By now you've seen only terrible teams and for that I'm sorry. Mechanick gave you a Loathsome Person XI and Edward built a narrow side centered around a fragile madman. Ashlock benched a two time Ballon d'Or winner in favor of...uhh...Gary Speed. And Kevin's outing as a closet Manchester United fan will be particularly hard to watch (Editor's note: Kevin's squad was supposed to have already been posted, but he's busy/lazy). But fear not, dear readers, at last I bring you a Best XI worthy of the name.
Here's how my squad will primarily be lining up:
Gordon Banks: Minding the net is the legendary Gordon Banks, the only British goalkeeper to ever win the World Cup. He is perhaps best known for his save against Pele in the 1970 World Cup, widely considered to be the greatest save of all time. People speculate the only reason England failed to become repeat winners in '70 was because Banks was struck down with food poisoning before their quarter final meeting with Germany.
When people on the Internet make lists about things and talk about the best goalkeepers in history, Banks is regularly selected alongside such luminaries as Lev Yashin and Dino Zoff as one of the top handful of keepers to ever play the game. He is the best goalkeeper to ever come out of Britain, and arguably the best in the history of the world. Basically, Gordon Banks makes my competitors' keepers look like Heurelho Gomes.
Rob Green: This is my backup keeper, cruelly foisted on me by a vindictive Kevin McCauley. Tragically, Rob Green was torn apart by wild dogs prior to the start of the tournament.
Terry Butcher: The burly 6'4 Butcher anchored the Three Lions defense in three straight World Cups from '82 to '90. He was a monster in the air and the physical embodiment of fearless defending. In a key WC qualifier in Sweden, Butcher suffered a deep gash to his forehead. Head bandaged, Butcher famously played through the pain and gave a relentless display to secure the necessary point, despite being literally covered in his own blood as it poured out of his head.
His club career was pretty impressive too. He took Ipswich Town to victory in the UEFA Cup and as captain at Rangers he wrested the title back from Celtic in his first season after it had spent the previous 9 years on the other side of Glasgow. He went on to win the league 3 out of his 4 seasons there. The one season Rangers didn't win? Butcher was out with a broken leg. Draw your own conclusions.
Mike England: Like Butcher, the Welshman ironically named England is another big center back who's strong in the tackle and beastly in the air. A key member of the Spurs side from '66-'75, England combined rugged defensive qualities with excellent ball-playing skills. Alongside Bobby Moore, named by George Best as the greatest CB he ever played with or against. England was also the youngest ever Wales captain in history until someone mistakenly thought Aaron Ramsey was good at football.
Danny McGrain: The Celtic legend is arguably the best fullback the UK has ever seen. Primarily a right back, McGrain was equally capable on both sides of the pitch. He won 7 league titles with Celtic and was voted into their all-time Best XI. Tough-tackling at the back and dangerous going forward with wicked crossing ability, McGrain would be very much at home in the modern game. He was renowned for his fitness and able to chase up and down the pitch all day. In fact, he was in such good shape that in a charity match in 2006, the 56-year old McGrain kept Steve McManaman, Liverpool's best player in the 90s and over 20 years his junior, completely in his pocket for 45 minutes. Suck it, Macca.
Ashley Cole: Yes, I know, he's completely loathsome and we're all surprised Mechanick didn't pick him up. But for all his terrible qualities as a human being, in his prime Ashley Cole was the best left back in the world. Period. If anyone's going to shut down wingers of the caliber of George Best and Sir Stanley Matthews, it's this guy.
Jimmy Armfield: A one club man, "Gentleman Jim" Armfield spent his entire career at Blackpool and was never sent off in almost 700 appearances for club and country and only ever received one yellow card in his entire career. He began his career at Bloomfield Road in 1954, in an era where men were men and fullbacks existed to put crunching tackles on speedy wingers. But Armfield was a different breed.
Not only a classy defender, his real strength came from his brilliant attacking play and is widely considered to be the first ever attacking fullback in the game. At the '62 World Cup he was hailed as the best right back in the world. In 1966, he finished just behind Bobby Charlton for the Writers' Footballer of the Year award. As a right back. He would have started for England in the '66 World Cup had it not been for injury. Despite not playing in the tournament, as a senior member of the squad he stayed with the team anyway because he was a seriously classy dude. Hopefully he rubs off on Ashley Cole in the locker room.
Danny Blanchflower: The Northern Irishman was my first pick in the draft and is the heartbeat of my team. The Spurs legend is probably the greatest player in our history and captained our historic double winning side. Blanchflower was renowned for his keen tactical mind and visionary passing ability, both short and long. He was masterful at controlling the tempo of a game, finding space where none seemed to be, and picking passes that nobody else on the field could see. He had perhaps the most intelligent football mind of anyone to ever play the game and is one of only 8 players to win the Writers' Footballer of the Year award on multiple occasions.
If you don't know who this guy is, for the love of god stop everything you're doing and go learn more about the history of the team you support. You will not regret it.
Billy Bremner: The other half of my double pivot is Leeds United's greatest ever player and captain of their legendary "Dirty Leeds" side under Don Revie. The 5'5 Scottish terrier is mostly remembered as an ankle-biting hardman, and very few players managed to get the better of him over 90 minutes. But he was also much more dynamic than that. Bremner could spray passes around the pitch and had a knack for chipping in with the odd goal at crucial times. He had an engine that could go for days and ran himself ragged for the cause. He drove his team with sheer force of will and tenacity. A born winner.
