OBSCURE XI’S // WEEK Three – Gingers vs. Dreads

The short 11 which can be found here is ahead in the voting for last weeks Pitchside Picks. This week our 11’s are back and even more obscure! Our own ginger panelist Michael ‘Morecambe’ Garvey has picked his dream Ginger XI which will go against Tom Dorsett’s dread-locked 11, Tom unfortunately does not have dreads (check out the curls though!) but here are his and Morecambe’s teams…

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Ginger XI – “Orange County F.C” – 4-4-2

 The Gaffer – Alex McLeish

The team is managed by Alex McLeish who has enjoyed success in Scotland with Rangers winning the SPL and Scottish cup twice. He has also managed both Birmingham clubs and guided Birmigham City to promotion to the Premier League and Carling Cup in 2011 where they beat Arsenal in the final.

Goalkeeper – Ben Amos

Goalkeeper is not this teams strongest position, but it is always important to build for the future and Ben Amos certainly has a bright one having been capped three times for England Under 21s and making several appearances in the Manchester United first team. Currently on loan at Carlisle where he looks a cut above in League One.

Right Back – Wes Brown

Not many gingers can boast a medal haul of Five Premier League Titles, two FA Cups and Two Champions League’s. Not to mention 23 caps for England. Wes Brown was reliable defender for Manchester United for over a decade before being transferred to Sunderland where he proved he still has it with his performance against Manchester City the other week after a lengthy spell out injured.

Centre Back – Alexi Lalas

Iconic United States centre back, who lit up the 1994 World Cup with his long ginger hair and bright bushy beard, became the first modern era American to play in Serie A when he joined Padova in 1994, had a spell as general manager of LA Galaxy and now works for ESPN as an analyst.

Centre Back – Matthias Sammer

Dubbed as the heir to the great Beckenbauer, Sammer was the peak of his powers at Euro 1996 where he was part of the victorious German team, a feat that also saw him claim the Ballon D’or that year. Played predominantly for Borussia Dortmund where he won the Bundesliga and Champions League in 1997. Retired in 1999 aged 30 and now works as a sporting director at Bayern Munich.

Sammer was a big player for Dortmund in the 90's

Sammer was a big player for Dortmund in the 90’s

Left back – John Arne Riise

The Norweigan left back has one of the most powerful left foots the game has ever seen, won several major honours at Liverpool including the Champions League,  still playing at the age of 33 at Fulham.

Right Midfielder – Neil Lennon

A product of the prestigious Crewe academy, Lennon enjoyed a decent career in the Premiership with Leicester City and in Scotland with Celtic, winning the League cup and the SPL five times. Now manager at Celtic in the most uncompetitive league in world football.

Central Midfield – Paul Scholes

The first name on the team sheet, Scholes is the benchmark for all ginger people to aspire to and his 60 yard pinpoint passes will allow him to run the show for this team. After a glittering career at Manchester United where he won 11 Premiership titles, three FA cups and two Champions Leagues among others he is now coaching the youth team at United.

Central Midfield – Nicky Butt

Butt is included alongside Scholes in central midfield and they will complement each other perfectly, a tough tackling midfielder who was scared of no one, Butt was a rock at the central of United’s midfielder for over a decade, winning numerous trophies including playing the Champions League final in 1999 before moving on to Newcastle and Birmingham City. Now back at United coaching the youth team with Scholes.

Left Midfielder – Gordon Strachan

A talented left winger who enjoyed a decent career under Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and Manchester United, before moving on to Leeds where he won the first division title in 1992. Retired at 40 in 1997 and now the manager of Scotland.

Centre Forward – John Hartson

An old fashioned battering ram of a centre forward, Hartson enjoyed a decent career in the Premier League with Arsenal, West Ham and in Scotland with Celtic. Hartson now does a bit of coaching and works as a pundit after recovering from cancer.

Centre Forward – Dave Kitson

Average striker but with better than average ginger hair, Kitson played in the Premier League for Reading and Stoke before moving down the leagues and now plays in League Two for Oxford United.

 And the opposition…

Dreads XI – “The Hair Care Bunch” – 4-2-3-1

The Gaffer – Ruud Gullit:

To put it simply, Ruud Gullit is the Godfather of the Dreadlock. Regarded as one of the finest players of his generation, Gullit was an elegant midfielder with outstanding balance who was named Ballon d’Or winner in 1987.

