The Premier League Gaffers' XI

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Top-flight managers, eh? They come in, make loud noises about the need for organisation and discipline, and start telling players what to do.

But what did they ever achieve wearing boots?

We wondered that after a poster on the forums asked his fellow scribes to create a team made up of current Premier League managers.

Which is just the kind of thing to while away a Friday. So we got to thinking.

Now, success as a player is no guarantee of immortality as a manager; ask Bryan Robson and Jose Mourinho.

Two of the front-runners for the Manager Of The Year should be Roy Hodgson, who was on Palace's books but never made the first team and played all his football outside the league, and Tony Pulis, who rattled around the lower divisions with teams like Bristol Rovers and Newport County.

But if they has to pull theirselves together into a team – managed by an outsider, like a presumably underwhelmed Fabio Capello – how would they shape up?


Our squad of 20 is a little bottom-heavy. And we don't mean they've been packing on the pounds since retiring from playing, although we rather suspect Guus Hiddink has had a few more cakes as a coach than a player.

No, there's a problem with our hypothetical squad. Easily the most common former position for a top-flight manager is centre-back. There's a thesis in the reasons why, but let's hurry up, there's a team to pick before the weekend.

Let's do the full-backs first. At left-back, the intelligent and adaptable Hodgson may be a weak link, but he's simply the best we've got now that Stuart Pearce is off the scene.

On the other side, amusingly, it's a straight fight between Arsene Wenger and Phil Brown, with the Tynesider's doughty 700-game career probably getting him the nod over the Frenchman's dozen or so pro games with Strasbourg.

Brown of Bolton, back in the day

Then to a position where the squad has quantity, if not necessarily quality.

The current Premier League managers who made their names as centre-halves include – in loose order of on-field achievement – Steve Bruce (glory with Man United), Tony Mowbray (top flight with Boro plus a spell with Celtic), Sam Allardyce (top flight with Bolton), David Moyes (a few games for Celtic followed by a lower-league odyssey), Pulis and Ricky Sbragia (mostly Division Four with Walsall and York).

With the possible exception of Bruce's knack of scoring key goals, none of those set the world alight as players, although their fellow centre-back Paul Hart scored a header from a corner in the UEFA Cup semi-final.

Sadly for him and Forest, Anderlecht had bribed the ref and it was disallowed. So let's pair him with Brucey at the back, they might get us the odd goal from a set-piece.

Hart of the defence


Keen students will notice a major omission from the back four: the best centre-half of the (current) crop was Gareth Southgate.

However, before earning 57 caps for England, 'Nord' started his career in midfield, where he also ended Kevin Keegan's England career after a fish-out-of-water game against Germany.

However, as all managers know, you have to fill the positions with the players best suited, and that means Southgate is selected for a glamorous place alongside hardworking journeyman Gary Megson, who carved up the grass (and occasionally opponents' shins) for Everton, Wednesday, City and Norwich.

Megson considers tackling Asa Hartford, Trevor Brooking or both

Incidentally, two of the Big Four managers spent their playing careers as midfielders – Rafa Benitez trundling round to no great acclaim in the Spanish lower leagues, while Guus Hiddink racked up 400 games in Holland and the NASL without giving any great hints as to his future managerial bent.

Out wide, Martin O'Neill ploughed a lonely furrow on the right side for Forest, calculatedly unheralded by Brian Clough (who lavished great praise on mercurial left-winger John Robertson just to give MO'N something to prove).

Harry Redknapp was also a right-winger but we can switch him to play on the other side, where he should form a decent combination with his fellow tactically astute 1947-born Londoner, Roy Hodgson.

"What, no signings?"


Up front we've got an interesting set of strikers. Memories are still fresh of Alan Shearer's ability and physical force, but Rangers fans will tell you Alex Ferguson was no easy No.9 to deal with, either.

Another prickly customer to deal with was Mark Hughes, although Sparky ended up dropping deeper into the midfield toward the end of his career.

Then there's our key man. Every manager has a player to whom he looks in a crisis, and ours would be Gianfranco Zola. A classic Italian trequartista playing between the attack and midfield, Zola's ability to create something from nothing would be key to the team's chances of success.

Fergie sticks it to Leeds


There's one big problem: we've no goalkeeper.

No former glove-wearers currently manage in the top flight, but there may be if Sheffield United's Kevin Blackwell gains play-off promotion to renew hostilities with Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish. Both of whom are, of course, former centre-backs.

The situation will change over the summer. We'll be losing three from Mowbray, Southgate, Shearer, Brown and Sbragia, while we can't yet offer renewed contracts to Allardyce, Hart or even Pulis and Megson.

Hiddink has already announced his intention to move on a Bosman, and rare is there a summer without a few ins and outs.

If Mark Hughes were to find himself suddenly out of the squad, his replacement might be someone like Jurgen Klinsmann, who'd certainly bring something to the Managers XI.

Now if only Paolo Maldini wasn't so adamant he didn't fancy management...

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