JEFF POWELL: King Bryan Robson is the Dominator of my England World Cup dream team

JEFF POWELL continues his search for England’s World Cup Dream Team, choosing his three-man midfield...

As the inscrutable Don Fabio becomes the latest England manager attempting to solve the Chinese puzzle of playing Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the same midfield, he's got it easy.

Try perming the most dynamic, most goal-threatening, most effective combination from the dazzling host of creative English footballers of the last half century.

Before you start, you are overwhelmed by the realisation that you are going to have to leave out men you either grew up idolising or have grown old holding in the most profound esteem.

Enlarge   Maestros of the midfield (left to right): magician Paul Gascoigne, marvellous Bryan Robson and magnificent Bobby Charlton

Maestros of the midfield (left to right): magician Paul Gascoigne, marvellous Bryan Robson and magnificent Bobby Charlton

A pantheon into three just does not go.

The only refuge from personal favourites and friendships is to be found in the imperative of striking the perfect balance. Could Bally, for example, have played with Becks?


  • Let's dispose of that one from the off, this being the age of celebrity over substance. This is about football, not fame.

    At his best, David Beckham was a very good footballer but not a great one. He had a wand of a right foot but neither the energy, the spurt of acceleration, the vision nor the broader range of skills to have mounted the epic performance with which Alan Ball ran one flank of the West Germans into the Wembley turf during the World Cup final of 1966.

    And then - plaintively though it tugs at the heart-strings to remember him drawing an outline of himself on the misted windscreen of my car as the middle man between Gerson and Overath in his World XI of their day - Bally doesn't make it into my England dream team, either.

    The near-miss list is painful. Who wouldn't have wanted the elegance of Brooking, the maverick brilliance of Hudson, the artistry of Hoddle, the cunning of Platt, the authority of Kennedy, the craziness of Hughes, the quick-footedness of Scholes, the fluency of Barnes or the engine of Bell in their midfield?

    Yet if Lampard and Gerrard - with all those goals to go with their work-rate - fall tantalisingly back on the substitutes bench, how can those mentioned above make it into the team? But then not even the futuristic Martin Peters nor the tenacious Nobby Stiles survive from the glory of '66.

    No, genius has to be the yardstick here. And in one very special case even that is not enough to spare the most wrenching omission of all.

    Just to know Johnny Haynes, to take wine with him in the Cottage at Fulham or along the King's Road, was a privilege. To watch the maestro at work was an honour. No footballer in the world, let alone this birthplace of the game, passed the ball more beautifully than gentleman John.

    And yet... and yet... in a small corner of that midfield furnace of tackling, urgency and blazing determination the unhurried Haynes stands a tiny, clipped toe-nail short of ultimate greatness.

    Three Englishmen who are thus qualified bring such a divinity of gifts to the equation that they offer us the balance of a high-wire walker - complete with safety net.

    This week's discussion as to whether Gareth Barry or Scott Parker should be England's midfield protector in South Africa creates a forlorn longing for another, Bryan Robson.

    Creator-in-chief: Gazza was spectacular at Italia '90 for England, helping them into the semi-final

    Creator-in-chief: Gazza was spectacular at Italia '90 for England, helping them into the semi-final

    Captain Marvel, as we used to call him once he became the most outstanding wearer of the armband since Bobby Moore, not only held the ground in front of England's defence but also dominated the entire pitch.

    Has there been a more complete midfield player? Robson tackled England's rivals to death, blocked shots by the barrage-load, then sliced the opposition open with lacerating passes on his way to scoring 26 goals in 90 internationals, 65 of them as captain.

    One genius who played under Robson's command serves as his right-hand man in our team for the ages. And a genius Paul Gascoigne most certainly was, no matter how tragically self-destructive.

    Maybe part of his genius was for playing the clown off the pitch but on it, during that brief but sublime period when the flame shone at his brightest, he was a magician.

    The Gazza of Italia 90 is our creator-in-chief.

    Which leaves the most coveted shirt of all - the near-mythical No 10 - to the most revered of all English footballers.

    Quite apart from being the best-loved player on these shores, the name of Bobby Charlton amounts to the only two words of English spoken by much of the population of many countries abroad.


    Everything about Charlton flowed. The hair, the runs from midfield, the intelligence, the glorious goals - a still-standing English international record of 49 from 106 games, some of them vital to the winning of the '66 World Cup.

    Gazza, Robbo and Sir Bobby. A triumvirate which only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit might surpass.

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