Greatest Yorkshire XI of All-Time

1970/1971 Fairs Cup 2nd leg

Leeds United, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City and Sheffield United stars all feature among the greatest XI to have played for Yorkshire clubs.

Yorkshire is a proud footballing county, and one which played a monumental part in making the beautiful game what it is today. In South Yorkshire, Sheffield is recognised by both UEFA and FIFA as being the birthplace of club football, with Sheffield FC officially recognised as the oldest association football club in the world.

Two Sheffield residents, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, one born in Sheffield and the other from York, devised the 'Sheffield Rules' between 1857 and 1877, which went on to spread throughout the north of England and played a huge role in codifying the game. In East Yorkshire, Hullensian Ebenezer Cobb Morley is regarded as the father of the FA, and he was the man who wrote the FA's 'Laws of the Game', which is used worldwide today and is relatively unchanged. 

Clearly then, Yorkshire is a county steeped in footballing tradition. In terms of on field accomplishments, Sheffield United were the first Yorkshire club to become English champions, in 1898. Huddersfield Town won a mightily impressive three consecutive league titles in the 1920's, making them one of only four teams to have done so, along with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.  

General view of Leeds Road home of Huddersfield TownLeeds Road: The former home of Huddersfield Town

Despite Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town's early success, it is Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday who rank as Yorkshire's most successful duo. Leeds won seven trophies in the late 1960's and early 1970's under Don Revie, and a further two trophies in the early 1990's, whilst 7 of Sheffield Wednesday's 8 trophies were won between 1896 and 1935.

Yorkshire clubs have won a total of 37 trophies, ranging from European titles to the FA Vase. Despite the counties footballing success both on and off the pitch, Yorkshire is currently experiencing a barren spell, as indicated by the fact that the most recent man to play for a Yorkshire club in our Yorkshire XI did so over two decades ago. 

Given the success and history of clubs in Yorkshire, there are a plethora of extraordinary players who don't make the starting XI, some of whom were genuinely world class. The difficult omissions of the likes of Peter Lorimer, Jack Charlton and Chris Waddle is testament to the abundance of quality which has graced the county. Here is our Yorkshire XI:

Chris Waddle gets to work at Hallam FC as part of Captital One's "Grounds for Improvement" promotion, offering one grassroots ground the chance to win a makeover worth up to £75,000. Visit Sheffield Wednesday ace Chris Waddle misses out on our XI

Goalkeeper: William Foulke (Sheffield United)

The goalkeeping position is possibly the one with the least outstanding candidates of any on the pitch in a Yorkshire XI. Were it based on players born in Yorkshire, rather than those who played in Yorkshire, Gordon Banks would be a shoe-in. As it is though, legendary Sheffield United shot stopper William 'Fatty' Foulke gets the nod. 

Leeds stoppers Nigel Martyn and the sadly recently deceased Gary Sprake deserve mentions, but Foulke was one of the finest goalkeepers of his era, who has harshly become a figure of mockery in recent times due to his extreme weight at the end of his career.

A giant of a man, Foulke had a great presence between the sticks and a highly aggressive goalkeeping style. He won one league title and two FA Cup's at Sheffield United, as well as finishing second in the league twice and reaching another FA Cup final during 11 years at Bramall Lane. 

Left-Back: George Hardwick (Middlesbrough)

A former England captain, George Hardwick is Middlesbrough's greatest ever defender, and the greatest left-back to play for a Yorkshire club. Hardwick captained England to their famous 6-1 win over the Rest of Europe in 1947, alongside the likes of Stanley Matthews, and spent 13 years at Middlesbrough, playing 143 games. 

The processor to Billy Wright as England captain, Hardwick's England and Middlesbrough careers were cut short by a knee injury, but he went on to spend 6 years at Oldham as player-manager. Following his full retirement from playing in 1956, Hardwick managed the Netherlands, PSV, Sunderland and Gateshead.

