My Best Town XI: Bryan Hamilton Part Two
Tuesday, 19th May 2020 14:33
In part 34 of the series, Kieron Dyer catches up with Bryan Hamilton, who selects the best XI from his spells as a Town coach under George Burley in the late 1990s and early 2000s before Dyer runs the rule over his team.
Goalkeeper Richard Wright - A fantastic goalkeeper. When I coached Richard he was still, in goalkeeping terms, extremely young, but you never would have thought that. It was as if he was a keeper who had been playing 10 years. He should have played a lot more games, he should have got to nearly 1,000 games, he was right up there with the top keepers. People talk about the move to Arsenal maybe coming a bit too early but I don’t think it was too early but pressure affects people in different ways. One of the big ifs with Richard Wright but he was a top, top goalkeeper while he was here.
Right-back Mauricio Taricco - Super-intelligent player, defended the back post exceptionally well, never got done one-on-one. Everyone always talks about Taricco because of his passing ability and the way he got forward and his link-up play with strikers, but as a defender he was a top player, he was always in the right position, nasty on the pitch.
Left-back Jamie Clapham - Loved to get forward, had an unbelievable engine, was the fittest at the club, never got exposed.
Right centre-half Tony Mowbray - A great leader, a team player, was the voice of reason in the changing room. Could communicate with senior players, young players, foreign players, he just had this great knack of just being an unbelievable communicator. As a player, his IQ was on a different level.
Left centre-half Mark Venus - Very confident, everyone talks about how great he was on the ball but that is because he started as a left-back and at left-back you have to be really good on the ball, you have to have good distribution. He found a home as a left-sided centre-half and he flourished in that position.
Midfield Kieron Dyer - Pace, he was like an Energizer bunny. When I first came to coach him I actually had to tell him to stand still, which is just as important sometimes because he was blocking up space, he just wanted to be here, there and everywhere. Up there with the best young players I’ve ever worked with. Could do it all in midfield.
Midfield Jim Magilton - An unbelievable passer of the ball, one of the best one-touch players I’ve ever worked with and he knitted everything together.
Midfield Matt Holland - Matt had limitations as a player but was the most dedicated pro I ever worked with. What was great about Matt and Kieron was that they could shut down the midfielders they were playing against, they could take away their strengths because they were so good at closing the ball down and then because of their energy they would just run off them and shut them down when they were attacking as well. They were great two-way players either side of Jim.
Number 10 Bobby Petta - I only worked with Bobby for one year and when he came into the team we went from near bottom into the top three or four because he was unplayable for that season. There aren’t many times I could say a player was unplayable for a whole season and Bobby was. As with Richard Wright, having worked with him for that year, Bobby Petta should have been right at the top for far longer. Was it mental thing? Was it a confidence thing? Again, one of the big ifs.
Striker David Johnson - He fitted in like a glove. A strong, powerful boy, scored loads and loads of goals over a sustained period of three or four years. Guaranteed you 20-25 goals a season and you can’t ask for any more than that from a striker.
Striker James Scowcroft - He was a Trevor Whymark type of player, a team player, a hold-up player and he gives balance.
Among my subs would be Mick Stockwell, it was very hard to leave him out, it was between him, Taricco and Clapham as my full-backs. He had unbelievable energy, desire, attitude, but I probably didn’t coach Mick when he was in his prime.
Marcus Stewart would also be on the bench. Like Johnno, he fitted in like a glove. He was always a threat, an intelligent player. But I coached David Johnson over a longer period than Marcus Stewart.
And my final sub is Simon Milton because Milts has paid me to get him on the bench! No, you hear a lot of the young players say how Milts was a massive help on and off the pitch and if you’d got Mick Stockwell and Milts on your bench and you’ve got a young squad, they would be the experience to help the Tony Mowbrays with the wild young things in that team.
I owe Bryan a lot. He was a fantastic coach and I started my first-team career at right-back and I know for a fact that Bryan was the one who kept fighting for me to go into midfield.
One of the first things he wanted to do was get me and Matt Holland in centre midfield together and when I went into the centre of midfield my career was on an up from there and I obviously owe him a helluva lot for that.
