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Graham Taylor: Perfect XI

Graham Taylor
(Image credit: Getty)

It's five years to do the day since Graham Taylor passed away.

The legendary boss certainly knew how to pick a line-up, 'n' all. When FFT sat down with the former England, Watford and Aston Villa manager back in 2006 (time really does fly), Taylor went through the greats of the game and combined some of his favourites for his all-time XI.

He even picked a manager, too. We miss you dearly, Graham – thanks for these great choices.

Goalkeeper: Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks

(Image credit: PA)

An obvious choice, maybe, but only because he was such a superb player. 

People always remember his save against Pele in 1970, but the thing that I liked about Gordon was that he only ever made saves that were necessary, he didn't do flashy dives for shots that were heading wide like some keepers do, he only went for the shots that were on target. His angles and positioning were absolutely first class.

Right-back: Jimmy Armfield

I was bought up with the 'WM' formation, where the right-back never really crossed the halfway line. If you had a number 2 on your back, you were supposed to stay back, but then Jimmy came along and changed all that. 

He'd bomb up and down the line overlapping and supporting his attackers, and that was the first time I saw that full-backs could actually go forward and do more than just defend. Jimmy was so good at it and he'd thrive if he was playing today, because full-backs play a vital role in starting off the moves and getting forward. He changed my perception of what a defender can do.

Left-back: Jackie Brownsword

What do you mean, Jackie who? 

He was one of my earliest heroes, from the days when I stood on the terraces at Scunthorpe United. He was a superb left-back, definitely the type of player I'd have liked in my team when I was England manager. He was a robust player, never ever injured, and he was the club penalty-taker. 

He always put them to the keeper's right, without fail. Keepers knew where he'd shoot, but they could never stop him. I think he became only the second full-back to score 50 League goals, and the first 49 were all penalties. His 50th was different though, he just whacked the ball clear, and it bounced over the keeper's head and in. Rest assured that if this team got a penalty, Jackie would take it!

Centre-backs: Billy Wright & Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore

(Image credit: Getty)

People would say that these two would lack pace, but their pace is all in their heads. 

Bobby Moore would probably be slightly better of the two, in that he had a wonderful ability to be one step ahead of the play in his mind. Billy Wright was a bit more aggressive, not particularly big but good in the air and a good leader. Wolves were on television a lot back in the 1950s, when I was growing up, and Billy Wright had a high profile, playing big European games and marrying a Beverly sister. He was the David Beckham of his day, if you like. 

These two together would complement each other very well, and I suppose I'd have Billy Wright as my captain, with Bobby Moore eventually succeeding him.

Outside-right: Tom Finney

I've put Tom on the right of my midfield, but such was his versatility he could just as easily have played outside-left or as a centre-forward. 

He was comfortable with both feet and he could score goals, in fact he edges Stanley Matthews out of this team because of his goals record. I played directly against him when I was at Grimsby in a testimonial game many years ago, when Tom was 46. I was trying to get my tackles in, and he was still going past as though he was 20 years younger! 

A truly gifted player, and a lovely man, a real gentleman.

Outside-left: Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton

(Image credit: Getty)

Even though in 1966 he played a more central role, I would have no problem in playing Bobby out on the left flank, where he could cut inside and have a shot on goal. You can't restrict Bobby's movement though, so I'm giving him the freedom to roam into the middle to control things a bit more. 

He's the one player who really has to be in this side, no question, because I saw him live more than any of the others and he left a deeper impression on me than any other player.

Centre-midfield: Nobby Stiles

I'd have Nobby in as one of two central holding midfielders, allowing Charlton and Finney to get forward. If you want a player to snap away at people while holding and protecting the back four, I can think of no better player than Nobby. His type of player get far more credit in the modern game than they used to, just look at how highly valued Claude Makelele is at Chelsea. Nobby did a similar job, he did the dirty work, but he could certainly play and was a wonderful passer of the ball.

Centre midfield: Duncan Edwards

Duncan Edwards

(Image credit: Getty)

One of the greatest players I ever saw. With Bobby Charlton in the side, I'm playing him in more of a holding role, but with the scope to get forward at the right times.

A lot of younger fans will have heard of Duncan but won't know just how gifted he was. He had the same impact that Wayne Rooney has had in the last two years, albeit playing in different positions. He was a colossus, he would come forward and score and then be back defending. Make no mistake, he'd have absolutely no problem playing in the modern game

Centre-forward: Jackie Milburn

I haven't gone for a big, old-fashioned centre-forward, but a more mobile one in Newcastle's Jackie Milburn. Alan Shearer is in the process of trying to beat his goal record, which tells you something about Milburn. He had such ability about him. 

We were brought up with big, tall centre-forwards wearing the No.9 shirt, be he was more mobile and moved around so much. He didn't just wait for the crosses to come in from the wingers, he was sharp and quick and knew how to attack the ball. A natural.

Centre-forward: Jimmy Greaves

Jimmy Greaves

(Image credit: PA)

My attacking instincts mean I'm picking one of the greatest goalscorers I've seen in England in Jimmy Greaves. He was so quick with his feet and he had the ability to link the play so well, not only scoring so many goals but creating for those around him. 

People may say that he and Milburn are too similar, but they are both mobile and they'll both guarantee you goals. With this line up, I'd send them out to play in the style Arsenal have played in recent years; free-flowing with so much threat going forward.


Stanley Matthews has to be in there, and Peter Bonetti would cover for Gordon Banks. I'll also have Stan Mortensen on the bench to cover for any injuries, because he could slot into a number of roles and he'd have a good understanding with Matthews if I needed to bring the pair of them on.

Manager: Bob Paisley

Bob Paisley

(Image credit: PA)

Can I not manage them? Well in that case I'll go for Bob. When I was growing up it was the beginning of the Liverpool era of domination, and he was my managerial hero.

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