Size matters

by   |   11/09/2019  84 Comments  [Jump to last]

Having been an Evertonian all my life and attending matches regularly since 1960, I have seen all of our good teams, average teams and poor teams during that period. One thing has always irked me. Why do we always seem to have a small team? That is my recollection anyway.

Even the Holy Trinity, whom I worshiped, were relatively small. All three were of less-than-average height. Even the great team of the 1980s was not particularly big. Ratcliffe was under 6 ft; Reid, Bracewell, Steven, Sheedy in midfield, with “Inchy” up front. I was once in the same room as Andy Gray and was surprised by how much smaller he was in the flesh. Many of the players coming through the ranks who have been touted as the next sensation have been diminutive. I feel some of them have possibly not made the grade because of it.

Until now, that is... when we seem to be bringing in mainly tall players. The two centre backs, Keane and Mina, are 6’-3” and 6’-5” respectively. In midfield, although Delph is of average height, Gomes is 6’-2” and Gbamin 6’-1”. Further up the field, Sigurdsson is 6’-1” while our current front three of Richarlison, Keane and Iwobi are respectively 5’-10”, 6’-0” and 5’-11”. Surely our tallest team for quite some time.

I am not saying a footballer has to be big to succeed. I realise that a balance throughout the team is required, and smaller players are often quicker over short distances and more able to change direction. Personally I am glad that we have brought in some good players that have height and can compete physically.

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Dick Fearon
1 Posted 12/09/2019 at 02:15:00
Clive, I have mused about your topic for a good many years and reckon you are correct: All things being equal, a good big un' will always beat a good little un'.

That our noisy neighbours have had so much success I put down to Shankly in his own words "Built his teams around a spine of big robust players".

That was at odds with his pride in the development of the great Denis Law. Who, upon their first meeting was, in Shankly's own words: "5 foot nothing, short-sighted and weighed in at no more than 5 stone wringing wet."

Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 12/09/2019 at 04:34:36
Sorry, Dick, but in my book the good little 'uns always beat out the good big 'uns on the football pitch.

Just for the sake of argument, lemme put out a Munchkin Best 11 Ever (actually 16 because I couldn't decide) and see what you think:

F - Pele 5'-8"
F - Gerd Mueller 5'-9"
F - Eusebio 5'-7" or Romario 5'-6"
M - Messi 5'-6"
M - Maradona 5'-5"
M - Di Stefano 5'-9", or Iniesta 5'-7", or Zico 5'-8"
D - Cannavaro 5'-9"
D - Baresi 5'-9"
D - Bobby Moore or Carlos Puyol, both 5'-10"
D - Beckenbauer 5'-11"
G - Casillas 5'-11" or Mazurkiewicz 5'-9"

Go ahead, pick a team over 6 feet and beat mine. No chance.

Little guys rule in footy.

Alan J Thompson
3 Posted 12/09/2019 at 05:24:42
I remember it being said that Everton only signed Tony Cottee because he was the right height for the team photo.
Eric Paul
4 Posted 12/09/2019 at 05:27:01

All those players you've listed have one thing in common, they all played in great sides. It would be interesting to see how big the rest of the team were.

Where does 'little' finish and 'big' begin?

Jim Harrison
5 Posted 12/09/2019 at 07:39:01
Mike 2,

Easy enough to line up a load of players, who are all by their own merits exceptional players, that may not translate into a good team!!!

I think balance is key, the right sort of players to carry out the plan. I have noted often enough that Everton have been soft in the middle for years, and that has always shown when we came up against "big" teams, and by that I mean physically. It's not all about height, but strength too.

That seems to have changed, and there is a good blend of speed and brawn in the squad now. Bernard is a good example of a small player who can hold his own, but more centrally I think he would get dominated.

Brian Williams
6 Posted 12/09/2019 at 08:13:21
You basically need good big strong players in certain areas and I've been saying for ages we get bullied and out muscled in midfield by teams with tall athletic speedy players. That's changed a bit of late.

Yes, there are some great small players in the Premier League: Silva and Sterling spring to mind... but City also have strength in their engine room which is really important too. Some of the "lesser" teams survive, IMO, because they fill their midfield with big athletic, run-all-day players.

John McFarlane Snr
7 Posted 12/09/2019 at 09:14:38
Hi all, size didn't matter to Bobby Collins, or Alan Ball.
Derek Thomas
9 Posted 12/09/2019 at 09:35:32
Like you, Clive, I go back to before Carey got his taxi. My first game was 5 November 1960, I was blown away by the whole thing. The first glimpse of the flood lights from the top deck of the 500, the crowds, the noise, the smells. The massive brick stands and into the Gwladys Street. Up the steps to see the biggest enclosed space I'd ever seen, a vista of green grass and blue and white criss crosses.

The only thing about the game I remember, is some seeming giant WBA defender wisely decided, with Bobby Collins in his face, that no, he didn't need to take things any further.

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Dick Fearon
10 Posted 12/09/2019 at 09:44:48
Mike @2,

I do not accept that 5'-9" should be classed as small. By including 5'-9" player, you have given yourself a much wider range from which to pick from.

