Who are the best XI to have graved the Priory Lane turf?Who are the best XI to have graved the Priory Lane turf?
Who are the best XI to have graved the Priory Lane turf?

From a Burnley striker to Priory Lane stalwarts: it's Eastbourne Borough's all-time XI

More than half a century of football; 1,000-plus players who have pulled on the red and black of Langney Sports and Eastbourne Borough. And now the club have named their All Time Greatest XI.

The final line-up, nominated by supporter Tony Wright, is not without surprises. Just one member of the Sports’ County League championship side – skipper Daren Pearce – makes the cut. In fairness, many current supporters were not on those muddy touchlines back in Daren’s day. See Danny Bloor talking about the all-time XI here.

Surprisingly, perhaps, there is no place for the legendary Mick Green. Tragically killed in a building accident at work while still in his playing prime, Green had led Pete Cherry’s side by example in the 1990s, as both a powerful midfielder and an excellent goalkeeper – the only man ever to represent Sussex in both positions. Mick’s memory lives on in the shape of the stand named after him.

But at the core of the All Time XI, five players carry the flag for Garry Wilson’s outstanding promotion squad of 2008. Lee Hook, not the biggest keeper in the game, kept goal with astonishing reflexes, while the back four includes current coach Ben Austin as well as Darren Baker, the holder of the club’s record appearances – over 900.

And in midfield, Blue Square promotion-winning skipper Paul Armstrong is joined by local hero Matty Crabb. But the human dynamo of that team, Matt Smart, is one who just misses out. There is a shirt, however, for Yemi Odubade, whom Wilson plucked from Eastbourne Town as a teenager, to be sold on when he caught the eye of Oxford United boss Brian Talbot.

The centre-back pairing will also take some observers by surprise. Assuming that Ben Austin steps aside to left-back, the central defence duties fall to Dan Brown, who turned out 55 times for Wilson’s side, and young Harry Ransom, transferred at age just 19 to Millwall FC, after a season or so playing beyond his years at the Lane.

And that just leaves the strikers. Scott Ramsay or Andy Atkin? Richard Pacquette or Jamie Taylor? Or maybe from County League days Nigel Hole, absolutely prolific until a leg fracture cut short his career? No, the scoring duties fall to current favourite Chris Whelpdale – whose magnificent recent season saw him notching virtually a goal a game – and Ashley Barnes.

Barnes, of course, is still currently terrorising Premier League defences with Burnley, and he played eight games on loan at Priory Lane at the start of his career, grabbing five goals (although he did miss a crucial penalty in the obscure gloom of an FA Trophy tie at Swindon Supermarine!). But the competition rules – such as they were – did not disqualify loan players, and so Barnes it is who leads the line!

How many did you get right? Not to worry. It was great fun guessing. Coyly, the club have declined to name the judging panel – well, they would only have been bombarded with messages from supporters who disagreed! It is, as we always say, a game of opinions…

And there is great news for all Borough supporters: on Sunday, May 30, the club is staging a testimonial game for Ben Austin – something he missed out on at the end of his Sports career of 479 matches. They will take on a team of former Brighton and Hove Albion professionals. And Ben and Danny Bloor are determined to field a starting XI as close as possible to that legendary line-up. The word from the Lane, indeed, is that ten have already given the nod. As for young Barnes, Ben is not holding his breath...

Line-up: 1 Lee Hook; 2 Darren Baker; 3 Ben Austin; 4 Dan Brown; 5 Harry Ransom; 6 Paul Armstrong 7 Daren Pearce; 8 Matt Crabb; 9 Ashley Barnes; 10 Chris Whelpdale; 11 Yemi Odubade.

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