Wednesday 29 January 2020

Top 50 Irish players of the Premier League era - 20-11

Niall Quinn of Sunderland celebrates scoring the equalizer during the FA Carling Premiership match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park, Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Laurence Griffiths/ALLSPORT
Niall Quinn of Sunderland celebrates scoring the equalizer during the FA Carling Premiership match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park, Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Laurence Griffiths/ALLSPORT

Jack O'Toole

As the Premier League prepares to enter its 26th season this weekend, we’ve decided to celebrate its first 25 years this week by honouring the top 50 Irish players to ever play in the top flight of English football.

The list accounts for a player’s talent, the individual and team success he had in the league, and the impact they had at their respective clubs, hence, why a player like Kevin Moran, who played just two seasons in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, is not rated as highly as Kevin Kilbane who played 11 seasons in the Premier League.

The list is not necessarily a reflection of the player’s overall career, but rather the parts of their career that were spent in the the Premier League.

20. Ronnie Whelan - Whelan was entering his 14th year with Liverpool when the Premier League was introduced in 1992. It was a disappointing period for the club in comparison to their previous successes of the 1980s, where they had won seven titles during the decade, however, Whelan still managed to play 40 games under former teammate Graeme Souness.

Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League in 1993 and eighth in 1994, and when Souness was replaced as manager by Roy Evans midway through the 1993–94 season, Evans decided not to offer Whelan a new contract, bringing an end to an illustrious Liverpool career that spanned 15 years.

19. Kevin Moran - One of the most decorated athletes in Irish sporting history, Moran entered the Premier League in the twilight of his career after a decade at Manchester United and brief stint in Spain with Sporting Gijon.

Moran helped Rovers secure promotion to the Premier League from the old First Division and captained the club to a fourth placed finish in 1992–93 and second in 1993–94. He retired from football just one year before Blackburn won their one and only Premier League title in the 1994/1995 season.

18. Kevin Kilbane - After starting his career in the lower leagues with Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, Kilbane secured a move to Sunderland in 1999 where he became the club’s third most expensive signing in club history at the time for a fee of £2.5 million. He spent four seasons with Black Cats before moving to Everton shortly after the club’s relegation in 2003.

Kilbane played three seasons with the Toffees before moving to Wigan and then Hull. The Newstalk presenter played 325 games across 11 seasons in the Premier League, scoring 15 goals and chipping in with 18 assists while playing multiple positions.

17. Andy Townsend - Townsend played eight consecutive seasons in the Premier League and provided 30 assists in 215 games with Chelsea, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.

He spent most of his Premier League career with Villa, where he helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup first round as well as winning a League Cup final over Manchester United in 1994, and captaining the side to another League Cup win over Leeds United in 1996.

16. Ray Houghton - Houghton played in Villa’s very first Premier League game against Ipswich Town at Portman Road after joining the Villains for £900,000 from Liverpool. The midfielder played a total of 117 times for Villa, scoring 11 goals, and was a part of the Villa side that finished runners-up to Manchester United in the 1992/93 season, as well as the Villa teams that won the League Cup in 1994 and 1996.

RAY HOUGHTON AND DALIAN ATKINSON OF ASTON VILLA CELEBRATE ATKINSONS GOAL AGAINST MANCHESTER UNITED DURING THE ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH AT VILLA PARK, BIRMINGHAM. AT RIGHT, DENNIS IRWIN OF MANCHESTER UNITED. Mandatory Credit: David Rogers/ALLSPORT
RAY HOUGHTON AND DALIAN ATKINSON OF ASTON VILLA CELEBRATE ATKINSONS GOAL AGAINST MANCHESTER UNITED DURING THE ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH AT VILLA PARK, BIRMINGHAM. AT RIGHT, DENNIS IRWIN OF MANCHESTER UNITED. Mandatory Credit: David Rogers/ALLSPORT

15. Stephen Carr - After joining Tottenham from Stella Maris in 1991, Carr played 12 consecutive seasons in the Premier League before joining Championship side Birmingham City in 2008. He played 13 games in the Blues side that secured promotion to the Premier League and played a further 73 games there before they were eventually relegated at the end of the 2010/11 season.

Carr played a total of 377 games in the Premier League and would have played more had it not of been for several injury plagued campaigns.

14. Niall Quinn - Second to only Robbie Keane for most goals scored by an Irishman in the Premier League, Quinn scored 59 goals in 250 Premier League games across 10 consecutive seasons with Sunderland and Manchester City.

His best campaign in the league was the 1999/2000 season where he scored 14 goals to help Sunderland to a 7th place finish, the club’s highest ever in the Premier League.

Niall Quinn of Sunderland celebrates scoring the equalizer during the FA Carling Premiership match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park, Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Laurence Griffiths/ALLSPORT
Niall Quinn of Sunderland celebrates scoring the equalizer during the FA Carling Premiership match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park, Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Laurence Griffiths/ALLSPORT

While he was best known for his goal scoring prowess, at 6’4, Quinn also provided 37 assists across his career, which is tied with Robbie Keane for the second most ever by an Irish player.

13. Ian Harte - An integral part of the David O’Leary Leeds United teams, Harte was one of the best full-backs in the Premier League while at the Yorkshire club, scoring an impressive 28 goals in 213 league games with the Peacocks.

He would leave a financially stricken Leeds for Levante in 2004, although he would have further Premier League stints with Sunderland and Reading.

12. Gary Kelly - Kelly just pips his nephew Harte by a single spot on our list with his longevity and consistency among the best of any Irish defender.

Kelly played a total of 325 Premier League games for Leeds between 1992 and 2004, before sticking with the club for a further three seasons when they were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2004/04 season.

11. Steve Finnan - A regular with Fulham through the Championship and the Premier League, Finnan moved to Liverpool at the start of the 2003-04 season and asserted himself as the club’s first-choice right-back, making 145 appearances in five seasons at Anfield.

Started for Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League win over AC Milan and won an FA Cup with the club the following season.

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