Gullit was an integral part of the dominant force that was Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan team of the late 80’s and along with compatriots Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, won three Serie A’s, three Supercoppa Italiana’s, two European Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups – Quite a trophy list.

Gullit also holds legendary status not only as a player, but also as a manager, winning the F.A. Cup in 1997, the club’s first major trophy in 26 years. Ruud will be sad to not see his son… sorry, doppelgänger Nathan Ake, Chelsea’s newest young prospect, in the starting line-up.

A chequered managerial career, probably down to the arrogant nature of the Dutchman; I’m sure he can he lead his fellow dread-locked disciples with distinction.

Goalkeeper – José Manuel Pinto:

Now this man has gone for a dreadlock with a twist; a corn-rowed style of dreadlock, but believe me I’ve seen this man’s hair out of his famous look and let me tell you, it’s LONG.

A close call with David James, Barcelona’s second-choice goalkeeper for five years just edged it in my ruthless quest for the defined dreadlock. Despite the sporadic nature of his appearances for the Catalan club, Jose hasn’t done too bad for himself; four La Liga’s, two Copa del Rey’s, four Supercopa de Espana’s, two UEFA Champions League’s, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

Pinto on his day is a steady pair of hands; off his day, not so much. Let’s just hope for this particular “day” he’s on-form.

Right Back – Bacary Sagna:

Now when Bacary arrived in North London, you could hear many an Arsenal fan say, “What is he doing with his hair?!” but not now.

Unlike Gervinho, who had the craziest hair style, I’d certainly seen in a long time, Sagna and his trademark locks have been an ever-present sight for Arsenal, flowing in the wind, for seven seasons now and in the process becoming something of a cult hero with the fans at the Emirates.

Arriving at the Gunners from Auxerre in 2007, he has gone on to make 243 (+12 sub) appearances for Arsenal, being named in the PFA Team of the Year twice, 2007/8 and 2010/11.

Arsene Wenger has said that “Bac” is the best right back in the Premier League, which I’m sure, proves he’s a great addition to my team. 

Centre Back – Rigobert Song:

The King of Cameroon himself; this man knows how to rock a dreadlock. The undisputed fans’ favourite of the Indomitable Lions up until his retirement, Song holds all manner of records for his country including number of caps (138) and record number of African Cup of Nations played in (8).

The King of Cameroon boasted arguably the best dreads of any footballer

The King of Cameroon boasted arguably the best dreads of any footballer

A club career starting in France with Metz and ending in Turkey with Trabzonspor, it is perhaps a spell with then Gerard Houllier’s, Liverpool where he is most fondly remembered, (although Trabzonspor’s fans did nickname him “Big Chief”, and he was famed for his dance moves).

During a three-year spell on Merseyside, Song established himself as a real fans’ favourite, probably due to his hard-working attitude and the fact he was often played out of position at right back – thus the chant “We’ve Only Got One Song” was imagined by the Kop faithful.

A rock for his national team, I have the faith that Big ‘Bert can lead the back-four with aplomb; however he won’t be on Jamie Carragher’s Christmas card list, after the always eloquent Scouser allegedly in his autobiography called Rigobert “a soft c***t” after taking him out in a training session. Jamie, how dare you!

Centre Back – Linvoy Primus:

Mr Portsmouth himself is given the task of marshalling the back-four along with Big Bert, and was one of few (apart from that crazy fan with the tattoos) to work a dreadlock or two down on the South Coast.

Starting his career at Charlton before being released in 1994, Primus went on to make 127 appearances for Barnet before finding his real home at Portsmouth. During a nine-year stay at Fratton Park, he made 189 (+9 sub) appearances for Pompey, winning the Division One (Championship) title as well the fans’ player of the year and the PFA Player of the Year in the 2002/03 season.

So much so is he loved by both the club and the city, following his testimonial game in 2010, the club announced that the Milton End Stand would be renamed the Linvoy Primus Community Stand after his outstanding service to the club, where he remains in an ambassadorial role.

Ruud and I, alike, have faith in Big Linvoy to deal with the Ginger’s XI’s battering rams of a strike-force, John Hartson and erm… Dave Kitson.

Left Back – Taribo West:

Now, you may not remember the name, but you’ll definitely remember those green dreadlocks from the 1998 World Cup.

