A Legend in His Own Mind: 23 Man ‘World Cup Squad’ (Part 1 of 2)

So last week a tweet was RT’d onto my timeline about fans picking a 23 man ‘World Cup’ style squad from all the players who have played for their club while they’ve been a fan. This idea really caught my imagination but I wanted to do more than just a quick list on Twitter, anyone who read my Three Musketeers post knows that I love a reminisce about a former player, I still regularly check the stats of former players to see how they’re doing.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to push back my planned post for today to write about this, I’m also doing lists for England and Chelsea (my two clubs in real life) on my personal blog here.

Goalkeepers

Dimitar MitovDimitar Mitov (2017 – 2022) – Dimitar Mitov might not have the most illustrious career with Cambridge, having only been the first choice for one season, however, that one season was our first season in League Two and Mitov’s performances were a big factor in helping us achieve promotion. Mitov only ended up as the first choice but after an injury put planned first choice David Forde out of action for half a year, on his return he struggled to get into the first team due to Mitov’s performances.

Mitov stayed as an understudy for 3 years at Cambridge with a year on loan to Accrington Stanley in League Two in the middle. Altogether he played 68 times for us before moving for free to Wycombe Wanderers and then onto Lincoln City for £45k. He’s managed to carve a consistent career out for himself at League Two level being the first choice at that level since his departure. Now 29 the Bulgarian has managed 1 senior cap.

Ted SmithTed Smith (2018 – 2020) – Ted Smith felt like quite a coup when we managed to sign him on a free for our first season in League One. He’d just started to break through into the Southend squad at that level, he was young and had scope to improve. He like Mitov before helped us win promotion to the next level and then in his second season he fared slightly less well. He held his own but it was clear we needed a stronger goalkeeper. He ended up leaving for League Two Bury on a free after we failed to agree with terms on a new contract.

He helped them gain promotion to League One after 3 season’s there and after one more season with them, he moved to Championship Huddersfield to play back up for £210k. The start of this season he moved to Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen again as back up. Smith made 81 appearances for Cambridge over two seasons and has never been capped for England.

Bailey Peacock-FarrellBailey Peacock-Farrell (2020 – 2026) – Every goalkeeper on this list has won promotion with Cambridge, with Bailey Peacock-Farrell it just took a bit longer. Our longest serving first-choice goalkeeper, our inability to win promotion was nothing to do with his abilities but rather our lack of ability to compete financially with other clubs in the Championship.

Unfortunately after gaining promotion the normally reliable BPF struggled with injury problems and when young Ivorian Assane Agnero come in halfway through the season he stepped into his place and BPF eventually slipped to 3rd choice behind both him and young Scottish goalkeeper Stuart Holland before moving to Southampton for £575k last summer. BPF managed to make 251 appearances for Cambridge, after playing back-up at Leeds, and his form during that time helped him to break into the Northern Ireland squad winning 34 caps for them.

Defenders

Bradley HallidayBradley Halliday (2016 – 2022) – Yay, I get another chance to talk about Bradley Halliday! I managed to sneak him into my Three Musketeers post as my 4th Musketeer, you should have known that he’d crop up here. It only makes sense that everyone in that post will show up here. I’ll try and keep this quick though, I inherited Halliday who went on to by my first choice right back for 4 seasons before dropping to rotation for another 2, finally leaving for Carlisle for £62k, after 2 seasons as the first choice for them in League One he moved to play back up at Millwall for one season in first League One for a season and then a season in the Championship.

Interestingly he started on match for them in the Championship, against us, FM trying to use that former player hoodoo against me, it didn’t work and we walked away 3-1 winners. After that, he moved to League Two Southend for free playing as a rotation option for them. Halliday made 208 appearances in total for Cambridge scoring once, before I took over, and contributing 11 assists. Halliday is uncapped at international level for England.

Bobby WilsonBobby Wilson (2022 – ) Bobby Wilson was never supposed to be my first choice right back. My Director of Football is in charge of signing youth players he finds and has fairly free reign after finding a few pretty decent surprises, he signed Bobby Wilson for £62k from Inverness where he’d made a few sporadic appearances for them. After 2 season’s on loan, first in the National League with affiliate Ebbsfleet, and then in League Two with Coventry, he was brought into the first team squad as back-up.

An injury to my first choice right back gave him a chance and he ran with it, claiming the position as his own in our Championship promotion season. He managed to keep his place for our first Premier League season, this season, however, he’s struggled and has slipped back to a backup option. likely to leave at the end of this season, his impact for his two seasons in the right-back slot cannot be understated. Currently at 75 appearances, 2 goals and 8 assists, the 24-year-old has somehow never made it into the Scottish national set-up despite doing great work for us in the Premier League last season.

Harrison DunkHarrison Dunk (2011 – 2020) – Harrison Dunk was one of the players I mentioned in my first review of my Cambridge squad right at the start of my save. He was a natural winger but could happily play at left back and I saw him fitting perfectly as my attacking wing back on that side.

