Throw Back Thursday
As we continue our Throw Back Thursday feature, this week we hear from former Men’s President and Queens Park Shield winner Daniel Pilley on who makes it into his all time Saints 11 dreamteam.
Daniel Pilley – My Saints XI
I started this process by simply listing the eleven best players I played with during my four years as a Saint. It didn’t take long to realise that I am not blessed with full back options. There are two reasons for this; one for each flank:
Right back: Tactically choosing to drive the van in first year almost guaranteed my spot here.
Left back: Even the fittest and most gifted of players who dared wear the cursed First XI’s number 3 jersey immediately gained three stone, lost three yards of pace and plenty of points. A poisoned chalice if you like.
It is lucky then that players like TAA and Andy Robertson have completely redefined the role of a modern full back, in turn rendering teachers’ pets and lorries at fullback redundant. It is for this reason that I am choosing not to play with full backs, opting for an incredibly narrow and attacking 3-5-2 formation:
GK: Kota Horiai
I must start by apologising once more to Alec Cadzow, who, after missing out on a seemingly guaranteed QPS final MOTM award in 2018 and now Cookie’s and my select XIs, must be wondering what he had to do to catch a break. Well, here’s your answer Cadz: if you could go four years without Stuart realising you smoked before, during and after every BUCS and Fife League fixture, if you could keep me up at night with visions of you in a kimono holding an electrical tape samurai sword screaming “AWAY, AWAY, AWAY”, or even if you practised your handling skills with Japanese eggs named Misty, you would have walked into my side. But because you couldn’t do any of these things, whilst Kota could and did do all of them, coupled with the fact that Kota would never have been evicted from a possession box, means that Kota Away starts in net.
RCB: Findlay Tough
It has almost become a prerequisite for one of the centre halves operating in a back three to have wood fae hawnds. To many, this would be a hindrance. You instantly rule yourself out of being able to take (quick) throw-ins, you’re also incapable of taking the balls and bibs back to the Sports Centre as a fresher and most painfully, someone else has to lift the QPS for you. It therefore takes a selfless man to carry the burden of wood fae hawnds, and no man has carried it better than Findlay Tough.
As an FS model and an Oktoberfest big doog, Julius Von Gierke was, on the surface at least, a misfit in the football club. However, when you delved into his Spotify, reached into his pocket to find a pair of dice and held das Boot aloft, you realised that Scottish university football’s Franz Beckenbauer was also an integral part of the football club’s DNA. From opening minibus doors to get the dashboard light going for Lucas and Steve’s Skyline Sessions, to asking whether it was because Pittenweem’s striker had “not caught any fish today” that we were unimaginably beating the Fife League heavyweights that day, JVG had bags of style, ability and most importantly humour. He made the game look scarily easy, both on and off the pitch.
LCB: Lion Hartford
This was a coin toss between Matthew Holden and Lion. Ideally we’d have taken a hybrid of these two very different lefties. I want Matthew’s brain and Lion’s feet. Despite Matthew consistently playing one of the best top spinners into centre-mid I’ve ever seen, Lion, I think Matthew would be first to admit, was a better footballer. In fact, Lion is one of the most technically gifted players I’ve played with. It’s just a shame he can’t think or run. But perhaps this was down to the fact he played like a scarecrow in that cursed left back position, catching many flies in his mouth in the process. Left of a three however and with a counsellor following him like a linesman, I think we’ve all of a sudden got a very good and stable player.
RM: Yu Okamura
Pace is undoubtedly an issue here. After dropping out, recovering and watching Ogyen swagger his way into the high 20s of a bleep test, Yu couldn’t physically keep up with this pace, even with fresher legs. Holding his ankle after a crunching tackle in Fife, he looked up at me and said: “Ah! My elbow!”. But what Yu lacks in pace and general English vocabulary, he more than makes up for in technical ability and Fife vocabulary. He’s undoubtedly the nicest Japanese man from Fife I’ve ever met. He’s also got hands for feet. Seriously, any pass at any height (under 5ft 4) or speed, he’s controlling as effortlessly as a catch. He’d be a pro if he was quicker and didn’t love a pint so much; which as Yu will tell you, go foot in foot.
CDM: Kostas Ntolkeras
Growing up my father always used to tell me: “Every team needs a psychopath in midfield”. Kostas used to deny any wrong doing after a throat-high two footed challenge by simply claiming not to speak the same language as the ref or opposition. Kostas had it all. Well, apart from an adequate supply of shorts.
Alex and Kostas were a formidable partnership in midfield. They both had an incredible gift for finding little pockets of space. A lack of showering and laundry rotation in central midfield meant an absolute assault on the opposition’s senses. Give them a sniff and they’d turned you, then it was a familiar sight of our captain and midfield maestro forcing defenders to keep so much distance from the stench, they’d jockey until he simply walked the ball into the net.
LCM: Joel Butcher
For every psychopath, however, there must be a devout Christian. Mr Virtue offers incredible balance in this midfield. Joel is the nicest man I’ve ever met and also one of the best footballers. Dribbling and running at a defence, doing kick-ups or taking a penalty, Joel’s style is unique. Every touch is a tackle, and he wins the ball every time.
Whilst pace is an issue on our right, work rate and temperament are problems on our left. I’m incredibly dubious about the relationship between LM and LCB. So Joel’s role at LCM becomes even more pivotal, acting as the mediator and voice of reason between the two. Never has a man needed to just “go and play” as much as Max Balmford. He’s unmanageable and uncoachable because he simply just doesn’t care about anything. But that’s what makes him so brilliant. I’ve never seen him get out of second gear, and he is still the quickest man I’ve ever seen. Imagine him in third gear, let alone fourth or fifth.
ST: Alessandro Puerini
A lot was made of the “Sandro” who’d scored goals and celebrated with the “I can’t hear you” gesture to twelve fans in the Italian seventh division and I must say after an invite to the first team session that followed his trial, I wasn’t convinced. This was of course until, with about five minutes left, he turned me on the edge of the box and dinked one over Cadz into the far corner like Eric Cantona. No celebration from Sandro this time, but plenty from Stuarty. He went on to live up to every single Italian footballing stereotype. You can’t question his ability, but you can certainly question taking your top off to celebrate in Scottish university football. You can also question his behaviour in the dressing room. He brought a bath robe to every game, and is the only bald man I know who blow dries his head.
My favourite player. Someone I could identify with on the pitch, up to a point. An emotional man who valued the football club enormously and like myself, sometimes let it get the better of him. I enjoyed many a training and translation session with Maxim Bolotov, as Russian elbows, heads and expletives were fired my and everyone else’s way. Silver skulls and wolf heads on umbrellas aren’t scary until a Russian owns them. Stuart had some bottle putting him in the 5s.
And this team still wouldn’t get out of 2A…