Wolves Greatest Xl v Sunderland Greatest Xl - Who Wins?

Both teams have struggled this season, but what if a team of greats went head to head?
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Both teams have struggled this season, but what if a team of greats went head to head?

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Wolves v Sunderland at Molineux today, but who would win in a battle of historical greats?

Wolves Greatest Xl by Dave Blackhurst

GK: Phil Parkes

Tricky call this. I would argue that we’ve not had a world-class keeper since Bert Williams. I never saw him play so Phil gets the number 1 shirt. That’s not to disparage Parkes or any of the other goalies we’ve had over the years. Stowell, Burridge and Bradshaw were all fine players but Phil was the one I admired most. He was big, brave and could boot the ball miles – qualities that I cherished in the man between the sticks when I was 13.  8

RB: Geoff Palmer

Great hair, great attitude, great servant. An uncompromising full back with almost 500 appearances in the old gold and black, Palmer was local lad and life-long supporter. If it’s not to damn him with faint praise, Geoff was the type of solid professional that every team needs. Became a copper when he left the game, I’d like to think a solidly professional one.  8

CB: Frank Munro

Tough but stylish sums up Frank Munro. He started as a forward, was signed by us as a midfielder and served forever after as centre back, and a damn good one at that. There are quite a few opposing forwards who could vouch for Frank’s toughness. The Molineux faithful will vouch for his style. Football fans everywhere, with the exception of those in Leeds, rejoiced when one of Frank’s rare goals denied Revie’s side the double in ’72 and handed the title to Clough’s Derby. What a night.9

CB: Joleon Lescott

We were devastated when Joleon signed for Everton, the kind of devastation that is tinged with a little bit of pride. We knew he was too good not to be snapped up and it was only a matter of time. He’d been talked up as a future star since joining the Wolves Academy and he didn’t disappoint. He had the skill, presence and vision required to be a top class defender.  An unfortunate knee injury (that gave conspiracy theorists a field day) kept him out of our first venture back in the Premiership. We like to think we would have survived if Lescott had been fit. We also like to believe he’ll come back when he’s had enough of City.   9

LB: Derek Parkin

Although he began as a right back, Bill McGarry moved him across to the left and there he stayed – forever it seemed. Parkin holds the record for most Wolves appearances and consequently is probably the player I’ve watched more than any other. He used the ball well and was never one to aimlessly boot it away if he could see an opportunity for a decent pass. If that opportunity was Waggy champing at the bit, so much the better. 8

RM: Kenny Hibbitt

We got Kenny for peanuts from Bradford Park Avenue in 1968 and for the next 16 years he gave 100% (we didn’t have 120% back then.) 114 goals in 574 games illustrates his attacking credentials but Hibbitt added the industry and creativity that marks out an accomplished midfielder. We loved him and when he came to the Molineux as coach with Bristol Rovers in the late 80’s he received the longest, loudest and most heartfelt ovation I’ve ever experienced.  9

CM: Ron Flowers

You could argue that, as a Wolves fan, I was born too late. By the 63-64 season most of the stars of the 50’s had hung up their boots and the glory days had come to an end. Mind you, the vast majority of the supporters had lived through that era and weren’t shy in pointing out that some poor so and so wasn’t fit to lace Mullen/Wright/Slater’s boots. If the vitriol didn’t stun the poor lad then the collective exhalations of beer and woodbine breath would. Ron, and my next choice, are the only players from the ‘Champions of the World’ team (Daily Mail) who were still playing regularly. An England stalwart who narrowly missed out on appearing in the ’66 World Cup final, Flowers was a strong, imposing player with a ferocious shot. 10

CM: Peter Broadbent

When the great George Best says you’re the player he most admired then you must have something going for you. Jimmy Greaves rated Broadbent too, as did regular crowds of 40,000 plus. Peter was a magician with the ball and a powerhouse in midfield. He was criminally underused by England, the prevailing theory being that Wolves already had their fair share of international players. The FA was obviously as useless then as it is today.   9

LM: Dave Wagstaffe

There was no more joyous sight than watching Waggy fly down the left, beat a defender or two and ping in a pinpoint cross. Then watch him do it again and again and again. He probably set up more goals than any other player of his era and was probably clattered into the advertising hoardings more than most as well. We absolutely loved him. 9

CF: Peter Knowles

Having a flawed genius for an idol can be trying at times. One week Knowles could be petty, disinterested and putting in yet another transfer request. The following week he would be sublime, bamboozling opponents with his skill and vision. He was by far the best player in the old second division for the two seasons Wolves played there. Things looked promising when we got back to the top flight in ‘67, none more so than the Dougan/Knowles partnership. Two seasons later, at 24, he quit football. He had it all but in the end he became ‘God’s Footballer’ (© Billy Bragg) and arguably one of the game’s greatest losses. We held on to his registration until ’82 when it became obvious, to one of the parties at least, that a Second Coming wasn’t on. Nice bloke though – when he first joined Wolves he was lodging with my mate’s neighbour and me and Alan used to call for him on a Sunday morning for a game of ‘three and in.’ 10

