Football/Soccer

Four Cliftonville men make Liam Boyce's best XI and Georgie McMullan gets the armband

As everyone heads indoors for the lockdown, Liam Boyce picks the best 11 players he's played with during his career at Cliftonville, Ross County, Burton Albion, Hearts and Northern Ireland. Four Reds men make the cut and there are a few surprises too...

George McMullan was the king of Solitude

1. Conor Devlin (Cliftonville)

‘CC’ came back from Manchester United and he was just unbelievable for the Reds. The year we won the league (2012/13) I never seen a goalkeeper as good as him up until that point. I compare other keepers to him because he was the first proper keeper I played with because he was on another level. He was brilliant at everything. He was loud, always talking on the pitch and was very good with the ball at his feet. I remember he caught the ball from a corner and hit the ball about 70 yards right onto my toe and I rolled it across for Joe [Gormley] to score. He was just a class goalkeeper.

2. Georgie Mullan (Cliftonville)

GEORGIE would be my right back and my captain. He was a brilliant footballer. He was obviously a central midfield player, brilliant on the ball before he was moved into right back by Tommy Breslin. The way we played at Cliftonville our full-backs had to be good on the ball and it just suited him down to the ground. You just gave Georgie the ball and he would pass it out. He was a leader too. When we won the league in 2012/13, he must've scored 12 penalties that year and it was his penalty that won the league against Linfield at Solitude. His free-kicks were excellent as well. I’ll never forget the two he scored against Glentoran when it was 'live' on Sky. He was the kind of player you needed in tough moments in games.

3. Jemal Lewis (Norwich City and Northern Ireland)

RONAN Scannell was a super left back but I’d have to give Jemal Lewis the nod here. He was unbelievable in the Championship with Norwich and he impressed as soon as he came into the Northern Ireland set-up. He’s still young, just 22, and the potential he has is just ridiculous. He’d get the ball and he might be the last man, someone is pressing him and he won’t give it away and keeps dribbling. For someone of his age to do that and not feel under pressure shows the quality he has.

4. Jonny Evans (Leicester City and Northern Ireland)

I HAD to pick Jonny. He could play for anyone in the Premiership, he's that good. The way he reads a game is outstanding. He calms everyone down around him. He doesn’t dribble with the ball, he just stops and gives it. When I’m playing against him in training, 11 v 11, he just stops and when you run to him to try and get the ball off him, you’d be a yard away from him and he passes it around you. He’s just class and was an easy selection for my team.

5. Kyle McFadzean (formerly Burton Albion)

NOT a household name back home but ‘Fadz’ was at Burton in my first year when we were in the Championship. He was always good on the ball as he used to be a midfielder. He was an aggressive defender, won everything in the air and would sweep up behind Jonny at centre back. Nothing got by him. He’s moved onto Coventry City since then, but a very steady defender.

6. Stephen Quinn (Burton Albion)

RYAN Catney and Barry Johnston might feel hard done by, but I’ve gone for Stephen Quinn to anchor the midfield. He gets about the pitch a lot and since he arrived at Burton he’s been class. I’m close to him off the pitch as well and he is a good personality to have about the team. He’s a good laugh as well. His passing would just get the midfield moving. Does everything well, keeps it simple. He’s top quality.

7. Steven Davis (Rangers and Northern Ireland)

WHEN Northern Ireland qualified for the Euros you could see just how important he was to the team. You literally just gave him the ball when you were in any danger and nobody will get the ball off him. He takes games by the scruff of the neck. And the header he scored against Greece [in a qualifier] from outside the box was ridiculous – he should be picked on that goal alone.

8. Scott Fraser (Burton Albion)

I PLAYED against Scotty in Scotland when he was with Dundee United. I thought he was a good player but I didn’t realise how good he was until he came to Burton a couple of years after that, the start of my second season in League One and ever since he’s been Burton’s best player by a mile. He’ll end up going somewhere big in the summer. I think he’s scored 10 or 15 goals this season and has loads of assists. He’s unbelievable. He has a class left foot, doesn’t do anything fancy, just does what needs to be done. He’s the best player in League One.

9. Liam Boyce (Hearts and Northern Ireland)

I'VE picked myself. What can I say? I’m only playing in behind the two strikers because Joe’s playing up front.

10. Joe Gormley (Cliftonville)

JOE is in the team, obviously. He is still the best finisher I’ve seen no matter where I’ve gone. He’s got the best strike. But it’s not only that, it’s the positions he finds himself in, and that takes a lot of intelligence. Even after he did his cruciate, he came back to be the exact same player. He just keeps scoring. It’s what he does. I’ve played five-a-sides with him loads of times, he doesn’t touch the ball and scores about 20 goals. He’ll wait for that one chance, doesn’t matter how long it is, and when it comes he’s always ready for it. He’s unreal.

11. Craig Curran (formerly Ross County)

I PICKED the two strikers I had the best partnerships with. When I went to Ross County, I worked well with Craigy. He was really hard working, could hold the ball up well and could score goals as well. He was the kind of a striker I loved working with. And I think he would work well with Joe in attack. Every part of his game had quality. So that’s my front two and the best players I’ve played with in my career to date.

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Football/Soccer