In a playing career, that may well be forgotten about, due to his wacky dreads, West did make 41 appearances for Nigeria, playing every minute of aforementioned World Cup and winning an Olympic Gold Medal at the ’96 games in Atlanta.

West also played for the likes of Internazionale and A.C. Milan, proving to be an integral part of the Nerazzurri’s 1998 UEFA Cup winning team. During his time with Auxerre, he also won a Ligue One title as well as two French Cups. In a recent interview, West claimed that he “was better” than A.C. Milan legend Paolo Maldini and the only reason for his short spell with Milan was because of the former’s “godfather-like” status at the club.

Taribo only just edged it ahead of the likes of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, because of his trademarked variety of colours of dread, but an honourable mention must go to Fulham legend, Rufus Brevett. Rufus and his blonde-tinted dreadlocks bombing on from left back will forever be one of my favourite sights from supporting the Mighty Whites!

Centre Midfield – Alexandre Song:

I’m sure Alex Song will feel an immense sense of pride playing in front of his cousin (but some reason, Alex calls him “uncle”) Rigobert Song but also playing next to the great Edgar Davids in the first of my two, pivotal, holding midfield roles.

Song, who took on the challenge of a flat-top with dreads during his time with Arsenal, was probably missed by the Gunners up until the return of Mathieu Flamini this season – the athletic midfielder, who is equally adept at both breaking and setting up attacks, was brought to North London for 1m and sold for 15m to Barcelona in 2012.

During his time in North London, he made 118 (+15 sub) appearances for Arsenal and collected a Champions League Runners-up medal in 2005/06.

Now carrying the Song flag for Cameroon in place of his “uncle”, I’m more than willing to wager that he and “the Pitbull” alongside him can be more than a match for the Ginger midfield.

Centre Midfield – Edgar Davids (C):

I and Ruud were unanimous when it came to deciding who should captain our dread-locked side, and making his second appearance in Pitchside XI’s, Edgar Davids and his unique image is surely one of the most recognisable sights of our generation of football.

As has already been mentioned the man had an illustrious playing career that spanned the top divisions in Holland, Spain, Italy and England – where he was a key player for Spurs in their consecutive fifth-place finishes in 2005/06 & 06/07; somewhat unbefitting of the man this career finished at Crystal Palace, of all places.

Davids went on to make a total of 386 (+20 sub) appearances in his club career, scoring 32 goals and winning a plethora of trophies including three Serie A’s, a Champions League and an UEFA Cup. Add to that 74 caps for the Netherlands, plus one of the greatest ever players, Pele, personally placing you into FIFA’s top 100 living players – you’d have to be a fool not to see how highly regarded this man was.

Making some “choice” decisions in charge of Barnet, isn’t exactly the best way to start your managerial career – but the man who Marcello Lippi once described as, “a one-man engine room” will without doubt be relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head once more with Paul Scholes in what could prove to be a crucial clash in deciding the outcome of this game.

Right Wing – Clarence Seedorf:

He may not have them now, but one of the best-named men in football, Clarence Seedorf was the “Daddy Cool” of the dreadlock in his pomp.

Much like his compatriot, Davids, Seedorf now at the tail-end of his career with Botafogo in Brazil has had an incredible career with the likes of Ajax, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan where he spent ten years of his career, making 300 appearances and scoring 62 goals, in all competitions.

Still the only player to win four Champions League’s with three different clubs; Ajax in 1995, Real Madrid in 1998 and Milan in 2003 & 2007, Seedorf was ranked seventh out of 20 in the best players of the Champions League since its inception.

Some eyebrows may be raised when it comes to his position out on the right wing, but Clarence possesses superb feet and technical ability, accompany that with a wicked cross and exceptional free-kick ability – I’m sure Clarence will do just fine.

Centre Attacking Midfield – Jay-Jay Okocha:

Part of Nigeria’s “Dream Team” that won an Olympic Gold Medal alongside team-mate here, Taribo West, Okocha is probably one of Nigeria’s greatest-ever players.

Jay-Jay (so good they named him twice, any Bolton Wanderers fan will tell you) was renowned for his elaborate skills and had a playing career which really kicked off in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt alongside Tony Yeboah. Spells at Fernerbahce and PSG followed before he found his hero-like status in the most unlikely of places – Bolton, Lancashire.

