Fans spring few surprises in the League’s anniversary poll

Alice Street - scene of the first Football League goal 125 years ago (Pic: Football League)
Alice Street - scene of the first Football League goal 125 years ago (Pic: Football League)
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Football fans are notorious for being a fickle bunch.

One minute they adore a manager and worship a player, the next they want the boss sacked or are lambasting the player for being unfit to wear the shirt.

But when it comes to all-time greats, the mind’s eye quickly turns back to a glorious time and a consensus is hastily reached.

This is what the Football League were attempting to tap into in a poll released yesterday which revealed the greatest players, managers, seasons and moments in the history of all 72 member clubs, to mark the League’s 125th anniversary, as perceived by the fans.

Nearly 100,000 votes were cast in the poll via social media – a vehicle for interaction populated by a younger market that inevitably created more modern-day winners than champions from a bygone era.

But it was an honest sentiment nonetheless, and one that for the 10 Yorkshire clubs, in particular, threw up a variety of predictable outcomes and surprise inclusions.

Billy Bremner’s selection, for instance, as Leeds United’s best ever captain, with 81 per cent of the vote, was never in doubt.

Nor was the man who harnessed that talent in the Whites engine room in the halcyon days of the Sixties and Seventies going to be overlooked as the club’s greatest manager, Don Revie garnering 74 per cent of the vote.

Yet the man second behind Revie was not the last person to guide Leeds to the English top division title, Howard Wilkinson, an obvious choice.

It was Simon Grayson, who did a creditable enough job in winning promotion from the third tier five years ago, but better than Wilkinson who steered Leeds to promotion and then to their last piece of silverware? Even Grayson must be surprised by his lofty status.

Sheffield Wednesday’s golden era between 1990-93 dominates the vote by Owls’ fans with Chris Waddle the best player, Nigel Pearson the most inspirational captain, Ron Atkinson their greatest manager and the year they won promotion and the League Cup (1991) their finest season. No arguments there.

Across the city, Neil Warnock edged out Dave Bassett by three per cent as the Blades’ greatest manager.

Players who might fall under the ‘would run through a brick wall for their club’ category feature prominently.

Stuart McCall at Bradford City, Rob Jones at Doncaster, Peter Clarke at Huddersfield, Kevin Watson at Rotherham United and of course, Bremner at Leeds, are such warriors who won the hearts of the respective fan bases and have earned greatest player and captain accolades.

These stalwarts got the vote ahead of more gifted players, with Waddle at Wednesday and Tony Currie at Sheffield United exceptions to the norm. It is why the voting by Middlesbrough fans causes the most curiosity. Juninho, the little Brazilian magician who transformed the unheralded club into FA Cup finalists, is perhaps rightly voted as their greatest player of all time.

But a fans’ favourite at the Riverside? Not even close. That honour goes to Frank Queudrue, a French full-back who played for the club from 2002-06, in case any neutrals had forgotten him.

Huddersfield Town fans greeted the poll with a sensible dose of perspective. Herbert Chapman is a name that resonates down the decades and his feat in bringing two championships to the West Yorkshire club in the Twenties, not to mention revolutionising the way football was played, is thankfully acknowledged.

From one golden era long ago to a modern-day equivalent; Phil Parkinson was voted as Bradford City’s greatest manager for his achievement in taking the Bantams to a first major Cup final for over a century last season, and promotion from League Two.

He was also named the best manager in the history of Colchester United, for guiding them into the second tier in 2006.

Flattered Parkinson told The Yorkshire Post: “I have to say it is nice to be mentioned by the supporters of two different clubs.

“Let’s hope I can continue to justify the faith of the supporters who voted for me.

“We can do that by winning our last four games of this season, starting with Peterborough (tonight), and finishing as strongly as possible.”

As heart-warming as nostalgia is, the world of football is all about the next game.