Footbalternative founder Jonny Singer compiles a Hypothetical XI of former British Prime Ministers…
The modern politician has plenty to say about football. Thatcher had her negativity towards it, Blair his famous pseudo-support, and the present-day House of Commons regularly feels the need to discuss the national sport.
But what would a team of British political leaders look like? Here’s my Prime Minister’s XI:
GK - Spencer Perceval – the only PM to have been assassinated, he puts his body on the line and is something of a shot-stopper.
RB - Benjamin Disraeli – very Conservative, Disraeli is the perfect old fashioned right full back. Inspires those around him, brings others into play, and even if he’s not universally popular with his team-mates he appeals to the common man much more than you’d expect.
CB - Winston Churchill – the master of defence. Also this team’s captain, the ultimate leader. However, has a difficult disciplinary record due to his determination to “fight them” all over the park.
CB - William Ewart Gladstone – tactically innovative yet stoically defensive, the Grand Old Man of British politics is a must pick. Can be prone to joining the odd attack though, particularly where the Empire is concerned.
LB - Ramsay MacDonald – one of the founders of the Labour party, and their first PM, MacDonald has to play on the left. Forward thinking, but has to play slightly behind our other leftists. Phenomenally talented individually, he’s also happy to work in coalition with others across the spectrum.
DM – Clement Attlee – offers something of a safety net with his new Welfare State, mopping up after a disaster he’s your man for a crisis. Can rebuild an attack when the previous endeavour breaks down.
LCM - Tony Blair - Nominally plays slightly to the left, but moved so far to the centre that he now plays in the middle of the park. A serial winner, but can overcommit, particularly if the Americans ask him to.
RCM - Robert Peel – another heavyweight in the centre of midfield, successfully ditched the right of his party even if he didn’t always hold the centre perfectly. Set-piece taker thanks to his interest in the Corn(er) Laws.
RW – David Cameron – young, inexperienced, but he loves attacking (the poor) and he will hug the right touchline as much as you’d ever want. Certainly (upper) class, but can drag the central players out to his wing, which is occasionally problematic.
LW – Harold Wilson – innovative in his style, he’s also pretty radical in what he does, even if, like some other famous wingers I could mention, he’s a bit too concerned with image. Can completely change a game, best on the left but might drift inside at times. And if he doesn’t get it right the first time you can be sure he’ll bounce back later.
False Nine – Margaret Thatcher – always fought hard against the strikers, and yet achieved plenty of goals. Formidable opponent, but helped throughout her career by playing against weak opposition.
Robert Walpole – Should really be the number 1, but just hasn’t been the same since the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Benched.
Gordon Brown – waited so long for his opportunity, and then failed to perform. It probably wasn’t his fault, but no-one’s going to remember him for long. Bring him on when you’re 3-0 down with five minutes to play.
Harold Macmillan – Bring him off the bench if you need to employ the winds of change…
Neville Chamberlain – If you want to get on good terms with the opposition bringing in Chamberlain will appease them. That said his reputation has been in tatters, perhaps unfairly, for about 75 years, so not a popular choice.
Anthony Eden – Undoubtedly skillful, but not really the man for a (Suez) crisis. Bring him on when you’re on top. A bit old-school, but a sensible holding player.
John Major – if you need to replace Thatcher at any point he’s the man to turn to. Not hugely interesting, but reasonably effective in his own way.
William Pitt (the Younger) – the youngest ever PM, he’s also a great guy to have if you’re up against European opposition. Not really suited to either wing but can attack or defend down the centre.
Manager: Duke of Wellington – not always best remembered for his time as PM, but a great man to have in a battle, and a tremendous tactician. Also the type of boss that would always turn up as if he were going to play, boots and all.