CF: Steve Bull

If Knowles was my idol then Bully was my hero. To have been able to see them play together would have been heaven. I won’t trot out The Tatter’s stats – suffice it to say that not only does he get into my best Wolves side, I’d also put him in my best side in the world ever. There may be more skilful players out there but none with more heart and more determination to break the back of the onion bag. Three against The Baggies and the old airplane celebration is the stuff of dreams. 10

Manager: Stan Cullis

Cullis was still the boss when I started watching Wolves and consequently wins the accolade as the best manager I’ve seen. I’m old enough to remember JFK’s assassination and the tremendous effect it had on people. That was nothing compared to the shock felt in Wolverhampton when Cullis was sacked a year later. His record as manager, especially in the 50’s, is incredible – I think he’d do it all again with this team. 10

Total: 109

Sunderland Greatest XI by Jonathan Wilson

GK: Ned Doig

He cost Sunderland a two-point penalty on arrival from Arbroath in 1890 as he was still registered with Blackburn, and was said to be so sensitive about his lack of hair that if his cap fell off he’d retrieve it rather than follow the ball, but he was still worth it. He won four championships with Sunderland, was a Scotland international and for much of the 1890s was the best goalkeeper in the world. 10

RB: Alex Hall

There is a fine tradition of Sunderland right-backs who shun goals (Chris Makin and John Kay being modern incarnations; even Phil Bardsley moved to left-back before getting his first goal in 108 league games), but it was begun by Hall, who scored only once in 233 appearances. Capable of playing on either side, he was a regular in the 1935-36 Championship season and the FA Cup run a year later. 7

CB: Charlie Hurley

Hurley was voted Sunderland’s player of the 20th century (admittedly in 1979, but it’s hard to imagine he’d have lost the vote 21 years later) and stands as the embodiment of all that Wearside respects. He was brave and tough and gentlemanly, a towering presence in both boxes and, as Brian Clough noted after his first training session at Sunderland, he could pass a ball as well. 10

CB: Sandy McAllister

A former coal-miner, he wasn’t the tallest, but he was stocky and courageous, and an ever-present in the 1902 title-winning side. He was so popular with fans that when he scored his first goal for the club (he only got 5 in 225 games) they presented him with a gold watch and a piano. He died from foods poisoning while serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers during the First World War. 8

LB: Ernie England

A hard-as-nails full-back who played on the ‘wrong side’, England delighted in shepherding wingers inside and then sliding in with his stronger foot. He was an ever-present in the side that finished runners-up behind Liverpool in 1922-23. 7

DMC: Charlie Thomson

Thomson was an established Scotland international who had won two Cups with Hearts when he arrived on Wearside. He captained Sunderland for seven years during which time they never finished lower than eighth, and clinched the title in 1912-13. His reputation – and his bristling moustache – suggest he could look after himself, but he was also a fine ball-playing centre-half. 9

DMC: Hughie Wilson

Wilson was the classic old-style half-back, and aggressive tackler who could also pass a ball. He played in Sunderland’s first League game, in the first game at Roker Park, and was the first Sunderland player sent-off. He won three titles, the third of them as caption, and his one-handed long throws were so effective the FA outlawed them. 9

AMR: Charlie Buchan

Only Gurney has scored more goals for Sunderland than Buchan, but he was as much a creator as a finisher, a tricky inside-right of dazzlingly quick feet and brain. He joined Arsenal after leaving Sunderland and there devised the W-M formation in conjunction with Herbert Chapman. 10

AMC: Raich Carter

Calm and intelligent, Carter was a goalscoring inside-forward, the captain and inspiration of the 1935-36 title-winning side and the team that won the FA Cup a year later. A regular England international, he lost several years to the War, but inspired Derby to the FA Cup in 1946. 10

AML: Len Shackleton

Shackleton was a magician, an impish showman of such virtuosity that at half-time in one game he kicked a ball to a referee who had annoyed him, but loaded it with so much spin that as the official bent down to pick it up, it rolled back to him. An anti-authoritarian streak cost him the chance of more than five England caps, but technique and eye for a pass made him a huge favourite on Wearside. 9

CF: Bobby Gurney

In his first game for Sunderland reserves, Gurney scored nine, and the goals never really stopped. Tough and quick and a supreme finisher, he remains Sunderland’s highest scorer of all time, rattling in 12 hat-tricks (two of them fours) in his 22 years at the club. He was top-scorer in the title season of 1935-36, and got three equaliser in the AF Cup final win over Preston the following year. 9

Manager: Tom Watson

Only four managers in the history of the English game have ever won the league with two different sides; only one has ever won it twice with both his teams. Watson created the great Sunderland side that won three league titles in the early-mid 1890s, and then went a built a new team at Liverpool. A forgotten genius. 10

Sunderland total: 104

Final score Wolves 109 – Sunderland 104

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