Brought to the Reebok Stadium by “Big” Sam Allardyce, there have been plenty of times where I’ve been sat in the away end feeling both of sense of incensement and admiration whilst watching Jay-Jay Okocha.

An absolute cult-hero in Bolton (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/bolton-wanderers, Bolton fans’ DO NOT click here as it might break your hearts), Okocha made 106 (+18 sub) appearances for Wanderers scoring 14 goals.

With that much flair and ability, surely Jay-Jay can be the fulcrum of my side’s attacking intent and lead them to victory?

Left Wing – Siphiwe Tshabalala:

I’m not going to do much writing for this one apart from the following: Surely everyone’s favourite player at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the greatest surname in football, and an excellent set of dreadlocks. What more could you want?

Well Siphiwe Tshabalala went and did this…

 

Striker – Henrik Larsson:

Henrik loved Scotland and Scotland loved him; the Sweden legend scored an incredible 243 goals in 315 competitive games for Celtic and is the all-time leading SPL goal-scorer with 174 goals, (Kris Boyd has recently equalled this total).

Whilst banging in the goals to make him top goal-scorer in the SPL in five of the six seasons that he competed in, he had the cheek to score the majority with the greatest blonde dreadlocks you’re ever likely to see!

A hero for his country also, he appeared in three World Cups and three European Championships and ended his international career with 37 goals in 106 matches.

Spells at Barcelona, Helsingborg and a brief loan-spell at Manchester United capped off a club career that ended with a record of 573 apps, 325 goals. Not bad for a man who’s also played competitive floorball since 1989.

and of course…

The Chairmen – Michael Garvey & Tom Dorsett.

OBSCURE XI’S // WEEK TWO – TALL VS. SHORT

After a successful first edition of the feature, Pitchside are back, with our Obscure XI’s. The Balded XI is currently ahead in the voting for week one, though the Bearded side will take solace in the fact ITV commentator Clarke Carlisle tipped the team for victory. This week panelists George Pacitto and Jak Harris go head to head. George will compile a tall XI while Jak will be going with, you guessed it, a short XI. Let’s meet the teams…

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Tall XI – Republic of Heighty – 4-4-2

The Gaffer – Sam Allardyce – 6″3′:

A scarier manager you will struggle to find. Famously described by Jose Mourinho as the manager he would least like to fight, “Big” Sam notoriously turns his football sides into well-drilled, efficient but unspectacular machines. After declaring himself “more suited” to a Real Madrid or Inter Milan in 2010, I’m sure everybody would like to see how Allardyce would handle this team of superstars.

Goalkeeper – Petr Cech – 6″5′:

A mainstay of the Chelsea and Czech Republic goal for many years now, Petr Cech has been a hugely consistent performer who holds the current record for Premier league clean sheets. Although some say he has not been the same since his horrific head injury in 2006, it probably gives him an extra half an inch in height and a nod into my Tall XI.

Right-back – Vedran Corluka – 6″4′:

It’s a tough world for tall full-backs out there, known primarily for their versatility and filling in in the centre of defence. Corluka has not let an abundance of height and a lack of pace allowing him to play at every level within the Croatian national team, and represent the senior side 70 times.

Centre-back – Per Mertesacker – 6″6′:

The BFG (Big F*cking German) gets a place within the Tall XI despite his hideous Arsenal connections. Once derided by expert FIFA-playing pundits for his lack of pace, Mertesacker has become a necessity in a defence that has helped Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. He should hit 100 caps for Germany during the World Cup, a nod to the big man’s longevity at the top.

Yes Per! You are the tallest in the tall XI!

Yes Per! You are the tallest in the tall XI!

Centre-back – Vincent Kompany – 6″4′:

Once the man to buy in earlier series of Football Manager (whatever happened to Anthony Vanden Borre?), Kompany is one of those rare instances when he has exceeded that potential. The Manchester City defence is simply held together by the Belgian. As well as being a terrific footballer and general nice guy, Kompany also owns a Belgian third division side, for “the youngsters of Brussels”

Left-back – Jerome Boateng – 6″4′:

One man who did not quite hold the Citizen’s defence together in his time there was Jerome Boateng. However, since joining Bayern Munich, he played a major role in winning the Treble, with the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League won in one season. He has 36 caps for the German national side, and should be a first-team regular for the upcoming World Cup.

Right-midfielder – Marko Arnautovic 6″4′:

Tall wingers are few and far between, and with this the inclusion of the “bad boy of Austrian football” is justified. A recent move to Stoke City followed spells at Twente, Inter on loan and Werder Bremen. His 25-yard free kick this season against Manchester City is a clear indication of the talent that caught the eye of Premier League managers.

Centre-midfielder – Yaya Toure – 6″4′:

The lynchpin of the current Manchester City side, Yaya Toure is consistently named within the top 20 players in world football, and up there with the very best in his position. His tireless running, box-to-box athleticism make him impossible to mark for many sides who face him, and near enough irreplaceable in both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini’s sides. Did I mention that he won a Champions League with Barcelona?

Centre-midfielder –  Nemanja Matic – 6″4′:

Discarded by Chelsea as part of the deal to bring David Luiz to Stamford Bridge, the Serbian international has gone from strength to strength at Estadio da Luz. So much that he is being linked with transfers to clubs such as Manchester United and, ironically, Chelsea. Denied trophies last season due to Benfica’s impossibly bad luck, it is hard to see Matic not filling his medal cabinet up in the next couple of years.

Left-midfielder – Jérémy Mathieu – 6″3′:

Included not only because of his heroic exploits for me back in the good old days of Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (nine Champions League’s in nine seasons), Mathieu is an unorthodox winger, who can play at centre-back. Currently standing at two French caps, his versatility is a key asset in this Tall XI. And there wasn’t anybody else that was tall enough. But enough of that.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6″5′:

One man who certainly does not make up the numbers is Zlatan. In fact, if he had picked the team himself, there probably wouldn’t be anybody else in there. He has a league title in Holland, Italy, Spain and France, will surely surpass the Swedish goalscoring record (he needs two), and scored probably the best goal I’ve ever seen in a game against England. No team is complete without Zlatan.

Striker – Fernando Llorente 6″5′:

Llorente is a man with a smaller ego than Ibrahimovic, but with no less striking ability. A [former] legend for Athletic Bilbao, and once the most sought-after player in Europe, he incredibly ended up moving for free in the summer to Juventus. A partnership with Ibrahimovic would surely scare every defender in the world football.

And the opposition…

Short XI – Oompa Lumpa Athletic – 4-1-2-1-2

The Gaffer – Gianfranco Zola – 5″6′:

A team this talented needs a manager who possessed the same world class ability during his playing days and so Zola gets the nod. A Chelsea legend and voted their best ever player in 2004, Zola progressed into management with West Ham United.

After a shaky start, he developed the Hammers into a side that played with flair and also integrated youth into the side. However, after a disappointing second season, his contract was terminated two days after the end of the season.

His second managerial position, at Watford, brought more early success with his team scoring for fun and playing attractive football. Zola led them to a third-place finish and a Wembley Play-Off final appearance against Crystal Palace; unfortunately they lost to an extra-time penalty from Kevin Phillips.

Goalkeeper – Óscar Pérez Rojas – 5”7’:

Currently playing for Pachuca, in his native Mexico, Rojas has been capped 54 times for Mexico and was their first choice goalkeeper at both the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. He made 416 appearances for Cruz Azul and has also scored two stoppage time equalizers in his career, one for Cruz Azul against Estudiantes Tecos in 2006 and the other for Mexico U-23 against South Korea in 1995.

Right Back – Paul Parker – 5”7’:

Credited with two assists in England’s loss to Germany in the 1990 World Cup, Parker was the unfortunate player who after deciding to charge down a Germany free kick was struck with the ball which ended up looping over Peter Shilton to give Germany the lead. He later made amends with a long ball forward which found Gary Lineker in the German penalty area, allowing England’s main man to poke the ball into the goal. Parker came into the World Cup as back up for Gary Stevens, but left as first choice and one of England’s tournament successes.

Signed for £2 million by Manchester United in 1991, Parker was United’s main man at right back until frequent injury and the emergence of Gary Neville called time on his Old Trafford career in 1996. He went on to play for Derby County, Sheffield United as well Fulham, Chelsea and Farnborough Town (All in 1997). He later managed Chelmsford City and Welling United.

Centre Back – Roberto Ayala – 5”9’:

Don’t let his nickname ‘el Raton’, which means The Mouse, fool you. Regarded as one of the best central defender of his generation, Ayala captained the Argentine national side a record 63 times. He appeared in three World Cups and made a total of 115 appearances for his country as well as playing for sides such as Napoli, AC Milan, Valencia and Villarreal. While at Valencia he was named UEFA Club Best Defender of the Year for the 2000-2001 season.

