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Football Dream Team; Gaelic/Celtic

Written by; Tao MacLeod


In April I wrote an article called Football Dream Team, inspired by a book written by Terry Venebles. Here, El Tel, put in several variations of his ideal eleven-a-side footie teams in different contexts. This prompted me to do my own. In Football Dream Team I put forward an all time, global, 11-a-side selection, plus seven substitutes. In June I followed this up with an all time English side. In this post I have focused on those players who have played for the other British and Irish national teams. I have only used players who have turned out for Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. 


This is a dream team, that looks back over the years, taking players from different eras of the game. Although all (but one) of the players have retired from playing, there are some who have played in the 21st century, as well as those who played as long ago as the 1940’s and 1950’s. I have gone for a 4-2-3-1 formation, as it’s a fairly flexible set-up which I think that best fits in the players that I have chosen. Next to each name I have added the national team which each footballer played for, as well as the club, or clubs that they were most associated with. 


This is a celebration of those players that are from the United Kingdom, but represented national teams other than that of the Anglo-Saxons. There have been plenty of players from elsewhere in the Home Nations that are world class and achieved plenty in their careers. If anything my choices here are a conversation starter, we would love to hear your views and ideas of what you would change, or even keep the same…


Goalkeeper

Neville Southall (Wales & Everton); an iconic goalkeeper of the 1980’s and 1990’s, he spent 17 years at Everton FC. It was here that he won several trophies, including the old First Division twice, the FA Cup twice and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985. He also won the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year Award in 1995. In 1998 he was also selected to be on the Football League 100 Legends list. Southall won 92 caps for Wales, between 1982 and 1997. 


Right Back

Denis Irwin (Republic of Ireland & Manchester United); a world class full back who could play on the right, or the left. Team mate Eric Cantona has said that one of his favourite moments of his career was a pass to Irwin in setting up a goal, because he knew how smart the Irishman was. A native of Cork, he started out at Leeds United, with some time spent at Oldham Athletic and finished at Wolverhampton Wanderers, it’s his time at Manchester United that he’s most well known for. Here he won the Premier League seven times, the FA Cup twice, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup, European Super Cup and 1999 Champions League. He was even a part of the Man. Utd. Team that won the 1999 Intercontinental Cup. Internationally, Irwin played 56 times for the Republic of Ireland, including at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. 


Right Centre Back 

John Charles (Wales & Leeds United/Juventus); a versatile player, who could play as either a defender, or a forward, he turned out for Roma and Merthyr Tydfil, although he spent the larger part of his playing career at Leeds United and Juventus. He played for Wales in the 1958 World Cup, alongside his brother Mel. His side lost to Pele’s Brazil in the Quarter Final, however Welsh manager, Jimmy Murphy, is reported to have said the had Charles been fully fit, then they would have won the match. He is arguably one of the best all-round footballers to have come out of Britain. Whilst in Italy he won the Serie A three times and Coppa Italia twice. He also won the British Home Championships in 1960. He was the top goalscorer in England in 1957, as well as Italy in 1958. The Welshman also came third in the 1959 Ballon d’Or awards. John Charles won 38 caps for Wales, scoring 15 times. 


Left Centre Back

Paul McGrath (Republic of Ireland & Manchester United/Aston Villa); a talented defender, who’s career was beset with knee injuries. Born in England to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father he opted to play for the national team of his mum’s country. It was with the Republic of Ireland that he participated in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. He was FAI International Player of the year in 1990 and 1991. McGrath’s domestic career was predominately spent between two teams. He won the 1985 FA Cup with Manchester United, as well as two League Cups with Aston Villa, in 1994 and 1996. Amongst his individual awards the Irishman was PFA Players Player of the Year in 1993 and was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame in 2020. 


Left Back

Andy Robertson (Scotland & Liverpool); the only player in this squad who is still currently playing, he is already one of the most decorated Scottish players to have graced the navy blue shirt. Hailing from Glasgow, he started out at Scotland’s oldest club Queen’s Park. However, it is with Liverpool that he has made his name. Whilst in the north west of England he has won the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, two Champions Leagues, as well as the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup in 2019. It was in this year that he was also named in the PFA Premier League and the UEFA Team of the Year. His international career has also had some highlights. He was the first player in 23 years to captain his country at a major tournament, as Scotland qualified for in Euro 2020 (actually played in 2021). Andy Robertson also has an MBE. 


Football Dream Team. Click on the image to see the Half Court Press All Time Global, 11-A-Side Selection,

Right Centre Midfield

Danny Blanchflower (Northern Ireland & Tottenham Hotspur); having started his career in the mid-1940’s he was with Aston Villa by the 1950’s. It was his ten year spell with Spurs though that people remember him for. His time in North London coincided with a generation of talented players at the club. The Belfast born right half was a part of the Tottenham squad that won the League and Cup double in 1961. This was followed up with another FA Cup win in 1962 and a European Cup Winners’ Cup victory in 1963. Blanchflower captained his national team in the 1958 World Cup, as Northern Ireland reached the quarter finals. His individual awards include being named the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1958 and 1961. He was also a part of the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team for 1958. In 2003 Danny Blanchflower was inducted into English Football Hall of Fame. 


