Monday, August 4, 2008

Best of British: honourable mentions - Ebren

Pseuds regulars offer their take on the best five British footballers of the last 50 years

Mackay, Charles, Giggs, Southall. and Roberston. The five greatest British players ever?

No reputations were seriously hurt in the making of this list – but some might be a little bruised. So to try and ease some Arnica into any growing purple patches, here are some of the people who have a good case to be on that list, but for one reason or another are not.

For the second time in as many weeks Bobby Charlton has missed out on a list of the top British footballers of the last 50 years. This feels a little unfair – but given he is the only Brit one universally acclaimed as one of the greatest ever he should get over it. Why was he missing? Simply because none of us knew exactly WHY he was seen as a legend – apart from a decent effort against Mexico.

Dennis Law is equally absent from both lists. If it makes his supporters feel any better – I rate him higher than Best. A supreme No 10, scored more in fewer games than Best, a greater success in Italy than Rush, but hopes dashed on the shores of peerless competition.

Jimmy Johnston is the player I most regret leaving out – as good as Garrincha to many. The man to first unlock Inter and Herrer's cattenacio and proving in the process that even a bent ref can be overcome if you are good enough (Pele later re-enforced did in Escape to Victory). I will let the pictures talk for me.

Peter Shilton took Forrest to two European Cups and the League in their first season in the top flight. As well as picking up 125 England caps, more than 1,000 league appearances and scoring 1 goal. He ruled himself out when arguing Banks was better (something I dispute) and as second to Banks (who appears on the other list) he didn't make it either.

I'm sure people will disagree here - but Jimmy Greaves was the greatest British goalscorer of the last 50 years. An incredible strike rate of 422 goals in 604 top class games (plus another 44 in 57 for England) - Scored in every debut he made at every level of every club he played for - and a grace and poise with the ball at all times. And it's not like he was simply an in-the-box player either - balance, speed, he could score overheads (as he did as part of his hat-trick on his Spurs debut) and dribble as well as almost any. If he had played and scored in the '66 final he might be rated above Best - but he didn't. And he isn't John Charles. So he misses out.

Alan Hanson's reading of the game, positioning, and organisation in defence served to make Liverpool both hard to break down and impossible to win the ball from. He also won every single club honur twice - he retired as the most decorated player in British history (to be overtaken by Giggs).

Oh, and check this out for Greaves, Mackay, and Johnny Haynes (who is a close outsider on many of these lists) and British football at its best.


andrewm said...

Glad you mentioned Alan Hansen, if only because defenders rarely get a look in in these situations. Obviously Bobby Moore made the GU list, but I think that's '66 nostalgia as much as anything (with all due respect - I've no doubt he was an outstanding player).

As you say, Hansen won it all, and by all accounts with a lot of style. I only wish you'd talked HB into writing something about him.

MotM said...

Here's a piece about Best -

byebyebadman said...

Only just got to all this new content, and very well penned it is indeed.

As an honourable mention and someone who would sail into my top 5 uncontested I think Paul Scholes is (and will forever be) overlooked. Without a shadow of a doubt the most gifted footballer I've seen in my lifetime from these islands, and still doing it.

Ebren said...

Scholes is underrated indeed - but doesn't quite have the impact of a Charlton. Gazza may well have sneaked in, as might Johnny Haynes and Jim Baxter.

That Best piece needs about 1,000 words cut form it. It reads like a bitter old man rambling in the pub - some great personal anecdotes but an awful lot of rubbish about how great things were in the past and how the country's going to the dogs.

I hesitate to say it, but McIlvanney was about as past it as Best by the looks of that.

byebyebadman said...

I think Scholes apparent lack of personality/celebrity count against him in these things. You have to give back to the media to be a Premiership poster boy.

I don't see how Gazza could be included if a truly great footballer is some amalgam of ability and acheivement. He's iconic, a character and certainly had the odd great moment but realistically he can't be considered as one of the best in British history.

Ebren said...

bbb - a lot of the players mentioned won very little. Let's be honest, Best's medal collection was pretty modest.

As a player, a lot of people think young Gascoigne was as good as any they'd seen - the subsequent deterioration (post knee injury and after the booze really kicked in) still saw him retain enough skill to score THAT goal against Scotland.

People forget that Best was effectively washed up by 26.

munni said...

but Badman, I don't think it's wrong that personality and charisma (as opposed to celebrity) should be part of the complete package of greatness.

Giggs, for example, is not constantly in the media, but he has strength of character, of the type that makes any team he's in play better. And I think that's an essential element of greatness.

Re. Best, the power of received wisdom is so strong, it's only just occurred to me that I've only ever seen highlight reels of him playing, never a full 90 minutes. (and therefore I am completely unqualified to have an opinion on him.)

MotM said...

Ebren - Trusting McIllvaney, I posted that link without reading it as I didn't want people to miss it as new content went on to the blog. I'll read it tonight - I suspect I'll concur with you if it's all nostalgia.

byebyebadman said...

Eb - he won all his medals by 22, although it's a comparatively modest haul he did plant his flag at the very highest peak of the club game. Gascoigne has nothing in comparison, even if you allow parit for his achievements in scotland with Best's in England.

Having the ability is one thing, but great players are decisive when it matters. You mention Gascoigne's goal against Scotland but later in the tournament he missed an open goal that would have put England in the final. Sums him up for me - almost. Not quite, but almost.

If you strip away the Gazzamania he's a player who, for whatever reason, never fully utilised his unique gifts. He's hardly alone - Fowler for example - but he's no great I don't think.

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