The Weekly Read

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Won-Nil team: best players never to have won the Premier League

In the latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie, Rob O'Hanrahan looks at the greatest Premier League players who never managed to win the leAGUE.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard is one of the best players to have never  won the league
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard is one of the best players to have never won the league

The Premier League has a rich history of champions, tales of glory and winners. But history rarely remembers the also rans. Campus.ie compiles the Premier League best ever starting eleven, subs bench and manager... who have never won the Premier League.

Drawing this up was an absolute joy, trawling back through over twenty years of the best league in the world. I looked at the biggest losers of the period; the Aston Villa team that pushed United all the way in 1993, the Newcastle team that did the same in 1996, Chelsea from the early years, the current Tottenham squad, Arsenal of the last six years.... And of course Liverpool. I've tried to be unbiased, and I left out a lot more players than I've put in... I've ultimately gone with a 3-4-1-2 formation, attacking players are always easier to find for these things.

Goalkeeper

Shay Given - Aston Villa

Tough call, but I had to go with the Donegal man. Not only an international stalwart, Given has played constantly in the Premier League for most of the last nineteen years. While he did pick up a Division One title with Sunderland in 1996, it was on loan from Blackburn he appeared for the Black Cats.

While the Lancashire club were winning the Premier League. Given went on to appear for Newcastle for the following twelve years, racking up 463 appearances, before moving on to Man City. He left City for Villa, the year before Mancini's men won the title

Defenders

Paul McGrath - Retired

He departed Manchester United in 1989, one of many to fall foul of Fergie's regeneration project. In doing so, he missed out on being part of a squad that would rule England for much of the 1990s. However, McGrath was part of the incredibly talented Villa squad that came within points of toppling United in the first ever Premier League season.

McGrath picked up the PFA Payer of the Year award for his efforts that season. He is arguably the best footballer to have ever donned the green of Ireland, and without a doubt remains one of the best ever Premier League defenders. Reading his autobiography and understanding the physical and mental turmoil he was in during this period only further serves as a reminder of his class.

Ledley King – Retired

Funnily enough, King struggled with a very similar injury to McGrath, a severe lack of cartilage in his knee, but soldiered his way to 264 appearances for Spurs, racking up 10 goals on his travels. The one club man retired last year, and remains on at his former club in an ambassadorial role.

King cemented himself as one of the best ever central defenders to grace the Premier League, but was largely overlooked for the national squad, only amassing 21 caps and 2 goals. Might be a contentious one, but a consistent performer in one of the most consistently second-best Premier League clubs had to make an appearance.

Jamie Carrager - Liverpool

The Premier League will be a lot worse off with his imminent retirement, and so will Liverpool. How do you replace a man with so much experience, so much intelligence and so many honours to his name. Carragher came up through the ranks at Liverpool, and to date has over 500 appearances for the Merseyside men.

Carragher has won a staggering amount of honours, including 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, a UEFA Cup, 2 Liverpool Player of the Year awards... and who could ever forget THAT Champions League Final. Yet, Carragher has never lifted the Premier League tropy.

Midfielders

Gareth Bale - Tottenham Hotspur

I'm a pretty vocal critic of Bale, and I get a lot of stick about it. I think he's one of the most over-hyped players of his generation, and Jeff Stelling's comparisons of the Welshman to Cristiano Ronaldo recently only proved this. However, it is possible to be an extremely talented footballer and be placed on a pedestal high above your potential... And this is what has happened to Bale.

Does anyone else remember the 'Curse of Gareth Bale'? Spurs lost every game he played in while he was a left back, up until a dodgy win over Burnley in a League Cup game. Bale hasn't looked back since. His goal-scoring ability, and the timeliness of his scoring, have turned him into one of the Premier League's most potent talents. If he leaves Spurs, I don't think he'll stay in the Premier League. And i don't think he'll ever have a Winners medal.

