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MY XI | Daniel Nardiello

24 May 2020


MY XI | Daniel Nardiello

24 May 2020

Next in our MY XI series, we spoke with former Barnsley striker Daniel Nardiello, who, after two successful loan spells in South Yorkshire, spent two years at Oakwell – helping the Reds to promotion via the League One play-offs in 2006.

From Barnsley, he represented Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool, Exeter City, Rotherham United and Bury, while also having a further loan spell at Oakwell, as well as temporary stints with Hartlepool United, Oldham Athletic and Plymouth Argyle.

Here, he discusses the best players he has played alongside to reveal his all-time XI.

"I made a handful of appearances for Manchester United," began Nardiello, "but I didn’t include any of those players because, ultimately, I wanted to put in players who I’d played with on more than three or four occasions. There’s one player who I’ve included that I only played a handful of games with – but that was for Barnsley – but the rest I’ve played loads of games with and actually achieved something with."

He came on loan to Bury in our promotion season and, even then – he was a bit younger – he was phenomenal. He was one of the key reasons we got promoted because some of the saves he was pulling off during the second half of the season were absolutely incredible. He was very awkward to play against in training, too, and you could see, when he was playing for Bury, that he was a phenomenal talent – and look where he is today; Premier League and England, and he fully deserves it because he worked his socks off. He was key for us in that season for promotion. I don’t know if I ever thought ‘England call-up’, but I certainly thought this kid is a lot better than League One or League Two, and I absolutely thought he’d be a top Championship goalkeeper. The sky was the limit with him because he had the right attitude, he was a really nice bloke, worked hard and the saves he made were amazing. There were a couple of things he needed to work on and that’s why he came to Bury to do that, and now he’s at the top of his game playing at the top level both internationally and in the Premier League.

Nick Pope in action for England against Kosovo

It was a tricky one because, as you’ll see from my team, I’ve gone for players who helped me and always looked for me and assisted me with lots of goals; I hated full-backs who didn’t play the ball forward. So I’ve gone for Bobby; he’s a Barnsley legend, but he’s consistent, solid and, defensively, he was always covering the centre halves and could always pop up with a goal or two. He was great to play with and good to have in the changing room, too; he’s very dry with a good sense of humour and, like I said, a solid full-back who you knew would give you a consistent performance week in, week out.

I played with him at Rotherham and for the Wales national team, and I think he’s one of the most underrated centre halves that I’ve played with. He’s played at the top level and was solid at the back for Rotherham – alongside Kári Árnason were the best centre half partnership in that league by a country mile and went on to play in League One and the Championship together as well. He was brilliant in the air, tough, strong, physical, could pass the ball and he was a good leader. He gave his all and winning meant everything to him and, for me, he was tough to play against in training too. We used to travel in together from Manchester as well, so we’re really good friends and he was a really good asset to us at Rotherham.

I was torn between him and Paul Reid, but I went for Antony just because, for me, he was tough to play against, strong, physical, could put a tackle in but could also play football really well – which is why he could play in multiple positions. I think he’s a ball playing centre half – not that Paul Reid wasn’t – but I just really like Antony and he’s one of those players who looked for me and looked to get the ball forward; he was an attack-minded centre half. Him alongside Reidy was a good partnership and they worked well together, but I’ve gone with Antony because he had that little bit more of an attacking mindset.

I’ve never known a left-back with as much power, strength, pace and directness in their play. I’m really surprised that Chris hasn’t gone on and made a successful career in the Championship; he’s more than good enough. He’s a phenomenal talent and his left foot is better than anyone I’ve ever played with. He always looked for me as a striker and his crossing, corners and set-pieces were second to none and, as far as defenders go, he must be the defender that gave me the most assists. I remember playing with him in the promotion season at Bury and he may well have been the top assist player in the team and he was key to our promotion

Kári Árnason in action for Iceland against Austria's David Alaba

He played a lot at centre half with Craig Morgan, but also played in central midfield as well. This guy was playing in League Two for Rotherham but also appearing for Iceland in the quarter-finals of the European Championships against France. I was absolutely mind blown that he was playing League Two football he was, for want of a better word, brilliant – he had everything; he could read the game well, he was strong, physical, could pass the ball really well, create for other players, you couldn’t get the ball off him and players just couldn’t get around him. I’ve got him as a sitting midfield player because he can play that position perfectly and just run a game as well. He’s a good leader and an outstanding talent, played at a major tournament for Iceland and went on to play elsewhere in his career after Rotherham.

If he was playing alongside the likes of Árnason, he’d have a lot more freedom to get forward. I loved playing with Howie; he’s a good mate and we still speak to each other today. He always looked to go attacking and had a great left foot, and, creative-wise, was fantastic; always looking for the strikers or to get the ball wide and he scored goals – as we all know, some key goals as well. Real talent, real ability; going forward, him alongside Árnason would work perfectly – he’d have more freedom. He was the man for big occasions; I remember his goals against Liverpool and Leeds and he had a fantastic career as well.

We’re good friends; we used to travel in together. Every time he got the ball in an advanced position, I was looking to get in behind because he could just see that pass and he always wanted to get a cross into the box or play a through ball. He was fantastic to play with; very direct, great on the ball, could get past players and had a great delivery as well and, like I said, always looked for me – he got quite a few assists for me over the years. What a guy in the changing room – him and Bobby Hassell had quite a bit of stick with each other and they were great to have in there.

I only played a handful of games with him; he was at Barnsley when I came for my first loan spell and he was just brilliant. His career – the clubs he’s played for before speak for themselves; he was a phenomenal player. No one could get the ball off him, his balance and creativity, how he moved the ball was incredible. He could see a pass, even if one wasn’t there, he’d find the pass and he’s the kind of player you know why he’s played at the top level because of that awareness, touch, ability, vision and it’s a shame he got injured because I’d have loved to have played a few more games with him. But, even in those first games, he was always looking for me in behind and he’s a perfect number 10, I think.

 Ben Pringle

We played a lot of games together. This was a really tough position for me because there are several players who I could have put in the wide positions – including where Chris Shuker is. There’s players like Nicky Adams and Danny Mayor who would create, create, create, but Ben, for me, had a brilliant left foot, great delivery, always looked to get balls into the box, worked his socks off and he must have got at least double figures for me in the season when we got promoted. He went on from Rotherham to Fulham, where they obviously recognised his talent, then to Preston; he’s had a good career. He always looked to get assists and create chances for others.

The simple reason I’ve gone for Alex is – he’s not the best striker I’ve played with, no disrespect to him, he’s not the best – but he’s by far my best partner, by a country mile. He was the reason I got 20-odd goals in the season when we got promoted with Rotherham, he was a key reason in that. He was a brute, was strong and won everything in the air; I’ve never seen a striker bully defenders like he did. He scored some big goals as well – I remember the play-off final goal from about 45-yards, but that wasn’t his game; he was the ultimate team player who created so much, and he was the dream to play with because I could play off his knockdowns and he got loads of assists for me. He’s my favourite strike partner because of all those attributes.

There’s a few managers that I really liked and respected. Tisdale was good at man management and stuff like that, but he always played me left midfield and I never wanted to play there; I wanted to play up front. But I loved playing for him because he was a top man manager and played football the right way – it was second to none; all about creating chances, attacking football but passing the ball rather than lumping it forward. His football mentality was spot on and he took a small club like Exeter and almost got us promoted from League One – I think we were one point off the play-offs and with the budget we had it was a phenomenal achievement.

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