David Platt: Backing them up is goal scoring midfielder Platt. Dumped by Manchester United's academy as a teenager, he became one of Ron Atkinson's biggest managerial mistakes. He won the PFA Player of the Year Award as he nearly led Aston Villa to a league title. He then went on to enjoy trophy-laden spells at Juventus, Sampdoria, and Arsenal.
He was an excellent passer and dribbler in the heart of midfielder, but his real strength was his goal scoring prowess from deep. He hit 19 league goals two seasons in a row for Villa, and his clinical finishing from midfield makes him the perfect impact player if I'm chasing a game.
"Jinky" Jimmy Johnstone: One of the "Lisbon Lions" who won the European Cup in 1967, Johnstone was voted the greatest ever Celtic player by their fans. Jinky was absolutely dazzling with the ball at his feet and delighted in torturing defenders with this intricate ball skills. He had an excellent goalscoring record from the wing and as his game matured he developed the ability to play in the hole or even as a striker.
After inspiring Celtic to their European Cup victory, the team was invited to participate in a testimonial match for the legendary Real Madrid player Alfredo Di Stefano. Johnstone was easily the best player on the pitch. He obliterated one of the greatest sides in history and such was his mesmeric skill that the Madrid fans cheered "Ole!" every time he skinned their defenders. Respect.
Sir Tom Finney: Another genius on the wing, the "Preston Plumber" redefined wing play in the post-war era alongside compatriot Stanley Matthews. He had two brilliant feet and was comfortable on either flank, able to go inside or outside his defender at pace. Not only was he a sublime dribbler, but he had deadly passing accuracy, a great reading of the game, and could finish with either foot. It was once said of Sir Tom that if all the brains in the game came together to design the perfect player, they would come up with him.
A one club man, Finney spent his entire career carrying his Preston teammates on his back. He had an almost 1 in 2 strike rate from the wing for club and country and was the first player to ever win the Footballer of the Year award twice.
Billy Liddell: On the bench is powerful Liverpool winger Billy Liddell. Unlike Jinky and Finney, Liddell's game was much more about pace and raw physicality. He had a stocky build and tons of body strength that he used to great effect powering past defenders. Capable on either wing, Liddell was a sort of prototypical Hulk, eschewing fancy stepovers for direct runs at goal and cannon of a shot. He's 4th on Liverpool's all-time goalscoring charts and offers a great option off the bench.
Matt Le Tissier: A technically brilliant attacking midfielder, the man they call "Le God" on the south coast completes my midfield. Le Tiss had a fabulous goalscoring record and the ability to bang them in from all over the pitch, becoming the first midfielder in the Premier League era to hit 100 goals. He also had phenomenal close control and could dribble through entire teams on a whim. You could do a lot worse with the next hour of your life than sitting on youtube watching his highlights.
Wilf Mannion: My third player of the immediate post-war era is probably the most obscure guy on my team. He began his career before WWII hit England, but the prime of his career was robbed by a stint with the army. Even so, the Middlesbrough inside forward nicknamed "Golden Boy" came back to dazzle the country with his telepathic passing and canny dribbling. Stanley Matthews called him the Mozart of football and Tom Finney rated him his perfect partner in attack.
Jimmy Greaves: My spine of Spurs legends is completed by perhaps the greatest goalscorer England has ever produced. Greavsie did not score spectacular goals, just a spectacular number of them. He was the leading goalscorer in the First Division on 6 occasions, a record that still stands today, and has scored the most goals in the history of England's top division. He had the brilliant ability to pass the ball into the net from anywhere in the box. It wasn't anything fancy, he just picked the exact spot in the goal that nobody could get to and rolled the ball in. Though he's remembered primarily as a goalscorer, Greaves was also a pheonomenal dribbler. He could go through opponents with ease to create space for a shot and his favorite move was drawing out the keeper and rounding him before slotting into an empty net. If anyone can finish off the attacks my midfield creates, Greavsie can.
Ian Rush: Ahead of Liverpool goalscoring greats like Dalglish, Fowler, and Owen, Ian Rush stands alone as their all-time leading goalscorer and the first Brit to win the European Golden Boot. He had a wide array of goalscoring tricks, ranging from tap-ins to long range pile drivers, but his greatest skill was the ability to accelerate behind a defense and latch onto through balls where he'd best goalkeepers one-on-one. Between him and Greaves, my forward line has over 700 goals between them.
Ian Wright: Finishing out my squad is Arsenal great Ian Wright. I know he played for Arsenal, but I got him with the second to last overall pick in the draft. For a guy who's second only to Henry on Arsenal's all-time scoring charts, I'll gladly take him as my third choice striker. And if he never sees the pitch, we can all take pleasure that he's being kept out of the team by a better player from Spurs.
So that's my squad. I envision them playing a very modern 4-2-3-1, with rampaging fullbacks charging up the pitch. My double pivot combines strength and power with silky passing and vision. The midfield free should interchange, swap flanks, and provide a goal threat and incisive passing from all over the field. At the top, I have three brilliant strikers to choose from to finish off moves and beat opposition defenses. I also have the flexibility to switch to a 4-4-2 with more traditional wingers and if I'm chasing a game I have two goalscoring midfielders in Liddell and Platt to bang in the game winner.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair. I'm winning this thing.