The Sweeper: Policing the Best of the Noughties


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It’s not just that time of the year for best-of lists providing some free and easy fodder for discussion, it’s that time of the decade. “Best of the Noughties” are popping up everywhere, whether it’s TLC reminding us this was still the decade that unfortunately gave us Parachutes and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants or The Times somehow including Team America: World Police in the top five films of the decade.

Football is no less subjective, so we can all argue about ESPN Soccernet’s arbitrary Premier League Best XI (Given over Cech and Van der Sar?  Giggs still called a “touchline-hugging winger”?) Henry Winter’s Best XI is fairly similar, even down to the selections of Given (did he catch a cross this decade?) and a failure to mention Giggs’ selection this decade is surely less about his “electric pace” than his incredibly intelligent reinvention of his playing style in the second half of the decade. But hey, some people liked Parachutes a lot, so we’re all entitled to our opinions on these things, and I’ll admit Yellow was a catchy enough tune.

That’s why it’s nice to see a little humility (as ever) from Tim Vickery, whose South American team of the decade is premised by Tim’s admission he does not watch enough European club football to assess South America’s best on their form there, and is thus choosing on international performance only (leading, incidentally, to the exclusions of Ronaldinho and Messi): “Over the decade I’ve seen all the World Cup games, Copa America matches and all but a handful of the World Cup qualifiers involving South American countries – so my team is selected purely on the basis of performances in international football.”

And if you really want some fodder for debate, Phil Minshull (also at the BBC) takes on the daunting task of picking an entire European best XI. Or, there’s John Motson’s “Top 10 Noughties football crackers I’ll never forget” (nothing like some outright, unashamed England-bias, especially in the Daily Mail) and Sky Sports with a surprisingly Spanish-centred top ten,

But ever the much-needed party pooper, for something of real interest, read David Conn’s “The noughties: a decade when football’s rulers ducked responsibility”, for a sobering reflection of how a game so rich has still managed to create so much financial peril for itself in England.

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The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.