Using 5'-9" as a baseline, I nominate the following in the old WM formation.

Keeper: Lev Yashin
Left Back: Ray Wilson
Right Back....
Left Half: John Charles
Centre-Half: Franz Beckenbauer
Right Half: Bobby Moore
Left Wing: Di Stefano
Centre-Forward: Dixie Dean
Right Wing: Christiano Ronaldo

For the life of me, I cannot bring to mind a right-back good enough to name. Perhaps others could help me out there or even dispute my entire choice.
Dick Fearon
11 Posted 12/09/2019 at 10:11:46
I should add that, other than Dixie, I have seen all in the flesh, some of them several times.
Steve Ferns
12 Posted 12/09/2019 at 10:12:20
Dixie Dean was a very tall man for his time. Just look at the old Pathe videos to see how the camera has to go up to fit him in as it passes along the Everton line. Obviously he played almost 100 years ago now. It's interesting to note that his height was 5'-10". The exact same height as "Tiny" Tim Cahill (as some on here used to annoyingly call him).

Some take issue with the height of the players Mike mentioned, but the greatest Barcelona side of recent years was built on a midfield of midgets. The only tall player they had in there was Sergio Busquets. So it might be easier to be a small player in a great team, but this was a small team.

Even now, Pep is at Man City and he has a team that lacks height. There's barely a player over 6 foot in that side, including the centre-backs. So, Pep isn't arsed about height.

Brian Williams
13 Posted 12/09/2019 at 11:11:30
Pep's not arsed about height because the money he can spend on more vertically challenged players is astronomical compared to most other teams which allows him to buy absolutely outstanding players in EVERY position. The majority of other Premier League clubs can't.

With someone like David Silva, for instance, his height is immaterial because he's an absolutely top player. "Smaller" players who aren't top players struggle at times. It's not black and white as some would like to make out – there are many shades in between each extreme.

Steve Ferns
14 Posted 12/09/2019 at 11:34:47
Brian, Pep could buy a team of giants though. He chooses, time and again, to sign smaller players. Look at his teams at Barcelona, Bayern and now City.

I think height does matter for us though, as we need the height for zonal marking when defending set pieces. Also Silva's sides tend to be more counter-attacking and so have the ball less and the height and strength are needed in defence.

I think we have a good balance right now. Though I would prefer to have a quick centre-back on our books and trust this will be rectified soon.

Alan J Thompson
15 Posted 12/09/2019 at 14:18:30
It was always said that shorter players were more difficult to knock over as they had a lower centre of gravity.
Steve Ferns
16 Posted 12/09/2019 at 14:23:10
You're spot on, Alan. Diego Maradona is 5'-5". That's an inch taller than Bernard. But Diego, at his peak, must have had a good 20 pounds on Bernard. His legs were bulging, and he had a big arse in the sense that he could get his back to a player and they just couldn't get round him to get the ball. Little stocky guys with fast feet and pace are almost impossible to tackle.
Eric Paul
17 Posted 12/09/2019 at 14:33:11
There is plenty of height in Man City's squad.
Steve Ferns
18 Posted 12/09/2019 at 14:43:37
There isn't Eric. It's the smallest squad in the league with an average height of 179.7 cm. 6'-0" is 183 cm. Man City have 8 players above this height. 3 of them are goalkeepers. LaPorte brings their height but he is out injured. Stones is 6'-1" and he's the third tallest outfield player. They are the smallest side in the Premier League.
Eric Paul
19 Posted 12/09/2019 at 14:57:58
They started against Brighton with 4 outfield players 5'-11” or above. Their average is low because of their front three.
Mike Gaynes
20 Posted 12/09/2019 at 15:12:27
Eric #4, what I would consider four of the five greatest players of all time are on my list, and they were great irrespective of height. Besides, their clubs were great because of them! Where is Barca without Messi?

Dick #10, on the backline 5'-9" is considered small, always has been. Imagine being offered one today. Who'd look at Cannavaro?

Jay Harris
21 Posted 12/09/2019 at 15:13:35
Give me Aguerro over any 6-ft plus player. Strength on the ball is far more important than height.

I think as Steve has pointed out the only time height is important is for defending corners and free kicks but even balls being punted into the area is reducing these days as the trend is more towards possession and short passing.

James Hughes
22 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:03:39
Dick, a brave selection as you've only picked nine players. I would suggest you add Patrick Viera (or Michel Platini) and Philip Lahm as a right-back, but he is just below your 5'-9'' baseline

James Hughes
23 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:09:43
Just noticed it's the inside forwards missing (I think – the formation is before my time). So it would be Platini for me and you still need another...
Stephen Brown
24 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:26:50
I remember we had the mighty midgets: Cottee, Beardsley, Ward and MoJo I think it was?

We were always linked with target men at the time.

