20 Favourite Footballers

Regular users of Twitter will be well aware of the term ‘trending’. For those who aren’t, ‘trending’ is basically when a multitude of people are tweeting about something and using a hash-tag (one of these #). If enough people do this, then it shows up on a list of most popular subjects. From time to time, I have a look at what the country is apparently ‘talking about’, and today, I saw a trend for #20favouritefootballers.

Firstly, I wondered how you could fit your twenty favourites into a 140 character message, before moving on to the puzzle of actually selecting my choice of twenty. I left it at three and moved on. But now, I’ve decided to revisit the subject in the less restrictive medium of this hallowed blog. And here, in no particular order are my twenty favourite footballers of all time.

1) Paul Gascoigne
Call him a genius, or an idiot who abused his talent, Gazza, as the world affectionately called him, was easily one of the greatest English players ever. From the moment he burst on to the scene as a fresh faced youngster at Newcastle to his coming of age at the 1990 World Cup Finals, he lit up the nations football pitches. His rash challenge in the ’91 Cup Final which wrecked his move to Lazio heralded the ‘flawed genius’ years which saw him make the eventual move to Italy, spend a few years there, then return to British shores with Rangers. The sectarian celebrations, and then the build up to Euro ’96 – the ‘Dentists Chair’ incident to be precise brought the weight of the British press upon him, only for his footballing genius to take centre stage with THAT goal and THAT celebration against Scotland, followed by the milimetres between his stud and the ball in the semi-final against the Germans, and win our hearts all over again. But the end was signalled when Glenn Hoddle unexpectedly left him out of the World Cup squad in 1998. Robbed of one last chance to perform on the world’s greatest stage, his career from then was on a steady decline, and post-career, he has experienced a catalogue of personal problems that have threatened to overshadow his glorious yet chequered footballing life.

2) Diego Maradona
A controversial choice for an Englishman perhaps, as a favourite footballer. But take away the ‘Hand of God’, and remember the other goal he scored in that game in 1986. He left a trail of England’s best (at the time) behind him, rounded a flailing Shilton and poked the ball home. Then he almost single handedly won the Serie A title for Napoli. Then in 1990, whilst Gazza was shining, Maradona joined his Argentine team-mates in the most un-inspiring routes to the final, and defeat by the ‘bloody Germans’. Drug problems cost him a spell out of the game, and his return in 1994 was short-lived – a positive drugs test after a frightening goal celebration saw him sent home from USA ’94 in disgrace. In spite of all this, he was still entertaining, and a bloody awesome player in his prime. Seeing him on the side-lines during Argentina’s 2010 World Cup campaign almost made up for having to watch England flounder and flop.

3) Gary Lineker
Controversial he wasn’t. A goal scoring legend he was. My first footballing memory of Lineker was his fruitless performance at the Euro ’88 championships. Then came the World Cup in 1990. The expression on his face as he celebrated David Platt’s last gasp goal against Belgium is priceless. His two penalties that helped beat Cameroon in the next round and spare our blushes were crucial. Even his equaliser against West Germany in the semi-final, as he raised both arms in the air and threw his head back. Who can also forget the way he signalled to the bench after Gazza’s booking which ruled him out of a potential World Cup final? His England career was brought to a cruel end by Graham Taylor in 1992, and he finished just one goal behind the record 49. He moved on to play in Japan’s newborn J-League to see out his playing days, and now his grey hair and big ears can be seen fronting BBC’s Match of the Day highlights and various other sporting events.

4) Tony Kelly
Many of you will be thinking ‘Who?’ But to Shrewsbury fans, Tony Kelly is possibly the best midfielder we have had the privilege to witness in our colours. He wasn’t there long, but my memories are of him during Shrewsbury’s run to the FA Cup 5th Round against Arsenal. He went on to have a bigger impact at Bolton, but is still held in high esteem with us Salopians.

5) Michael Owen
The little pint-sized striker burst onto the scene for Liverpool at the end of the 97/98 season (I think), and was included in the World Cup squad as our secret weapon. He duly delivered, most memorably against Argentina with THAT goal. Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent yet another penalty disaster for England. After scoring plenty of goals for Liverpool, he moved on to Real Madrid, then Newcastle. Sadly, injuries began to play a larger part in his career, and after a move to Manchester United to spend a couple of years moving between the bench and the treatment room, he is now waiting for perhaps one last opportunity to grace the Premier League.

6) Joe Hart
England’s Number One. Started his career at Shrewsbury, of course. After only one full season , Manchester City took him from us and he blossomed into the player he is today.

7) Jermain Grandison
When he first arrived at Shrewsbury, I have to admit I didn’t rate him. He looked fragile and got sent off as Town got hammered 5-0 at Torquay. But last season, he became a legend. Solid defensively, he added some silky skills to his repertoir – step-overs, mazy runs, and a devilish bullet header to beat Southend at home. Hopefully Graham Turner has got him signed up on a twenty year contract.

8) Matt Le Tissier
He of the amazing goals, a one-club man. But never really given the proper chance to shine in an England shirt. Now he can be found on Sky Sports News taking a regular ribbing from Jeff Stelling.

9) Eric Cantona
Putting his United ties aside, he is quite simply the best player we have had the luck to have play on our shores. He had skill to burn, commanded respect of his team-mates and to some extent opponents, considering alot of them tried to get him sent off. His legendary kung-fu attack on a fan at Crystal Palace took him out of the game for nine months (and don’t forget the ‘seagulls’ quote) but his return saw him propel United to more League titles and a Cup win over Liverpool. Then, he retired at the top of his game, safeguarding his hero status.

10) Mario Balotelli
Ah, yes. ‘Super Mario’. A man who can both delight and frustrate in one go. At such a tender age, with a bit of maturity, he can become one of the best. But if you take away the edge, would you have the same player? In Roberto Mancini, he has a mentor, someone who can help him channel his temperamental being into good football. Only time will tell.

11) Grant Holt
The last proven goalscorer that Shrewsbury had. After being rescued from Nottingham Forest, he came down to play in League Two, and he put himself about, scoring goals, and winning Shrewsbury hearts. Then, he was gone again. To Norwich, where he has helped them from League One to the Premier League in consecutive seasons, proving why Shrewsbury were justified in paying over £150,00 for him.

12) Jurgen Klinsmann
Okay, okay he was German. And if you put his diving reputation aside, and remember the goals, and the smile on his face as he celebrated his first goal for Tottenham with a dive along the ground. He played a large part in that season for Tottenham as they tried to overcome sanctions imposed due to previous misdemeanors, although they were ultimately lifted. Then, a few years on, as Tottenham struggled against potential relegation, he returned to save them.

13) Ally McCoist
The wee Scotsman. Most famous for his Rangers days, scoring a shed load of goals as they racked up 9 titles in a row. Then, he had a spell as cheeky Ally the Question of Sport captain, before returning to football as Walter Smith’s assistant. He took over at Rangers when Smith retired, only to have the misfortune to manage them through the most turbulent time of any big football club. I doubt anyone could foresee the scale of calamity that has befallen Rangers, but Ally McCoist has conducted himself in an exemplary way as they lurched from one disaster to another. Now, he will get the opportunity to shepherd them through the re-birth of this once great giant of Scottish football.

14) Dirk Kuyt
He’s a hard working player who, while he may not light up the game with silky skills, will play for his team and always give his best. He should have a place in all Liverpool fans’ hearts after his spell at the club came to an end this summer. I’m not even a Liverpool supporter!

15) Mickey Brown
Another Shrewsbury legend. He enjoyed three separate spells with the club, firstly until his move to Bolton along with Tony Kelly, then he returned to the club for another few years before heading off to Preston, only to return and play his part in the club’s legendary ‘Great Escape’ by scoring two goals away at Exeter on the final day to avoid relegation by a whisker. Since retiring from professional football, he’s had various stints at non-league teams, even my local village side, Shawbury United.

16) Alessandro Del Piero
Quality player who has done the business for both Juventus and Italy over the years. Stuck with Juve during the match-fixing scandal prior to the 2006 World Cup, scored the crucial second goal in the semi-final win over hosts Germany, and proceeded to get Juve back to Serie A after only one season in the wilderness. 

17) Robbie Fowler
One of the game’s natural goalscorers. Liverpool fans still refer to him as ‘God’. Another player who has had his controversies (the goal celebration against Everton, the Graeme Le Saux incident), but despite it all was a general all-round good honest player. Oh and he scored plenty of goals too! After leaving Liverpool (he felt he was hounded out by Gerard Houllier) he moved on to Leeds, Man City, and then returned to Liverpool for one last swansong.

18) Stuart Pearce
Good ol’ “Psycho”. A monster of a left back who gave the best years of his life to Nottingham Forest and England. It was a brave man who got in the way of a Stuart Pearce free-kick, and an even braver one who tried to get the better of him. His penalty miss in 1990 hung over him until that cathartic moment in Euro ’96 when he scored in the penalty shoot-out win over Spain. He scored again the semi-final shoot-out against the dreaded Germans to completely banish the ghost, only for Gareth Southgate to assume the spectre of penalty misery. As a manager, he hasn’t enjoyed quite the same success. But he’ll always be “Psycho”.

19) Gheorghe Hagi
The Romanian midfield general, the ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’. Another player you would not want to cross. He helped Romania to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup, beating Argentina on the way in grand style. A left foot to die for. 

20) Paolo Di Canio
Now, is he most famous for his West Ham days, as Swindon manager, or from when he pushed over the ref while playing for Sheffield Wednesday? That incident aside, he has been a great player for the likes of AC Milan, Celtic, West Ham and Lazio. His heart is with Lazio (see some of his many tattoos), even spending time with the Ultras when not playing. Now as an aspiring and inspiring manager, he could well be on the path to greatness again. Even if he did persuade James Collins to leave my beloved Shrewsbury to join the ongoing Swindon revolution!

So, there it is, my 20 favourite footballers. I’ve gone for players that I’ve seen in my lifetime – either live or on television, because I feel how can I like a player that I’ve never seen play? And it’s not a greatest player list either, hence no Pele, Puskas or John McGinlay.
Who would your top twenty be?!


One thought on “20 Favourite Footballers

  1. Regarding your no. 17: Robbie Fowler may have all but disappeared from public view. But he still has a training role at Liverpool. I know this because my uncle caught up with him this very weekend (along with other players) on a pitch … in Canada. I kid you not.

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