RainhamEndViews today caught up with Gillingham legend Nicky Southall for a coffee and a chat as he attempted to put together a dream team of all the players he had the privilege of lining up alongside during his career.
Just by looking at the clubs he played for throughout his time in the game, it was clear this was going to no easy task, and so it proved as players such as Ivan Campo, Vince Bartram, Matt Jarvis, Per Frandsen and Dean Holdsworth plus plenty more all failed to make the cut.
Nicky in action for his beloved Gills.
Nicky couldn’t even find a place for himself, such was the vast choices available to him.
But before we got down to that it was great to hear his various stories; tales of how he almost never joined the Gills in 1997, that goal versus Wednesday in the cup, beating his ex manager and team mates on his top flight debut, his cherished goal for Bolton against Newcastle United in the Premier League, his time at a Brian Clough-laden Nottingham Forest, his opinions on ex Gills gaffer Mark Stimson and his hopes of breaking the 100 point barrier this season.
Listening to him studiously picking and setting up his own fantasy team, it was clear that the coach in him was coming through.
There was no picking players for the sake of it. This was a team put together after a lot of thought; full of leaders, character, technical ability and tactical know how.
Here Nicky talks us through his selected eleven and substitutes, and we hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we heard listening about it:
Nicky’s team is full of experience & ability.
GK – Jussi Jaaskelainen: Quite simply the hardest working pro I have ever played with, it was impossible for his enthusiasm to not rub off on you. I would often stayed behind after training to whip in crosses and shots at him, and it helped my technique no end. Also, because of his limited English I was able to take money off of him at golf pretty regularly.
Jussi: A top pro, but not such a great golfer.
RB – Bruno N’Gotty: Absolute brute of a footballer, he had all the tools required at the highest level. He rarely missed a tackle, never seemed to get beaten on the air, and he was pretty comfortable on the ball. He could easily slot in centrally if required, his versatility a real plus.
CB – Wes Morgan: He was a youngster coming through when I was at Forest, and to be in the first team at only 19 or 20 showed just how good he was. He was a proper centre back, very consistent with both strength and pace in abundance. It is great to see him now playing in the Premier League.
CB – Gudni Bergsson: A real leader of men, he has to be my captain. He had a good schooling at Tottenham and was so experienced. He really helped me settle in when I arrived at Bolton, something I will never forget. He would never let you down whether operating centrally or at full back.
Okocha & Bergsson both make Nicky’s XI.
LB – Simon Charlton: Another excellent pro, he knew his job so well that he was a manager’s dream. His was deceptively quick and ultra consistent. More adventurous than N’Gotty which would provide good balance.
RM – Youri Djorkaeff: He could play in any advanced role that he wished, and his first touch was an absolute joke. He would often take two or three opponents out of the game in one go, and he made it all look so easy. Such a silky footballer, he had just won the World Cup and European Championships with France, and I was sharing a dressing room with him!! His relationship down the right with fellow Frenchman N’Gotty would have been invaluable.
World glory with Thierry and then team mates with Nicky Southall. Life couldn’t get any better for Youri.
CM – Jay-Jay Okocha: I remember waiting for him to arrive at the training ground when it was announced he was joining Bolton. He turned up in a gleaming Ferrari, and had a big booming voice. He was always smiling but had such an aura about him. You wouldn’t dare go near him in training for fear of being embarrassed in front of your team mates. He had so much more time on the ball than anyone else, and he would do things in games that I wouldn’t even attempt in training. A genius.
CM – Andy Hessenthaler: The complete opposite of Okocha, but every team needs a Hess. He would never fail to rub opponents up the wrong way, and nobody enjoyed playing against him. His defensive work was first class, but his ability on the ball didn’t get the credit it deserved. His work ethic was phenomenal, he would run for 97 minutes every single game and set such high standards for everyone around him. A true Gillingham legend.
LM – Kris Commons: A wand of a left foot, and my best mate when I was at Forest. He could operate from the side, but just as easily play ‘in the hole’ as a number ten. We used to enjoy a good argument about who was on set piece duty, but with him being left footed and me right it was split pretty equally. A Champions League regular now with Scottish giants Celtic.
ST – Paul Shaw: Such a great footballer to watch as well a play alongside. He did a lot of unseen work off the ball, but with it at his feet he came alive. When he was in possession you were always confident a chance would be created, such was the finesse of his first touch and control. He wasn’t a prolific scorer of goals, but the ones he did get were always important, and he created plenty more for others.
ST – Robert Taylor: Every side needs an old fashioned number 9, and ‘Super Bob’ was as good as anyone. He could score any type of goal – left foot, right foot, header (Nicky later mentions his goal at home to Fulham as a prime example of his aerial ability). If the ball fell to him in the area you knew instinctively where it would end up, and he also possesses the hardest side foot I know.
‘Super Bob’ – don’t get in the way of his side foots.
Steve Banks: Another great friend of mine, and he made the greatest save I have ever witnessed first hand away to Stoke in 2004. Not only was it a great save in itself, but in the context of the whole season it was so important as it kept us up on goal difference.
Steve Banks: A great mate and capable of saves as good as his namesake.
Barry Ashby: A great presence in the dressing room and on the pitch. Ash was everything you could wish for in a centre back; consistent, strong, mobile and good in the air.
Kevin Nolan: He could either play as part of a midfield two or slightly further up the pitch, and he would always work hard and offer a goal threat.
Paul Smith: Not a footballer with the greatest technical ability, but he would always give you 110%. Tackling, work rate and commitment in abundance, a top, top professional.
John Hodge: What a great player to introduce from the bench and swing a game for you. He had so much natural ability and could cross a ball on the run as well as anybody. An old fashioned winger, players of his type have sadly faded out of the game.
Grant Holt: Very mobile for such a big lad, his hold up play was second to none. He was decent on the deck, very good in the air and he always knew where the goal was.
Clive Mendonca: ‘Super Clive’ was one of my best mates at Grimsby Town, and his finishing ability was frightening. He had such a good first touch that he could almost control a ball and hit it in one fluid motion. Deserved his big move to Charlton – where he continued to score goals – as he was comfortably the best player at Grimsby.
Mendonca: Comfortably Grimsby’s best and deserved his big move.
Nicky is always happy to chat on Twitter, and you can follow him @SouthallNicky