Eric Paul
25 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:35:48
Mike, I'm not disputing how good the players on your list are but they were successful because they had great players around them? Where would Messi be without the Barcelona side around him???
Steve Ferns
26 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:37:21
Maurice Johnston? What a terrible striker he was for us.

Remember John Spencer? Good lord.

Steve Ferns
27 Posted 12/09/2019 at 16:55:07
Eric, where do you think he would be?
Eric Paul
28 Posted 12/09/2019 at 17:04:47
The same place as Argentina, great players need great players around them to be successful. I was replying to Mike's question of where Barcelona would be without Messi.
Steve Ferns
29 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:09:17
I disagree Eric. Put a prime Messi in Huddersfield of last season and he would still win the league. We're talking of a guy who could beat 8 men on his own and score. He was, at his peak, never a player who relied on anyone.

He could start, progress and finish moves. He was the complete attacker, lacking only an aerial game. He makes average players better. The Argentina thing is a red herring. He does well with Argentina until the summer tournaments. That's a question of running out of steam following a 60-game season than failing to play with weaker players.

Name someone who has starred in the World Cup in recent years after a gruelling league and European campaign. All the big names struggle unless they have something in the tank because of injury, weaker league, or going out of Europe early.

Mike Gaynes
30 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:09:57
"...they were successful because they had great players around them."

Eric, I'm sorry but that's just silly. Greatness is greatness, no matter who's around you. I personally saw Pele play for Santos. He was their whole club. Nobody else you ever heard of was in that side, but they won the Copa Libertadores two years in a row. It was all Pele.

Name one other "great" player besides Eusebio from the Benfica side that made five European Cup finals and won eleven league titles. There weren't any.

What the hell did Napoli ever win before -- or after -- Maradona played for them? He made that club.

And are you really, really going to push the idea that Barca made Messi great instead of the other way around? Sorry again, but that's just laughable. Check their record when he's not playing. Messi would have been the best in the world wherever he played.

Jay Harris
31 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:14:44
I do remember a certain Everton player who marked Messi out of a particular game.

It was either Funes Mori or Mo Besic but, according to reports, he didn't get a kick.

There is no doubting his talent... but worldbeater on his own? Naah.

Steve Ferns
32 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:17:21
Jay, it was Mo Besic. But you remember it incorrectly. Besic had a great game for 89 minutes. Then Messi did him and scored the winner! So kind of undermines your point. It only takes one thing and Messi wins a game.
Steve Ferns
33 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:20:04
Mike agreed. I loved watching Pele's Santos thrash Eusebio's Benfica. It was a one-man show.

None of these bowling green pitches – they were a mud bath and there's Pele gliding over the mud, weaving in and out of players with the ball bouncing around him as if a dog on a lead. So much different from Messi who has it glued to his boot.

Pele was a marvel and most have never seen the real Pele. The young one who could out-Messi, Messi.

John McFarlane Snr
34 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:24:53
Hi Eric [28], you may well be right in stating that 'Great players need great players around them to be successful', but in my opinion 'Great players' will always be 'Great players' irrespective of who they have around them.

There are some who say, "Lionel Messi can't be considered great because he's never won the World Cup, where does that leave Tom Finney, John Charles, George Best, and Jimmy Johnstone?

Eric Paul
35 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:45:39
Eight Santos players were in the Brazil squad that qualified for the World Cup in 1970 which is the best side ever in my opinion so they must have had some decent players. I'm not disputing how good the players mentioned in the above posts are but it's a team game, they might have moments of brilliance but, to sustain success, they need very talented players alongside them.
Steve Ferns
36 Posted 12/09/2019 at 18:46:16
Eric, this was 1962. That Santos team was far inferior to Benfica and had a dodgy defence. Pele won the game singlehanded. He scored one where he runs almost the full length of the pitch, taking them all on.

People only seem to remember the ‘58 Pele (17) or the ‘70 Pele. One was very young. The other was old and slow and could no longer dribble and so turned himself into a playmaking Number 10 to pull the strings of the players you talked about.

Without Pele, that 1970 side was failing to qualify for the World Cup. They were terrible. They had to drag him out of retirement off the beach and get him fit. He made this side the best in the world. Without him, you'd have never have seen them.

Mike Gaynes
37 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:12:41
Eric and Steve, you're both mistaken there, my friends.

Eric, the '70 Brazil World Cup team had only five players from Santos, not eight. And only two of them actually played, Pele and Carlos Alberto. Furthermore, none of those Santos players were with the club during the club's glory years in the early '60s. That was 100% Pele.

Steve, Pele rejoined the Brazil national team over a year before the 1970 World Cup, and while they weren't playing great in their friendlies at the time, they were anything but terrible (Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino) and were never, ever in danger of not qualifying. Matter of fact, they won six straight lopsided victories in qualifying with a goal differential of +21.

Also, they sure as heck didn't have to get Pele "off the beach" and fit -- he made 61 appearances for Santos that year. He most certainly was not in retirement. He had only dropped off the national team out of exhaustion.