While he performed well in that slot, his best football came when asked to play as an inverted winger a bit further up on the left, he scored quite a few important goals from that position in our League Two season before rotating at left back until 2019 when he went on loan to Wimbledon for a season. Leaving on a free for Carlisle where he played for 3 seasons before leaving for Salford for another 2, retiring in 2025. His retirement means that information for him isn’t as good as it might have been but he played for Cambridge 258 times scoring 22 goals.

Demetri MitchellDemetri Mitchell (2018 – 2023) – I thought that Demetri Mitchell was an absolute game changer when I first signed him in 2018 for a free from Manchester United. He was young and had all the hallmarks of a Brazier brand attacking full back. Unfortunately he never quite progressed as I’d hoped and after 4 season’s as the first choice left-back he dropped down to back up and got the hump and left for Exeter City for £245k. Mitchell is still in the Cambridge best 11 and despite falling out with him towards the end he still has to be recognised as one of our best left backs. After 2 season’s in League One with Exeter he moved to Championship Millwall for £115k where he made 1 start in 2 season’s before moving back to League One with Gillingham for £50k 2 season’s as the first choice for them ended with him moving to Oldham for £42k at the start of this season. Mitchell made 126 appearances for Cambridge scoring 2 goals and creating 12 assists.

Trevoh ChalobahTrevoh Chalobah (2019 – 2023) – Trevoh Chalobah managed to spend his 4 season’s with us on loan from Chelsea. Chalobah was a solid centre-back who managed to improve on himself every year and was someone I literally build my defence around. When his contract with Chelsea came up I’d hoped to sign him permanently but he opted for fellow championship side Sheffield Wednesday where he spend 1 season before Newcastle signed him for signing for £7.5m, again 1 season with the Geordies in the Championship was enough for him however as he signed for Premier League West Ham for £12.5m in the same season we debuted in that very same division. He’s been a rotation option for them during his time there.

Chalobah combined speed and strength with a positional intelligence that I’ve never quite been able to replace and he’s one I’d love to get back if the price was right. Making 179 appearances for us with 15 goals and 6 assists, he was a menace for the opposition at corners, it’s no surprise to me that he’s managed to add 5 England caps to his resume.

Leon LeggeLeon Legge (2015 – 2021) – Leon Legge was the captain when I took over and he kept that position until the day he left Cambridge and retired. He was the rock in our defence or our 2 early promotion season’s before the Championship proved too much and he dropped down to a backup option.

Even though he barely played for that 2 seasons he never complained and he provided a brilliant tutor for some of my younger players. Overall he made 170 appearances for Cambridge, scoring 12 goals.

Eoghan O'ConnellEoghan O’Connell (2020 – 2022, 2026 – ) I signed Eoghan O’Connell back at the start of this season for one simple fact, he was the one that got away. When I first signed O’Connell in 2020, his partnership with Trevoh Chalobah was perfect. Chalobah had the physical and defensive know-how to allow the much more creative O’Connell the free reign to launch balls from the back and it worked, up until halfway through his second season when his head was turned. I tried the best I could but I couldn’t keep him and he left for £900k to Brighton which was nothing for a player of his quality.

O’Connell was a better technical player than the majority of my squad and it took me years to replace what he added. O’Connell spent 2 years at Brighton before a bid of £1.2m took him to Blackburn, where after a season he moved to Swansea for £1.8m, then to Middlesbrough for £1.9m the next summer, who in turn loaned him out to Millwall that very season.

I took the chance to sign him for £675k this summer using the excuse that he could play as a backup option but he hasn’t made an appearance yet this season and has 4 players ahead of him in the pecking order. For now, I can only dream about the partnership of Chalobah and O’Connell driving us forwards towards the Premier League. O’Connell made 78 appearances for us, scoring 3 goals and creating 2 assists. He broke into the Irish national team while with us and still starts for them despite not playing for us, making 29 appearances and scoring 2 goals.

Ethan AmpaduEthan Ampadu (2023 – 2026) – The last centre-back slot was a hard one, no centre-back has really stood out for me since the partnership of O’Connell and Chalobah broke up. Granted Joseph Colley moved for £5m from us to Crystal Palace but he did that on the back of half a good season and he’s been poor for us for 2 before that. I have a great new centre-back in the squad now but he’s just under half a season in and is adjusting to a new position having originally been a left back.

Instead, I think it’s time to give some love to a centre back that I called out in my last article, Ethan Ampadu. Now Ampadu moved on for £1m this summer but he gave us 3 seasons where he delivered consistently decent ratings. Yes, he had a few more mistakes in him than my other players but he also had more technical ability than those players and was the closest I came to replacing O’Connell.

Joseph Colley’s great half season for us was because he had Ampadu next to him as an out ball so he never got caught. Ampadu next fully gelled with Colley’s replacements but he was the first choice in our promotion season however and his place in our FM overall best 11 solidifies his place on this list. Making 119 appearances, Ampadu scored 4 times and created 2 assists.

This is getting longer than I expected so I’m going to stop here and pick up in my next piece. If you enjoyed it you can follow me on twitter and Instagram. You can also follow up to point Cambridge news in my FM Slack channel #braziers-cambridge.

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