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Kevin Nolan column
6 Apr 2007 10:53 BST

By Kevin Nolan
Bolton captain

This week I'd like to take you through what I think is the best XI footballers I have played with or against.

It is not an easy task by any means and I'm not sure you will agree with all of my choices but here goes.

Goalkeeper - Jussi Jaaskelainen I make no secret of the fact that I think he is the best keeper in the Premiership, if not the world. He is a fantastic goalie and a wonderful professional - his attitude to training is different class and reflected in his performances. He probably wins us 15-20 points a season.

Right-back - Gary Neville A great leader and a great player - he is a winner. I have played against Gary numerous times. What he has done at Manchester United speaks volumes and he has matured into a wonderful skipper.

Central defender - John Terry After coming up against him you know you have been in a game. One of the things I like about him is that he does not care who he is playing against, he will put you 6ft up in the air, pick you up and tell you he will do it again as soon as possible.

Central defender - Jamie Carragher I watch Liverpool a lot and he rarely puts a foot wrong. He has been incredibly consistent over the last few seasons. I don't think I have seen him make a mistake in recent years. When you play against him you notice he never stops talking, always encouraging and organising his team-mates.

Left-back - Ricardo Gardner I am probably a bit biased here but I'm going for Ricky. He arrived at the club as a winger with yellow boots and lots of tricks - and though he is still good going forward he has been converted into a superb defender. He has shown great mental strength and character to overcome a series of injuries. A downside? He cannot score to save his life!

Right midfield - Cristiano Ronaldo He has raised the bar this season. He is a young player with incredible natural ability. What he has done is learn when to use his variety of tricks. He has become more of a team player and realised that sometimes he should use his pace and not his skills.

Centre midfield - Roy Keane Manchester United were a different side when he was in the team. Coming up against him was awesome. Everything he did seemed to come so easily to him. When you speak to fellow professionals about Keane they hold him in the most incredible regard. He was a pure winner.

Centre midfield - Steven Gerrard If there was one player that I could bring to Bolton it would be Stevie. I have seen him a few times off the field and he is a lovely lad - and clearly a fantastic player. Gerrard, of course, was accused of deliberately stamping on my ribs last season but I do not think he meant to hurt me and what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.

Left midfield - Ryan Giggs It has to be Giggs. To be still be going after so many seasons at the top is fantastic. He really is different gravy. I used to watch him as a kid and love playing against him now. First class.

Striker - Alan Shearer A goalscoring machine pure and simple. I wish, though, that he had several different celebrations because I became extremely bored with watching the raised arm. He scored goals from everywhere, was hard to play against and always had the referee in his pocket.

Striker - Wayne Rooney Another Scouser - which is obviously a strong point. Absolutely world class and as for the supposed dip in form? Don't make me laugh - he hardly looked out of form when Manchester United played Bolton a couple of weeks ago.

The trickiest decision came with regard to my position - the centre of midfield. I found it very difficult to chose between Keane, Gerrard and Patrick Vieira. With only two places available the Frenchman just lost out.

Of those I'd most like to be able to put into the team - Paolo Maldini and Ronaldinho come top of the list, with Kaka not far behind.


Is it just me or is the idea of Liverpool and Everton moving to the same grounds ridiculous? Dan, England

To be quite honest I do not think the ground share idea would have worked. There would have been too much negative reaction from Everton and Liverpool fans.

Liverpool as a city will now get two brand new stadiums. In addition, Liverpool has been named European Capital of Culture 2008 so it is exciting times for the city.

Hi Kevin, how do you cope with criticism? Daniel Anderson, England

It is tough because when you are being criticised it is generally because things are not going well anyway.

A lot of players can easily shrug it off but others really take it to heart.

It can affect you as an individual and it is important to make sure that it does not get on top of you. You have to put it out of your mind and focus on the basics of your game - the sort of things that will help to restore your confidence.

Steve McClaren has taken some awful stick over the last week. He knew that he was accepting a high-pressure job when he became head coach but I imagine that even he will be surprised by the amount of stick that has come his way.

Right or wrong, you have to take it on the chin and often when an individual comes through the other side they emerge as a stronger person.

Just a word of thanks. My five-year-old Jonathan was mascot for the match against Sheffield United. You looked after him brilliantly and he had a great time with loads of happy memories. He wanted to know who chose the Kaiser Chiefs as the dressing room music as he likes all their records? Steve Hill, England

No problem at all.

I think that I put the Kaiser Chiefs on but different people choose the music at different times.

Hi Kevin, great column! I was wondering if whether during a game professional players mark by name or number? Gareth Taylor, Wales

This a very good question.

When we get the team-sheet and work out the man-marking we get both the names and the numbers of the players.

However, we tend to go with the numbers because not every player - especially recent signings from abroad - know the name of all the opposition players.

Kevin will continue to answer a selection of your questions each week throughout the season. Send us your questions using the post form in the top right-hand corner.