by Mick Cain
Welcome to the first of a new series of posts, which features Vintage Clarets squad members’ all time 11 favourite players they have played with during their careers.
We get the ball rolling with the one and only John Deary!
“When I was first approached to pick the best eleven players I have played with, I thought it was a great idea and most of the team sprung straight into my mind. Only the goalkeeper and left winger left me with some debate, but am happy with my team.
I would opt for a 4-4-2 system, with the pattern of play being aggressive and fast.
The ball would be played mostly on the ground, where all players would be encouraged to move the ball around at pace as long as the end product was going forward with the wingers playing wide and the ball whizzed into the box at every opportunity.
I have a goalkeeper that was imposing, vocal full backs with great engines who could bomb forward, two defenders who could defend with one who could come out of defence and attack.
On the right I have a talented player who could create damage on the pitch, one midfield player who could pass and move and play around corners – moving players about and another reliable midfielder who was good in the air and effective in both boxes.
On the left flank I have a player who was all over full backs like a rash – fast, direct, aggressive and scored goals.
Up front I have two big, fast, aggressive players who had good feet that wanted to turn and run defenders and would score 40 goals a season with the right service.
Hope you enjoy it, and apologies to all the great characters and players that I have not included.
(Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland, Stoke City, Blackpool, Preston North End, Carlisle United, Stockport County, Hartlepool United)
This has probably been the hardest position to pick, as I have been fortunate to play with some excellent stoppers including Marlon Beresford, Ian Hesford and Billy O’Rourke (sadly the last two have passed away) and Chris Pearce to name but a few, but Barry edges it – maybe because he left a lasting impression on me at Blackpool when i was a young lad.
I remember when we went on a six-game winning streak he pulled off some amazing saves and seemed unbeatable during that time. I also credit him with helping me clock up 747 professional games over a 17 year playing career.
One day, all the talk was about Barry making his 500th appearance and i was listening to all the congratulations he was getting and told myself I would get to that target.
Whenever I was injured I would avoid the treatment room at all costs so I could get to that magic figure – and I would say that at least 25 per cent of the games I played in I was not fully fit.
In fact, in the 1994 season when we went up with Burnley after a Wembley win, I was diagnosed with a double hernia in January but decided to put my operation off as we were chasing the play-offs.
For four months, I could only run in straight lines and never trained with the team. I played matches and drank large volumes of alcohol after the game to numb the pain but it was worth it in the end. I have never told Barry and have still to thank him.
(Blackpool, Watford, Oxford United, QPR)
“Lou” as we called him was an attacking full back who would bomb forward and could ping a ball all over the park. A nice lad who went on to have a great career and played for England.
(England U-21s, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough)
I would say that Wrighty was the best small player ever to represent England at left back, which was not hard as he is a midget! But what a player he was – he had a great engine, good feet, could defend and was good in the air for his size.
(Burnley, Wolves, Charlton, Athletic, Bristol City, Rochdale)
The Elephant – as I called him – was a genuine nice lad off the field, but an imposing structure on it who loved to head a ball, which I like in defenders.
He knew what he was good at and did not particular want to play with the ball at his feet. We used to have debates every game, as I have found that most defenders are uncomfortable with defending and would have most of the team helping them out!
Throughout the games, Pends was always calling me back to get in front of defenders or double up on a centre forward and my reply was always the same “****” off your the defender, so you defend!
I used to dread playing Stockport County as Pends would call me back to get in front of their centre forward – Kevin Francis at 6ft 7in! It would always end up with the ball being pumped forward and Pends and Francis sprawled all over the top of me. Cheers, what chance did I have?
(Southampton, Burnley, Notts County, Luton Town, Blackpool, York City)
Steve Davis “number 2” created a great centre back pairing when he was signed from Southampton. Canny and Pends partnership worked from day one and he was very cultured who could play.
He was good on the ball could bring the ball out from the back and ping a crossfield ball that would have the opposition all out of position. Big and strong and dangerous at set pieces.
(Scotland, Burnley, Manchester United,Bolton Wanderers, Blackpool)
Willie was a smooth character who had played for Manchester United when he came to Blackpool and showed that he was still class. I was blessed to have played with some great older pros, who had played at the highest level like Dick Malone, Bobby Kerr, Alan Ball, Peter Noble and Paul Fletcher who all had time to talk to me and pass on their knowledge.
The one thing I did learn myself was that all of them made the game look easy and always played it simple. Willie could ghost past players brilliantly on the ball and looked like a real superstar footballer.
(England , Everton, Arsenal, Southampton)
I was in awe of the World cup winner when he came to Blackpool as player-manager, but will always be grateful to him for giving me my debut away at Fulham as a 17-year-old.
Imagine how i felt when I was named in the team to play alongside him in midfield.
In my opinion, he was and still is the best one-touch footballer I have ever seen. He was very passionate, which at times he found hard to control because of his love of football, but he was caring as well.
When i made my debut at 17 we stayed in the capital where Bally was loved, as he played for Arsenal, and I found myself with the team in Stringfellows nightclub surrounded by all the stars who played for teams in the capital!
(Colchester United, Burnley, Wigan Athletic, Rochdale, Morecambe)
Out of all the great midfield players I have played with I found that I enjoyed playing with Faz the most and without doubt he was the one I could rely on when I needed someone alongside me.
It is a great feeling knowing that your partner is always in the correct position so you do not feel vulnerable or outnumbered on the pitch. Although not the quickest he could get around the pitch and was good in the air. An honest lad who had the team’s interests at heart.
(Hartlepool, Blackpool, Cardiff, Crewe)
Mark came on trial during one preseason from Hartlepool and we all thought he was a pretty boy. He had long blonde hair that resembled the singer out of Kajagoogoo so quickly gained the nickname Janice.
During trial games we all tried to kick hell out of him but he came through and was popular with the lads. He was a tough athlete who could get up and down the pitch for 90 minutes and never gave the full back a moments rest. He was direct and scored his share of goals.
Unfortunately he suffered a bad cruciate ligament injury and never fully recovered. He went on to be a physiotherapist for a number of top clubs and is currently doing a MBA in sports management, where he is due to graduate from the European University of Madrid in March 2016, and is the most qualified in his profession in the game.
(England, Blackpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur)
Paul was a big, strong fast centre forward who went on to represent England in Midfield. He had a great physique, could run all day and terrorised centre backs running the channels. I could not see him as a midfield player but he went on to play for Spurs, Liverpool and England in that position. During our promotion season with Blackpool he created and banged in the majority of the goals.
(Coventry, then Clydebank, St Mirren, Reading, Burnley, Preston North End, Fulham, Blackpool, Chester (loan), Carlton, Eastern Pride)
Mick came to Burnley from Reading and most of the lads did not know who he was, but he quickly became a favourite with the players and fans.
Pepsi – as we called him, as he did not drink, was a hardened Glaswegian who took no bull and knew what he was good at on the field.
His direct running and positive work added another dimension to Burnley’s promotion season. He, like Paul, would create chances running the channels and had a hunger for scoring goals.