Centre Back – Fabio Cannavaro – 5”9’:

Given the name ‘Muro di Berlino’, which means ‘The Berlin Wall’, Cannavaro is regarded as the best defender of his generation. Cannavaro was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006 becoming only the second defender to be awarded the title after Lothar Matthaus, and also the oldest recipient of the award. Due to Juventus being found guilty of match fixing, the two Serie A titles he won during his time at ‘The Old Lady’ were revoked meaning the only league titles Cannavaro won were the two consecutive La Liga’s won during his time at Real Madrid. He is Italy’s most capped player with 136 appearances to his name and he captained the side from 2002 through to 2010, taking over the role following Paolo Maldini’s retirement.

Left Back – Roberto Carlos – 5”6’:

A return to Pitchside XI’s this week for the bald and very short Brazilian. Part of Real Madrid’s ‘Galactico’ era, Carlos spent most of his career with the Spanish Giants. A master of set pieces – ask Fabian Barthez – and the proud owner of blistering pace, Roberto Carlos won trophy after trophy during his ten seasons with Madrid. Described as “The most offensive-minded left back in the history of the game”, the little Brazilian almost joined Middlesbrough from Inter Milan in 1995 along with Juninho, but opted for the Spanish capital instead (I wonder why??).

Currently managing Sivasspor in Turkey, Carlos played over 600 club games in his career scoring an impressive 75 goals from left back. If you haven’t already seen them, then I suggest you watch his ‘bannana’ free kick against France in 97’ and also his by-line volley against CD Tenerife in 98’.

CDM – Claude Makelele – 5”7’:

As one of my favourite ever players – I class Owen Hargreaves as another, so you can see his appeal – I’m yet to hear of another player who has a position named after him, the ‘Makelele role’ – sat just in front of the defence – is a tribute to one of the finest defensive midfielders to ever grace the turf. A king at breaking up opponents play, a quick mind and positioning sense were keys to Makelele’s success.

Following his transfer to Chelsea in 2003 the then Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez claimed that Madrid would not miss him due to his “average technique” and the fact the jobs he did weren’t basically Galactico worthy… Zinedine Zidane however, had a different take on it, saying “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the engine?”

Makelele was overlooked by the hierarchy at Madrid for not possessing the same attributes as Zidane, Raul, Guti etc. but was held in high esteem by his peers, his absence showed as following his sale, the Galactico-era started to come crumbling down.

RCM – Mathieu Valbuena – 5”6’:

Released by Bordeaux after two seasons playing in their U-18 squad with the likes of Rio Mavuba and Marouane Chamakh, Valbuena spent three seasons playing amateur football, first for Langan-Castets in the fifth division of French football and then Libourne who played in the third tier in the French footballing pyramid.

He signed his first professional deal in 2006 with Marseille, where he has been ever since. He has been given the nickname ‘Le Petit Velo’ which translates into ‘The Small Bike’, a reference to his size and also Marseille’s home ground, Stade Veldrome.

Mathieu Valbuena makes the short XI a full foot shorter than Mertesacker.

Mathieu Valbuena makes the short XI a full foot shorter than Mertesacker.

Deployed as either an attacking midfielder, wide midfielder our out and out winger, Valbuena offers searing pace along with dribbling ability and the attributes to be used as a playmaker for the team.

In a time when all young footballers are given what they want to them on a plate, Valbuena deserves credit for the fight he put in to have a career in the professional game. From rejection at Bordeaux he has fought his way onto the world stage and has become a key player for not only his club but for his country too.

LCM – Edgar Davids – 5”7’:

Dubbed “The Pitbull” by then Netherlands manager, Louis Van Gaal, Davids used to roam the centre of the park sporting his distinctive shades due to suffering from glaucoma. Easily at home, either tenaciously breaking up opponent attacks or creating chances for teammates, Davids was a fine centre midfielder who was chosen by Pele to feature in FIFA’s Top 100 Living Footballers.

Currently manager at Barnet where he is unfortunately making a bit of a fool of himself with erratic behaviour – naming himself captain and giving himself the No. 1 squad number – it would be a shame for his latest exploits to cloud over an illustrious playing career with Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Spurs and ummm Crystal Palace….