Centre-Back: John Charles (Leeds United)

John Charles LeedsAntonio Cassano, Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi observe a minutes silence in memory of Leeds United and Juventus legend John Charles

Probably the greatest player in this starting XI, John Charles could play as either a centre-back or as a centre-forward, but it is at the back that we have placed him, where he was absolutely formidable. Jack Charlton described him as the "most effective player I ever saw," and he is regarded as one of the greatest British footballers of all-time. 

The Welshman spent 8 years at Leeds United between 1949 and 1957, before joining Juventus, and he briefly returned to Leeds in 1962. An absolute gentleman and an impeccable professional, Charles was never cautioned during his entire 25 year career. He was voted Juventus' greatest ever foreign player, ahead of the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved and Michel Platini.  

Centre-Back: Neil Franklin (Hull City)

Neil Franklin is arguably England's greatest ever defender, with Bobby Moore the only man who could challenge him in terms of natural ability. He set the record for consecutive England appearances (27) in 1950, and would almost certainly have become the first man to reach 100 caps and England's captain rather than Billy Wright were it not for an ill-fated move to Colombia in 1950.

Frustrated by the wage cap, Franklin swapped Stoke for Bogota in 1950, where he was handed a lucrative deal and turned down playing for England at the 1950 World Cup. He lasted just 6 games, and when he returned, neither England nor any top flight teams would touch him. Hull, managed by former England teammate Raich Carter would though, making him the most expensive defender in the world when he moved to Boothferry Park in 1951.

Injuries restricted Franklin to just 95 league appearances in 5 years with Hull, before ending his career with brief stints at Crewe, Stockport and Macclesfield. Remembered as one of a number of players who left England for Colombia disgraced, Franklin ought to be remembered as a world class defender and one of the first to try and play the ball out from the back.

Right-Back: Roland Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday)

Roland Nilsson of Sheffield Wednesday celebrates with the trophyRoland Nilsson of Sheffield Wednesday celebrates with the trophy

The most recently active player in this XI, Roland Nilsson, starred for Sheffield Wednesday between 1989 and 1994, making 151 league appearances. Regarded by many Wednesday fans as the clubs finest ever foreign player, Nilsson reached 3 cup finals during his time in Yorkshire, winning 2 League Cup's and finishing as an FA Cup runner-up once. 

A two-time Swedish defender of the year, Nilsson also won 4 Swedish titles and 1 UEFA Cup whilst not with Wednesday. He is the sixth most capped Swede of all-time, with 116 caps for his country, with whom he finished third at both Euro 1992 and the 1994 World Cup.

Central Midfield: Billy Bremner (Leeds United, Hull City and Doncaster Rovers)

Despite having played for three Yorkshire clubs, Billy Bremner is synonymous with his 16 years at Leeds United, 10 of which were spent as club captain. A strong and uncompromising presence at the centre of Leeds' greatest ever team, Bremner was also a wonderfully complete footballer, who had a great understanding of where his teammates were, twinned with the ability to find them.

During his decade and a half at Elland Road, Bremner played 772 games for Leeds, just 1 appearance shy of setting a club record. In that time, he won one Second Division title, two First Division titles, one FA Cup and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup's. Bremner also made 68 appearances for Hull City, with whom he was relegated, and 5 as player-manager at Doncaster Rovers.

Central Midfield: Graeme Souness (Middlesbrough)

Souness MiddlesbroughGraeme Souness photographed as a Middlesbrough player

Former Scotland international Graeme Souness is best known for the 15 trophies he won in just 6 years at Liverpool, an incredible record which included 5 league titles and 3 European Cup's. Before becoming a pivotal player in that legendary Liverpool side though, Souness spent 4 years at Middlesbrough, the club where he kickstarted his career at 19, having failed to break into the first team setup at Tottenham.

Boro's Player of the Year when they won the Second Division in 1974, Souness proved he was a world class midfielder in the First Division. Frustrated by Middlesbrough's inability to challenge for top honours, twinned with the departure of Jack Charlton, Souness handed in a transfer request, and left Boro for a club record fee in 1978.

