My Best Town XI: George Burley - Part One
Friday, 17th Apr 2020 14:01
In part five of the series, Kieron Dyer catches up with Town legend George Burley, who selects the best XI from his time playing for the Blues before Dyer runs the rule over the side. Burley has also compiled a best XI from his spell as boss.
Goalkeeper Paul Cooper - Coops was very underrated, I think that’s because he was the only non-international in the team. He was great off the field, he was really small for a goalkeeper but he had unbelievable spring. In today’s game he would be fantastic because he had unbelievable distribution. Even in training his passing was up there with some of the outfield players, that’s how good it was. And when it comes to saving penalties, he was probably the best keeper I’ve ever seen.
Right-back George Burley - If I didn’t pick myself I would have Mick Mills at right-back and Steve McCall left-back, but I’m picking myself! I think I deserve to pick myself, I played over 500 games, I won some big trophies for Ipswich, so I’m going to pick myself at right-back.
Left-back Mick Mills - He never had a bad game, and Mick’s biggest strength was that he was mentally the strongest player he’s ever come across. Mentally the toughest, nothing affected him. Making 741 appearances for the club, the most in its history, speaks for itself.
Centre-half Terry Butcher - Centre-half is the hardest position to pick. But I’ve gone for two left footers, Terry Butcher, who will play as a right-sided centre-half. Butch was world class, 77 games for his country proves that, he was a leader, he was very adaptable as well, he could play full-back as well.
Centre-half Kevin Beattie - Beside Terry Butcher would be Kevin Beattie. Again, world class. He had pace and power, and he’s the best centre-half I’ve ever seen.
Right midfield Frans Thijssen - Me and Frans knew each other’s games and complemented each other so well. If he had seven players around him he would still want the ball and receive the ball and just drop a shoulder and leave all seven players in his wake. I don’t say this lightly, but Thijssen was absolutely world class.
Centre midfield John Wark - The best finisher I’ve ever seen, not many people know that he held the record for scoring the most goals in Europe in a season, 14, for 15 years. Everyone talks about goalscoring midfielders like Frank Lampard these days but Warky was head and shoulders above him with his finishing because his aerial ability was incredible. In today’s market he’d be worth well over £100 million. Another world class player.
Left midfield Arnold Muhren - World class, it was Muhren’s assist for Marco van Basten’s goal in the European Championships final of the 1988 when he was aged 37. When you think of Muhren, he had every golf club in his bag when it came to passing range. Sand wedge, pitching wedge, four iron, he knew exactly what club he needed for that pass. The chemistry he and Alan Brazil had was incredible, the number of assists Muhren gave Brazil must have been huge.
Number 10 Eric Gates - Bobby Robson's team were the first ones to play that system with one in the hole. Obviously in today’s game the number 10 is in everyone’s team but Ipswich were the first to play it. Bobby absolutely loved Gatesy because they were both from the North-East. Playing in the hole, Gatesy would always create, win penalties or score goals. He was a dream for a right-back because I would always find Gatesy in a pocket of space. I can remember the day when we beat Manchester United 6-0, Gatesy was that influential that Man United tried to man mark him but obviously that didn’t work!
Striker Paul Mariner - The best hold-up player I’ve ever played with and when I say that, remember I’ve played with Kenny Dalglish, who has been voted the best Liverpool player and the best Scottish player of all-time. But Mariner’s hold-up play was better than Kenny’s. He was tough, strong, he was a bully. A great link-up man. Wasn’t a prolific goalscorer but that was because he had so much more to his game. An unbelievable player, played 35 times for England and was a world class striker.
Striker Alan Brazil - A goalscorer, an out-an-out goalscorer. When he got a chance you knew he would score. The number of times where he would just take it round the goalkeeper. He didn’t really want to come to feet to get the ball, was always running in behind and with Arnold Muhren's passing ability the number of goals he scored for Ipswich was incredible. He and Mariner were the dream team up front.
Obviously I know all about that team but the way George describes it, you’re looking at Terry Butcher - world class, Kevin Beattie - world class, the whole midfield three - Thijssen, Warky, Muhren - world class, and Mariner - world class. That’s six world class players in one team.
I was fortunate enough to be in that England period when they were classed as the golden generation. We had Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham.
There’s eight world class players there but that’s a national team, the creme de la creme, and George’s Ipswich team has got six world class players in a club side, so that just goes to show you how extraordinary that team was.
You can’t really argue with that team at all. I think the toughest thing for the gaffer was the centre-halves because he’s obviously left out Russell Osman and Allan Hunter, who could probably have walked into any team in the land when they were playing. That just goes to show how strong this team was.
Again what’s incredible, and George touched on it, was the influence that Bobby Robson had on that team. Five of them came through the youth system and, as I said before, they’d be worth something like £500 million between them these days, which is mind-boggling. What a team.
I think this team would beat my best XI I played with by a few goals, put it that way.
Photo: Action Images
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