CAM – Xavi – 5”7’:

The little Spaniard is a master with the ball at his feet; calm under pressure and a razor sharp footballing mind make him a dangerous opponent.

Worked his way through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and has progressed to be one of their greatest ever players, also holds the record for most trophies won by a Spanish player in their career.

Part of the trio, alongside Iniesta and Messi, that started of the recent domination by the Catalan club.

Striker – Lionel Messi – 5”’7:

As a child, Messi was told that he would never make it as a footballer because he was too small. Six La Liga titles, Two Copa del Rey’s, six Supercopa de Espana’s, three Champions League’s, Two Super Cup’s, two FIFA Club World Cup’s, one Olympic Gold Medal, one U-20 World Cup and four Ballon d’Or’s says differently, eh?

Striker – Romario 5”7’ :

One of the few to surpass the 1000 goal mark in their career and is the second most prolific goalscorer in the history of the game, Romario is a true Brazilian great.

Spent a vast amount of his career in Brazil but also had success in Europe with PSV and Barcelona.

Currently a politician back home in Brazil and has spoken out against many FIFA members including Sepp Blatter. Is one of many who believe the World Cup in 2018 was ‘bought’ by the Russians and ‘stolen’ from England.

and of course…

The Chairmen – George Pacitto & Jak Harris

Obscure XI’s // Week One – Beard vs. Bald

Each week two presenters from the panel will go head-to-head in naming the best XI they can think of, with a twist. In the first instalment of our brand-spanking new feature, Jamie “Loving Carlisle” Connor has pipped for “Beard” whereas Harry “Don’t like Photos” (in-joke, there folks) Barker has chosen “Bald” and that’s where we start; let battle commence!

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Bald XI

The Gaffer – Gianluca Vialli:

Italians pride themselves on their grooming ability, as well demonstrated in Jamie’s Bearded XI. The same however, cannot be said for former Chelsea boss and fellow Italian Vialli who has very little to groom.

Goalkeeper – Brad Friedel:

Friedel made an appearance in the Premier League recently at the age of 42. He hasn’t made an appearance in a Barber shop for the last ten years.

Right Back – Lillian Thuram:

Probably the best right-back of our generation and similarly to Leboeuf was in the World Cup and Euro winning tournaments. Also similarly to Leboeuf, bald.

Centre Back – Jaap Stam:

Memorable for his penalty miss in Euro 2000 that recently landed in my back garden, but also for his remarkably bald head. I’m being harsh on him; he was a mammoth for the Red Devils’, enough to give him the nod ahead of the likes of Martin Skrtel.

Centre Back – Frank Leboeuf:

This man has done it all. A World Cup, European Championship, two FA Cup’s and a League Cup to reel of Lebouef’s honours list. A career that shine’s as bright as his noggin!

Left Back – Roberto Carlos:

The most consistently bald man in the entire team. Fillipo Inzaghi was born to the sight of midwives waving off-side flags and hasn’t been on-side since; Carlos was born without hair and that’s how it’s remained since.

Right Midfield – Arjen Robben:

This man was balding when he joined Chelsea at the age of 20. I’m not sure he’s had a full head of hair in his life. Though there may be concerns over his ability to grow hair and maybe his attitude too, his ability as a winger could not be overlooked in my side.

"Cheer up Arjen, not everyone can have hair."

“Cheer up Arjen, not everyone can have hair.”

Centre Midfield – Wesley Sneijder:

Sneijder’s hair problem may have improved mysteriously over the last few years but make no mistake, the Dutchman has hair-loss problems. There was no doubting these problems as he guided the Netherlands to a World Cup Final and Inter Milan to a Champions League title.

Centre Midfield – Temuri Ketsbaia:

I had to include a Newcastle man in this XI, and who better than the mad-man himself. More memorable for his OTT celebrations, one where he memorably kicked seven shades of sh*t out of an innocent advertising board, rumour has it the advertisement was for hair dye. The Georgian took offence.

Left Midfield – Zinedine Zidane:

No bald XI would ever be complete without this man. My chrome-domed captain, “Zizou”. Arguably the best player of his generation which thankfully meant his baldness took a backseat.

Striker – Jan Koller:

Would also be at home in a “Giants” XI. It was hard to miss Jan Koller and just as hard to miss his impressively bald head.