Central Midfield: Johnny Giles (Leeds United)

A teammate of Billy Bremner's in Don Revie's great Leeds United team, the duo formed an incredible central midfield partnership at Elland Road. By pure chance, both Bremner and Giles scored exactly 115 goals for Leeds United, although Giles managed that tally in 3 years and 245 appearances fewer. 

Named Ireland's Golden Player of the last 50 years, Giles won 7 trophies in 12 years at Leeds, and made the 1973/74 PFA Team of the Year. Prior to joining Leeds, Giles played more than 100 games for Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup under Sir Matt Busby. After leaving Leeds, Giles was player-manager for Ireland, West Brom and Shamrock Rovers, as well as also appearing for Philadelphia Fury in the US.

Inside Forward: Raich Carter (Hull City)

Sir Stanley Matthews called Raich Carter his "ideal partner," describing him as, "Bewilderingly clever, constructive, lethal in front of goal, yet unselfish." A sublime entertainer, Carter played for Hull City in the twilight years of his career, but he was still by far the best player in the Tigers squad and the most gifted player to ever grace Hull City's Boothferry Park.

The only man to have won an FA Cup both before and after the war, Carter was cruelly stripped of his finest years by the conflict, but still managed to have an exceptional career with Sunderland, Derby, Hull and England. Carter won the First Division with Sunderland in 1936, making him the youngest man to captain a team to the title, aged 23.

He went on to manage Hull, Cork, Leeds, Mansfield and Middlesbrough. Hull City's first game at the KCOM Stadium against Sunderland was aptly named the 'Raich Carter Trophy', and the Tigers ran out 1-0 victors courtesy of a goal by Steve Melton.

Centre-Forward: Derek Dooley (Sheffield Wednesday) 

Sheffield United chairman Derek Dooley celebrates promotion at the end of the gameFormer Sheffield Wednesday striker and Sheffield United chairman Derek Dooley

There is much competition for the central attacking berth in this team. Leeds United fans would probably go for Allan Clarke. Hull City fans will surely feel Ken Wagstaff is deserving of a mention. Barnsley fans could even make a case for Tommy Taylor, who joined Manchester United and lost his life in the Munich air disaster. It was Middlesbrough legend George Camsell who actually ran Derek Dooley closest, but ultimately the former Sheffield Wednesday striker deserves his place.

Dooley scored 64 goals in 63 games in a career which was brought to an abrupt halt when the forward was only 23 years old. Having suffered a double leg fracture against Preston in February 1953, it soon emerged Dooley's leg had been infected, and gangrene had set in. His leg had to be amputated and one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of English football saw his career destroyed just months after his 23rd birthday.

He still holds the record for the best goals to game ratio in Sheffield Wednesday history, as well as having scored the most goals in a single season (46). After retirement, Dooley managed Sheffield Wednesday, as well as working as commercial manager, managing director and vice president at Sheffield United. He is one of few men to have received a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. 

Inside-Forward: Wilf Mannion (Middlesbrough and Hull City)

Like Billy Bremner, Wilf Mannion spent the vast majority of his career with one Yorkshire club before making a late switch to Hull City in his final years. Diminutive but strong, Mannion had superb technique and a natural eye for cutting open the opposition with his passing. Widely regarded as Middlesbrough's greatest ever player, he spent 18 years with the club, although much of that was interrupted by the war.

Nicknamed 'the Golden Boy' due to his blonde hair, Mannion played 341 league games for Middlesbrough, scoring 99 goals. Similarly to Carter, Mannion lost many of his finest years to WWII, during which time he fought in both France and Italy. He joined Hull City in 1954, but he was suspended by the Football League for articles he had written after just 16 games in black and amber.

Honourable Mentions:

juninhoMiddlesbrough's 'Little Fella' Juninho is unlucky to miss out

There are, quite simply, too many honourable mentions to genuinely try and mention them all. However, Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray, Gordon Strachan, Norman Hunter, Nobbie Stiles, Allan Clarke, Jackie Smith, Jack Charlton, Chris Waddle, Jimmy Hagan, Juninho, Ray Wilson and George Camsell must be mentioned by virtue of all coming very close to making the XI.

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