Yesterday we posted part one of our monster 100 Greatest Ever Premiership Players list, namely Nos. 100-91. If you missed it, you can check out the first instalment here: LINK.
Today we tackle Nos 90-81 (you can see where this is going, right?). Has Brian Deane made the cut, you ask? Well, you’ll find out after the clickâ€¦
100 Greatest Premiership Players, 90-81 continuedâ€¦
90 DALIAN ATKINSON
(Aston Villa 1992-95)
There was a whiff of the exotic and enigmatic about Dalian Atkinson â€“ even though he was born in run-of-the-mill Shrewsbury. Atkinson wasn’t like other English centre-forwards. Perhaps it was his unusual first name (which rhymes with ‘alien’), or maybe it’s the fact that he would occasionally score un-English, George Weah-esque goals like thisâ€¦
89 NICOLAS ANELKA
(Arsenal 1997-99, Liverpool 2001-02, Man City 2002-05, Bolton Wanderers 2006-)
Le Sulk may be one of the most unpopular players in England, but he’s also one of the most complete strikers to have graced the Premiership â€“ great finisher, deadly pace, great ball control. Arsene Wenger might have turned him into a superstar to rival Thierry Henry, but Anelka foolishly left Highbury for Real Madrid. Who knows what he might have achieved in the red-and-white of Arsenal. Maybe one day he’ll sit down for a beer with Stan Collymore and they can talk about the talent they burned.
88 IAN HARTE
(Leeds Utd 1995-2004)
Harte played in the top flight for almost a decade, which takes some doing. He was one of the best dead-ball specialists in Premiership history (making him something of a fantasy football favourite) â€“ and he’s a left-back at that. Okay, his tackling wasn’t a strong suit and he was a little one-footed, but we’re prepared to overlook that. Hard to believe that he’s still in his twenties. He currently plays for Levante in Spain.
87 DAVID JAMES
(Liverpool 1992-99, Aston Villa 1999-2001, West Ham 2001-04, Man City 2004-06, Portsmouth 2006-)
Calamity James is the Emile Heskey of goalkeepers â€“ in other words, he’s persistently ridiculed by fans but highly respected by managers and players alike. Like Heskey, James has been playing in the Premiership for more than a decade, and, like Heskey, he’s currently in great form, stopping shots left, right and centre. Yes, sometimes he makes mistakes, but show us a keeper who doesn’t.
86 JAY-JAY OKOCHA
(Bolton Wanderers 2002-06)
Jay-Jay, a player so good they named him twice. Okocha only played in the Premiership for a few seasons, but his impact was amazing. In terms of pure ball skills, he’s probably the most outrageously talented footballer we’ve ever seen in England. The little Nigerian was always an absolute joy to watch; he couldn’t play dull football if he tried, as this clip showsâ€¦
85 KEVIN PHILLIPS
(Sunderland 1997-2003, Southampton 2003-05, Aston Villa 2005-06)
You might argue that Phillips has no right to be on this list, not least above more talented players like Okocha. After all, this is a player who once played at right-back for a non-league club (Baldock Town). It was only when they switched him to striker that something clicked â€“ Phillips was transformed from journeyman to goal machine. In the 1999-2000 season he scored 30 league goals for Sunderland, a feat which earned him Europe’s Golden Boot. His overall scoring record at Sunderland is astonishing: 115 goals in 208 games. If ever a player made the absolute most of his ability, it’s Kevin Phillips.
84 FRANK LAMPARD
(West Ham 1994-2001, Chelsea 2001-)
We didn’t realise that Lamps has already racked up more than a decade in the Premiership. It’s easy to forget that he played for so long at Upton Park before he moved to Chelsea. Fans who equate Lampard with the unloved Abramovich/Mourinho era should remember that he was signed by Claudio Ranieri in 2001, well before the oil money and Jose. Yes, he plays shit for England (we’ve given him stick about that, we admit), but at club level he’s been nothing less than a phenomenon. He never gets injured, he isn’t dirty, he’s a wonderful passer and he scores more goals than any midfielder has the right to do. He’s also won back-to-back league titles, so he’s already a Prem legend in the making.
83 RUUD GULLIT
The dready Dutchman didn’t win much as a player in England, but you can’t underestimate the significance of his arrival. Gullit showed other foreign stars that it was okay to play in England, rather than Italy or Spain â€“ granted, he came for the cash and he was past his best, but here was a bone fide footballing legend, playing at grotty Stamford Bridge for a mid-table club (as Chelsea were then). If he could do it, so could the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli.
82 WAYNE ROONEY
(Everton 2002-04, Man Utd 2004-)
We think Master Rooney has already done more than enough
to qualify for this list, and he can only go higher, fitness and form
permitting. In five years’ time there’s not much doubt that he’ll be in
the top 20. Without question, Rooney is the greatest teenage footballer
to ever grace the Premiership. That goal for Everton, late in the game against Arsenal, marked the arrival of a very special talent.
81 SHAY GIVEN
(Blackburn Rovers 1994-97, Newcastle Utd 1997-)
Poor Shay, for so long now the last line of defence behind the likes of Titus Bramble and Jean-Alain Boumsong. He deserves several medals for putting up with them. And yet the moment he’s out injured (still recovering from that car crash collision with Marlon Harewood), look what happens â€“ Boumsong leaves for Juventus and Bramble is dropped. Bloody typical. Given is one of the Premiership’s all-time great shot-stoppers, and he could still play at the top level for another seven years.
Come back tomorrow for Nos. 80-71 and feel free to post your thoughts on our choices. It’s obviously a bit difficult to comment at this stage, ’cause you don’t know what’s coming, but we’d love to hear your opinions anywayâ€¦