Welcome to another daily blog, we are on day six now, and today’s is a treat!
Today’s XI is fairly niche and it is a personal one for me, I can only choose players who I have seen in a random encounter.
This is quite hard to explain, but you will see exactly what I mean when we get into it!
GOALKEEPER- Petr Cech
I have seen three international level goalkeepers out and about, but Petr Cech clearly beats Asmir Begovic and Rob Green for the number 1 jersey.
I saw Cech walking into a newsagent in Cobham a couple of years ago, he was playing for Arsenal at the time so obviously this was quite cool for me.
The former Czech Republic international retired last year, and he is remembered as being one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history, with four titles. He now plays for my hometown ice hockey club!
LEFT BACK- Wayne Bridge
Now to someone I’ve actually met, my encounter with Bridge was in a pub in Cobham a couple of years ago. I’m sure he doesn’t remember meeting me but he shook my hand and asked where I’m from.
Bridge had a successful Premier League career, he only has one title to his name but he made 87 Premier League appearances for Chelsea during their most successful period in history.
He also made 36 England appearances, which is impressive considering how good some of England’s defenders were during that time.
RIGHT BACK- Reece James
I promise you, this whole team isn’t just completely Chelsea based, and this is probably the shortest encounter. I saw the Young right back in Cobham Sainsbury’s last summer, presumably once he had got back from his loan move to Wigan.
James is part of the new revolution of young English players making their name at Chelsea, and many of their fans are very excited about his potential.
He made last season’s Championship team of the season and he was named Wigan’s player of the year. So far he has made playing in the Premier League easy, and Chelsea will hope he continues this way.
CENTRE BACK- Phil Thompson
My girlfriends dad is actually good friends with Phil Thompson, but this encounter was actually just completely random. I was in a restaurant in St Ives (Cornwall) and I really recognised the voice on the table behind us, it was him!
He is well known to my generation for his role on Soccer Saturday, but he had an excellent playing career. He won seven First Division titles and three European Cups during Liverpool’s most successful period in their history.
He also served Liverpool as assistant manager and then as a caretaker manager during the 2001-02 season.
CENTRE BACK- Tony Gale
This encounter wasn’t exactly random, I was at Walton Casuals v Corinthian Casuals a couple of seasons ago, and saw Tony Gale there. He is chairman of Walton Casuals so this is to be expected, but I will claim it.
Gale played over 300 times for West Ham during his ten year stay with the Hammers, but the first and only time he got any silverware in his career was at Blackburn Rovers. He played 15 times for the 1994-95 Premier League champions, and he was only at Ewood Park for the one season.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Owen Hargreaves
I am playing a midfield diamond and the first of the four is Owen Hargreaves. This encounter was quite boring, but I saw him with a suitcase in Westfield Stratford whilst I was sitting down having a KFC.
Hargreaves’ career was often blighted by injury, but he still had time to win the Champions League with both Bayern Munich and Manchester United. He also has four Bundesliga titles, and a Premier League title.
Nowadays Hargreaves can be seen in the Bt Sport studio providing interesting insights into the Champions League coverage.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Brian McDermott
I went to Arsenal v West Ham back in 2018, and we were sitting just a few seats away from the former Reading and Leeds manager Brian McDermott. He must’ve known we recognised him because we spent a while trying to work out if it was actually him!
McDermott probably had the least distinguished playing career of everyone in this list, but he made 61 appearances for Arsenal in the early 80’s, so he must’ve been decent…
The rest of his playing career was spent abroad or in the lower leagues. He has managed Reading on two separate occasions, guiding them to the Premier League in 2012.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Gordon Strachan
Strachan was a right sided midfielder by trait, but he will have to play in the centre to fit my system. The Scot was another ex footballer who I saw in Westfield, and it looked like he was just having a relaxed stroll around, so fair enough really.
He had an excellent playing career, making over 100 appearances for Aberdeen, Man United and Leeds. He won two Scottish titles with Aberdeen and an FA Cup with Man United.
As a manager he has taken charge of nearly 600 games, with four different clubs and of course the Scottish National team.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Paul Gascoigne
Gazza makes it into another XI! My encounter with the England legend came on Swanage pier, where he was fishing…
He is one of the best talents ever produced on these shores and his influence on the English game is well documented. His trophy cabinet is not as full as his talent may have suggested, but football is not all about this.
The best years of his career were spent at Newcastle, Tottenham, Rangers and Lazio, it was cool to see him down in Dorset!
STRIKER- Peter Withe
I have actually met both of my front two, and the first one is a European Cup winner. Peter Withe even scored the winning goal in the 1982 final.
I met him whilst I was working at Lynx Golf and he came in to try some clubs. It was at Aston Villa where he was at his best, scoring 74 for the Birmingham based side.
He was a dominating striker who fits the mould of the typical English number nine, and his goal record backs this up.
STRIKER- Neil Mellor
I met Neil Mellor at an event at Stamford Bridge, and we were sat at the same table as him. He said I was good at the sports quiz, and called Arsène Wenger’s exit from Arsenal before it was announced!
Mellor came through the Liverpool academy, and had loan spells away at West Ham and Wigan. He is another victim of injuries which meant that he never had the career that his talent really warranted.
Since retiring he has become an excellent reporter on Soccer Saturday, and he is clearly blessed with a good on screen presence which has given him a new career path.
That’s all for this XI!
I’d be really interested to hear who you have had random encounters with, so let me know in the comments!