Just for a little bit of fun at Christmas, I have picked two ‘fantasy’ football teams of players I have had the privilege to play with. The first team will hold many recognisable names and quite a few internationals to boot. The second team is a bunch of guys who never made it to the top but were top guys on and off the field.
For my own amusement, I thought a little commentary on how a game would develop. Clearly the ‘Pro’ team with so many classy players would be expected to come out on top. That would have probably been the case but the team that would be playing against them wouldn’t just sit back and let them play. Let’s start with the most crucial part of the pitch for me. The midfield. The Pros contain a hard, physical trio from the Old Firm. I am going to amaze you here but the three I have put in against them were even harder and more physical. Hard to believe but I would back all three players to give not one inch away. As well as being a strong and hard working, every one of them could find their way into the box to score. Real old-fashioned box to box midfielders.
Moving on to the attack v defences. This is a real hard one to call. The Pros have real talent and born poachers In Bunion (Paul Wight) and Frank McDougall. Both scored goals for fun. With the supply coming from a cultured left foot on the left flank then they would create a lot of chances and I am quite sure would take many of them. However the back four of the Non-Pros have class players who could read the game better than any I played with. The full backs of Urquy and Moose would stop that supply and in John Thomson there was no better sweeper in the game at the time. I think he was about 60 when he played behind me. What a player!
At the other end. Difficult for the Non-pros as a very good, experienced defence awaits. However,Peter Welsh and Sean Bainbridge were two of the most skillful players I have ever seen and could open up any defence. Sean was unbelievable. I only played with him for a short time but witnessed the most incredible piece of play ever. He had beat 4 or 5 men on a mazy dribble which was not unusual. He then beat the keeper and stood on the goal line with the ball. While we were all shouting to boot it in, he then took it back out and beat two defenders before scoring. Unbelievable. I think the Pros may have an advantage in the full back area with the energy of Jimmy Boyle and Rab McKinnon who both played more as wing backs. Brilliant energy and Rab had a left foot that could open a tin of beans.
Finally, the goalies. Nothing to choose from them. Both were brilliant shot stoppers but also were a bit Dracula-esque when it came to crosses!
Both teams would be managed by my own legends as coaches. The Pros would be Davie McParland, who signed me as a 14yo at Hamilton Accies. A true gentleman and a great football man. The Non-Pros would be a double act without compare. Both massive characters who would let you know where you stood. Bob McKinnon (Big Suede and Rab’s dad), who was the manager at EKYC u18’s and Jimmy White, my manager at Neilston. So what made them great coaches? I don’t think it was their tactical nous but they were just great guys and I loved playing for them and not coincidentally, probably played my best football under them.
So there it is. I am going to go with a score draw but the best bit would have been after the game. Both teams had so many characters and the stories would have been worth staying out all night to hear. Oh and yes, we often did stay out all night!
So why did I write this? Firstly to have a little trip down memory lane and reflect on some great players. The serious piece is why did some make it to the top of the game while others did not? We all have our own opinions on this and there are a multitude of reasons. Players such as Sean and Peter had bags of skill while others such as the midfield trio had an undying will to win. Skillful defenders who could play and defend. However none of these players made it to the top of the professional game. I am convinced that each of them had the ability to do so however they may have been missing one key element to their game. It might have been pace and it definitely was for some. Others might not have wanted to sacrifice their lifestyle (This was definitely the case for most). I then look at The Pros and the biggest difference I can see is that most (if not all) made a sacrifice. They had the dedication to take it the extra step. For grassroots players, there is very little difference between where you are and making it to the top. All the guys in my Pro team are testament to this. So if you want to make it into the Pro team then you know what you need to work at. Nobody needs to tell you. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You know you need to go out and work your socks off in every session and any opportunity you have must be spent on developing yourself. Also it helps to find a coach who you love to play for as you will also play your best football!!
Finally, this is a good time of year for reflection and these are my reflections of the players and coaches who had a big impact on me on and off the park.I would like to apologise to all the others players who didn’t make the 11’s. There are too many to mention but safe to say you all influenced my thoughts one way or another. That is the beauty of the game as the people we meet are more important than any score over 90 minutes.
My ‘Fantasy Teams’ are very much real (even if you don’t know them). Hopefully you can reflect on your own fantasy football. It truly is a beautiful game.