Left Centre Midfield

Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland & Manchester United); one of the most talented and successful footballers to have come out of the Republic of Ireland. A native of Cork his world class talent his ability was matched by his fiery personality. Having started out at his local club Cobh Ramblers, he was brought over to England by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forrest. Keane arrived at Manchester United in 1993, where he stayed for 12 years. Here he became captain, also winning several titles along the way. This included seven Premier League medals, four FA Cups, a Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup in 1999. After moving to Glasgow’s Celtic he also won the Scottish Premiership and the League Cup. Highlights of his international career included playing in the 1994 World Cup and captaining his country for several years. In terms of individual awards (of which are numerous) Keano was named FAI Senior International of the Year in 1997 and 2001, RTÉ Sports Person of the Year in 1999, FWA Footballer of the Year in 2000 and was also named in the PFA Team of the Century, in 2007. Roy Keane would be this Dream Team’s captain. 


Right Wing

George Best (Northern Ireland & Manchester United); undoubtedly the most talented footballer ever to have come out of the Emerald Isle. Beset by demos, the Belfast man struggled with alcoholism for large parts of his career. Most of his playing days were spent with Manchester United where he won the First Division title in 1965 and 1967. During his time here, Best also a part of the team that won the 1968 European Cup. After leaving Manchester in 1974, Bestie became a bit of a journeyman, playing for a number of clubs around England, as well as the new North American Soccer League, including the LA Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the San Jose Earthquakes. However, whilst at Edinburgh based club Hibernian he also won the East of Scotland Shield in 1980. Internationally, George Best played 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. Dutch captain Johan Cruyff was reported to have said, “What he [Best] had was unique, you can’t coach it”. In terms of individual accolades Best was the English First Division top goalscorer and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1968. The same year he was also the winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. 


Playmaker/Number 10

Gareth Bale (Wales & Tottenham Hotspur/Real Madrid); having started out as a youth team player at Cardiff Civil Service and then Southampton, he got picked up as a teenager by Tottenham Hotspur. He started out as a left back. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp decided to play him as a left winger, where he performed well in the Champions League using his pace to destroy the opposition full back. In 2008 Bale was a part of the North London team that won the English League Cup. A big money transfer to Real Madrid followed, where he was moved to a more central role in attacking midfield. Here he won an array of trophies, including a Copa del Rey, three La Liga titles, five Champions Leagues,  two UEFA Super Cups, as well as three FIFA Club World Cups, making him one of the most successful British players to have moved abroad. In addition to this he also played in the North American MLS for Los Angeles FC, where he won the MLS Cup and Supports’ Shield in 2022. A former captain of Wales he played 111 times for his country, scoring 41 times. He skippered his national team to the semi finals of Euro 2016, where he became his country’s top goalscorer within major tournaments. Bale is a six time Welsh Player of the Year winner, Tottenham Hotspur Player of the Year in 2013 and named in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2011 and 2013. In 2022, Gareth Bale was also awarded an MBE. 


Left Wing

Ryan Giggs (Wales & Manchester United); a one club man for his entire career, he is a Manchester United legend. Slightly older than the others he was a part of the crop of young players that came through at the club in the early 1990’s, he was still winning trophies at the elite level a decade later. Predominately an attacking midfield, who played on the left, Giggs is well known for having scored one of the greatest FA Cup goals of all time (a competition he won four times), on the way to winning the treble in 1999. In addition to his success in the world’s oldest football competition, he has won the Premier League an audacious 13 times, the League Cup four times, the Champions League twice, as well as the Intercontinental Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. On the international scene Giggsy played 64 times for Wales, as well as having turned out for the Great Britain Olympic team four times (at London 2012), a squad in which he captained. One of the most individually honoured players in the British game, the Welshman won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year once and a further two times for the Welsh equivalent. He was also the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year in 1998, PFA Players’s Player of the Year in 2009 and named in the PFA Team of the Century in 2007. 


Centre Forward

Denis Law (Scotland & Manchester United); another player who represented the Red Devils, he actually played for both sides in Manchester. However, he is best known for his time at United. Whilst here he won the old First Division on two occasions, as well as the FA Cup in 1963 and the European Cup 1968. Alongside George Best and Bobby Charlton he is generally considered to have been a part of the greatest frontline at the club, in the twentieth century. A Scottish international for 16 years, he represented his side at the 1974 World Cup. Law won the British Home Championships six times. A world class talent, he won the Ballon d’Or in 1964. He was also honoured by the Scottish Football Association as their Golden Player (the most outstanding player of the previous 50 years), as well as being in inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2004. 


