Terry Butcher: Perfect XI

Ex-England great Terry Butcher picks the best players he ever shared a pitch with.

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Peter Shilton
The best keeper I ever played with. He’d talk to you all the time, which I like, and wasn’t afraid to bollock you when you weren’t doing your job, but he gave you so much confidence, knowing that if anyone got through the back four, his massive frame would be behind you.

George Burley

I played against him when he went to Sunderland, and he impressed me greatly. Great going forward, quick, two lovely feet, and he could head well despite being small. Also a great crosser, and so competitive – the perfect right-back. He broke my cheekbone once in a pre-season friendly, putting me out of the Charity Shield, but I don’t hold a grudge.

Tony Adams

Made his England debut against Spain in 1987 at just 20, and it was clear he was special. Had a massive desire to win, which rubbed off on everyone else, and was a superb defender because he was strong in the air and he covered the ground well despite not being very quick. He’d do all the dirty work, like staying with runners, and he popped up with goals as well. A pleasure to play with, and I was surprised when he didn’t go to Italia 90. This team has plenty of leaders, but he’d have to be my captain.

Alan Hansen

The perfect partner for Adams. I wouldn’t fancy a striker’s chances of getting past them. I played against him many times for Ipswich at Anfield and we never won, and that was largely down to him. Strong in the air and his reading of the game made up for a lack of pace. And he was always comfortable bringing the ball out from the back.

Stuart Pearce

A shoo-in. The first time he played for England he gave me a right rollicking for not concentrating. I’d already played in a World Cup and I thought, “Who the hell is this, talking to me like that?” But I loved it, because it’s great to have someone beside you who talks. He kept me on my toes. A superb leader.

Right midfield
Pierre Littbarski

A great player, despite being very small and bandy-legged, and what a mullet! He makes my team for that alone! He was sharp, quick, could come inside or go outside and had a heart as big as a bucket. Also had a good shot on him and great delivery. He and George Burley would be a great combination down the right side.

Central midfield
Michel Platini

In 1984, when France beat England 2-0 in Paris and he scored two free-kicks, Platini called me over after the game and gave me his shirt. He was a genius, another player with no pace but so much technique and time on the ball. He used the ball well and had great vision, as well as being deadly from set pieces. We all saw how good he was when he practically won the European Championships on his own in 1984.

Central midfield
Bryan Robson

Robbo was the perfect leader. He’d sit in front of the back four, break up attacks and win headers, but he also got forward with immaculate timing to score goals. He was never scared of putting his head in where the boots were flying, which is why he had to overcome so many injuries. That’s why he’s not my captain here, because he’d be in and out of the team. He’d certainly be captain of my drinking team though! Everything you’ve heard about him is true. He was truly phenomenal, that’s all I’ll say.

Left midfield
Chris Waddle

Yeah, another mullet, but I think Chris’s was just about the better of the two! He wasn’t a mullet when it came to football, though: he caressed the ball and had such a sweet left foot. He could go outside people and put in a great cross, or he could cut inside and fire in a shot. I like partnerships, and Pearce and Waddle would be a formidable partnership in any team.

In the hole
Diego Maradona

The best player I’ve ever played against, miles ahead of anyone else. As you saw in the World Cup quarter-final in 1986, I just couldn’t get near him – all I ever saw was his number 10! He had a low centre of gravity that shielded the ball, he had strength, pace and his passing was excellent. He also had a great leap for such a small man, as he showed with his Hand of God goal! I still can’t get over that game...

Ian Rush

Gave me headaches with his movement and runs. He’d peel off you, take you on, had a good spring and was strong despite his lithe frame. If there was ever half a chance going, it would end up in the back of the net. Frighteningly good.

Paul Gascoigne, Paul Mariner, Jimmy Nicholl

Gazza for his flair and ability to turn matches, Paul Mariner for his finishing and Jimmy Nicholl because he could fit in anywhere in defence.

Brian Clough

He’d get the best out of every player.

Interview: Nick Harper. From the February 2006 issue of FourFourTwo.