Premier League "Team of the Noughties"
Ever had a hospital pass? The one with the red cross marked on it that you know is going to end with a large amount of personal grief - if you are very lucky?
This is mine. Namely the request to name the Premier League team of "The Noughties". The job that will please no-one and will have plenty of you waving your fist in fury at the laptop.
So apologies in advance. My only excuse for leaving out your own personal favourite or club legend is that I can only pick 11 players and there could have been so many more - and this might be the best substitutes' bench in history.
Tin hat at the ready. And try not to be too hard on me. Remember - I could only pick 11.
GOALKEEPER: Shay Given (Newcastle United, Manchester City and the Republic of Ireland) Given was a model of consistency for Newcastle United and has continued this at Eastlands.
He remains as good as ever for club and country, at 33. There has been plenty of debate about signings made by Mark Hughes, but no-one questions Given. Well worth his place in this team, just edging out Brad Friedel and Petr Cech.
RIGHT-BACK: Gary Neville (Manchester United and England) A taste not acquired by many outside Old Trafford, an outspoken champion of Manchester United and a player who has flourished at the highest level for well over a decade. At his peak peerless defensively, and while not a scorer of goals has created his share. Formed one half of a devastating right-flank partnership with David Beckham at Old Trafford.
LEFT-BACK: Ashley Cole (Arsenal, Chelsea and England) Part of Arsenal's "Invincibles" in 2004 and will travel to the World Cup with England as one of Fabio Capello's true world-class stars. Went through a period of public unpopularity after leaving Arsenal, but has been back to his best this season. His performance against Cristiano Ronaldo in the Euro 2004 quarter-final against Portugal at the Stadium of Light remains one of the finest individual defensive displays I have ever witnessed in the flesh.
CENTRE-BACK: John Terry (Chelsea and England) Terry stood alongside Jose Mourinho as one of the shining symbols of Chelsea's resurgence under the "Special One." Brave, maybe sometimes too brave for his own good, ready to risk injury in both penalty areas and the embodiment of what you want a defender to be, with his "over my dead body" approach to conceding goals. Not quite the force of old these days, but still formidable and worthy of a place in this team.
CENTRE-BACK: Rio Ferdinand (West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United and England) Thought long and hard about this one for some strange reason, with the Liverpool pair of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia figuring prominently. The Finn might just get the award for the most under-rated defender of "The Noughties".
Ferdinand gets it, though, for his class, elegance and defensive ability that has contributed so much to Manchester United successes. But it's a close run thing with Carragher and I would see no problem exchanging the two - a cop out, I know.
RIGHT MIDFIELD: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal) Right midfield is such a low-grade description of one of the greatest players to grace the Premier League. United's most devastating weapon in recent seasons and sorely missed after his move to Real Madrid. Few players are irreplaceable, but he is one. No contest for this position.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and England) Getting interesting now. Gerrard is my choice despite vicious competition for these positions, just getting the nod ahead of Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Manchester United's Paul Scholes.
So easy to make a case for those two, but in recent seasons Gerrard has been magnificent, occasionally carrying Liverpool on his own. Virtually won an FA Cup Final and the Champions League on his own. Dynamic and a leader - so he gets the vote.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Patrick Vieira (Arsenal and France) Gone for a partnership in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, and Vieira and Gerrard would not be too shabby. In at the start of the Arsene Wenger revolution and the significance of his contribution can be outlined by the fact they have never quite been the same since his departure. Ruthless midfield enforcer and consummate creator. Last kick for the club earned them their last trophy, the 2005 FA Cup against Manchester United.
LEFT MIDFIELD: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United and Wales) Deservedly crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2009. Could not be left out with 11 Premier League titles to his name.
Still producing outstanding performances at the age of 36, a model professional since making his debut in March 1991 and regarded as a "god" in the Manchester United dressing-room, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
STRIKER: Alan Shearer (Newcastle and England) Tough competition here, but if you want goals, leadership, bravery and someone to follow into football's trenches, Tyneside legend Shearer is your man.
Even before this decade he won the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, and while not under-estimating the all-round team ethic of Kenny Dalglish's side, there would have been no title without Shearer. Shearer scored 260 goals in 441 games in the Premier League - this statistic alone ends any argument about his inclusion.
STRIKER: Thierry Henry (Arsenal and France) Henry's reputation was blemished by his recent handball for France that sent his country to the World Cup in South Africa at the Republic of Ireland's expense, but no-one can question his Premier League pedigree.
A wonderfully stylish player, he scored 226 goals in 364 games for Arsenal before leaving for Barcelona in 2007- and finally picked up the Champions League medal that eluded him with the Gunners when Barcelona beat Manchester United in the 2009 final.
So with particular apologies to Dennis Bergkamp, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes (and maybe even the likes of Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba and many others) this is my Premier League team of "The Noughties"
I shall now retreat to my bunker and leave you to pick your own....not easy is it?
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