Picking a Liverpool Cult XI

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2013

Picking a Liverpool Cult XI

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    Liverpool fans have been blessed with watching dozens of truly world-class players ply their trade at Anfield over the years, but in some instances, these great players are not the ones the fans always relate with best.

    There are some who forge a close relationship with the fans, or whom the fans idolise and love to see associated with the club purely on account of their character, personality within the team or for the effort they put in. They are not always the most talented, though quality does not preclude their inclusion in this group, but they always have an affiliation with the club's supporters.

    They are the cult figures of Liverpool—those who are remembered for their time at the club long after their departures—and this is a team made entirely of such former Reds.

Goalkeeper: Bruce Grobbelaar

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    In goal, there can be only one: Spaghetti Legs himself, the magnificent Bruce Grobbelaar.

    The South African-born Zimbabwe international was a real fan favourite on account of his incredible ability to make improbable, athletic saves and his penchant for playing on the ball outside of his area. It didn't all go to plan, with the stopper getting caught out more than once with an unguarded net, but his positives far outweighed his errors.

    Brucey was famed for his handstands, his ferocious temper and above all, for being a winner with the Reds.

Full-Backs: Rob Jones and Joey Jones

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    A double helping of Jones at full-back for the Reds, with Rob and Joey two massive fan favourites.

    Rob Jones was a right-back who came to Liverpool from Crewe Alexandra in the old Fourth Division, and on his debut man-marked a prodigious young talent named Ryan Giggs out of the game. The fans took to him immediately, and it was the start of a terrific career for Jones as an attacking member of Liverpool's defence. There were few sights the Kop enjoyed seeing more than Jones bursting forward on one of his forays into the opposition's half.

    Jones' biggest affiliation with the fans was perhaps borne of his inability to find the net—in 243 games for Liverpool, he never scored a single goal. Jones' career was unfortunately cut short by a series of injuries.

    At left-back is a man who played for only three years at Anfield, making 100 appearances, but he was a firm fan favourite for a period and had one of the most famous banners in Anfield folklore made in his honour.

    Joey Jones was tough in the tackle and played with plenty of enthusiasm, and he delighted the fans as he made the left-back spot his own. He was part of the treble-winning team of 1976-77, claiming the League Championship, League Cup and European Cup.

Centre-Backs: Steve Nicol and Neil Ruddock

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    Steve Nicol was a wonderful performer for Liverpool and played in pretty much every position for the Reds, though it was possibly at full-back he excelled the most. He was certainly capable of playing centrally too though, and his reliable performances made him a real fan favourite.

    It wasn't just his play as a defender which endeared him to supporters though, as he was also renowned for being the butt of many in-jokes between the rest of the Liverpool players and was one of the most popular squad members as he made close to 500 appearances in a Red shirt.

    Alongside him is a player who was far from as talented or as important a squad player, but still someone who the Anfield crowd enjoyed to see go crunching into another challenge, with the grizzled Neil Ruddock.

    Famed for his aerial prowess, his ferocious tackling ability and his far-too-big waistline, Ruddock played more than 150 times for the Reds and still raises a cheer when playing for Liverpool in charity matches, notably when he clattered into Chelsea supporter and television personality Tim Lovejoy.

Central Midfielders: Igor Biscan and Patrik Berger

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    For three and a half years, Igor Biscan looked like a hungover Sunday shopper who had somehow wandered onto a football pitch and found himself amongst his heroes.

    Biscan laboured in midfield, was lost in defence and spent most of the time on the substitutes bench—then, suddenly, in the 2004-05 season, he found his old confidence and form and was an important squad member as a driving central midfield force and cover for the likes of Steven Gerrard. In Europe especially he had a big influence, notably away to Depor La Coruña, as the Reds went on to win the Champions League.

    The Croatian international turned out far below expectations considering most of Europe wanted to sign him when he joined Liverpool, but cries of his name echoed around Anfield whenever his bouncy blonde locks took to the field and his ungainly run, humble approach to life off the pitch and general demeanour made him one of the biggest cult heroes of the past two decades at Liverpool.

    Patrik Berger was another fan favourite but for altogether different reasons.

    The Czech midfielder hit five goals in short order after making his debut and, over time, grew a reputation for scoring spectacular long-range goals and picking up far too many injuries.

    Berger played either from the left of midfield or in a central attacking role, and in his seven years at Anfield he scored 35 goals in 196 games. Berger could frustrate as well as entertain, but at his best he was an integral part of the Reds' treble-winning side in 2001.

Wingers: Jimmy Case and Luis Garcia

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    Two very different wide midfielders now in the hard-as-nails Jimmy Case and the elegant and unpredictable Luis Garcia.

    Case was a local-born lad who joined the Reds as an apprentice initially before going on to become a major part of one of the greatest Liverpool eras of all time as he helped win no less than three European Cups.

    A magnificent shot and an all-action approach to the game meant he more than held his own in a team which contained some of the all-time Liverpool greats.

    Luis Garcia will always have his place in Liverpool history after scoring the goal which sent the Reds back to the European Cup final against Chelsea, but he also scored important goals against the likes of Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen. His ability to play anywhere in the attack made him a huge part of Rafa Benitez's early team, and he was one of the few players in the team who could open up a defence with a piece of skill or clever through-pass.

    Garcia also had a habit of producing the sublime and the frustrating within seconds of each other, producing brilliant through balls and mis-timed easy square passes in the same move at times.

    Two wide players who have both won European Cups—not bad for cult heroes.

Forwards: Erik Meijer and David Fairclough

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    Two hugely different strikers to finish off the team, at least in terms of the goals they scored for Liverpool.

    "Mad" Erik Meijer was a hard-working and honest forward who gave everything for the cause but was entirely incapable of hitting the back of the net; indeed he only scored two goals for the Reds and they both came in the League Cup.

    The fans loved him because of the work rate he put into every performance, never giving defenders a moment's rest and always happy to have an impact off the bench.

    David Fairclough, on the other hand, was the Reds' supersub, who netted 55 times for Liverpool and spent the best part of a decade at the club. Fairclough scored the winning goal in the famous St. Etienne comeback in the 1977 European Cup, while he also hit a memorable derby-winning strike against Everton.

    Neither Meijer nor Fairclough would figure highly on a list of the Reds' all-time top scorers, but both were a shining example of excellent attitude and application which often forges lasting bonds between players and fans.