Firstly, I would like to apologise for the absence of any blogging over the last week. Work and laziness conspired against it. Secondly, you can see pieces that I did for Ghostgoal's 'My Favourite Goal' and Talkingsports' 'My Sporting Hero' series.
Today, as I have been writing pieces for series run by other sites, I thought I would start a new series of my own. The concept is simple. Over time I will get different people to share their Favourite XI of the Premiership era. To get the ball rolling, I will start.
Each player is unique, rare and embodies a different aspect of the game that I love. But that is not simply to say that this is the best team to ever play in the Premiership. This is a team of players who endeared themselves to me for various reasons, usually a mixture of personality and ability. So, without further ado, this is my line-up of the favourite players I have enjoyed watching in over the last twenty years with a quick explanation of why each player was included.
Starting in goal. Peter Schmeichel was simply an outstanding goalkeeper. The iconic star jump saves, red nose and ear-full he would give his defenders live long in the memory and I am not sure if a better, more dominant keeper will ever grace the Premiership.
At the back I have opted for three 'hard bastards'. From a centre back all I ever want to see is a blatant disregard for both their own and their opponents well-being. The combination of Martin Keown, Neil 'Razor' Ruddock and Julian Dicks capture this mould of player perfectly.
With the nitty gritty of the team out the way, the rest of side is put together through consumate class. On to the midfield. First we have Patrick Vieira. A hybrid of strength and elegance, one of the most complete midfielders of the Premiership era. Next up is Jay-Jay Okocha, so good they named him twice. A regular feature on Soccer AM's 'Showboat' feature, the man excited whenever he touched the ball. He was never afraid to try the audacious and for that he must be applauded.
Paul Scholes is quite possibly, in my opinion, the best player the league has had. His passing and vision still impresses me seventeen years after he emerged on the scene. A small, understated man that was under-appreciated by the national team but has been at the heart of Manchester United's dominance of English football over the last two decades. Just in front of the ginger maestro I have opted for Georgi Kinkladze. His time at Manchester City in the mid-90s saw him become somewhat of a cult figure. His jinking runs and dribbling ability always astonished me. He scored remarkable solo goals and was always a joy to watch.
Now for the front three. This is where things got very difficult. I have gone for Eric Cantona to lead the line. The Frenchman had an arrogance, an air of infallibility about him that meant you could seldom take your eyes of him. Scorer of some stunning goals, utterer of some mind-altering philosophies, he had to make the team.
Behind him I have chosen two superb technicians. Perhaps the two finest. Bergkamp was class personified. The touch and vision of a demi-god and a footballing brain that should be pickled and kept in FIFA headquarters when he passes. While at Arsenal he made things that few other players can do look infuriatingly basic. Completing the team I have picked Zola. Like Bergkamp he had the technical ability that allowed him to do astonishing things with a football. However, his selection comes largely due to his attitude. Rarely did his trademark smile leave his face which is why he was loved by fans, not just at Stamford Bridge, across the country.
It is worth mentioning those who didn't quite make the cut; Stuart Pearce, Le Tissier, Asprilla, Di Canio, Giggs, Theirry Henry, Roy Keane and Vinnie Jones, I am very sorry.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...