ChatGPT: Boro’s All-Time Greatest XI

By Pete H

It’s a case of ‘BoroGuide battles the green and white robot’; diving – as we so often like to do for amusement – into the depths of ChatGPT. You’ll no doubt be familiar with this leap forward in AI. It can apparently solve the world’s woes with intense experience and knowledge of everything. Well, that’s the sales pitch. There are also concerns about its privacy and accuracy. After all, what it knows is through machine learning. And who’s fact-checking that?

Anyway, we digress.

We wanted to put ChatGPT to the test. We’re increasingly grumpy in our old age; bored of the squabbles that take place on Twitter over who was better. Kane or Rooney? Is it Kane or the Undertaker? Maybe Kane or Abel? So, can the AI serve up a definitive all-time Boro’ XI?

Let’s have a look what it digitally spat back in our faces.

ChatGPT: Boro’s all-time greatest XI

GK. Chris Day
It is plain weird that Chris Day didn't end up seeing out his playing days at the Lamex; the stopper coming to us as a spritely 32-year-old and staying for a decade

“A true Stevenage legend, Day made over 400 appearances for the club in two separate spells, including crucial penalty saves in both the Conference play-off final and FA Trophy final.”

A solid enough start perhaps; Daysey certainly one of our two finest servants between the sticks. But it goes south pretty quickly. His 10-year stay (give or take a few months) with us was continuous. He fell 40 appearances short of 400. There’s no penalty save in the FA Trophy Final to speak of. And he didn’t even play in a Conference playoff final for us, let alone stop a penalty.

RB. Lawrie Wilson
First signed by Mark Stimson in 2007, Lawrie Wilson made a slow start to life on the right hand side at Broadhall Way – but he soon came into his own

“Wilson played a key role in Stevenage’s promotion to the Football League, and was known for his solid defensive work as well as his ability to get forward and contribute to the attack.”

We can’t even get past right back before ChatGPT throws in a contentious pick. Now, Lawrie was part of a special squad – and you can say he played a role in our promotion to the Football League. He actually missed quite a lot of the 2009-10 campaign through injury. Solid defensive work? Hmm. His ability to get forward? Tick.

CB. Mark Roberts
One of the most significant signings made by Stevenage in recent seasons, the impact Mark Roberts had on the fortunes of the club was profound

“The former captain and current manager of Stevenage, Roberts made over 400 appearances for the club and played a key role in their rise from non-league to the Football League.”

No debating this entry. But plenty to deconstruct all the same. Even taking into account the fact that ChatGPT stopped learning in 2021, Robbo was no more the current boss than Angela Merkel or Eric Morecambe. A grand total of 237 appearances also puts him way down on the assertion that he made over 400 appearances.

CB. Luke Wilkinson
In a bid to stem the number of goals that Boro' were letting in during the 2015-6 season, manager Teddy Sheringham raided neighbours Luton Town to secure the services of centre half Luke Wilkinson on a permanent contract

“A commanding presence at the heart of the Stevenage defence, Wilkinson was instrumental in the club’s promotion to League One in 2011.”

Is history being kind enough to Wilko? After all, it’s a hugely impressive feat for the lad to have played an “instrumental” role in our promotion to League One… nearly five years before he actually signed for us.

Go home ChatGPT – you’re drunk.

LB. Ronnie Henry
Ronnie Henry is the man who has seen more empires rise and fall at Boro' than most others to have ever worn the shirt

“A versatile player who could play anywhere across the backline, Henry was a key figure in Stevenage’s rise from non-league to the Football League, and famously scored the first goal at the new Wembley Stadium in the Conference play-off final.”

Now, there is a strong case to include Ronnie Henry. After all, no-one else can boast 500+ appearances for Boro’. And he was there as we rose from non-league to the Football League. He could play anywhere across the backline… except left-back in our view. The use of the word “famously” sticks out like a sore thumb in the final bit too.

The first goal at the new Wembley Stadium wasn’t scored by a Boro’ player. It wasn’t in the Conference playoff final. And you could only use the word “famously” in the context of Ronnie’s scoring exploits when referring to his chronic inability to score them.

