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Last Round Knockout – Part 1

December 2nd, 2005 by · No Comments · Features, Football

Rather than get into the rapidly polarised debate between the ?lived life to the full and we are all a bit jealous? and the ?piss artist, wife beater, Parkinson worrier? crowds our thoughts veered towards that staple of emotionally retarded males. The List.

Yes, we would probably agree with many of the journalists that published their, suspiciously well-crafted, obituaries last weekend that Best was undoubtedly that rare beast, The Natural. In both football and drinking terms he seems to have been born to it. No-one came close to his skills with a football, at least in the UK, and arguably in the world, but he had some closer competition in the elbow department. He would have been the focus of any team and undisputed captain, but who else would make a boozers eleven? Our selection is based on ruggedly non-scientific criteria with extra points for mixing it, in every sense, and collar feeling.

Goalkeeper

Goalkeepers offer rich pickings for nutters and my favourite for filling the ?under the bar? position was Portsmouth's late Aaron Flahavan. Arrested during an all day binge with a team mate he racked up fines from the club and for assaulting a policeman. The pair finished off 25 pints and assorted spirits during the afternoon session. I say ?was? favourite because I recently discovered a chap called Slavin who, playing for Dunfermline Athletic in 1911, was so drunk that he had to be stretchered off during a game.

Defence

Let?s look at the case for the defence. There is plenty of competition for places here but first on the team sheet would have to be, for sheer blistering honesty, Tony Adams and Paul McGarth. Adams? biography was almost too honest [did we really need the soiled sheets story] but provided a fascinating insight into the effort required to manage alcohol and a sporting career.

In a class of his own, for expressing the sheer futility of being, is Paul McGrath. Just listen.

?'Social drinking doesn't interest me. I don't want to sit at a bar and drink with people until I am merry. I drink for blackout. I drink until I can't function?.

Although drinking heavily throughout his career he had stayed sober for nearly 2 years after he retired. A career as a TV pundit was just beginning when the pressure of a World Cup commentary role became too much. He disappeared on a week long bender prompted by his acute shyness.

The defence is bolstered by Bobby Moore who carried off his rumoured heavy drinking with the subtle style of everything he did. Bobby could play anywhere so he gets my right-back slot, but then in my brand of totalled football I expect them all to be playing out of position within minutes of the kick-off.

At left back, the master of ceremonies of the 1980s Arsenal drinking [and gambling] school that welcomed eager pupils Adams, Merson and many others. Raise your glasses to the steady [until after training] Kenny Samson.

Midfield

Central midfield wankered man is a pivotal position. There can only be one man up to the job, Paul ?Guzzla? Gascoigne. His boozing, and mental problems, cost him his international career in 1998, his club career soon afterwards and his relationships. From the ?dentist chair? celebrations to the ?Belfast Piper? Gascoigne spent his career playing the fool. He?s our bet for next in line for Gods XI. Get them in George.

Guzzla?s midfield minder is a man who still displays those puffy boozers eyes in post match interviews, Bryan Robson. Although never as public in his indiscretions as his midfield partner he was reputedly the biggest boozer at Manchester United during the 80s and 90s. That?s saying something when you have Norman Whiteside and McGrath as competition.

The wide midfield positions go to those whose level of dedication to the art of self abuse can only be appreciated in numbers. Paul Merson was not content with a single addition, he wanted three. To his drink habit he added drug and gambling addictions which resulting in a nose-diving career, loss of his wife and children and a ?500,000 debt. Considering he was reputed to be earning in excess of ?20,000 a week he must have been losing money considerably faster than he earned it.

Somewhere in midfield is the legendary Jim Baxter, who, like Best, needed medical help but such was his drinking capacity he required two liver transplants. 'Slim Jim', who eventually died of cancer aged 61 in 2001, won 34 caps for Scotland and was a star of the 1960s with Rangers, Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. Although an artist on the pitch and arguably one of the finest footballers Scotland has ever produced, he was, at one stage, reported to be consuming three bottles of Bacardi a day. Class.

Next week we give you the forwards and the bench warmers.

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