Coach

Sir Matt Busby (Scotland & Manchester United); a legend of British football, World Soccer magazine named him as the 36th greatest manager of all time, whilst he was also honoured in the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the European equivalent in 2008. Tragically, he had to rebuild his Manchester United side of the 1950’s (nicknamed the Busby Babes), after the 1958 Munich Air Disaster. A talented squad of youthful players that was set to sweep all before them, many players died in an air crash on the way home from a continental fixture. Rebuild he did and his Manchester United squad went on to win the 1968 European Cup. In total, Sir Matt’s managerial career saw his United side win five First Division titles, two FA Cups, five Charity Shields and the aforementioned European Cup. He was awarded a CBE in 1958, became a Knight Bachelor in 1968 and a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1972. 


The Half Court Press Gaelic/Celtic Dream Team. Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Substitues

Goalkeeper

Pat Jennings (Northern Ireland & Tottenham Hotspur/Arsenal); a player who crossed the North London divide, he had a career that spanned over two decades. In this time he won the FA Cup twice, once with Spurs in 1967 and again with Arsenal in 1979. In addition to this he won the League Cup twice, as well as the Charity Shield and the UEFA Cup. He achieved several personal accolades, including (unusually for a goalie) the 1973 FWA Footballer of the Year award and the 1976 PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Jennings made his international debut in the same game as George Best. He went on to play in the 1982 and the 1986 FIFA World Cups, totalling 119 appearances for Northern Ireland. 

Defenders/Midfielders

John O’Shea (Republic of Ireland & Manchester United/Sunderland); a versatile player who turned out across the back line and defensive midfielder he came through as a Manchester United youth team player, finding success at the club over several years. Here the Irishman won five Premier League titles, two League Cups and the 2004 FA Cup. Continentally, O’shea was a part of the squad that won the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup in 2008. In the latter years of his career he moved on to play for Sunderland, where he played in a League Cup final in 2014, the same year in which he was named FAI Senior International Player of the Year. He played 118 times for the Republic of Ireland and was a part of the squads for two major international tournaments, the 2012 and the 2016 European Championships.


Dave Mackay (Scotland & Heart of Midlothian/Tottenham Hotspur/Derby County); a left half in his prime, he dropped back to play sweeper towards the end of his career, whilst at Derby. Mackay had successful periods at three different clubs. He won the Scottish Cup in 1955, the League in 1958 and the Scottish League Cup twice in 1955 and 1959. A transfer to London based Spurs followed soon after, where he was a part of the great team of the 1960’s. He won the English League and Cup Double in 1961. This was followed up with FA Cup victories in 1962 and 1967 and continental glory with a European Cup Winners’ Cup winners medal in 1963. As he got older, the Edinburgh born scotsman dropped down a division to help out Derby County where he helped them to win the Football League 1969 Second Division and the Watney Cup in 1970. He played 22 times for Scotland winning the British Home Championships in 1963 and 1964. 


England Dream Team. Click on the image to see the Half Court Press All Time England, 11-A-Side Selection,

Midfielder/Forward

Mark Hughes (Wales & Manchester United/Barcelona/Chelsea); another versatile footballer, he could play as either a midfielder, or a forward. Across two stints at Manchester United he won three FA Cups, two Premier League titles, the League Cup, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 1991. He was one of the few British players of his generation to go overseas with time spent at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He returned to Britain and found further success at Chelsea. Here Sparky Hughes picked up another FA Cup winners medal, as well as wins in the 1998 League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup finals. He played 72 times for Wales and was named Welsh Footballer of the Year in 1993 and 1994. 


Forwards

Jimmy Johnstone (Scotland & Celtic); an outside right attacking player he was a part of the legendary Glasgow Celtic side that won the 1967 European Cup. This was the first British victory in the competition, with all the players of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ having grown up in the surrounding neighbourhoods close to the stadium. Nicknamed ‘Jinky’ Johnstone due to his playing style and ability to run past defenders, he played 23 times for Scotland, scoring four goals. He won the British Home Championships on four occasions with his national team. This was in addition to nine Scottish First Division titles, five League Cups, four Scottish Cups and the aforementioned European Cup triumph with Celtic. In 1967 Johnstone placed third in the Ballon d’Or awards.


Ian Rush (Wales & Liverpool/Juventus); a Welsh footballing legend, he was a part of the great Liverpool squad of the 1980’s. He won five First Division titles, five League Cups three FA Cups and two European Cups between 1980 and 1995. Rush was names the PFA Players’ Player and FWA Player of the Year in 1984. This was a prime year for the forward, where he also won the BBC Welsh Sports Personality of the Year, as well as the English and European Golden Boot awards. He played 73 times for his country and scored 28 goals. He even had a two year stint at Italian giants Juventus, between 1986 and 1988. 


Kenny Dalgleish (Scotland & Celtic/Liverpool); a legend of two clubs either side of the border, he started out with his local side Glasgow Celtic. Here he won four Scottish League titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup between 1971 and 1977. A transfer to English giants Liverpool beckoned, where he would go on to be a part of the great side of the 1980’s. Here, Rush added to his domestic titles, with an FA Cup, four League Cups and six English First Division titles. Liverpool then backed this up continentally winning the European Cup three times, as well as the 1977 UEFA Super Cup. Internationally, he won three British Home Championships, totalling 102 appearances and 30 goals for Scotland. 


Gaelic/Celtic Dream Team. Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.