The potential for a Premier League ‘All-Star Game’ is being discussed again.
This time because Chelsea’s American owner, Todd Boehly, thinks it would be a good idea.
He part-owns baseball’s LA Dodgers and will be used to the idea of these exhibition contests, which pit the best of the best against each other in all of North America’s major sports.
Boehly believes there are hundreds of millions to be made from an All-Star game, which he would see being contested between teams made up of players from northern and southern Premier League clubs.
So, with that in mind, why not try and come up with two League One All-Star teams – one representing the south and another the north?
The split of clubs is fairly easy to do, with Peterborough needing to be grouped with the northern teams to create a 12/12 split.
North: Accrington Stanley, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers, Burton Albion, Derby County, Fleetwood Town, Lincoln City, Morecambe, Peterborough United, Port Vale, Sheffield Wednesday, Shrewsbury Town
South: Bristol Rovers, Cambridge United, Charlton Athletic, Cheltenham Town, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Ipswich Town, MK Dons, Oxford United, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, Wycombe Wanderers
To avoid simply picking the vast majority of the Ipswich team to represent the south, I’ve limited myself to only four players from each club to put together these teams.
Remember this is an All-Star game, so entertainment value needs to be considered in addition to performance level.
My opinion? I’m not sure an All-Star game is going to work in football. The NFL one is terrible, with an enormous drop-off in intensity which means it is barely watchable as a contest. Much worse than any pre-season game.
The NBA will do it pretty well, with a tweak to the game format and charity incentives which get the players going, especially in the fourth quarter.
But in football I’m not sure throwing a team together in this manner is going to create the kind of contest people will pay (and they will have to pay) to watch.
In basketball the teams are picked by two captains, playground style, which is a nice touch. But I’d much rather see the game’s top footballers compete in some kind of skills challenge/sports day. That would be much more entertaining.
What Boehly’s suggestion does, though, is open the door for fun yet pointless exercises such as this one.
So, here goes with two League One All-Star teams…
Goalkeeper: Jack Stevens (Port Vale)
A Port Vale player in an All-Star game? Yup. I like Stevens, who is on loan from Oxford. He’s a solid all-round goalkeeper.
Defense: Tom Hamer (Burton Albion), Ricardo Santos (Bolton), Michael Ihiekwe (Sheffield Wednesday)
Ihiekwe is a top-end performer in this league, winning promotion with Rotherham last season before joining Wednesday, while Santos at Bolton is a defensive powerhouse.
Some eyebrows, maybe, raised at the inclusion of Hamer from the league’s basement boys. He has a good long throw… I want to see that in an All-Star game.
Midfield: Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday), Conor Hourihane (Derby County), Teddy Bishop (Lincoln City), Dapo Afolayan (Bolton Wanderers)
Bannan is a lock for this team and is certainly in the conversation for the league’s best overall player. He’s creativity personified. Hourihane is a player I’ve always really liked, as a solid all-round midfielder.
Those two are in the middle, with a couple of tough decisions on either side. After much thought, I’m going to include Teddy Bishop in this team. He has five goals to his name already this season and, as we know, can be a twinkle-toed runner when he’s at his best. On the left is Bolton’s Dapo Afolayan, a player who is both fun and infuriating to watch in equal measure. I really like him.
Front three: Josh Windass (Sheffield Wednesday), Michael Smith (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough)
A power-packed front-three for the Northern team. Windass in the hole, creating and niggling, behind a front two which should be full of goals. Smith, as we know, is a top end performer in this league, bringing size and a neat touch, while Clarke-Harris is a little more dynamic but equally dangerous. A strength for this side.
SOUTH – 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper: Christian Walton (Ipswich Town)
A no-brainer, once. Town’s No.1 has been almost perfect at the start of this season, showing why he really should be playing at a higher level than this. He’s great in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet and, crucially, is capable of making big saves at vital times.
Defense: Janoi Donacien (Ipswich Town), Sean Raggett (Portsmouth), Ryan Tafazolli (Wycombe Wanderers), Conor Grant (Plymouth Argyle)
Donacien gets the pick at right-back, offering defensive solidity and attacking intent in equal measure. At left-back, Grant hasn’t played yet this season due to injury, but he’s a player I really like. He’s very attacking, but this is an all-star game – we want entertainment. At the heart of defense, Raggett and Tafazolli are blue chip League One center halves. Should be a good pair.
Central midfield: Sam Morsy (Ipswich Town), Cam Brannagan (Oxford United)
A nice midfield blend here I think. In the States, all-star games tend to lack any kind of aggression and drive, so Morsy will help maintain that in this fictional game, with his excellent midfield blend. Brannagan is a player I’ve always liked, he’s dynamic and can score from range. I’m surprised he’s still in League One. He gets the nod over Marlon Pack of Portsmouth.
Attacking midfield: Sam Smith (Cambridge United), Conor Chaplin (Ipswich Town), Finn Azaz (Plymouth Argyle)
There were a lot of options in the attacking midfield positions, but I’ve just about settled on these three. Chaplin is the division’s leading scorer and is something of a showman. He could either play wide or centrally in this fluid three.
Smith at Cambridge is a player I like; he’s powerful and opportunistic, capable of playing wide on the right or as a central striker. He has a spot here, nor does Finn Azaz at Plymouth. The Villa loanee is creative and direct – great qualities.
Striker: Colby Bishop (Portsmouth)
Bishop caught the eye at previous club Accrington, scoring nearly 40 goals in three seasons at the Wham Stadium, and is thriving now he’s playing for a promotion contender. He’s strong, good in the air, strong on the ground and has good movement. He looked like a Cowley signing from the off and has proven to be so, with six goals already this season.