For my next challenge in making up a themed Liverpool eleven, I was thinking about players who had represented their country as well as playing for Liverpool. It’s often been said that whenever Liverpool take the field, it is normal to see eleven international players from various countries at the start, with a few more on the bench. In the early days, this was mainly English and Scottish internationals, but as time has passed by we have seen more and more diverse countries represented.
Now, it is possible to make up a squad of eleven players with each one having represented a different country. Just think about a squad made up of Reina (Spain) in goal, Hyypia (Finland), Riise (Norway), Aurelio (Brazil), and Agger (Denmark) at the back, with Gerrard (England), Mascherano (Argentina), Gonzalez (Chile) and Kewell (Australia) in midfield, then add Kuyt (Holland) and Bellamy (Wales) up front. That’s eleven different countries, and if you then have Sissoko (Mali), Le Tallec (France), Finnan (Ireland), El Zhar (Morocco), and round off the bench with young goalkeeper Mihaylov (Bulgaria), you can see how easy it is to have every player from a different country.
In fact it would be easy to have an entire Champions League squad of eleven plus seven substitutes with all of them from different countries – and none from England! Of course that would only happen in the unlikely event that Stevie G was somehow not playing (it would take an injury or a suspension for that) and of course it would take away all of the ‘œEnglish’ character of the squad that is considered to be so important.
So, thinking about English players, why not a squad of past and present Liverpool players who have all represented England? It didn’t take much effort to come up with a lengthy list, going back to Roger Hunt who played in the 1996 World Cup winning side, to the most recent squad with Gerrard, Crouch, Carragher and Carson all having gone to Germany in 2006. In fact, the list was so long that I had trouble just cutting it down to the allowed squad of twenty three. That is how many are allowed to be named to appear once the World Cup starts, with eleven to be selected for each match. The remaining players sit patiently waiting for their chance to be called as substitutes. Enough of the introduction, let’s get on with selecting the squad.
For goalkeepers, I’m going to take three: Ray Clemence who has made the most appearances (56), and backed up by David James (34 but only 1 while with Liverpool) as second choice, and I’m also taking Scott Carson who made the trip in 2006 but has yet to make his senior debut (he has played at Under 21 and England B level).
I’m not particularly defensive minded in this squad, so I’ll take six defenders (Eriksson took seven) with a few of the obvious choices being Jamie Carragher (34), Phil Thompson (41), and Mark Wright (5) for the central positions, then Gerry Byrne (2) and Tommy Smith (1) to handle the physical stuff, and finally Chris Lawler (4) on the right side to be pushing forward into attack.
The midfield is difficult with a long list of eligible names, but my first choice is going to be Emlyn Hughes (59) as captain (23). The mighty Emlyn can also cover defensively which can be very useful depending on how a game is going. Of course I’m going to put Steven Gerrard (57) in the middle with freedom to roam as he sees fit (unlike certain England managers who want him to play defensively). I’d like to take Paul Ince, again to add some steel to the middle of the park, but he didn’t make any England appearances while with Liverpool. So, I’ll take Danny Murphy (9) and then add six more to make a total of nine midfielders. Those six has to include Steve McManaman (24) and John Barnes (79) to add lots of creativity and individual flair that we don’t normally see, along with Ian Callaghan (4) from the 1966 squad. The remaining three will be Jamie Redknapp (17), Steve McMahon (17), and Terry McDermott (25).
That brings us to the forwards, and it’s not going to be easy to choose the remaining five. I have to put in Roger Hunt (34) from the 1966 squad as the only Liverpool player to win a World Cup winners medal. The remaining four will be the current England squad pairing of Michael Owen (60) and Peter Crouch (19), plus Robbie Fowler (26) and Peter Beardsley (39).
That makes up the squad of twenty three, but what about management? Well, we have some experience there with Kevin Keegan having managed during 1999 and 2000, plus Phil Neal who was assistant manager to Graham Taylor in the run up to the unsuccessful 1994 campaign, and most recently Sammy Lee who was on Eriksson’s staff as a coach.
The hardest part of the selection was of course leaving out so many players. It’s disappointing to realise that I had to omit some of my favourites including Alan Kennedy, Nick Barmby, and Larry Lloyd. But, it was not so difficult to leave out a few others such as Emile Heskey, John Scales, Neil Ruddock, and Chris Kirkland. The only thing now that could be harder is to pick the starting eleven. Well, it has to be done so here goes:
Carragher, Smith, Lawler, Byrne
Hughes, Gerrard, Barnes, McManaman
Manager: Kevin Keegan
Asst Mgr: Phil Neal
Head Coach: Sammy Lee
Well, that’s that for this Liverpool XI, but of course now I’m thinking of some other interesting international squads that I might be able to put together, so stay tuned for those to come in the near future. Of course, if you have any suggestions for a themed Liverpool XI then by all means send it in. I’d love to see some ideas from other readers so get your thinking (not your international) caps on and get busy!