One of our local television stations was recently showing a double feature of Ocean’s Eleven. First, it was the original version with the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr., Joey Bishop, et al) and then followed by the more modern George Clooney version. For some strange reason, I had this idea of Scousers Eleven pop into my head, which would be the story of a group of lads from Merseyside going off to Blackpool to rob the penny arcades.
Well, that was a bit of a laugh but then an unrelated thought came to mind where Rafa had been talking about the importance of keeping locally produced players in the squad. Suddenly the idea of a Scouse eleven didn’t seem so ridiculous, but this was actually just the start of thinking about making up various squads of players from past and present Liverpool sides, with each one having a particular theme (that is, other than choosing the all time best Liverpool eleven or something along those lines).
So, for the first of the series, I’m going to attempt to come up with a complete team of Scouse players. Let’s see how this works out.
I run into problems right from the start here, as I could only find one Liverpool born goalkeeper ‘“ Billy Molyneux, who played one game in the 1964/65 season. He’ll have to do, but I’m going to invoke a pre-Bosman type rule where I can have up to three non-Scousers just as clubs could have three non-Brits. With that in mind I’m going to put Tommy Lawrence on the bench, partly because Molyneux would have been his understudy at that time, and also because some of the other ‘˜keepers will be used for other Liverpool XI’s
This is fairly easy, as long as I’m careful not to pick a player that I might want for one of those other squads. I’ll go with Gerry Byrne on the left, Tommy Smith and Phil Thompson in the middle, and Chris Lawler on the right. That looks like a good combination of steel and speed at the back, with the potential for a few goals whenever they push forward on set pieces or overlapping runs. I could have chosen Jamie Carragher, but he’s another player who’s going to be lining up in another squad yet to come.
This gets a little more difficult, but first choice and obvious captain is Steven Gerrard. Not just local, but Liverpool through and through and arguably the best midfield player in Europe. In the centre with him I’m going with Ian Callaghan. Even though Callie started out as an orthodox right-winger, he later took the central midfield role and excelled in that position for several years. Over on the right, it has to be Jimmy Case. He was released by Liverpool before his prime, and this is a chance for him to show exactly what he could have done for us if he had stayed. Jason McAteer takes up the left side of midfield even though it’s not his natural side. A few other ‘œobvious’ players are noticeably absent, but once again they will turn up in a future XI.
First choice for a guaranteed goal scorer is John Aldridge. Second choice for a guaranteed goal scorer is Robbie Fowler. Or should that be the other way around? I don’t know how these two would work together, but wouldn’t you love to see it? Both of these players are ready to give their all for the club, and as supporters we can’t ask for any more than that.
I’ll assume this is a squad for the Premier League, where we are allowed to have five players named as substitutes on the bench. The trick is to have a good balance of players to choose from, while meeting the requirements of this particular side.
As already explained, non-Scouser Tommy Lawrence is on the bench as reserve ‘˜keeper.
The next choice should be no surprise as David ‘œsupersub’ Fairclough is ready to come on for that all important late winner if needed and Howard Gayle is ready to add some pace on the wing if that looks like being productive. I have to start digging into the reserve squads now to make up the bench, but I’ve given an opportunity for Colin Irwin (1979-81) in defence and John Welsh (2002-2005) in midfield. They’ve seen a limited amount of first team action, and this is an opportunity for them to be blooded into the side for the future.
The legendary boot room philosophy is extremely helpful here as there is a long list of former players who joined the coaching staff after their playing days were over. Ronnie Moran, Roy Evans, Sammy Lee, Doug Livermore, Phil Thompson, and others were all local players who stayed with the club in one capacity or another.
Manager: Joe Fagan. It could have been Roy Evans, or I could have gone with Phil Thompson who acted as manager while Gerrard Houllier was recovering from his heart surgery, or Ronnie Moran who acted as caretaker manager on more than one occasion. But, Thommo is already in the side as a player, and for the other two see below. Besides, I’ll go with Fagan as he was the most successful of all the candidates, winning three major trophies at the end of his first season in charge.
Assistant Manager: Doug Livermore. Again, it could have been several others but I’ll go with Doug who was a player from 1967 to 1971, and was an assistant manager under Roy Evans from 1994 to 1998.
Coaches: Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans. This is where the talents of this pair come into play. Sammy Lee is another obvious candidate but he’s in another squad to come later.
Physio: Phil Boersma. When Bob Paisley took over from Bill Shankly, Phil Boersma left Liverpool for Middlesbrough in December 1975. After a broken ankle brought his playing days to an end, he went into coaching and physiotherapy. He filled that role for Graeme Souness at Rangers, and then at Liverpool from 1991 to 1994.
That gives us a respectable squad which would line up as below:
Lawler Byrne Smith Thompson
Callaghan Gerrard Case McAteer
Subs: Lawrence, Fairclough, Gayle, Irwin, Welsh
Manager: Joe Fagan
Asst. Mngr: Doug Livermore
Coaches: Ronnie Moran & Roy Evans
Physio: Phil Boersma