Xabi Alonso - Real Madrid

A man who has won the FA Cup, Champions League, La Liga, Champions League again, Copa Del Rey, European Championships and the World Cup... but no Premier League medal. Carried Liverpool in much of his stint in England, making 146 appearances for the club and cementing his place as a true legend of the game. His eventual departure for thirty million to Real Madrid in 2009 was a huge loss for Liverpool, and one, arguably, they are yet to recover from. He scored a seventy yard goal in the Premier League, but never won the title.

Steven Gerrard - Liverpool

I was half tempted to leave no explanation under this name. Because in no way does his inclusion warrant one. I'm writing this while watching a captain master class from him against Villa. Inspiring players, taking a cracking penalty, and making a ridiculous clearance off the line from Benteke. Could have followed Alonso to Madrid, but loyalty is 99% of Gerrard's game.

Even to other supporters, Gerrard is one of the best midfielders to have ever graced the English game. But I have as many Premier League winners medals as him.

Cesc Fabregas - Barcelona

One of the most entertaining transfer sagas of recent years was his eventual return to Barcelona. Fabregas was arguably one of Arsenal's best ever midfielders, but arrived at the worst possible time. While he picked up the 2005 FA Cup with the Gunners, he arrived as they were in a downward spiral following the 'Invincibles'.

Its well documented that the 2005 FA Cup was the last trophy Arsene Wenger's men won. Surprisingly, Fabregas has also never won the Champions League. Nevertheless, his technical ability and flair for the game demanded his inclusion in this list.

Attacking Midfielder

Gianfranco Zola - Retired

Best summed up by Alex Ferguson as 'a clever little...so-and-so', the little Italian wizard remains one of the best ever Premier League attacking players. Anyone lucky enough to have seen the maestro in action would understand. He made 229 appearances for Chelsea, amassing 59 goals and leading them to two FA Cups, but was part of a Chelsea team that were a shadow of the force they became in the 21st century.

Strikers

Robbie Fowler - Muangthong United

Made his first appearance in the first season of the Premier League, and remained a thorn in defense’s sides for the next fourteen years. Appearing for Leeds and Man City, he amassed 34 goals in five years. But Fowler will always be remembered for two things; Liverpool, and his nose tape. Keeping with the Easter theme last weekend, Fowler even made a second coming for the red side of Mersey, scoring 8 goals in 30 games in the 06-07 season.

His first stint will stick long in the memory, scoring 120 goals in 236 games. An incredible record. Missed by all at Liverpool, and especially by Martin Tyler, who perfected his trademark scream in the early stages of Fowler's Liverpool career. One of the last natural goal scorers in the game, 163 Premier League goals from just 378 games.

Les Ferdinand - Retired

I can already see a few people saying '...Who?'. Quick fact check; first player to score for six different Premier League clubs, PFA Player of the Year 1996, scorer of the 10,000th Premier League goal, one League-Cup winners medal, two Premier League runners-up medals. Oh, and 150 Premier League goals. He is currently the seventh highest scorer ever in the Premier League, and was the last of a rare breed of 'old-fashioned centre forwards'... Whatever that means.

The Manager

David Moyes - Everton

There were a few contenders here, but have to hand it to Moyes. Consdering he's taken Everton from relegated strugglers to Champions League contenders, with little to no budget, the Scot is now surely in line for bigger and better tings. Rumours that he may take over from compatriot Ferguson have even wound about the scene, but this seems slightly optimistic.

The Subs

Brad Friedel - Just edged out by Given. Still an amazing keeper to this day.

Matt Le Tissier - Purely for the ridiculous goals he constantly scored... and his terrible punditry.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - What a player, what a name.

Mikel Arteta - Consistent performer for Everton and Arsenal, lovely hair.

Sami Hyypia - Tried to keep Liverpool players to a minimum... It was him or Carragher.

Kevin Phillips - a poor man's Ryan Giggs.

Robin Van Persie - For the moment.

Rob O’Hanrahan is an Education student at St Patrick’s College Dublin.

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