Coral’s alternative Football League Team of the Decade
At the recent Football League Awards, we celebrated 10 years of its current format and an all-star XI was selected.
Kasper Schmeichel was in goal behind a back four of Angel Rangel, Wes Morgan, Ashley Williams and Gareth Bale. Wes Hoolahan, Adam Lallana and Peter Whittingham formed a midfield trio behind attacking threesome Rickie Lambert, Glenn Murray and Jordan Rhodes.
This got Coral’s football experts thinking we could come up with an awesome alternative team of the decade. So, we got our heads together and came up with our own side.
Injury to current Southampton stopper Fraser Forster is allowing 38-year-old Davis to have a Premier League swansong. He received four PFA Team of the Year nominations, including three in succession (2009/10-2011/12).
This gives Davis the edge over highly consistent keepers Julian Speroni and David Marshall, but they only have one promotion apiece on their CV. Paddy Kenny, meanwhile, has as many, but lacks PFA nominations.
This berth was a hugely tough call, but Burnley defender Trippier has edged out prolific penalty taker Graham Alexander (now in charge of Fleetwood Town) and utility man Greg Halford.
He get the nod because of proving himself to be a consistent attacking outlet from full back, making 34 Championship assists in 174 outings. That’s an impressive rough average of one goal set up in seven five games played at that level by Trippier.
Another rags to riches story, Northern Ireland veteran McAuley played bottom-tier football with Lincoln City (2004-06) before being snapped up by then-Championship club Leicester City (2006-08) and later Ipswich Town (2008-11).
Across these three teams, he made 261 Football League outings and is now at West Bromwich Albion. McAuley’s progress to the promised land that is the Premier League gets him in our XI ahead of Roger Johnson, who has endured relegations during his own rise and fall.
It’s a brave thing to drop down a division in search of progress. That is exactly what Portugal cap and former Crystal Palace centre back Fonte did when he left Selhurst Park for Southampton in 2010.
Saints were then in League One but, like Davis above, later enjoyed back-to-back promotions to return to the top flight. Including play-off appearances, fantastic Fonte scored 14 goals and made 13 assists in 190 outings, yet it is his impressive clean sheet ratio of 36 per cent that gets him included ahead of Swansea City centre back turned coach Garry Monk.
Anyone with three promotions through the divisions and with as many different clubs is someone to be taken seriously. Versatile defender Ricketts, now on loan at Swindon Town (5/2 to go up this term), fits this description. Starting his Football League career at Swansea, he went up from League Two in 2004/05.
With Hull City, Ricketts reached the Premier League by winning the 2008 Championship play-off final and also later captained Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 2013/14 League One title (pictured above). Aaron Cresswell caught the eye on his own rise to the top flight, but we’ve gone with experience here.
It’s a real achievement to go from playing in League One to representing your country at a World Cup finals in the space of three years. That is why Southampton and France anchorman Schneiderlin is included in our XI.
Diminutive, deep-lying Swansea playmaker Leon Britton gets an honourable mention for his many years of loyal service throughout the south Wales side’s climbing from bottom to top-tier.
On the cusp of reaching the Premier League with Bournemouth (13/8 to win the Championship title), Scotland winger Ritchie has been hugely consistent whatever division he’s played in. Offering a goal threat from the flank as well as assists aplenty, he edges out equally impressive compatriots Chris Burke, now at Nottingham Forest, and Paul Gallagher of Preston North End.
Ritchie was voted League Two and then League One Player of the Year in consecutive campaigns (2011/12 and 2012/13). He also has promotions with Swindon Town and the Cherries already on his CV.
Selecting who played off the front really was a close call. Fulham and former Cardiff City and Leeds United star Ross McCormack would be just as worthy, but we’ve gone for a more traditional number 10 in stocky ex-Forest and Derby County star Commons.
As with Ritchie above, his consistent performances at third-tier and Championship level get him in ahead of the host and cold McCormack. Commons netted 54 Football League strikes and laid on 52 assists in 220 appearances before joining Celtic.
Over the last decade, Jamaican wideman McAnuff has been on the books at West Ham, Cardiff, Palace, Watford, Reading and now Leyton Orient. Wherever he’s been, a succession of managers have had a consummate professional, who has largely played at a higher level than current Brisbane Road teammate Dean Cox.
The latter has more assists than McAnuff, while Wayne Routledge earned two Premier League promotions with Newcastle United and QPR, but again we’ve chosen experience and a hugely popular player here.
Former Leeds United and current Preston North End poacher Beckford is included up front despite an ill-fated stint at Everton because of 117 Football League goals. Boasting similar stats to David Nugent (116, not including the play-offs), now at Leicester, he’s hoping to supplement Joe Garner’s strikes at Deepdale that will give Simon Grayson’s men promotion.
It wouldn’t be right to have compiled this XI without a word for some lower league scoring heroes. Adebayo Akinfenwa, Jamie Cureton and Izale McLeod all have cult hero status, but lack Beckford’s high profile.
Leading our line is a real battering ram frontman. Holt had a hot three-year period (2008-11) with first Shrewsbury Town and Norwich City going from bottom to top-tier, getting into the PFA Team of the Year each season. He earlier showed promise in spells with Rochdale and Forest, but has always been so much more than a focal point.
Although Adam le Fondre has scored more goals (142) than Holt (121), our selection has laid on 53 Football League assists for teammates, so it’s this all-round game that gets him picked.