Stan Schofield
38 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:19:50
Steve @36: The 1970 Brazil side had the joint-best midfield trio in the world. They had Gerson, Clodoaldo and Rivelino, the only midfield remotely comparable to Ball, Harvey and Kendall. They weren't in much danger of not qualifying.

In England's case, for comparison, if our Holy Trinity had played for England (and not solely Ball), we might have won that World Cup. All small players by the way.

Actually, the entire 1970 title-winning Everton team could have been the England team, and would have had a better chance of winning the World Cup than the actual England team.

Brian Harrison
39 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:23:17
The Brazil side of 1970 was the greatest side I have seen. For people to suggest that Pele carried them, then I suggest they didn't see that team play.

They were also managed by for me the greatest International manager in Mario Zagallo. There was a programme on Sky a few weeks back where they interviewed many of that 1970 side, who for me scored the greatest team goal I have ever seen. All the players said many thought that goal was off the cuff but they all said Zagallo walked them through the move the day before the match.

Mike Gaynes
40 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:30:37
Steve #33, I saw him play in May 1973 in a friendly against Lazio, which would win the Scudetto the following season. He was 33 years old and playing in a community park in Chicago called Hanson Stadium, which was (and still is) a mud pit with a seating capacity of maybe 3,500. Slogging through the muck (and twice falling in it), he scored two goals and singlehandedly took apart one of the top club sides in Europe at the time. It was stunning.

Brian #39, I didn't see that particular show but both Pele and the late Carlos Alberto have told the same story. Pele said he neither looked up nor heard a call from Carlos, just laid the ball off into his path knowing he'd be there -- because Zagallo had diagrammed it.

John McFarlane Snr
41 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:44:21
Hi Steve [36] I'm trying to be as diplomatic as I can, but with reference to a 1962 Santos vs Benfica game, would I be right in thinking that this was a little before your time, and that you are basing your opinion on TV footage?

There's nothing wrong with that, but apart from the games that Pele played at Goodison in 1966 (which I attended) I've seen little of Pele on TV. I have however seen Messi quite a few times on TV, never in the flesh, and in my opinion, Messi is the best player I've ever seen.

In fairness to Eric, it is a team game. I think on reflection you may agree that claiming that 'Pele won the game single-handed' was exaggerated a trifle.

I still maintain that great players will always be great players – no matter who they have around them.

Ray Said
42 Posted 12/09/2019 at 19:46:46
Dick (10), the great Carlos Alberto (6'-2") or Lillian Thuram (over 6-ft) at right back?
Eric Paul
43 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:02:33

If you read my post, I stated the squad that qualified contained 8 Santos players.

Dermot Byrne
44 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:07:12
Is there a game soon?

I want a mix of tall and small players.

Most of all, I want a goal and don't care if it is scored by a leprechaun or lurch from the Adams Family.

Stan Schofield
45 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:12:23
John @41: For me, it's been a toss-up between Messi and George Best... but, if I had to choose one of them, I too would choose Messi, with Best a close second. Best was also quite small, and slight.
Steve Ferns
46 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:13:38
Mike, as John says, I wasn't around so have to rely on sources. One of which was an excellent documentary on Brazil at the World Cup in 1970. They said he was retired (from Brazil not Santos) and one of the players, I forgot which said they had to drag him off the beach. Could be exaggeration or dramatic effect but that was what the guy said. It was also said that the reason they got him out of retirement was that they were struggling to qualify. I stand corrected if you've got the facts and my memory or indeed the documentary is incorrect.

As regards Pele in 1966, didn't he barely play a full 90? Going into the tournament, he was already carrying an injury and then he got stretchered off in the second or third game and then Brazil got knocked out before he could recover.

In 1962, he was also injured and, despite getting a medal, he barely played. So the only footage they show of him on English football is the kid of 17 and the older version (battered by injury) of 1970. However, there is a number of documentaries that have remastered the Santos games and show more or less the Benfica game in full with player accounts. Well worth a watch as you get to see the real Pele at the peak of his powers.

As for Messi being better, I would have to bow to your superior wisdom, John, but I fail to see how Messi could do what Pele did on those pitches and being kicked up in the air with those referees. I doubt he'd last 30 minutes of a game never mind a full season.

Pele would not have had his career reduced by injury had he played today, but then again it would not give him the opportunity to prove why he's the greatest of all time, as unlike Maradona, Messi and Cristiano Aveiro, he didn't lose his greatest attributes and reinvent himself as a different type of player and prove to still be the world's best. I would hesitate on Messi though, as this incarnation is showing signs of doing that.

Dick Fearon
47 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:34:09
Ray @42 answered my Right Back conundrum with Carlos Alberto so which team wins?

Mine or Mikes @2 minus his 5'-9"-ers, hee hee.

Stan Schofield
48 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:39:06
Dick @10: Tommy Wright will do!
Gavin McGarvey
49 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:53:14
I remember Zola taking us apart at Stamford Bridge one night in the League Cup. It was like watching that Fast Show clip where the player has the ball glued to the end of his boot. He didn't seem to let his diminutive stature get in his way.

