I’ve only been a proper Whyteleafe FC fan for around four years although I’d gone to random matches on and off for several years. When my young grandson said that he’d like to go to a football match I thought we’d start at Isthmian League level.
I’m glad we did because the little club got into our blood, due to the people, the brilliant ground and in recent seasons the quality of football orchestrated by Leafe gaffer Harry Hudson. I am now fully involved. I’m on the committee, I do match reports when Brian Davis is unavailable and I help with other areas of the club’s press activities.
Anyway, here’s my Leafe side and long-term diehards will have to forgive me if I have left out any obvious candidates. I either didn’t see them play- or not often enough to make a judgement. Regardless of all that, I reckon my XI would give any combined Leafe side a good game…
I thought long and hard and settled in the end for a 4-3-3 formation, and I will admit I’m overloaded down the right flank but both players had to be in my side- simple as that…
Goalkeeper: TYLER MCCARTHY
He won’t mind me saying this but if he were a bit taller Ty would be giving Jordan Pickford nightmares competing for his England spot. If that sounds like a grand claim ask any of the Leafe faithful who has seen some of his outstanding performances and saves in the Leafe goal in recent seasons.
Right Back: BRADLEY SIMMS
A mobile, fast and combative right-back who likes to get forward who did really well at Leafe when I saw him play.
Left Back: LESLEY DURU
Matt O’Donoghue should have been in my side really but young Lesley Duru, one of Harry’s Kinetic boys showed unbelievable quality and a level of confidence that really impressed for a lad of such young age. I’m not at all surprised that he’s now at Fulham and doing well in their Under-23 squad. Without Lesley, Matt was a starter for me.
Centre Back: NATHAN CAMPBELL
Captain colossus of Harry’s side for his first two seasons (now retired) and last spring’s lockdown meant that the Leafe fans couldn’t give Nathan the send off he so richly deserved. An assured and strong presence in the heart of the Leafe defence. He got the best out of the youngsters in the side. I wish we could have seen a 25-year old Nathan at Whyteleafe.
Centre Back: JAMIE MCGEOGHEGAN
This may surprise some but let me tell you why I’d pick Jamie all day long. He may not be the biggest or fastest BUT for dependability, reliability and an honest performance week in; week out, Jamie, in my view, cannot be faulted. Although he came to our club as a back up centre back his solid displays earnt him a starting spot.
Centre/Defensive Midfield: BENTLEY GRAHAM
‘Mr Whyteleafe’ is so much more than a loyal servant. There are times, when he’s on form, that Bentley still does stuff on the pitch when you think, ‘wow, that was quality’, whether it’s the way he can drop a shoulder and get away from an opponent or the 40-yard Hollywood pass or even a defence splitting through ball. Bentley gets in my XI.
Centre Midfield: MANNY MENSAH
For work-rate, skill and determination Manny is unbelievable. Some Leafe fans call him the Isthmian’s Ngolo Kante and although we probably don’t have kit that tells Harry how far players run during each match I guarantee Manny would have travelled the furthest. He covers every blade of grass and is hard to knock off the ball despite his stature. He’s also skilful and has added goals to his game.
Right Midfield: LANRE AZEEZ
This is admittedly where my team gets a bit lopsided. I shouldn’t really have Lanre and Ryan Gondoh in the same team BUT as this is imaginary I think they could cope! As a proper old school winger, Lanre is hugely effective. His wing play often tormenting opposing left backs is probably why he gets so many knocks but on his day, hard to pin down.
Inside Right: RYAN GONDOH
I’ve resurrected an old-fashioned position to accommodate ‘Gondoh’ – Actually thinking about I would let him have a free role, let him go where he wants. As Neil Warnock used to say to his teammates about the mercurial Adel Taarabt at QPR, ‘just give him the ball’-so that would be my instruction to Ryan if I were manager. ‘Go anywhere you like’. His balance, personality and proper skill make him an essential pick for me.
Centre Forward: EDDIE DSANE
Eddie was only with us one season but he made an amazing impression. Not the strongest centre forward although he can look after himself, it was Eddie’s knack of being in the right place at the right time that gets him into my side. Both he and my other centre forward choice, Ronnie, could literally light our crowd up with a piece of magic. Who remembers the day we nicked an FA Cup replay off Corinthian Casuals when Eddie’s last gasp free kick won us the game!?
Centre Forward: RONALD SOBOWALE
Being honest, we probably only saw the very best of young Ronnie for about half a season at The Leafe but in that time he became a firm fan favourite. Every time he touched the ball something was likely to happen. His penalties were stuff of legend (no run up; no back-lift – BOOM!) as were his free kicks (the 30-yard screamer he scored against Chichester a couple of seasons back was amazing). On his day Ronnie is a handful for any defence and although it doesn’t look it at first he is lightning quick, with superb dribbling skills and Herculean strength. A non-league player you would happily pay to watch.
Right, let’s have your First XI! Email your squad to Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll see it appear here.