Which English city produces the best players? London, Liverpool and others do battle


Okay, here’s something I’ve been pondering for a little while.

Earlier this week much debate was caused within soccer circles in the US, as journalists began to compare the different states in the USA and speculate which had the upper hand in producing current soccer talent.

California and Texas seem to have come out on top, and this whole debate has been thrown up after the Canadian province of Quebec is competing in soccer as a non-FIFA nation.

So, that got me thinking. What if we looked at the birthplaces of current Englishman playing in the top divisions across the globe and see which cities came out on top?

Intrigued? Well, check this out.

Below is a list of four of the top soccer player-producing cities in England, with the North East the exception as the major conurbations in that part of England (including Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough) have been grouped together.

London has produced more professionals than any other city, most people would have guessed that. But would a team from London beat a side full of homegrown players from Liverpool or Birmingham?

I’ll leave that to you. So anyway, below is a starting lineup for each city and then a list of any substitutes or reserves who could fill in. And remember this list only includes players currently playing soccer in the top divisions, not those who have retired or moved to the lower-leagues.

London (4-3-3):  Robert Green; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole; Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker; Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Ashley Young

Subs: Luke Shaw, Mark Noble, Steve Sidwell, Kieran Richardson, Steven Caulker, Jonjo Shelvey

Birmingham (4-3-3): Ben Foster; Joleon Lescott, Ben Turner, Ashley Williams, Craig Gardner; Peter Whittingham, Luke Moore, Gabriel Agbonlahor; Emile Heskey, Daniel Sturridge, James Vaughan

Subs: Nathan Delfouneso, Matt Watson

Liverpool (4-4-2): Tony Warner; Ryan Taylor, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly, Leighton Baines; Callum McManaman, Joey Barton, Steven Gerrard, Leon Osman; Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert

Subs: Kevin Nolan, Jon Flanagan, Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell,

North East (4-4-2): Fraser Forster; Steven Taylor, Michael Carrick, Andrew Taylor, Jack Colback; Adam Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Lee Cattermole, Stewart Downing; Danny Graham, Andy Carroll

Subs: Shola Ameobi, Steve Harper, James Morrison, Sammy Ameobi


It is also worth noting that the cities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have all produced a high number of players that have graced the EPL and top leagues across the world, but not quite enough to each make a full team.

So which city do you think produces the best soccer talent in England? Personally, London still wins hands down. Chelsea’s trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole highlight the capital’s dominance.

I could have included a second and third team of players who hail from LDN. However the quality of the players from the North East and Liverpool is extremely high. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard are the stars from Liverpool, while Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson and Jordan Henderson all hail from the North East.

Maybe one day games between the top soccer player-producing cities in England can be arranged? That would be something I’d pay money to go and see. Local pride on the line as battles between North vs. South, affluent vs. poor and long ball vs. possession soccer play out.

When can we arrange this?

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.