Peter Beardsley: Perfect XI
I was lucky to work with some brilliant goalkeepers such as Neville Southall and Bruce Grobbelaar but it has to be Shilts. He wasn’t the biggest in terms of height but when you were attacking him, one-on-one, he seemed to fill the goal. A class above.
A Swiss international Kevin Keegan signed after the 1994 World Cup. His inclusion might surprise a few people but he was fantastic for us; got up and down and was always comfortable on the ball.
Philippe is probably more famous for his classic goals than his defending but that was his skill; he could come from deep and was so comfortable with the ball that opposing teams couldn't pick him up. A class act.
Wasn’t necessarily the best with the ball at his feet but in terms of defensive awareness there weren’t many better when he was in his prime. So rarely beaten to a ball but if he was, he had the blistering pace to recover. He was unbelievable at Italia 90, keeping many of the world’s greatest strikers at bay.
This was hard but I have to go for Kenny over Stuart Pearce as he was the better footballer. Don’t get me wrong, Stuart was class but he was more of a hard player, he would win tackles and get his fair share of goals, whereas Kenny would intercept and then play the ball.
Rob could play across the midfield and in Kevin’s team at Newcastle in the mid’-90s he was arguably our best player. Rob was strong, he could tackle, pass, shoot and score. Kevin called him the best midfielder in Europe at the time and whilst eyebrows might have been raised, he had a point.
I witnessed Gazza from a young age and what an incredible player. His enthusiasm was so infectious and the whole squad took so much from him during Italia 90. It’s great to see he’s on the mend.
My captain. He was the most incredible skipper. Off the pitch if there was anything – however small – that needed doing he would see to it on behalf of the team. On the pitch, he would walk through walls for us and could win games on his own.
The best player I ever played with, bar none. For three or four years at the end of the ’80s, John was possibly the best player in the world. People always go on about his England form but he simply wasn’t given the freedom. At Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish used to say, “go where the ball goes and enjoy yourself”. He was restricted to the left wing with England and that didn't suit him because opposing defenders played with a sweeper, so the right-back would man mark him. Look at the goal in the Maracana, he drifted inside that night and destroyed Brazil but he rarely had that freedom.
Without being cheeky, Kevin’s game wasn’t about natural God-given talent like Gazza or Barnes but because of sheer determination and hard work he made himself into a double European Footballer of the Year. What a superstar. He is quite rightly worshipped in Newcastle because he turned the club around, firstly as a player and then a manager.
We were perfect for each other because he wanted to be in the box and I wanted to be out of it. He was such a brilliant finisher. He’d just pass it into the �net – he very rarely blasted them. Gary was also a very clever footballer. People see him as just an out-and-out goalscorer but he had a great footballing brain.
Arthur brought me to Newcastle and never discouraged me from playing my game. He knew I would look to beat people and he allowed me that freedom. Arthur’s big thing was pleasing the fans. If you were 5-0 down he’d be off the bench urging you to score a last goal to give the fans something to send them home happy.
I played up front with Kevin and Gary, whereas I played in midfield with Alan so he just misses out. What a striker to have on the bench, though.
Had a wonderful effect on Newcastle when he signed and really kick- started our success. Such a clinical finisher.
What an individual. In training he was just something else. He could do things like you’ve never seen.
Couldn’t be on the same team as Tino in training as they were constantly be trying to outdo each other with the skills. They needed a ball each.
From the June 2009 issue of FourFourTwo.