That being said, there was a sense that we couldn't mix it, and wanted to play too pretty post Howard Kendall and into the '90s, so maybe a better balance not only in height but in pace (how slow was Walter Smith's side?), and also in aggression. When Joe Royle put a bit of bite into midfield, we actually saw that a few of our smaller players could play.

Steve Ferns
50 Posted 12/09/2019 at 20:55:49
I can't find the documentary but I think it relates to not the qualifying in 1969 or 1970, but to the period from 1966 to 1968 where Pele had retired from international football the disgusting treatment he received from opponents at Goodison and the lack of protection from referees.

He made his comeback in October 1968. The Brazil results from 1966 to October 1968 were mixed, but not as bad as I recall this documentary to make out. Pele does have a habit of over-emphasising his role and some of his teammates seem more than happy to play along. Perhaps, I recalled incorrectly or perhaps it's an exaggeration.

Eric Paul
51 Posted 12/09/2019 at 21:07:54
John @41,

I agree, great players will always be great players but they are even better when complemented by players who can understand, anticipate and accentuate their genius – regardless of size.

Mike Gaynes
52 Posted 12/09/2019 at 21:37:44
John #41, like you I saw little of Pele on TV until the twilight of his career, when at the age of 37 he was still the best goalscorer in the old NASL for the Cosmos. But I have to believe that he reigns supreme. Virtually a goal a game for 20 years while being kicked across the pitch, as Steve mentions, is an extraordinary achievement. And he played more than twice as many games as Messi has so far. However, in my view Messi is the clear #2, having left Maradona and the other candidates far behind.

Steve #46, I did look it up to confirm my memory of events. Brazil played, and easily won, all six of its World Cup qualifiers within four weeks in August 1969. There was no qualifying action before that, so Brazil was a cinch to qualify.

As for the "beach" comment, whoever made it must have been facetious. During his 2-plus years away from the Brazil program, Pele made something like 170 appearances for Santos. That's incredible.

Dave Abrahams
53 Posted 12/09/2019 at 21:42:27
Stan (48), I liked Tommy Wright but I'd put another Everton man in place of Tommy: Alex Parker, not much difference in their height either.
Andy Crooks
54 Posted 12/09/2019 at 22:21:08
Steve @ 29, I have read this post a few times, but, are you really arguing that Huddersfield would have won the league with Messi? Messi, mind, not Roy Race. I expect I have mis read your post, though.

I just read it again, Steve, and I think that is your argument. If so, it is – coming from you – one of the most staggering posts I have ever read on this site.

Ray Roche
55 Posted 12/09/2019 at 22:30:25
Mike @52

I've literally just finished Pelé's autobiography. I was a little disappointed to realise that many of his goals were scored in exhibition matches when Santos went on tour around the world.

They were a bit like the Harlem Globe Trotters and Pelé was their star who was expected to play even if he wasn't fit. He was their cash cow. I saw him at Goodison in the World Cup and witnessed the appalling treatment he received. Like you, I put him top of my list of football greats.

Unfortunately like many footballers he was ripped off by unscrupulous “friends” in dodgy business deals.

Tom Bowers
56 Posted 12/09/2019 at 22:36:08
In some areas, size matters, like keeper and centre-back.

All others areas can be competitive, no matter how small, as long as you gave strength, determination and good speed.

Obviously several other factors can elevate you to greatness.

Stan Schofield
57 Posted 12/09/2019 at 22:50:09
Dave @53: I thought Alex Parker might be proposed in response to Tommy Wright, based on having read previous threads on Everton greats! It's just that I remember Wright clearer than Parker, because of my age (65), but accept what you say.
Steve Ferns
58 Posted 12/09/2019 at 23:41:36
Ray, these exhibition games were a big deal though. They were often against the best sides in Europe. It wasn't a kick about in the park. It was the champions of Italy against the champions of Brazil, or one of the top French sides and so on. These were competitive games and a big deal to those who watched them.

Andy, we're talking a player who gets 40-50 goals a season, every season. If he played for Liverpool or Man City he could get 50 easy. For Huddersfield last season I think he'd still knock in 30+. Messi scored a lot of goals receiving the ball and making something out of nothing, taking on 4, 5, 6, or 7 players and scoring. There's no reason to suspect that Messi at his best couldn't do that here. Wagner's Huddersfield were a half-decent side two years ago, and they like Wagner seemed to lose their way. They had a defensive base that if you plonk Messi into the side could be good enough to keep the score down enough for Messi to win them a lot of games. Perhaps they'd fall well short of City and Liverpool and their 100 point seasons, but he'd get them up to the 80 point mark that is good enough for a title challenge most seasons.

If we were talking Cristiano Ronaldo Aveiro, who relies on others to feed him, then yeah, the difference would not be so great. Same with Suarez and other top players. A peak Zidane would create a lot of chances that would go spurned. But Messi is a creator and a finisher. He can do all parts of the attack on his own. I'd expect him to win last season's side a load of games and for momentum to then do the rest, like Leicester.

