An alternative 'Team of the Century' — Part 1

John McFarlane [Senior]   16/10/2018 0comments  |  Jump to last

At the turn of the century (1999-2000), Radio Merseyside presenter Alan Jackson invited listeners to his 'Football Football Show', to submit the names of players with Merseyside connections to feature in a Team of the Century. I have always believed that it is impossible to compare players of different eras, and so I submitted an eleven who had left their mark on football both on and off the field of play; my Everton nominations were as follows, starting at the back:

Goalkeeper: Ted Sagar (Everton)

Ted Sagar only ever played for one club, Everton, from the moment he signed from the Junior Leagues in March 1929 until his last League appearance in November 1952, a mammoth 463 League appearances later. That total outlived him, surviving until eight years after his death, when it was surpassed by Neville Southall in 1994.

It was during the 1931-32 season that Sagar established himself in the side where he spent the next 11 seasons (although that period spanned 17 years, 6 of which saw football suspended while the Second World War was being fought.

He immediately settled into the team and, in his first season, missed only one game as Everton won the League title in 1931-32. The following season, he was an ever-present as Everton won the FA Cup. "There is no finer goalkeeper in the League today" was the opinion of one newspaper, on the occasion that he was chosen to represent the Football League, in 1934.

The season before war broke out, Everton won the League Championship again, and many observers agreed that the side of 1938-39 was the finest that they had ever seen.

In the 1950-51 season, the 40-year-old Sagar (still first choice) became the last Everton goalkeeper to play in a relegation team – not an honour to be proud of... but something else Neville Southall came close to taking from him in 1994.

Sagar's last League appearance was against Plymouth Argyle in November 1952. Ted Sagar died in October 1986 aged 76, on his death, Everton lost a dedicated servant the like of whom we may never see again.

I chose Ted Sagar because his service of 24 years and 5 weeks as a player with Everton was a record for a player with one club.

Left-Back Ray Wilson (Everton)

The softly spoken boy from Shirebrook who became a World Cup winner, Ray Wilson was highly regarded in the dressing room for his calm demeanour and his refusal to buckle under pressure. Wilson was a visionary whose dependable distribution, and overlapping runs down the left flank, helped make him a Huddersfield Town, and Everton giant.

He made his Huddersfield debut under manager Bill Shankly in 1955 and, within two seasons, he was an established performer. Wilson spent 12 years at Huddersfield, making 266 appearances before joining Everton in 1964; the £40,000 fee was a record for a full-back at the time.

He later admitted fearing that he had waited too long to make the move to the top flight; his fears were unfounded as he went on to be a part of the Everton team that won one of the most dramatic FA Cup Finals, turning a 2-0 deficit to Sheffield Wednesday into a 3-2 victory in 1966. It was to be the first of two successful Wembley Finals for him that summer.

Wilson had been an England regular since 1962, playing all of the team's games in the 1962 Chile World Cup – a feat he would repeat on home soil in 1966, as he was firmly established as Alf Ramsey's first choice left back.

The 1966 World Cup Final didn't start well for Wilson, who headed Siggi Held's cross straight to Helmut Haller who put the ball past England's keeper Gordon Banks, yet Wilson recovered and went on to play a key role as the team rallied to run out 4-2 winners. Ray Wilson was the oldest member of the side at 31, and appeared in one of the enduring post-match images with Bobby Moore being hoisted aloft with the trophy.

Ray Wilson missed out on clinching the First Division title: Everton had won it one year prior to him joining them, and again one year after he left.

After playing for England in the 1968 European Championships, injuries ended his career on Merseyside, and he left for Oldham Athletic in 1969 having played for The Toffees 116 times.

I chose Ray Wilson because his achievement of winning both the FA Cup and World Cup in an 11-week period at Wembley; it is highly unlikely to happen again.

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