Bolton Greatest XI vs Aston Villa Greatest XI: Who Wins?

The greatest XIs of these two Bolton and Aston Villa supporters is a feast of style as a collection of legendary tricksters and schemers rustle up a veritable treat for the eyes. Even the defenders are cool.
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The greatest XIs of these two Bolton and Aston Villa supporters is a feast of style as a collection of legendary tricksters and schemers rustle up a veritable treat for the eyes. Even the defenders are cool.

Bolton Wanderers Greatest Xl by Michael Green

Goalkeeper: Jussi Jaaskelainen

An obvious choice but it simply has to be Jussi. Gets the nod over Keith Branagan as he has been one of the Premiership’s top keepers over the past 10 years. In his prime (i.e. during the heady days of consecutive top 8 finishes) he undoubtedly saved us 10-15 points per season.9/10

Right Back: Gudni Bergsson

Gudni will occupy the right back slot in my line-up. He’s played there before and, despite primarily being a centre-half, he fits the bill here better than anyone I can think of. An absolute bargain at £65,000, he will man this position with vigilance, class and complete composure. A true Bolton legend. 9/10

Centre Half: Gerry Taggart

Players appeal to me when they are what I like to refer to as ‘growlers’ and Taggart was one of the biggest growlers of them all. An uncompromising beast of a player, he was a typical no-nonsense centre-half. He simply bulldozed people off the ball and did what needed to be done, whether that was a simple pass to a team-mate or hoofing it into row Z. And he did it very well indeed. 8/10

Centre Half: Bruno N’Gotty

One of the classiest players I’ve seen in a Bolton shirt, Bruno was also built like a tank but in addition he possessed a silky finesse on the ball which appears to be a given with the more refined players to arrive on these shores from other parts of the continent. A stalwart who would have formed a perfect centre-half partnership with big Ged. Quite simply a wonderful player. 9.5/10

Left Back: Ricardo Gardner

Loyalty and versatility are two valuable attributes in the modern game, hence the inclusion of Ricky. Having signed for Bolton following the 1998 World Cup (it’s easy to forget that Jamaica did grace the finals in France that year), Ricky remains a first team player to this day. Capable of playing at left-back, left-wing or through the middle, Ricky bags the left-back spot in my team. It potentially leaves that side a little vulnerable at times but his inclusion will allow my team to be fluid and adapt to various situations with more than a little guile, gusto and pace. 8.5/10

Centre Midfield (Holding Role): Fernando Hierro

The cynics (myself included) were doubting the signing of Hierro. An aging European veteran seemingly out for one last pay day? How wrong we all were. His stay at the Reebok might have been all too short but in Fernando we had the finest player I’ve ever seen in a Bolton shirt. At the age of 36 he slotted effortlessly into the midfield holding role and dictated play in a way I’d never seen before. Possessing an almost-supernatural ability to afford himself ridiculous amounts of time on the ball, his vision was exemplary and his passing was simply sublime. Gifted, committed and brilliant – it was a joy to witness such a legend, even if only for a fleeting amount of time. Upon seeing him in the local Tesco a couple of months after he called it a day, my wife couldn’t understand why I wanted to kiss his sacred feet there and then. There are some things you just can’t explain to a woman who doesn’t like football… 10/10

Left Wing: Jeff Chandler

I have to include a player from the days when I were a lad and Jeff gets the nod. Despite primarily being a right-winger, I’m sure I saw him drift to the left quite frequently (unless my judgement as an 8 year old was clouded by too many flying saucers and sherbet dib-dabs) so that’s where he plays in my team. A winger of real attacking potency, he was mercurial, downright cocky and brilliant. Any player who takes the ball to the touchline, puts one foot on it, holds his hands out (palms upwards) and beckons the right back to ‘come on then’ (before skinning him) deserves a place in this team. And yes – I did see him do that. As a mere nipper I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. 7.5/10

Right Wing: Michael Johansen

There is absolutely no competition for the right-wing berth. Signing for the club at the same time as Per Frandsen (who makes my bench on the strength of his awesome displays in his first spell with the club), the pair were instrumental in taking Bolton out of the Championship and into the Premiership in the 96-97 season.Johansen was tiny (I thought we’d signed Ronnie Corbett upon first setting eyes on him) but he had electric pace and great delivery. And best of all? He always played with a huge beaming grin on his face. You just couldn’t help but love the guy, especially during his frequent efforts to whip the crowd into a frenzy. One of the biggest bargains in the club’s recent history.8/10

Centre Midfield: JJ Okocha

Where to start? The fact that he had his very own showboat slot during the glory days of Soccer AM? The other-worldly display against Aston Villa in the 1st leg of the Carling Cup semi-final in 2004? The quite ridiculous audacity of some of the moves he attempted? Any and all of the above apply. A joy to watch, a true entertainer and, on his day, simply untouchable. The old cliché of paying the entrance money just to watch him certainly applies here. In fact, in his pomp, I’d have paid the entrance money just to watch him sitting on the khazi reading Whizzer & Chips, such was the brilliance of the man. I’m willing to bet that, in the sanctity of his own netty, he even curled No.2’s out in a spectacular manner. 9.5/10

