Come in No 3 ... Pick your best left-back

CARL BRADSHAW

CARL BRADSHAW

0
Have your say

HAVE a guess how many games Andy Hinchcliffe played for Wednesday.

BOASTING a combined 1,299 appearances between them, the four players vying to be named Sheffield United’s greatest post-war left-back have already made significant contributions to the history of Bramall Lane.

Albert Cox, Sheffield United 1936 team

Albert Cox, Sheffield United 1936 team

But, the roll call of players they have edged out of the running, says even more about the quality of this week’s contenders.

Wayne Quinn and Roger Nilsen could, probably should, feature on the list.

But as strong as their claims are, despite persuasive, compelling cases for their inclusion, only Albert Cox has a reference from footballing royalty on his CV.

So formidable was the Treeton-born stalwart throughout a career which spanned those terrible hostilities between the Allies and Axis powers that Sir Tom Finney once recounted how his fellow Knight of the Realm - Stanley Matthews - went to great lengths to avoid confrontations with Cox.

Norman Curtis.

Norman Curtis.

“Look at the amount of times Stan played at Bramall Lane,” Finney once told a member of United’s staff at a conference. “He, like a lot of wingers, didn’t enjoy coming up against Albert.”

Having served together in the Royal Signals, the legendary Preston North End and England winger knew Cox’s bravery extended well beyond the field of play.

He made 333 appearances and scored six goals before hauling off his United jersey for the last time in 1952.

Graham Shaw’s inclusion also needs no explanation.

Ted Hemsley.

Ted Hemsley.

And again, like Cox, his stay with United spawned a host of memorable stories both on and off the pitch.

Unusually, Shaw’s younger brother, Bernard, followed in his footsteps and also impressed in the red and white stripes before, two England under-23 appearances later, he was transferred to Wolverhampton Wanderers where he reached the 1972 UEFA Cup Final.

Shaw jnr joined arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday after leaving Molineux.

Bernard, who broke into the senior 11 alongside his old youth international teammate, Len Badger, was undoubtedly an accomplished professional.

Don Megson.

Don Megson.

But, as Badger later recounted, his elder sibling remained a huge influence.

“Graham was a natural leader and, if needed, was as hard as nails,” Badger said. “He always looked the business with his sharp suits and nice car. Everyone respected him.”

With 497 United games and five full England caps to his name, it was impossible not to.

Graham was a talented schoolboy boxer, but few expected Graham to be such a big hit when he signed junior forms in 1951.

Although Ted Hemsley made his final appearance in a United jersey nearly 35 years ago, he remains a popular figure with younger supporters by virtue of his work with the club’s matchday sponsors.

A talented cricketer - he captained Worcestershire, claimed 70 first-class wickets and recorded a batting average of 29.3 – Hemsley made his professional debut for Shrewsbury Town in 1961 after being evacuated to Shropshire during the war.

Graham Shaw.

Graham Shaw.

Arthur Rowley, who would later take charge of United, summoned the youngster out of a mathematics lesson and spirited him to Bradford in a car with his football boots nestling on the back seat so he could take part at Valley Parade.

Hemsley’s partnership with Len Badger, among last week’s right-back nominees, helped underpin United’s defence during the early 70s despite initially arriving in South Yorkshire as a midfielder.

Having become firm friends, they would later run neighbouring businesses in Dronfield.

The omission of Nilsen and Quinn will inevitably provoke an outcry among large sections of United’s following.

And quite rightly so.

Nilsen, a member of the Norway squad which travelled to the 1994 World Cup, represented Tromso, Viking and FC Cologne before arriving at United where he made 166 league appearances before an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham Hotspur.

Quinn made an equally important contribution before drifting, criminally, into the sporting wilderness.

Having progressed through the ranks at United, he later completed an £800,000 move to Newcastle before returning on loan.

But while the decision to place Carl Bradshaw’s name at the bottom of this quite remarkable quartet is an unashamed nod to nostalgia, few who watched the versatile defender in action will begrudge his appearance.

A fearsome competitor, Bradshaw nevertheless possessed such sound technique and positional sense that he was able to be deployed across the back four despite primarily being remembered for his efforts on the right.

TO VOTE FOR BLADES ...

To vote for your favourite player simply email us at promotions@sheffieldnewspapers.co.uk with the subject as Best Team Ever Blades, stating your name, address, telephone number and the number of the player you are voting for. Alternatively you can text us your vote by texting STA (space) BLADES (space) followed by the number of the player you are voting for and sending to 61500.

Deadline for entries is Sunday, June 19 2011 at 10am.

Usual SNL rules apply, full terms and conditions available on request by contacting Star promotions, York Street, Sheffield, S1 1PU or alternatively go online at www.johnstonpress.co.uk/jpplc/competition

Texts cost 50p plus your usual network rate. The Editor’s decision is final. By supplying your telephone number you’re happy to receive SMS messages from Johnston Press and its approved business partners. Johnston Press (or via its agents) and its business partners may contact you about new promotions, products and services. Please add the word EXIT at the end of your message if you do not wish to receive these. Please note if you should enter after the stated closing date your entry will not be valid but you still may be charged. For quality and training purposes we may monitor communications. SMS service is provided by Velti DR Ltd SE1 8ND - 020 7633 5000.

