Thursday 25 December 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

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.

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