Attacking Midfield / Centre Forward: Youri Djorkaeff

The most difficult decision of all – to include John McGinlay, Kevin Davies or Youri alongside Anelka. Well the title is the best XI Bolton players I’ve seen in the flesh and, if Davo or Super John are reading this, sorry fellas but Youri was one hell of a player. Initial opinions amongst many here were that Big Sam had taken yet another gamble on an aging maverick but such thoughts proved extremely naïve. A truly wonderful player, he was one of the catalysts for the period of (relative) success in the early part of the 00’s. My heart beats fast when imagining just how well he and Anelka would have complimented each other. 9.5/10

Centre Forward: Nicolas Anelka

Just behind Hierro as the finest player I’ve ever seen in a Bolton shirt. Another perceived gamble by Big Sam, in reality another absolute master-stroke. Signed for £8 million, sold for £15 million with a hatful of glorious goals to boot in the interim. Never sulky and always willing to work for the team, Anelka was the model pro during his time at the Reebok. And that 25 yard curler against Arsenal during his first season with us? S*xier than Girls Aloud contesting a bikini-clad wrestling match with The Saturdays in a vat full of custard. 9.9/10

Bolton Wanderers Total 97.4

Despite being a boozer with dodgy knees who couldn’t train, McGrath was PFA Player of The Year in 1993, and one of the finest defenders ever to grace the game.

Greatest Aston Villa XI

GK: Mark Bosnich - Aussie legend Bosnich was undeniably brilliant before Man Utd, pies and Colombian marching powder ruined him. His penalty saves against Tranmere Rovers, which got Villa into the 1994 League Cup Final, will loom long in the memories of Villains everywhere – but not as long as his videotaped escapades with a bunch of bimbos, Dwight Yorke, a whip and a nice dress.  8

LB: Steve Staunton - Bought from Liverpool in 1991, Staunton was as reliable at the back as he was dangerous getting forward. Many a defence fell foul of his tin opening left-foot (and perhaps many a tin), and his goals included a notable rocket at Old Trafford in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992/3. He also scored directly from corners for both the Republic of Ireland and Villa, the show off.  8

RB: John Gidman - An attacking right-back who was with Villa from 1971-79, before going on to play for Everton, Man Utd and Man City. Gidman was solid in defence, but loved tearing down the wing and sticking the crosses in. A bit like a 1970‘s Glen Johnson, but actually able to defend and with much better hair. 7

CB: Martin Laursen - Won the Champions league and Serie A title while at AC Milan, then joined Villa in 2004. His spell was dogged by knee injuries, but when fit he was a towering colossus at the back (and handsome with it), though he often got forward to score, including two goals in a 4-4 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane. 9

CB: Paul McGrath - The Black Pearl of Inchicore. Despite being a boozer with dodgy knees who couldn’t train, McGrath was PFA Player of The Year in 1993, and one of the finest defenders ever to grace the game. His legendary performance against Italy in The Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 win at USA94 had God watching his back. 10

CM: Gordon ‘Sid’ Cowans - Slight midfielder who could deliver a ball on a sixpence from one pitch to another (if necessary). Won a League and European Cup winners medal with Villa in the early 80s, but criminally overlooked by England – even with that nose. 9

CM: David Platt - The other English star of Italia 90 (apart from Gazza and his plastic breasts), Platt scored the last-minute volley that beat Belgium to send England through to the quarter finals. A box-to-box midfielder who scored plenty of goals and helped Villa win promotion in 1988, Platty went on to shine for Juventus, Sampdoria and Arsenal, and notched 27 goals in 62 appearances for England. Now coaching at Man City, he looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy’s reflection in the back of a spoon. Unlucky. 8

LM: Tony Morley - Tricky winger who spent most of the early 1980s setting fire to the flanks of pitches up and down England. Scored the goal of the season in the 1980/81 Championship season against Everton at Goodison. Also rumoured to have pissed in the European Cup. That’s the spirit.  8

RM: Paul Merson - He might have been as one-footed as Heather Mills, but what a right foot. Merson had enjoyed a fine career with Arsenal, but many believe he played his best football with Villa. Often enjoying a playmaker’s role, his passing was sublime and he could hit the target almost as often as he hit the bar and the bookies. 8

CF: Brian Little - Member of Villa’s 1972 FA Youth Cup winning side who went on to become a true Holte End hero. He was all hair, sideburns and prodigious skill, and he scored goals too – 26 of them came in the 1976/77 season, during which his strike partner, a certain Andy Gray, scored 29. Another Villain to be ignored by England and have his career cut short by injury, he did later return as manager, winning the League Cup, which he also won with the club as a player. 9

CF: Dwight Yorke - Discovered by Graham Taylor in his native Trinidad & Tobago, Yorke spent nine years at Villa scoring 73 league goals and helping Villa to lift the League Cup in 1996. Went on to enjoy more success at Old Trafford, where he won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble. No wonder he was always smiling.  8

Total: 92

Bolton 97.4 – Aston Villa 92

Despite the blistering speed of Morley demonising Bergsson all day long and Cowans and Platt enjoying plenty of meaningful possession in the middle it is Bolton who win out through the enterprising zeal of Okocha. A sublime piece of trickery bemuses a semi-drunk Gidman and the brilliant Nigerian lays it off for Anelka to clinically seal matters in a close but enjoyable affair.

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