100 Greatest Premiership Players, 100-91


23rd, October 2006


Today is the first day of the Who Ate All the Pies 100 Greatest Premiership Players mega-list. Just who are the best 100 footballers ever to grace English football’s top flight? Well, you’re about to find out – over the next two weeks we’ll be featuring ten players per day, counting down in reverse order, from No. 100 – No.1. So, enough preamble, let’s crack on, starting with Nos. 100-91…

100 Greatest Premiership Players, 100-91 continued…

(Man Utd 1992-04, Newcastle Utd 2004-)
Pele thought Butt was the best player at the 2002 World Cup – we all laughed at the mad old Brazilian, but then it’s easy to underestimate this most English of players. Butt’s career at Old Trafford was certainly overshadowed by the presence of a certain R. Keane, but you shouldn’t overlook his contribution to six Prem titles, four FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League. A superior journeyman, and admirably modest with it.

(Chelsea 1996-02)
This stylish Italian midfielder is famous for scoring the fastest ever goal in an FA Cup final, after 42 seconds for Chelsea against Middlesbrough in 1997 (see clip below). He also bagged the only goal in Chelsea’s 2000 FA Cup final victory against Aston Villa, in the last final to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. He obviously had a fine sense of occasion. Di Matteo was a great passer of the ball and settled in England much faster than most foreign stars. A triple leg fracture ended his career prematurely, but he will rightly be remembered as one of Chelsea’s best foreign imports.

(Leicester City 1995-2000, Liverpool 2000-04, Birmingham City 2004-06, Wigan Athletic 2006-)
Don’t laugh, we’re serious. If Heskey had been blessed with more self-belief and natural aggression, he would be much higher up this list. Us fans often slag him off for falling over a lot, but you can’t argue with his superb natural footballing ability, which was glimpsed most often during his time at Leicester City, where he won two League Cups. One decade on, he’s still performing at the highest level, for Wigan Athletic.

(Sheffield Wednesday 1993-2001)
‘You’ll never beat Des Walker!’ Nottingham Forest fans used to proudly chant. Then he went to Italy’s Serie A, where it was discovered that, actually, you could beat Des Walker quite a lot, particularly if he was played out of position at full-back, as he sometimes was for Sampdoria (by none other than Sven-Goran Eriksson). Des then returned to England and played out the second half of his career at Hillsborough. He only scrapes into the Top 100 because much of his best football was played in the old First Division with Forest, not in the Premiership. But he was a class act all the same and deserves his place on this list.

(Newcastle Utd 1992-2001)
Like Sure deodorant, Rob Lee never lets you down. He was a great box-to-box central midfielder and he weighed in with a few goals too. He reminds us a lot of Scott Parker (both began their professional careers at Charlton Athletic), but Parker has a long way to go before he can match Lee’s Premiership achievements. Lee’s Premiership career suffered a notable blip under doomed Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit – he didn’t even receive a squad number – but then Gullit didn’t rate Alan Shearer either, so we can’t really trust the Dutchman’s judgment.

(Chelsea 1992-93, Blackburn Rovers 1993-97, Chelsea 1997-2003)
It would be a shame if Le Saux was chiefly remembered in tabloid terms – for reading The Guardian, for having a degree, for being on the end of countless chants questioning his sexuality, for that Robbie Fowler insult etc. Le Saux was a classy left-back and a decent left winger too. He was an integral part of the Blackburn team that won the Premiership in 1994/95 and to our mind, is still very underrated.

(Arsenal 1992-1994, Everton 1994-97)

We were all a wee bit surprised when Wayne Rooney revealed recently that Anders Limpar was his boyhood hero (‘I liked him because he used to shoot and dribble more than Duncan Ferguson…’). The little Swede had a great couple of seasons at Highbury and also did pretty well during his time at Goodison. Limpar was the original tricky winger and he embarrassed many a full-back during his time in England. After he retired from football, in 2001, he opened a bar in Stockholm. Its name? The ‘Limp Bar’. Genius.

(Liverpool 1996-)
‘We all dream of a team of Carraghers…’, sung to the tune of The
Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’, is one of the greatest football chants of
the modern era (listen to it here)
and it shows just how much football fans love a player who wears his
club’s shirt with pride. Carra is one of only 24 Liverpool players to
have made more than 400 first-team appearances and is already a Kop
legend – he’s more popular with Liverpool fans than good mate Steven
Gerrard, and that takes some doing.

(Newcastle Utd 1998-2004, Aston Villa 2004-5, Newcastle Utd 2005-)
The man we all know simply as ‘Nobby’ is the only Peruvian ever to make
it in the English top flight. Not many South Americans make it in the
Premiership, least of all in the bitterly cold north-east of England.
He’s one of the best crossers of the ball we’ve ever seen and he takes a
wicked free-kick too. So respect to Nobby – he proves that there’s
plenty of room for foreign, glove-wearing types on this list.

(Blackburn Rovers 1993-97, Man Utd 1997-2000, Blackburn Rovers 2000-03)

Berg is the archetypal unsung hero. You never noticed him when he played, mostly because he didn’t seem to make any mistakes. He just got on with his job of defending – whether that was at centre-back or full-back – and let everyone else take the plaudits. He was part of Blackburn’s 1994/95 Premiership-winning team and also won a few baubles at Old Trafford, not least the treble in 1999.

Come back tomorrow for Nos. 90-81 and please post your comments on our choices…