However, I’m going to question what he says about Jamie Clapham being the fittest player, that is complete lies, complete lies! Whenever we used to do the cross country runs in pre-season it was always me first and Clapham second, so I don’t know where he got Clapham being the fittest from. I had to argue that point with him.
Another good team, it made me laugh what he said about me. He always used to tell me that if you look at top players they sometimes stand still in pockets and, like he said, I was an Energizer bunny trying to be here, there and everywhere, just wasting energy and blocking up people’s space, so he helped me on that.
I think it’s a great point he makes about Veno. We all talk about Veno’s distribution and I’d forgotten that he started out at left-back, so it makes sense that he was so comfortable on the ball.
If you look at today’s team, Luke Woolfenden is quite composed on the ball and can drive with the ball.
He also made his first team debut in the League Cup tie at Crystal Palace at right-back and also played there throughout his loan spell with Bromley.
I like what he says about Matt Holland, “The most dedicated pro I ever worked with”. If you spoke to 95 per cent of professionals in any era they’d have some kind of regret or feel that they left something behind, they could have done this differently, they could have ate better or trained harder, but Matt is in the five per cent where he did everything to maximise his career.
Bryan’s right that Matt was a two-way midfielder where he could just shut down the opposition. If they’d got a goalscoring midfielder, defensively he would shut him down but then on top of that he’d still go on and score his two goals from midfield, which is a credit to Matt, a complete midfielder.
Bryan says Matt wasn’t technically the best and had “limitations as a player” and that sounds disrespectful but it isn’t meant to be.
I think when you think of technically-gifted players you think of the Xavis and the Iniestas and Ronaldo, players who can get in pockets and turn out of tight areas, spin on a sixpence and put people through, and Matt’s not that type of player.
But Matt was technically fantastic at heading the ball, he had a fantastic range of passing, he had a fantastic strike on him, he could strike a ball a lot better than me and there aren’t many people who could score the goal he did against Cameroon in the World Cup.
When people talk about my career they talk about the injuries I suffered and that maybe explains why I didn’t go to the next level. Bryan makes great points about Richard Wright and Bobby Petta.
He says Richard Wright should have played more than 1,000 games in his career but obviously it didn’t really pan out that way and Richard didn’t really suffer from injuries, so it is one of the big ifs.
And again Bryan makes a great point about Bobby and that season he had at Ipswich that we all saw and I was fortunate to be a part of. Bryan was a coach seeing that and his ability and viewing him as unplayable, and he mades a great point - how did he only play at the top for a few seasons?
It’s mystifying. But it got me thinking when he said that. With a lot of players who don’t fulfil their potential there are reasons, Kevin Beattie didn’t play 100 times because of injuries. But with Richard and Bobby what was it? Was it a mental thing? Was it a pressure thing? Was it a confidence thing?
Bryan’s gone for David Johnson and Scowy over Marcus Stewart. Scowy always seems to be the one played beside one of the others. Two out-and-out goalscorers playing together doesn’t always work as a combo. I think he gave Johnno the place ahead of Marcus because I think he worked with Johnno for a longer period of time, but it’s whichever pairing you prefer.
I really like the team, what’s good about the side is that he’s gone for a 4-3-1-2 but it could go to a 4-4-2 and with me on the right and Bobby on the left.
You could go to a 4-3-3 and put Scowy coming in from the top right for the diagonal pass from Veno with me, Jim and Matt in midfield, Bobby Petta on the left and David Johnson through the middle on his own. There’s a lot of adaptability to that team.
He’s mentioned Micky Stockwell and I’ve said plenty of times before how it’s difficult to pick the full-backs from the three players mentioned.
He’s given Milts a mention again, not just because of the player he was but because of the leader he was on and off the pitch. I’m still privileged today to call Simon Milton one of my best mates in football. A fantastic guy, a fantastic servant for the club and, like Bryan says, you need some senior heads to babysit these wild young ‘uns.
I did ask who he was talking about when he mentioned the wild young ’uns but he said “No comment!”. He must be talking about Richard Wright, David Johnson and James Scowcroft.
Photo: Action Images
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