In midfield I’ve gone with the ‘fits and spurts’ talent of Mark Davies. Sparky was a divisive figure in the sense many wanted shot of a player who was only fit for maybe less than half of his 8-year spell at the club. Even during the games where he escaped the confines of the physio’s bench he was often accused of going missing for long spells and never really took games by the scruff of the neck. Despite all this and his poor goal output for one so talented, the way he glided across the pitch and his speed with the ball meant he has been one of the only players that had me on the edge of my seat in recent years.
Alongside him in the engine room is the equally diminutive figure of Barry Bannan. His short loan spell from Crystal Palace towards the end of the 2014-15 season was characterised by his non-stop style, pinpoint passing and his excruciating attempts to score which ultimately came to nothing. Bannan was one of those players who always seemed to have time on the ball, his close control, quick turning circle and low centre of gravity gave him the time to play his passes and this perpetual motion endeared him to the fans who saw that his effort and creativity had a real positive effect on the team. Unfortunately, again, we couldn’t find the funds to turn the loan permanent and Sheffield Wednesday stepped in, where he was named in the Championship team of the year last season.
Further forward I’ve picked our sadly missed South Korean star Chung-Yong Lee (or Lee Chung-Yong, whatever you like!). The nasty leg break at Newport at the start of our season of demise in the Premier League impacted on his ability hugely for the next couple of years but when Lennon decided to build his team around his talents in a more central role this reignited his Wanderers career and he was simply superb for this three or four month spell where he looked back to the player who’d lit up the Premier League and was at one point leading our unlikely play-off charge.
His cut-price (do we ever do any transfer any other way?) deal to Crystal Palace has not worked out well, Chungy only enjoying brief spells in the team under a succession of ‘Yer Da’, as the Twitter generation likes to say, managers such as Pardew, Allardyce and ‘Woy’ Hodgson. Perhaps a loan spell back at his spiritual home may be in the offing for this talented ball playing and hardworking player.
My next pick is one made for sentimental reasons more than for his contribution on the pitch. When news broke that we had brought this man home it was only a matter of days before I’d rushed to the club shop like a big goon to get his immortal name printed on the back of my home shirt. The Iceman had returned to his first English club who launched his stellar career in the game. Eidur Gudjohnsen had not lost the poise, vision, technique, passing nor his ball retention ability that were the hallmarks of this truly world class individual.
His spell under Lennon yielded some great and timely goals like the blockbuster in what is still our last Championship away win in April 2015 at Cardiff and the late equaliser at home to Blackpool. His signing represented a brief lifting of the gloom at the time and brought some joy to the fans, delighted to welcome back a player so gifted that his career took him to the Nou Camp and back to the Reebok to celebrate Chelsea’s first title win.
Up top I have gone with another player who had his best spell under our tempestuous Northern Irish ex-manager. Craig Davies has been the only player who I felt could dominate and bully a defence on his day since we exited the top tier. Apart from Lukas Jutkiewicz, who was a better technical player, decent target men have been hard to come by.
Yes, I am looking in your direction Emile...
Davies was another who would hit the heights then get struck down by a hamstring pull or a strained thigh and would then take half a dozen games to hit his straps again. This vicious circle was in evidence towards the end of his contract which meant the powers that be decided he wasn’t worth the risk of another deal. He is now scoring a respectable amount of goals back at Oldham in League One and is a player I think that has been unlucky not to make it at a higher level.
My other front man is a player who, on his debut at home to Wigan in the FA Cup, created so much fanfare that his Nan phoning up BBC Radio GMR made national news. Zach Clough had been with the Whites since his Ninth year and the Denton born lad certainly made his mark here. The period when he first broke through into Neil Lennon’s first team he genuinely terrified defenders with his youthful exuberance, fearlessness and mesmerising dribbling. Dubbed the Denton Messi he attracted the attention of Manchester United, if you believe the papers, after a stunning run of form that included braces against Wolves and Watford.
Another player blighted by injuries including the old Nicky Hunt injury - the dislocated shoulder - Clough would go on to suffer from second season syndrome and his reported £2m departure to Nottingham Forest in the last throes of the January transfer window last season was not met with as much derision and disbelief as you would imagine when losing one of your own.
A bright start on the Trent has faded and Clough is restricted to irregular cameos from the bench.
Another one who might fancy a loan stint back in BL6 come January, though what is the the phrase about never going back?