Striker – Carsten Jancker:

We remember him well because he scored the early goal that made the Germans think they were going to thump us back in 2001. The rest is history, and so is his hairless head.

And the opposition

Beard XI

The Gaffer – Pep Guardiola

Arguably the most trendy manager there has ever been. (Mourinho and AVB dont even come close in my book.) Guardiola now blesses Bayern Munich with his presence and that fine beard is seen on a regular basis in Munich. If people think that Xavi, Iniesta or Messi were the catalysts to Barca’s success, they should think again. Of course it wasn’t them, it was Guardiola’s beard. Don’t ever shave Pep.

Goalkeeper – Tim Howard

Where did that majestic beard come from? It grew over night it seems. After saving a Christian Benteke penalty in October, he told The Metro “I think I’ve gained most of my strength from the beard.” Easily the greatest beard ever owned by a professional goalkeeper. Fair play Tim Howard.

Right Back – Abel Xavier

Renowned for his bleach blonde beard and hair, Xavier is an easily identifiable man. With a style like no one else, Xavier made a career out of looking cool. I was never his biggest fan as a player but how could he not be named in a bearded XI? Top beard lad!

Centre Back – Gerard Pique

When Pique was at Manchester United, he was clean shaven and only played 12 times. Since growing a beard Pique has won four La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues, one World Cup and a European Championship, (to name a few). Is it a coincidence that all his success came while owning a beard? No Chance!

Centre Back – Olof Mellberg

Quite reminiscent of a tramp, Mellberg has always had a beard. The former Aston Villa man came out of the womb sporting a mask of facial hair. An original beard trend setter, he is the heart beat of my bearded XI.

Left Back – Gianluca Zambrotta

I struggled finding a worthy left back with a quality beard so I had to settle for Zambrotta. Not a bad thing. This Italian footballing icon has sported a beard for years. Legend has it, if Zambrotta hadn’t had his beard during the 2006 World Cup, Italy would have lost. I rest my case. Gianluca, congratulations, you’ve made the bearded XI.

Defensive Midfield – Gennaro Gattuso

This fearless and ferocious midfielder protected Milan’s back four for 13 years. An original trend setter, Gattuso has sported his beard ever since he put on a Milan jersey. Crunching into a tackle with Gattuso is made all the more terrifying when you take his beard into account.

Right Midfield – David Beckham

I don’t really admire Beckham as much as most but I have to say that he knows how to handle a beard. Yes, David Beckham has embraced the beard in a whole new way. For years people have imitated Becks and his style and now many are attempting to copy his immaculate facial hair. I tried my hardest to think of another winger who has had a beard but couldn’t so hey, Becks, you’re up!

Centre Midfield – Andrea Pirlo

Easily the best beard I have ever seen in my entire life, Andrea Pirlo sports a fantastic beard. I first noticed it during Euro 2012 and since then it has continued to evolve. Adored by football hipsters for his playing style and of course his beard, Pirlo has become somewhat of a cult hero. For a reason unknown to me, Pirlo has only been recently seen as one the world’s best midfielders. I’m putting it down to the emergence of that outstanding beard. Congratulations Pirlo, you win at life!

Centre Midfield – Xabi Alonso

The Real Madrid playmaker rocks that ginger beard like no other could. Not only is Alonso a wonderful footballer and the fulcrum of one of the world’s most famous clubs, he has a phenomenal beard that has to be respected. Thanks to Xabi Alonso, it is now deemed acceptable to have some ginger fuzz on your face. Congratulations gingers. (Mawky will be pleased)

Separated by rivalry, United by brotherhood

Separated by rivalry, United by beardhood

Left Midfield – Robert Pires

Although there wasn’t much hair on his face, Pires and his tiny hair strip on his chin was just as impressive as a full grown beard. Imagine the effort and time he put into maintaining that strip every morning. Granted, it does look ridiculous but so does wearing a hair band when you’re a man so fair play to him for that. Pires is only included in my team because of the amount of effort he made with his facial hair. More a sympathy vote than anything.

Striker – Djibril Cisse

Cisse is the owner of arguably the most outrageous fashion sense of any professional footballer. He will always be remembered for having crazy looking bleach blonde hair and beard. Not many people could pull it off but because it’s Djibril, we will let him away with it. Cisse has a lot of work to do being the lone striker in my team, but the power of his beard will help him through.

and of course…

The Chairmen – Harry Barker & Jamie Connor