Maybe you don't think he's as good as I think he is, or perhaps you think the Premier League is much better than La Liga, or that the difference between Huddersfield and the top sides is greater than I do. We drew with them 1-1 at home and scraped a 1-0 win away. Messi would have won them both games.

Paul Birmingham
59 Posted 12/09/2019 at 00:09:24
If you’ve got the ability and all mentioned above had fantastic ability and in some cases, those including the above and those still still playing had and have exceptional ability.

Good players will always be good players regardless of size, and having balance and complimentary skills in teams helps.

The best players have it and natural ability and timing is an awe of nature on the football pitch.

For me Kroll, Kaiser Franz, Johan Cruyff, Scirea, Gerd Muller, Maradona, Ronaldo, and Messi, have been in my view amongst the outstanding players who’ve done it over time and club and country level.

My dad said George Best, had the lot and was arguably the best but didn’t get the chance in international football.

In my time and there’s been all the above and many more, for me Messi, is the best, but all have their own views and rightly so.

This has been a great thread to read. Now for Boutnemouth.

Andy Crooks
60 Posted 13/09/2019 at 00:20:59
Steve, sorry, much as I respect your opinions, this one is utterly ludicrous.

You are actually saying that one man, even Messi, could have won the league with Huddersfield. You are actually, seriously, earnestly, saying that?

Huddersfield were not a half-decent side, they were a poor side; their points total confirmed it. They would never have got 80 points in a million years.

The idea that Messi, enjoying the high life in Huddersfield would, week after week, surrounded by his formidable team mates, beat 8 men and score, game after game is nuts.

Wally Brand, Roy Race, Jumping Jimmi, Wilson, Bernard Briggs, none of them, or indeed all of them together could have done it.

Steve, I fear someone has hijacked your account.

Dick Fearon
61 Posted 13/09/2019 at 00:58:12
I have been swamped by all the great players mentioned in this thread and think myself fortunate to have actually witnessed their greatness. How very much I wish I had seen the greatest of all, my old dads favourite namely, Dixie Dean.

If size (or lack of it) is best I am happy to accept any and all verdicts.

Dennis Stevens
62 Posted 13/09/2019 at 00:59:35
Five dozen posts in & still no mention of Robin Friday!
Don Alexander
63 Posted 13/09/2019 at 01:01:21
My missus often wistfully says a good big 'un is always better than a good little 'un and as far as I know she knows fuck all about football, but she's obviously been paying keen attention to the trend where all clubs bar those able to buy the very best players tend to sign "big units" in a bid to merely out-muscle what they're up against versus better teams.
John Pierce
64 Posted 13/09/2019 at 03:32:59
Ah, Messi's greatness. He can steer Huddersfield to a league title and yet can't shift Argentina to win anything

Great players need others around them. The quality can be variable but ultimately they only win if the team buys into the vision. That can be a team strategy or supporting some of the iconic players mentioned above to allow them to thrive.

No player does it alone, however it might seem they do.

Alan J Thompson
65 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:26:09
Tom (#56); Big goalkeepers? Trying to remember the height of Eddie Hopkinson and Alan Hodgekinson. I fairly sure they played for Bolton and Sheffield Utd and possibly England and, if memory serves, about 5'-8".
Dave Abrahams
66 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:40:39
Alan (65), I’d say both played for England, both small for goalies, along with Bert Williams of Wolves and England, three very good ‘ keepers’. Most probably a few more to add to them.
Ray Roche
67 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:55:54

I am well aware that some of the competition Santos played were top clubs but they were still money-spinning exhibition matches which required Pelé to play in and score! At the back of the book, it lists all the games he played in and goals that he scored. I repeat, Santos toured the World, not just Europe, and played some average or even unheard of foreign competition in the Far East and Middle East for money.

John McFarlane Snr
68 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:11:21
Hi Alan [65] and Dave [66], Williams is listed as 5'-10", Hodgkinson and Hopkinson as 5'-9", and all three were internationals.
Jay Wood

69 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:30:03
Well, this is a bizarre 'little' thread!

Great players will be great players whoever they play with.

They will improve any side they play in, but the notion that a single player can transform ANY team, no matter how ordinary, into champions, is nonsense.

And on the question of Pele, to back up Ray Roche I too have read Pele's autobiography.

Now Pele for me remains the greatest player who has ever played the game, but make no mistake, he has always been his own best publicist.

This article (and I acknowledge it's a tad extreme) debunks a few myths about Pele.


Pele claims to have scored 1283 career goals. He does so by including scores of unofficial games, though he does avoid tallying up goals scored in back alley games as a kid!

Romario did something likewise to nudge his own tally over the 1000 mark.

As Ray correctly points out, Santos was a travelling football circus and Pele was the cash cow they milked and milked again with exhibition games worldwide. To ensure the paying audiences got value for their entry, it was a given that Pele would score at least one.

Pele also played in an era when the huge country that is Brazil did not have a serious top national league because of the distances teams would have to travel. As continues to this day, each state had/has its own state competition in which teams of every level - say, PL to even National League - play against each other in both mini-leagues and then KO competition.

