some classy finishing, as well as some excellent link up play.

McLean was an excellent partner for Gerry in 01/02, but so was Paul Walker. However, I would have really enjoyed seeing Mark Roberts team up with Gerry. I run the risk of having my two front men being too similar, so if it’s not working, I’ll turn to my bench after 60 minutes. I have to have him in there for the season that he was a one man team. Great scoring record, and a potential partner in crime for Hardie.

Jonny Tuffey just misses out because he left too soon. I’m sure he realises what a big mistake he’s made. Hasn’t played nearly enough for Caley or Northern Ireland since he left Firhill. A great player, but he let us and himself down.

Scott “Boab” McCulloch was a cult hero. A solid, tough tackling defender and an absolute workhorse going forward. He hasn’t made it into the First XI purely because he doesn’t have the stamina to commit to a full 90 minutes in the 5-3-2 formation. I have a feeling we’ll be needing his rocket shot late on in a game too. If a team gave away a free kick within 30 yards of goal against us with Boab, it was like giving away a penalty.

Gary Harkins provides excellent back up for Martin Hardie and Charnley. I’m less keen on him replacing Lennon as he’s not that kind of player. I’d rather have Shaggy in there if I were to mix it up a bit.

James Grady would come on for Gerry Britton for the last 20 minutes. He’d get us a goal, nae danger.

David Rowson has to be in the squad somewhere. We might need to strengthen the midfield if the game is a bit tight in the last quarter of the game. His engine would see us over the line.

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