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Why not a Tom, Dick, and Harry combined XI?

Thursday 1st March 2018

When two top clubs are about to cross swords, it can be fun to pick a combined XI. Such lists spark debate over which star at each respective position is the best. So, you can’t just pick any Tom, Dick, or Harry. That strikes me as extremely unfair to the Toms, Dicks, and Harries giving their all for club and country in football. They deserve a moment in the sun. This combined XI is for them.

Note: Beyond being a TDH, the only other qualification is to be still in the game. Onward.

Manager: Dick Advocaat

Picking any Tom, Dick, or Harry becomes a little difficult when there aren’t many around. To begin, there just aren’t many Toms in the coaching game. I wrote a short story about this odd statistical anomaly once. You can find it here for a nominal price if you’re interested. The German managers I mentioned therein, Tuchel and Schaaf, are both on involuntary hiatus at the moment.

Which leaves just a Dick and Harry from whom to choose. Harry Redknapp is also gardening. In his case, that amounts to cultivating advice for A-League side Central Coast Mariners and serving on Wimborne Town’s board.

So, Dick Advocaat, you’re hired. Surely you could use a distraction from your struggles at Sparta Rotterdam. The Castle Lords are currently in the Eredivisie dungeon. The bottom spot condemns a club to direct relegation into the Eerste Divisie. Sparta are six points behind NAC Breda and safety. Both Roda Kerkrade and Twente Enschede are just two points away. Catching one or both would give Advocaat’s side a chance to stay up at season’s end by defeating a hopeful Eerste Divisie side.

He probably wishes he had a few players from this squad to aid his cause.

Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton

Surprisingly there aren’t many Toms in goalkeeping either. Nor Dicks nor Harries. The Burnley keeper is far and away first choice to man the sticks. He is nursing a shoulder injury at the moment, but as the team won’t be playing any matches other than on FIFA, that isn’t a concern.

Getting games with the Clarets when he returns may be, however. Nick Pope has done a job in his place. The club may put one or the other in the shop window in the run-in. Heaton featured in a closed-door friendly last week. Sean Dyche may soon have a decision to make. The former United youth star has earned some loyalty with his pre-injury performances at Turf Moor. Pope has stated his case, as well.

Backups: Tomas Cerny/Partick Thistle, Harry Burgoyne/Wolves

Right Back: Thomas Meunier

The 26-year-old Belgian with the tongue-twisting surname is pushing Dani Alves for minutes in Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain lineup. He came on for the Brazilian shortly after the hour in the loss to Real Madrid, his only Champions League appearance this season, but has played the full 90 in eight Ligue 1 matches. Overall, Meunier has contributed four goals and five assists, three each in the league. As well he is rumoured to be the stunt double for Chris Hemsworth’s hammer in the Thor movies.

Centre Backs: Harry Maguire, Richard Keogh

Having escaped purgatory with Hull City, Maguire is making a name for himself with Leicester. A strong, physical presence who can win balls in the air and not panic with the ball at his feet [don’t look at me like that, Chris Smalling] the Englishman has become an automatic choice for Claude Puel. His goal four minutes into stoppage time against Manchester United at the King Power stole a point and ruined Jose Mourinho’s Christmas.

Keogh, the 31-year-old Irishman, didn’t fare as well against United when Derby County visited Old Trafford in the FA Cup Third Round, although the entire side put in a yeoman effort, pushing the Red Devils almost to the limit. In the end, the Rams were knocked out of the competition following late goals from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku.

Regardless, Keogh and Maguire would be an ideal pairing to protect Tom Heaton in goal. A proper Tom, Dick, and Harry in the box, as it were. And, yes, Richards are eligible for this XI, even if Keogh gives you a blank stare when you ask if it’s alright to call him Dick?

Left Back: Ricardo Rodriguez

Finding a Dick to play left back was difficult. In the end, I had to go to Italy. Turns out there is more than one Dick in Milan. What? I’m talking about Ricardo Rodriguez and Riccardo Montolivo. Geez.

Ricardo, the 25-year-old Swiss International, moved to San Siro this season after nearly 200 appearances in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg. He is now the Rossoneri’s first-choice left back. Solid defensively, Rodriguez is not hesitant about joining the attack, potting four goals across all competitions, and assisting another. He’s missed two matches during Milan’s current eight-game unbeaten run. The second was due to a stomach ailment. The first was a suspension for accumulated cautions. So, he can be a bit of a Dick it seems.

Defensive Midfield: Harry Arter

Riccardo Montolivo will start matches on the bench in this squad. The 33-year-old finds himself doing the same with Milan as new boss Gennaro Gattuso has assigned January signing Lucas Biglia to man the door to the Rossoneri defensive third.

On England’s South Coast, Harry Arter is going through a similar ordeal. The 28-year-old London-born Irish international has only started 11 times for Eddie Howe in his eighth season with Bournemouth. Not feeling the Vitality Stadium, Arter may be planning a summer exit. He was linked to West Ham in January, but the Cherries wanted to keep him for cover.

Also on the bench: Harry Winks/Spurs, Tom Davies/Everton

Right Wing: Ricardo Quaresma

The enigmatic Ricky Q. The 34-year-old Portuguese is still doing a job for the Portuguese in the Turkish Super Lig. The right talon in the Black Eagle’s pincered attack, with Ryan Babel on the left, Quaresma has accounted for three goals and seven assists in 22 league appearances. Add another four helpers in six Champions League tilts. He’s coming off a brace against Fenerbahce on the weekend. Don’t worry about his age; Ricky’s still got it.

He’s already peeling off to celebrate before the ball has even passed the helpless keeper. That’s what’s known as a Dick move.

Left Wing: Thomas LeMar

The 22-year-old Monaco sensation has some moves of his own. The one that would have brought him to Arsenal never came off. Nevertheless, he’s enjoying life in the principality. The Guadeloupe-born French international has two goals and seven assists for Les Monagasques in Ligue 1, plus another goal in the Coupe de la Ligue. This squad is starting to look like it could do some damage.

Attacking Midfielder: Tom Cleverley

The 28-year-old Manchester United product has been playing deeper to cover for Abdoulaye Doucoure with Watford. Still, he’s chipped in a goal and assist and been an integral part of both Marco Silva and Javi Gracia’s starting XIs. He’s missed the past three games with a knock. The Hornets stung both Chelsea and Everton during his absence, although David Moyes dropped the Hammers on them between. Regardless, the Englishman may find it difficult to reclaim his place when he comes off the trainer’s table.

On the bench: Harry Shipp/Seattle Sounders

Secondary Striker: Thomas Mueller

There is speed on both flanks in this XI. The players in the middle need the intelligence to get out of the way and fill empty spaces. Mueller is the master at doing just that for both Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and die Mannschaft in the World Cup.

Jupp Heynckes has used him better than Carlo Ancelotti but the cerebral forward-slash-winger is still rotated in and out of the FC Hollywood cast. When called upon he’s been his usual reliable self, pitching in nine goals and as many assists in 29 outings.

On the bench: Richarlison/Watford, Hal Robson-Kanu/West Brom

Striker: Harry Kane

The 24-year-old Tottenham and England forward now stands out in the most exceptional company. He scored more goals in 2017 than any striker in Europe. Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo. Edinson Cavani. Robert Lewandowski. None could match his pace. The twice-defending Premier League Golden Boot winner again leads the way again in 2017/18 with 24 strikes.

He has scored Spurs' last three Premier League goals. Two were game winners. The third was the equaliser against Liverpool. That’s seven points delivered by one player. It’s safe to say he’s not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry. That’s alright. I’ll take him anyway. Who you got?

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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