A LOT of Pele's goals came in such games. This second link illustrates that. Scroll down to the table showing appearances/goals by club. Note how he has a relatively modest 100 goals in 173 TOTAL appearances in Brazil's national Serie A league (across 16 seasons!), whereas in the state league he registered 470 in 412 games. In many state league seasons he got almost double the goal tally to the games played. Flat track bully then against very modest opposition.

For many, MANY Brazilians, Pele is NOT considered its greatest ever player. That goes to 'the little bird', the bow-legged Garrincha (about whom I've written before on these pages). He was called 'alegria do povo' - 'joy of the people' - for a reason. It was Garrincha that won the 1962 World Cup for Brazil, named player of the tournament. Pele was injured after just one appearance.

Astonishingly, in nigh on 70 internationals Pele and Garrincha played together Brazil NEVER lost a game! But Pele is not gracious enough to include him in his 125 greatest players.

Then you have the mythical team of 1970 (and the mythical notion mentioned in this thread that it was Pele and Pele alone that carried them to the title). That side was full of great players. He scored a modest four goals in the tournament. Gerd Muller got 10. Pele wasn't even Brazil's top scorer. That honour went to Jairzinho with seven.

Finally, in a nod to the thread topic, my view is that great players come in all shapes and sizes. They can look and become even greater players in a well-balanced and well-organized team that itself can blossom into a great team.

And it doesn't matter how technically gifted, fast or strong you are. Unless you have that nugget of nark, a hatred of losing, a desire to be the best, always, you will never be a great player.

Big OR small.

Jay Wood

70 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:34:01
Apologies. Forgot to hyper link the second article I referenced in my post above. Here it is.


Ray Roche
71 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:04:28
Jay, Thanks for the back up mate!

If I include al the goals I scored in football and included the playground goals, jumpers for goalposts goals,5 a side goals and, crucially, the ones in the category “ I’d have scored that” as Brett Angel found the St End stand with another effort I wouldn’t be far off Pelé’s total myself 😁

Steve Ferns
72 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:12:16
Cheers Jay.

JP, the Argentina issue is that Messi turns up with nothing left in the tank after a long hard domestic season with over 60 games played. Therefore, he has nothing left to give Argentina. It's not just him, it's all the players of his ilk who have long hard seasons who fail to turn up for successive World Cups. When's the last time a big name European based player actually starred in the World Cup?

As for Huddersfield, they finished 16th the season before last. Their team was largely the same but their decent manager stood down and was replaced by an inferior one. Had Wagner stayed for the season and the team had the same impotence and confidence as they had the year before then I think they'd have stayed up again. So why couldn't Messi imposed on top of that defence turn them into a top side?

But I respect JP and Andy's disagreements and will say no more on the matter. We can look forward to a game now and put international week behind us.

Andy Crooks
73 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:00:58
Fair comment, Steve. To be honest I always thought George Best had magical powers.
Dermot Byrne
74 Posted 13/09/2019 at 18:52:46
Just take my hat off to the knowledge of my comrades on this thread.

Just fantastic lads and I learned a lot.

Dick Fearon
75 Posted 14/09/2019 at 02:06:44
On a visit to Barca a mate queued and paid good money to have his photo taken with Messi.

He had to put his arm around a lifesize cardboard cut out of the great man.

Mike Gaynes
76 Posted 14/09/2019 at 03:33:54
Against the greatest competition possible, at the World Cup, "flat-track bully" Pele scored 12 goals in 14 appearances.

Among those with more than 10 World Cup games, Pele's goals-per-game rate of 0.86 ranks him second behind Gerd Muller.

Furthermore, he also is unofficially credited with 10 assists (only two are official because the World Cup didn't start awarding assists until 1970). He won the Golden Ball in 1970.

Di Stefano and Beckenbauer, both arguably the best players in the world during their different eras, played against Pele -- one at the start of his career, one towards the end. Both considered him the best ever.

Ray Roche
77 Posted 14/09/2019 at 10:04:56

Mike, I guess it was my post @55 that may have sparked the Pelé discussion, however, my point was that, after reading his autobiography I was disappointed to realise that my idol had feet of clay, so to speak. I always considered his astonishing goal count to be against top class opponents but this is clearly not the case, as I found to my dismay. This doesn’t detract from my opinion that he’s still the greatest but I finished the book thinking that he may not be the man I thought he was. Something of an egotist. Jay, with his superior knowledge of Brazilian football, just underlined the feelings that I had after I had closed the book.

I count myself fortunate to have seen Pelé in the 66 WC although my recollections are more of the treatment he received than his magical performances.

Andy Crooks
78 Posted 14/09/2019 at 22:30:17
Mike, Pele said that George Best was the greatest footballer in the world. In some ways, he was... but Pele, Puskas, Eusebio, Ronaldo, Cruyff, Messi etc, lacked the self-destruction gene that the magnificent Bestie had. That's why they were better.
Mike Gaynes
79 Posted 14/09/2019 at 23:38:21
Andy, I saw a bit of George Best in the USA at the end of his career, but I'm familiar with Pele's quote and the concurring opinions of some here. I just have very little to go on.

