I’ve pulled together a few of these ‘best of’ XIs for Paddy Power, and I’ve had to leave out some great players, some top lads.
To those reading, and wondering where you are – I’m sorry, I hope you don’t feel offended, but it’s just a bit of fun. I do love you all!
On a serious note, I really appreciate everyone – or nearly everyone – that I played with or managed.
I could definitely have made another XI of all the players who missed out from my teams.
For this one, I was going to put Roy Keane in as he was the best midfield player I ever had – but he was only with me for a short amount of time at Celtic.
Similar with Chris Sutton, as I didn’t have enough time with him. He was injured for three of the six months that I had him.
With that in mind, here is my best XI of players I’ve had the privilege of managing during my career:
GK: Artur Boruc
He had a great presence and was a terrific athlete. Honestly, he could’ve been the world’s number one – but he enjoyed life too much.
RB: Roland Nilsson
He did everything right – got just the 116 caps for Sweden. And I can tell you that every player at Coventry thought he was magnificent.
He played till he was a real age, which just strengthened my admiration for him.
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CB: Claus Lundekvam
Oh, he just strolled through games, making it all look so easy. But, because he was so laid-back, he never really pushed himself to where he should’ve got to.
CB: Dion Dublin
A centre forward, at centre half! When I first got to Coventry, they were really in trouble, so we went to three at the back, and put Dion back there.
Why? Desperation! No, he had everything to be a centre back apart from pace, but he could read the game brilliantly.
He was magnificent for us there – we won something like four on the trot after he dropped in, which ultimately saved us. That gave him his confidence back, then he went up front again and was great there, too.
LB: Wayne Bridge
The modern-day full back. We changed the system just for him at Southampton, to give him more space to play.
We’d had a left-sided attacker blocking his way, meaning he could only get so far forward – so I moved that player out of the way to give him more freedom.
CM: Gary McAllister
The man could do anything with a football. Anything. And, if anything, he got better as he got older – fitter and better.
CM: Neil Lennon
Lenny did so much for me both on and off the pitch. When I started at Celtic, I very quickly realised that other people at the club had preconceived ideas of what I was – but Neil was open-minded to what I was trying to bring, and the problems I faced.
On the pitch, no matter what chaos surrounded his private life, he was always fantastic.
RW: Shunsuke Nakamura
A genius. His touch was as good as anything I’ve seen in football.
He spoke very little English, but you only needed to say something to him once and he’d get it. He was always at least three moves ahead of anyone else on the pitch.
CAM: Stiliyan Petrov
He had the lot – he could attack, he could defend, and I watched him get better. He was a great player under Martin O’Neill, but Stan made himself better every day, with extra training.
He could score, tackle, win a header, pass the ball. He had the lot, but was never satisfied with what he had.
LW: Shaun Maloney
He could play anywhere, Shaun. Brave on the ball, but also a good defender. Just a real good lad, as well.
CF: Robbie Keane
He did things that most people at Coventry hadn’t seen before. I asked him one day ‘where did you learn that?’ and he went “I don’t know – I just do it”.
Part of the deal signing him from Wolves was that we’d let Robbie go if a big club came in for him. To be honest, when I said that, I thought it’d take three or four years. I didn’t realise Inter Milan would call us 11 months later!
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