CM. Darren Sarll
Darren Sarll was no stranger to Stevenage Football Club by the time he was added to Teddy Sheringham's coaching staff in summer 2015

“A tenacious and hardworking midfielder, Sarll made over 300 appearances for Stevenage in two spells and was a key figure in their promotion to the Football League.”

We can’t even.

CM. Mitchell Cole
There ain't much more we can add to what's been said after first hearing the news of the untimely death of Mitchell Cole – a superb Boro' talent

“A technically gifted midfielder who scored some memorable goals for Stevenage, including the winner in the FA Trophy final at Wembley”

You can agree or disagree with Mitchell’s inclusion. For us, there are many other (central) midfielders deserving of inclusion. But there’s not much wrong with the statement. He was technically gifted. And he did score some memorable goals – even if his goal in the FA Trophy final was our first and not third against Kidderminster Harriers.

RM. Stacy Long
Stacy Long arrived at Boro' in 2009 as a highly-rated player who'd established his credentials in the Blue Square Premier with Ebbsfleet United

“Long was a key player in Stevenage’s promotion to the Football League, and was known for his pace and direct running.

Our memories of Stacy Long are that he often played on the left. We don’t remember him for his pace. And direct running? Hmm – cutting in from the wing was more his thing.

LM: George Boyd
If we had to pick our favourite all-time player, it turns out George Boyd is our man. But explaining why ain't quite that easy as we thought...

“Although he only spent a short time at Stevenage, Boyd made a huge impact, scoring 29 goals in just 42 appearances and helping the club win promotion to the Football League.

A totally understandable pick – and one we agree with. But let’s take this apart. What does a short time mean to you? Six months or a year, right? Boydie made his debut for us in December 2002 and left in January 2007. That’s four years. Note the date too. The winger left us three years before we won promotion to the Football League. As for the stats, it was 32 goals in 126 appearances.

FW: Steve Morison
The 2007 FA Trophy Final: One of Boro's greatest-ever cup matches?

“A prolific goalscorer for Stevenage, Morison scored 38 goals in just 63 appearances before moving on to bigger and better things with the likes of Millwall and Norwich City.”

Here’s another name that few would dispute; Moro’ certainly proving himself to be a prolific goalscorer while here. Of course, this is ChatGPT so it’s not long before we go wrong. The ex-Stortford striker scored 89 times in 153 appearances for Stevenage. And we don’t care much for the sly dig. Sure, Norwich and Millwall are bigger

FW: Dino Maamria
Throughout the season, Dino’s philosophies of high-intensity work rate and build-up play have materialised

“Another Stevenage legend, Maamria scored 78 goals in just 183 appearances for the club, and also had a successful spell as manager. His passion for the club and ability to score crucial goals made him a firm fan favourite.”

We were eagerly anticipating what the ChatGPT videprinter would serve up after Moro’. With one space left, the call was a massive one to make. Barry Hayles? Carl Alford? Or surely all-time record goalscorer Martin Gittings would be in.

Imagine our jaw hitting the floor when Dino’s name came out. We’d struggle to argue that he was the best striker when he was at the club as a player. And his record is nowhere near as impressive; 38 goals in 108 appearances is the return.

So, what have we learned from ChatGPT?

The first thing we learned from this experiment is that ChatGPT couldn’t see past 2002 with its picks. It also failed miserably when it came to stats. The Darren Sarll pick is downright bizarre too. If you’re worried about this sort of tech taking your job anytime in the future, you’ve got a few years left yet.

In fairness, we gave the machine another pass at picking an all-time Boro’ XI; first giving it a few choice words. And the outcome? Well, it wasn’t much different. There were a handful of changes. It even picked a player from the 20th century. Mind you, that was Gary Crawshaw and had him playing as a right midfielder. Other changes included John Dreyer for Darren Sarll (at least he played for us), Steve Guppy for Mitchell Cole, and Scott Laird for Lawrie Wilson – with Ronnie shifting to right back. We also insisted that Gitts got in. So he did. At Moro’s expense. Just does not want to drop Dino…

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