Legends of Yesteryear
Christ, these weekends are interminable. As a fan of a club that goes in for the type of player that any national manager in their right mind wouldn’t give a second look, international breaks usually offer scant interest and, a Krisztián Timár game-deciding howler aside, this interruption has proved no different. So, having yawned through / tolerated / borne another routine England performance at the Theatre of Automatons, let us take a look at some of our league’s former players who were in action this weekend. Lining up in a slick 4-3-3, our ex-Championship-XI-plying-their-trade-in-Leagues-One-and-Two reads as follows:
Crowe Rehman Breckin Clapham
Kavanagh Gregan Walton
Forster Furlong Stewart
Narrowly beating Simon Royce to the No. 1 spot is David Lucas, who is the current custodian of the same shirt at Swindon. Still only 31, the ex-PNE man has time on his side and having been with both North End and Sheffield Wednesday during both clubs’ rise to the Championship, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Lucas make a return with the Robins. Whether you would care is another matter.
Another player who the Championship may again get a closer glimpse of next season is Jason Crowe, who joined Leeds on a Bosman from Northampton in the summer. The ex-Portsmouth right back scores and assists more than his fair share of goals, and he seems to have settled in well at Elland Road. He was part of the starting eleven in Leeds’ 2-0 home win against a very youthful-looking Stockport yesterday. On the opposite flank is Jamie Clapham. As a pre-Sven Notts County relic, his Meadow Lane days may be numbered, but he’ll probably remain until the end of the season. An assist for the oldest professional football league club in the world™ in a 1-1 derby draw against Burton yesterday will have done him no harm.
Filling the first centre half position is Bradford’s Zesh Rehman. Along with Jamaican International Damion Stewart, Rehman made up half of the worst centre-back pairing I’ve ever seen in a score draw between Argyle and QPR around four seasons ago. While Stewart seems to have found some form in the interim, Rehman’s trickle down the leagues suggests that he was the weak link. Fair play to him, though: his campaigning for Asian footballers is admirable, if a little narcissistic. Alongside him is Ian Breckin, who signed for Chesterfield in the summer after Billy Davies’s Forest clear out. Breckin impressed in Wigan’s ascension to prominence earlier in the decade, but his star was to rise no further. He played 90 minutes in a 3-1 defeat at Rotherham yesterday.
The midfield is made up of the intimidating Graham Kavanagh (Carlisle)-Sean Gregan (Oldham)-Simon Walton (Crewe) triumvirate. Kavanagh, perhaps best known for his hard as nails haircut, was always a capable player at Championship level and good money was thrice paid for him by Cardiff, Wigan and Sunderland. Now a player-coach at Brunton Park, Kavanagh has already played against Gregan in the League Cup this season; Carlisle won that game, but Gregan will get a second bite in a fortnight’s time when the two sides meet in the League. Gregan and Kavanagh are both reputed for their physical strength, and Walton, on loan from Plymouth, could be said to possess all their nastiness, but none of their ability. At just 21 years old, Walton has failed to live up to his early promise at Leeds and, after unremarkable stints at Cardiff, Charlton, Ipswich, Blackpool, Hull, QPR and Plymouth, he has been forced to drop down to League Two with Crewe. Plymouth still has him under contract, but his relationship with Paul Sturrock has soured and this ‘real nugget’ is unlikely to play again while the Scotsman is at the helm.
Leading the line is Barnet’s Paul Furlong, who enjoyed fruitful spells in the division with Watford, Birmingham and QPR. The classic Championship striker, Furlong never quite made it in the top flight but, along with Kevin Francis, Ian Ormondroyd and Bob Taylor, his name will forever be etched on my mind as one of the more recognisable Football League strikers at the time of my introduction to the game in the mid 90s. Supporting Furlong is Exeter’s Marcus Stewart, the only player in this XI to achieve a promotion last season, and Nicky Forster who, despite his advancing years, is still Brighton’s best striker. Stewart, a legend in North Bristol, was a potent finisher for Rovers, Huddersfield and Ipswich in this division and while the goals may have dried up a little, he is still one of the first names on the team sheet at the other St James Park.
While I’m at it, well done to the Beeb, who I’ve groundlessly denigrated in the past, for yesterday putting on a Football League Show focusing solely on the third and fourth tiers. Parts of the show continue to make you squirm, but I’m a fan.