The BTLM year ends with our annual Deceased Eleven – the seventh we have published – which is an imagined team composed from the ranks of the footballers who sadly passed away during this calendar year. This side would line up in an imagined 3-1-3-3 formation to best utilise the abilities of the players we selected.
Nine nationalities are represented with Scotland accounting for three players and England two. While researching this piece we noticed that it’s been a bad year for Bulgarian football with a number of their significant players from the past half century passing away this year: none quite made this selection however.
Goalkeeper – Gordon Banks (England) Born 1937. 73 caps
A goalkeeper of the ages and one of the greatest net custodians the game has seen. Banks was the agile and always dependable keeper for England for a decade that coincided with being the greatest period in national team history.
He was a key member of the 1966 World Cup winning team and it was his absence through illness four years that probably cost England their Quarter Final tie against West Germany. A stalwart at club level for many years with Leicester City and Stoke City.
Central Defender – Billy McNeill (Scotland) Born 1940. 29 caps / 3 goals
The inspirational captain and leader behind the great Celtic teams of the 1960s and early 70s. A commanding and quick central defender, McNeill was the epitome of the one-club man both playing and managing the Glasgow giants during a lifetime of association with them.
Central Defender – Tommy Smith (England) Born 1945. 1 cap
A tough and influential centre half who was one of Bill Shankly’s most trusted lieutenants behind the rise of Liverpool in the 1960s. Smith made his debut for the club in 1963 and was a regular until he departed in 1978 having collected multiple domestic and European honours. His most memorable moment was scoring Liverpool’s decisive second goal in the 1977 European Cup Final against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Central Defender – Eric Caldow (Scotland) Born 1934. 40 caps / 4 goals
Caldow was one of Scotland’s greatest-ever full-backs and part of a tradition that saw the nation produce a number of fine players in that position who could function just as successfully on the right or left side.
Caldow was a star for Rangers who made his debut in 1953 and continued to play with distinction until the mid 60s. He started out on the right side then moved seamlessly to the left side of defence winning Scottish titles in both positions. Just as important for the Scottish national team as he was for his club side, Caldow suffered a bad leg break on international duty in 1963 which restricted him to 40 caps.
Defensive Midfielder – Norbert Eder (West Germany) Born 1955. 9 caps
Norbert Eder spent the first decade of his career at Nürnberg and caught the eye with his composed play and ability to perform a range of different roles. Nominally a left sided defender, he also performed well when required on the left side of midfield and occasionally as a holding midfielder – where we have selected him.
His career took a step forward in 1984 with a move to Bayern Munich and eventually international recognition that saw him a fixture of the West German national team at the 1986 World Cup.
Central Midfield – Jurica Jerković (Yugoslavia) Born 1950. 43 caps / 6 goals
A highly skilled and creative attacking midfielder who was the captain and star of the powerful Hajduk Split team which dominated Yugoslav football in the early 1970s. One of the more maverick of post-war Eastern European players and a regular scorer of spectacular and acrobatic goals, Jerković was a long-term regular for his national team and appeared at the 1974 World Cup.
Central Midfield – Köbi Kuhn (Switzerland) Born 1943. 63 caps / 5 goals
One of the first wave of talented Swiss players who started to put their nation on the footballing map in the 1960s, Kuhn was a clever and perceptive midfielder who starred for FC Zurich for the best part of two decades. A fixture for the Swiss national team too during these years, Kahn’s World Cup experience was limited to a single appearance at the 1966 tournament.
Left Midfield – Jose Antonio Reyes (Spain) Born 1983. 21 caps / 4 goals
A prodigious talent for Sevilla at a young age, Reyes was a quick and skilled left-sided player capable of unsettling opponents with his control, balance and fine footwork. His career never quite reached the heights many anticipated after he moved to England to play with Arsenal, followed by years of moving from club to club with only Atletico Madrid providing much of a showcase for his talents.
Left Forward – Pedro Manfredini (Argentina) Born 1935. 3 caps / 2 goals
Manfredini was one of the numerous prodigious forwards from Argentina who transferred to Italy in the 1950s and settled in to life there with some ease. He signed for Roma in 1959 and enjoyed seven fine seasons in the Italian capital winning Coppa Italia and Inter-City Fairs Cup medals. A prolific and consistent goal-getter, Manfredini was Serie A joint-top scorer in 1963.
Centre Forward – Rui Jordão (Portugal) Born 1952. 43 caps / 15 goals
Alongside his contemporary Fernando Gomes, Rui Jordão was Portuguese football’s most effective and prolific centre forwards in the 70s and 80s. A star for both Benfica and then Sporting Lisbon, the player was an unerringly consistent player whose sharp instincts and acute positional sense guaranteed his team a substantial goal return each season.
His highlight in a Portugal shirt came at the 1984 European Championships when his two goals in the semi-final looked set to eliminate hosts France from the competition, only for France to recover to win 3-2.
Right Forward – Stevie Chalmers (Scotland) Born 1935. 5 caps / 3 goals
Most famous for scoring the winner against Internazionale that crowned Celtic the first British winners of the European Cup in 1967, Chalmers enjoyed a long and fruitful career at Celtic Park outside of that famous afternoon in Lisbon. Winner of a dozen major honours and scorer of 236 goals for the club between 1959 and 1971 makes Chalmers Celtic’s fifth highest scorer in history.