Over the last few seasons, there has been a marked rise in the number of professional footballers in England with double-barrelled second names. This season has already seen Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Morgan Gibbs-White hit the headlines. No longer, it seems, are double-barrelled surnames the preserve of ex-Blackpool striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher, or privately educated children with trust funds. Spanish side Athletic Bilbao famously only sign Basque-born players. Twisting this idea as only the English could, here we attempt to compile the finest starting line-up of players with double-barrelled surnames. Double-barrelled surnames are considered to be those comprising two separate words separated by a hyphen. The selectors aim to achieve a balance of experience, potential and team chemistry.
Meet the Team
A 4-3-3 formation utilises the strengths of the double-barrelled population, notably the wide players available. The fact that Taylor-Fletcher gets nowhere near this side is testament to that. In goal, there was simply very little choice. Ali Al-Habsi was admittedly a bit unpredictable, but as a mainstay of a Wigan side that bravely fought relegation season after season from 2011-2015, he should not be written off. Throw in 118 international appearances and surely we are off to a good Oman between the sticks.
Again, at centre-half, there is a dearth of candidates. Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s name should reassure fans that he has the brains to apply himself at this level, but his inclusion is ultimately a reluctant one given his clear inexperience. With this in mind, the creative decision is taken to apply the tenacious skills of Nigel Reo-Coker alongside Fosu-Mensah. Reo-Coker was double-barrelling long before it was cool in the England Under-21 squad and his successful transatlantic switch to Major League Soccer displays clear aptitude. This, allied with his natural leadership, earn him the captain’s armband.
It is at fullback where the fun really starts. Afro man Benoit Assou-Ekotto was a consistent and reliable performer at left back for Spurs between 2008 and 2012. His presence ironically allowed Gareth Bale, formerly a left back, to shine so brightly at left wing. A controversial character off the pitch, he described playing football as “just a job”. Harry Redknapp tried to sign him for Birmingham in 2017 but declared the player was more interested in pursuing a career in porn. Assou-Ekotto, then, will bring thrust, exuberance and experience to the left side. At right back, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold fights off competition from Kyle Walker-Peters. The 20-year-old is very highly regarded on Merseyside and has four international caps to his name already. A fine athlete who appears to have all the tools to succeed at right back, he has technical ability which could see him eventually move into central midfield. He also has a dangerous set-piece delivery in his locker. In Trent, there is clear attacking intent.
Our midfield triumvirate has a bit of everything. Despite falling out of favour recently, James Ward-Prowse has been a key figure in the Saints midfield over the last few seasons, rewarded with a full England call-up in March 2017. A wonderful technician, JWP has real pedigree in dead ball situations and with support from Alexander-Arnold, will be the side’s go-to man on set pieces. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another product of Southampton who has moved away from his former days as an out-and-out winger. After functioning as a wingback for Arsene Wenger’s oft- dysfunctional side, ‘the Ox’ saw his stock rise in central midfield for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. His energy and dribbling ability make him a potent box-to-box weapon.
Eric Djemba-Djemba brings the experience to complete the trio. Regarded as one of the worst Premier League signings ever for his time at Old Trafford, it is easy to forget that this is a man who shone at the 2002 World Cup for Cameroon and was regarded as a potential successor to Roy Keane by Sir Alex Ferguson. Djemba-Djemba is a likely cult hero who will win over the fans, and his aggressive, combative nature will bring steel to the heart of this side. So good they named him twice, remember.
The forward line is one of dynamic wing play stabilised by a robust centre-forward. Colin Kazim-Richards is something of a forgotten man after his early days at Brighton. Now 32 and turning out for Lobos BUAP in Mexico, his experience will be vital. The former Turkish international notched 11 goals in 27 appearances for Feyenoord as recently as 2014-15. Richards will need to weigh in with a similar return rate here. On the opposite flank is Shaun Wright-Phillips. The baby-faced winger was electric in his pomp, with Chelsea shelling out £21 million on him in 2005. An incredibly tricky opponent, SWP should enjoy the freedom he gets out on the right while chipping in with his fair share of assists to support the big man: Hal Robson-Kanu.
A forward who has received his fair share of critics, the selectors themselves do not shy away from the accusation that his inclusion is the reflection of a solitary performance. However, his exquisite goal against Belgium for Wales at Euro 2016 shows that Hal is the man for the big occasion. His presence is one of no-nonsense, encapsulated beautifully by his decision to wear the number 4 shirt at his club side West Bromwich Albion. Robson-Kanu gives the side another dimension, as well as work rate and defensive qualities that will make this side tough to beat.
Line-up (4-3-3): Al-Habsi, Alexander-Arnold, Fosu-Mensah, Reo-Coker (C), Assou-Ekotto, Djemba-Djemba, Ward-Prowse, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wright-Phillips, Kazim-Richards, Robson-Kanu.
Overall, this side is not going to set the world alight, yet it has enough about it to be a tough nut to crack. The potential weaknesses at the centre of defence are compensated for by the thrilling wing play this side can offer, bolstered by an exciting, all-action midfield. Notable absentees from this side are Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Morgan Gibbs-White. All will undoubtedly add quality from the bench, however, experience was preferred over these raw options. All should look to break into the side in the near future. While this side follows a strict double-barrelled surname policy it is worth noting the pedigree carried by the double-barrelled forename market. We’re talking Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kevin-Prince Boateng, no less. Is this a new era of indecisiveness? Maybe.
A light-hearted experiment this may be, but could they do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke-on-Trent?