It’s one of the most enduring debates among football fans everywhere - what’s your best ever team? We are calling on the followers of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday to tell us who would be in their best ever side since the Second World War. We are looking for your Sheffield United Dream Team and your Sheffield Wednesday Dream Team. Today it’s the turn of the left-backs . In the following weeks we will be inviting you to let us know which players, position by position, you would pick for the remaining places in your team. To jog your memory, we will offer up every week four past stars from each club for each position. But it will be your choice from our four nominees that counts - the player who gets the most votes will fill that position in the Dream Team. The two teams will be unveiled at the end of the process. Happy voting!

HAVE a guess how many games Andy Hinchcliffe played for Wednesday.

Before you answer you may wonder why he is on our shortlist of left-backs for the Owls Dream Team.

He may be widely regarded among fans as someone who cost a lot of money and played few matches because of injury.

But he was an England international, with five caps, when Ron Atkinson paid Everton £2.7 5million for him, and he later added two more.

The answer to the question in the first paragraph is 96 (plus one as a sub), a much higher number than perhaps is generally remembered - almost all of them in his first two seasons, when he showed international class in defending plus expertise at set pieces.

Because of injuries, he played only nine games in his third and penultimate year with the club, and made two appearances in the final year of his contract before having to retire at the age of 33.

But should our left-back spot go to one of the men who served Wednesday for much longer?

Norman Curtis spent 10 years with the club from 1950 and played 324 games.

Don Megson outdid that as Curtis’ successor, with 18 years’ service and 442 appearances.

Nigel Worthington stayed for 10 years and amassed 413 starts plus four outings from the bench.

The first chronologically was Curtis - known as a quick and hard-tackling defender who terrorised wingers.

Born in Dinnington, he was signed by the Owls from Gainsborough Trinity in 1950 and quickly stepped up to the First Division.

He was also in the side that won the old Second Division title three times in the yo-yo years of the 50s.

Curtis sometimes played at right-back, he was the team’s emergency keeper and the penalty taker.

He would take a huge run-up for a spot-kick and then blast his shot at the net. Out of 24 kicks, he scored with 19 and hit the woodwork with the others.

He once saved two penalties after the regular keeper had gone off injured, in a 6-0 defeat at Preston.

But it was his rugged play as a full-back that made him a regular.

Megson, who took Curtis’ left-back spot, is remembered as the first captain to lead FA Cup runners-up on a Wembley lap of honour, which happened after the 1966 defeat against Everton.

But he was an outstanding servant to the club over many years after being signed as a left winger from non-league side Mossley in 1959.

He played in various positions for the reserves but made the left-back spot his own after being placed there by Harry Catterick.

Megson’s quality, leadership and wholehearted approach made him very popular with fans, and he was a fine ambassador for the club off the field.

He was a top-flight left-back for the entire 60s and was in the side that finished runners-up to double-winning Spurs in 1961 and reached the quarter-finals of the European Fairs Cup in 1962. He also earned one cap for the Football League representative side, against the Italian League in Milan.

Nigel Worthington won more caps while a Wednesday player than anyone else in the club’s history.

He played for Northern Ireland 50 times between 1984 and 1994 - part of a career total of 66 caps.

He was in the 1984 and 1991 promotion sides and in the team when Wednesday were a top-flight force in the early 90s.

He also performed well on the left side of midfield, notably when he and full-back Phil King teamed up, such as when the Owls beat Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup Final - the club’s only major trophy of the last 76 years.

TO VOTE FOR OWLS ...

To vote for your favourite player simply email us at promotions@sheffieldnewspapers.co.uk with the subject as Best Team Ever Owls, stating your name, address, telephone number and the number of the player you are voting for. Alternatively you can text us your vote by texting STA (space) OWLS (space) followed by the number of the player you are voting for and sending to 61500.

Deadline for entries is Sunday, June 19 2011 at 10am.

Usual SNL rules apply, full terms and conditions available on request by contacting Star promotions, York Street, Sheffield, S1 1PU or alternatively go online at www.johnstonpress.co.uk/jpplc/competition

Texts cost 50p plus your usual network rate. The Editor’s decision is final. By supplying your telephone number you’re happy to receive SMS messages from Johnston Press and its approved business partners. Johnston Press (or via its agents) and its business partners may contact you about new promotions, products and services. Please add the word EXIT at the end of your message if you do not wish to receive these. Please note if you should enter after the stated closing date your entry will not be valid but you still may be charged. For quality and training purposes we may monitor communications. SMS service is provided by Velti DR Ltd SE1 8ND - 020 7633 5000.

Nigel Worthington.

Nigel Worthington.

Back to the top of the page