Sheffield Wednesday’s greatest team: Name your midfielder

Tony Kay
Tony Kay
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ONE of the problems in drawing up a Dream Team shortlist is deciding how players from the past would fit into a modern 4-4-2 system. Probably the Owls’ best side of the last 50 years was the one that finished runners-up to double-winning Spurs in 1961.

In those days, teams played with two full-backs, three half-backs, two inside-forwards, two wingers and a centre-forward.

Carlton Palmer

Carlton Palmer

The Wednesday half-back line in 1961 was a famous one of Peter Swan, Tony Kay and Tom McAnearney.

Swan was certainly a centre half and was among our contenders for a spot in that position, but would Kay, who was 5ft 8in tall, and McAnearney, 5ft 9.5in, have been big enough to be centre-backs in the present era?

Probably not, but their qualities would almost certainly have made them big assets in midfield.

Carlton Palmer, another member of our shortlist, was of course the archetypal, modern box-to-box midfield man.

Tom McAnearney.

Tom McAnearney.

Bobby Craig, on the other hand, was an inside-forward of the early 1960s whose style of play could have made him a midfield man if he was playing today.

Sheffield-born Kay is perhaps best known for the bribes scandal of the 60s. He was also an outstanding player, known for tough tackling, tenacity and excellent passing.

Starting in 1955, he played 203 games for the Owls, earned seven England Under-23 caps and three for the Football League representative side.

He also helped the Owls to take the old Second Division title in 1959.

Bobby Craig.

Bobby Craig.

Harry Catterrick made him an established first-team player and, after leaving for Everton, paid a record fee for a half-back, £60,000, to take him to Goodison Park, in 1962.

While at Everton. Kay won one England cap and helped his club to take the First Division championship.

Then the bribes affair was uncovered and he was banned for life from playing and jailed for four months.

He, Swan and centre forward David ‘Bronco’ Layne were implicated in a bet on the Owls to lose at Ipswich in 1962. It was an inglorious end to his career, but Kay earned the right to be called one of Wednesday’s best ever players.

Bobby Craig was another member of the 1961 side. He scored 12 goals in that year of the club’s highest post-war finish, and helped the Owls reach the FA Cup semi-finals in 1960.

His total during his time at Hillsborough was 28 goals in 99 games, between late 1959 and 1962, and five of those came in his first five matches.

Craig was capable with either foot and covered plenty of ground. His passes could make goals for others and he could go past defenders on forward runs.

It has also been said that with greater application and consistency he could have made a bigger mark.

Catterick signed him, from Third Lanark, for £7,750, but Catterick’s successor, Vic Buckingham, sold him to Blackburn for £17,500 in 1962.

Tom McAnearney showed speed, tackling and composure on the ball and, unlike teammate Craig, was a long-serving Wednesday player, with 382 appearances in a 15-year Hillsborough career.

Remarkably, he also had a run of 13 consecutive seasons as a first-teamer, which including the Second Division title wins of 1956 and 1959. He was adept at taking penalties and had a spell as captain.

McAnearney - whose brother, Jim, played for the club - was a spectacular success, considering that he cost a transfer fee of only £490 when he was signed from Dundee North End in 1951.

Tom was sold to Peterborough for £5,000 in 1965 but returned to Hillsborough in 1968 as assistant to manager Jack Marshall. He had a spell as caretaker boss the following year and stayed at the club for a time after Danny Williams took over.

Many fans will need little reminding about the attributes of Carlton Palmer.

He was Ron Atkinson’s first signing and was valued at £750,000 in a player-plus-cash deal with West Brom, comprising £550,000 plus Colin West, in 1989.

Palmer made 283 starts and three appearances as a sub, and scored 18 goals. His running, tackling and wholehearted attitude made him popular among fans - and his all-round ability earned him 18 England caps during his time as a Wednesday player,

He was in the side that won promotion in 1991 - though he was suspended for the League Cup triumph that year against Manchester United - and helped to take the Owls into Europe and to the two cup finals of 1993.

His all-action style and John Sheridan’s subtlety formed a formidable combination in central midfield.

Palmer was sold to Leeds for £2.75 million in 1994. He was to have two further spells with the Owls, on loan in 2001, brought back by Peter Shreeves from Coventry,

Take your pick. Is it Kay, Craig, McAnearney or Palmer?

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