Ray, I didn't read his autobiography, but I'm not surprised at the ego thing, and given his family relationships and political pronouncements, I'm also not surprised that lots of Brazilians consider him somewhat less than a prince of a fellow. On the other hand, compared to Maradona, he comes off looking like a stellar citizen.

Andy Crooks
80 Posted 14/09/2019 at 23:44:53
Ray, Pele was assaulted at that World Cup, no other way to describe it.
Tony Hill
81 Posted 15/09/2019 at 00:43:11
I've seen all of the greats mentioned here. I understand the argument that Messi has not accomplished what others have done at international level. Nevertheless, he is the purest footballing talent that I have ever witnessed. For others, even Pele and Maradona (and certainly Ronaldo), there has always seemed to be an element of effort involved. For Messi, it has just flowed.

It's a matter of feel and subjective judgment, of course. There are no right answers and others make excellent arguments against my view.

The greatest pound for pound finisher ever was Muller. So I say.

Paul Birmingham
82 Posted 15/09/2019 at 00:55:31
I’m in with Tony, and in terms of modern day views, Ruud Krol, Johan Kruyff, Geri Muller, Kaiser Franz, Platinii - 1984, Euros, it’s a different level, and loads more to discuss.

What’s Our Name?

Jay Wood

83 Posted 15/09/2019 at 01:51:15
Mike @ 76.

Very selective cropping of my post to pick out the phrase I used to describe Pele as a 'flat-track bully' (used exclusively with regard to goals scored against considerably weaker opposition in the Sao Paulo state league). In the same post I also described him as the greatest player who has played the game.

I simply backed up Ray's earlier post in reference to the Pele autobiography which I also read and reached similar conclusions to Ray on Pele's goal scoring record.

Now earlier in the thread you wrote how Pele scored at "virtually a goal a game for 20 years while being kicked across the pitch" which is true.

However, context is everything. There are tens of pages in his biog listing every single game and the goals that count to his inflated tally. Now without knowing Brazilian football as I do, I would also be impressed by some of the ridiculous numbers of goals he scored in single games. But my insight into Brazilian domestic football allows me to take a more critical view of some of the games he lists to boost his goal tally.

To give it a modern analogy, imagine every season there was a Mersey Cup for all the teams that play in the 'city state competition'. Imagine a full strength Everton playing at full throttle against another team you have a fondness for, Marine.

What do you reckon would be the result?

Let's take this imaginary scenario a step further. DCL plays in such a game and scores 4-5-6. What d'ya reckon would be the reaction of the different factions, pro and con, on counting those goals as 'official' to help massage his goal per game/minutes ratio?

THAT is what Pele does to inflate his goal tally.

If you looked at the links I gave as reference, it demonstrates very clearly the point I made about Pele's domestic record in Brazil. In some of his early years there is no record for the Brazilian domestic league, because it simply didn't exist!

The overwhelming bulk of his domestic games came in the Sao Paulo state competition. Many are probably not aware of just how much Brazilian footballers play and for how long in Brazil. The state competitions tend to start in February and can continue into May when the national league proper commences, running until December. Depending on how far they go (they start off with mini-leagues before morphing into two-leg KO games) some teams can play around 20+ games BEFORE the league season proper commences.

I already mentioned it in my previous post, but in the state league games Pele returned 519 goals in 461 games - MORE than a goal a game. This reflects some of the extremely weak opposition Santos would have faced in Pele's time. Compare that to his national league numbers which is a far, FAR more modest 100 goals in 173 appearances...over 16 seasons! That's barely 10 games a season, scoring 7 goals a season.

I repeat, Pele remains the greatest for me. But it is totally valid to look more closely at a huge bulk of games he played in and lists to bump up his career goal tally to beyond the thousand mark.

Oh! And (sorry Andy Crooks!) Pele describing Georgie Best as the world's greatest player is very much a Pele trait which always raises a wry grin in Brazil. Depending on the country in which he is asked the question about the best players he has seen/played with-against, he always serves up a morsel for the local press and names a player or two from that day's hosts.

A very media-savvy laddy is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

Ray Roche
84 Posted 15/09/2019 at 10:35:04
Mike @79

Against Maradona Pol Pot looks like a stellar citizen!

Andy @80

I don't know if you've ever seen any film of it but Pelé's treatment was indeed GBH. Ferguson was jailed for less.


Again, an depth view of the Brazilian football scene. Sounds even more chaotic than I thought.

Andy Crooks
85 Posted 15/09/2019 at 22:54:21
Jay, I know just how well Pele handled the media. I take his complement of Bestie with a pinch of salt. What the greats had was the ability to take it. No histrionics, just get up and get on with it. As Ray has said, the treatment of Pele in 1966 was beyond belief.

What has happened? Why now, with all the protection in the world do the modern greats dive and cheat and shame themselves? I guess the greats of the past were real men.

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