Premier League XIs: The brilliant B-Side

Sarah Winterburn

You’ve analysed the A-Team; now browse the B-Side.


Goalkeeper: Fabien Barthez
Barthez didn’t exactly have the time of his life at Manchester United, but he was by no means a failure either. A winner of two Premier League titles, Barthez was initially seen as a success before his instinctive eccentricity started proving too costly, leading Alex Ferguson to give him a golden handshake and say good riddance on his way back to France. World Cup winner Barthez replaced fellow B-man Mark Bosnich as Old Trafford’s No. 1, the Australian suffering the misfortune of being the first to try and fill the sizeable void left by Danish legend Peter Schmeichel. How many other B goalkeepers can you muster? There are over 20.


Right-back: Henning Berg
One of the Premier League’s first ever foreign players and a three-time Premier League winner, Henning Berg gets in the B-Side at right-back. The position is hotly contested though; those close behind Berg include Warren Barton, Markus Babbel, Hector Bellerin and the Bardsley boys – David and Phil (Can anyone make up an XI from players who share the same surname?).


Centre-half: Slaven Bilic
Any self-respecting B-Side needs a musician in the team. The former West Ham and Everton defender may have some issues with fellow B-Side contender Laurent Blanc after shamelessly getting the Frenchman sent off in the 1998 World Cup semi-final, but Blanc didn’t arrive in England until his veteran years so only gets a spot as a back-up defender. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper B-Team bench if Premier League Hall of Shame inductee Winston Bogarde wasn’t sitting on it, although B-Side boss Rafa Benitez wouldn’t make him suffer the indignity of actually playing football at any point.


Centre-half: Steve Bruce
Unfathomably uncapped by a succession of England managers, Steve Bruce was the on-pitch leader of a Manchester United side that dominated the Premier League’s nascent years, winning two domestic doubles. A Geordie Boy, current Newcastle United boss Bruce has managed five Premier League clubs but will have to settle for a player-assistant role here, reporting to his St. James’ Park predecessor; Rafa has won a Champions League after all. Benitez will probably have to give Alex Bruce a place on the bench just to keep Steve happy and ensure the former Sheffield United manager shows him around Bramall Lane, the B-Side’s stadium. Other B-Side benched defenders include Gudni Bergsson, Jerome Boateng, Wes Brown and one of England’s late debutants Steve Bould.


Left-back: Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines alongside Slaven Bilic gives the B-Side defence a fitting Mods and Rockers look. Signed from Wigan in 2007, he has been a model professional for Everton and is still occasionally turning out for the side at the age of 35. He may soon leave Goodison Park as part of Carlo Ancelotti’s rebuild but has enjoyed a fantastic Premier League career and would have surely won more England caps if Ashley Cole wasn’t such a formidable left-back. If only international players were picked in alphabetical order. The Merseyside-born Baines is the standout choice for the left-back slot ahead of Wayne Bridge, Ryan Bertrand and Norwegian Stig Inge Bjornebye.


Right wing: David Beckham
The B-Side could hang its name on this man; with a look that seemed to change with every new day, David Beckham is perhaps the Premier League’s biggest celebrity. The Greater London-born star could play a bit too, having won titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and PSG. With England’s undercapped David Bentley on the bench, the B-Side has a fool’s gold version of goldenballs ready to step in if Beckham is too busy.


Central midfield: Gareth Barry
The Premier League’s all-time appearance maker gets in the B-Side having spent over 20 years playing top-flight football. After a long period at Aston Villa, he was part of a revolution at Manchester City and won the Premier League title in 2012. Part of two England tournament squads, Barry struggled to edge out the golden generation midfield enigma of Gerrard and Lampard, but still won over half a century of caps. Barry edges out Nicky Butt, Lee Bowyer, George Boateng and Yorkshire’s David Batty.


Central midfield: Michael Ballack
You can’t always get what you want. Michael Ballack finished as a runner-up in two Champions League finals, a World Cup final and a European Championship final. He did at least win a Premier League title with Chelsea during a four-year spell at Stamford Bridge and he has the added consolation of being the B-Side’s all-action star. Ballack edges out current Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley, who takes his place on the bench alongside Nick Barmby and Patrik Berger.


Left wing: Gareth Bale 
The Welsh wonder just about gets the left-wing spot ahead of John Barnes, who was perhaps past his peak come the advent of the Premier League. Unlike B-Side team-mate Ballack, the former Spurs star has plenty of Champions League titles, winning four with Real Madrid. Despite success at the Bernabeu, there’s a feeling amongst Welsh fans that Bale is half the world away in Spain and a move back to the Premier League in the coming seasons would suit the 30-year-old.


Striker: Dennis Bergkamp
God only knows why Inter Milan allowed Dennis Bergkamp to go after just two seasons in Italy but their loss was Arsenal’s gain. After a decade at Highbury and 315 Premier League appearances, the Dutchman left the north London club a legend. Bergkamp was part of the Invincibles team in 2004, but in the 1997/98 campaign he was personally invincible as his performances drove Arsenal to a first Premier League title. He won the PFA Player Of The Year that season, finished second in the assist charts (just one behind B-Side team-mate David Beckham) and scored 16 goals, including a famous hat-trick against Leicester City.


Striker: Dimitar Berbatov
Bergkamp and Berbatov up front together would be the sweetest thing; the B-Side would surely dominate every time the Alphabet League’s Goal of the Month competition came around. After signing from Spurs in 2008, Berbatov overcame an initial broken promise at Manchester United to win two Premier League titles and a League Cup. Peter Beardsley could easily slot in to the B-Side and could make an impact from the bench alongside Craig Bellamy, Darren Bent and the first Italian to win the Premier League: Mario Balotelli. Apologies to Nicklas Bendtner, who shockingly missed out on the Danish Premier League XI and doesn’t even make the bench here. It’s a conspiracy.

James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs