The English Premier League is rated by many as the best domestic league in the world. While the Jury is still out on that, it is safe to say that it is perhaps the most ‘popular’ league in the world. It certainly gets more coverage than most of the leagues around and one of the reasons behind it is the big names that are associated with the league. The league, over the years, has been home to star players from all over the world. The likes of Rooney, Drogba, Torres, Suarez, Tevez and more recently Aguero features in the headlines of the tabloids more frequently than David Cameron does.
Away from this world of Glitz and Glamour, there are players who are as important (perhaps even more) to their teams as the elite names mentioned above, but are not found hogging the lime light often enough. These players might not be as ‘flashy’ or talented as the marquee names, but that doesn’t demean their contribution towards their respective teams and towards the game in general. Sadly, at times their efforts go unnoticed by fans and media as these players don’t belong to the so called ‘big’ clubs. None the less here is a list of players, who might not make it to the headlines regularly, but they are the real stars of their team. They go about their job silently and efficiently, that too without being paid £200m per week. TheHardtackle salutes some these names here in this honorary list.
Club – Bolton Wanderers
Age – 36
The Finnish Goalkeeper has racked up more than 500 appearances for Bolton. He has been at the club since the 1997 – 1998′ season. On his day, he is one of the best keepers in the league. In the 2001 – 2002′ season he was voted as the best goalkeeper in the Premiership. He was awarded the “Player of the Year Award” and also the “Players’ Player of the Year Award” in 2007 after helping Bolton secure a UEFA Cup spot for only the second time in their history. Despite all these accolades, Jääskeläinen hardly gets the lime light he deserves. At a certain point in his career, he was highly coveted by teams such as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan, had the shot stopper played for any of these clubs, his name would have been taken in the same breath as Casillas, Van Der Sar, Cech and Buffon. At the age of 36, he is still going strong. When he hangs up his gloves, he should be remembered as one of the best goalkeepers to play in this league.
Club – Blackburn Rovers
Age – 31
David Dunn is a classic example of ‘what could have been’, if not for his long and frustrating injuries. Dunn is a very technically gifted player; in fact he was dubbed as the new Gazza when he burst onto the scene. The midfielder is known for his aggressive and direct football. He had his best season for the Rovers in 2000 – 2001, where he managed to score 18 goals in all competition and creating plenty more. In 2003, he fell out with manager Graeme Souness and was consequently sold to Birmingham City. He went through his worst phase with injuries during his spell in Birmingham. When Birmingham was relegated in 2006, Dunn returned to his boyhood club in 2007. Dunn’s only appearance for England senior team came in a match against Portugal. Sadly that was to be his only appearance for his country. Now at the later stages of his career, Dunn is the still the heartbeat of the Blackburn midfield. Dunn has always played the game with passion and aggression and had he managed to keep out his hamstring problem he would have been a bigger name, than he is now. He surely deserved more chances in an England shirt, than he got.
Club – Everton
Age – 34
The former Manchester United player has been a long servant of the game. During his days at United, he was mostly over shadowed by more illustrious names in the team. He was not a regular starter in the team, and his brother Gary became more famous of the two. After making 263 appearances for Manchester United in 10 years, he moved on to the Merseyside team Everton in 2005. His versatility as a player and his work rate soon made him one of David Moyes’ favorites. In 2007, he was handed over the captaincy of the club following David Weir’s departure. Neville hasn’t looked backed since. Phil Neville does all the dirty work in the team’s midfield. He sits in front of the Everton defense silently and leaves the attack to the likes of Saha, Cahill and Arteta. People say that his best performances as a footballer have come in an Everton shirt and not in a United shirt. The Everton team has achieved a lot when you consider the lack of resources that David Moyes has. Neville has been a rock in the Everton midfield, but his efforts at times has gone unnoticed by the fans and media.
Club – Aston Villa
Age – 31
The Veteran Irishman has made over 500 appearances for three different clubs in the Premier League. He arrived in England after he joined Everton as a 15 year old. After impressing for Everton, Manchester City came calling in 2000. Richard Dunne went on to make 352 appearances for City becoming the club captain in the process. He won the Manchester City player of the year award four times (the first person to do that) during his stint at the club. In 2009, following the arrival of riches at the club, Dunne was considered as redundant by the club. Gary Cook, the chief executive of City once said that the Irishman doesn’t fit the ‘super star’ status that the club needed. Richard Dunne joined Aston Villa following his exodus from City. Dunn scored his first goal for the club against Manchester City, but refused to celebrate the goal. He was applauded by the City fans, and the respect they have for him was imminent. It didn’t take him much time to become a fan favorite in Villa too. Richard Dunne has given solid performances over the years in the center of the defense. He is a classical no-nonsense defender, who is strong in the air and strong with the tackles. Many City fans don’t agree with Gary Cook’s statement and would have loved to see the Irishman at the club; he deserved that for the number of outstanding performances he had given to City over the years. Micah Richards once said :
“Ever since I’ve come to this club Richard has just been quality. I play with him week in, week out and I think he’s one of the best players I’ve played with. I’ve played with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the England squad but Richard is right up there with them.”
Club – Fulham
Age – 28
The American has been nothing short of a revelation for Fulham. When Fulham paid a fee of around $4 million to New England Revolution in 2006, he became the most expensive export from MLS to the Premier League. That fee now looks like a bargain after the wonderful performances he has given in the Fulham shirt. The Craven Cottage faithful love him for his flair, creativity and knack of scoring ‘special’ goals. The most ‘special’ of them all came in a Europa League match against Juventus. The long chip shot – winner which helped in defeating the Italian giants is part of Fulham folklore now. It is perhaps the most important goal in Fulham’s history. Dempsey’s American roots and his exploits with a ‘small’ club such as Fulham have helped him maintain a relatively low profile. Just wonder if had he been an English player, and he had scored that goal against Juventus, he would have been a cult hero in the English media and all over England.
This could have been a very long list of players who are the real heroes, who make the Premier League what it is. This list would be incomplete if we don’t mention few names we have missed out on.
Matt Jarvis (Wolves)
Mikel Arteta (Everton)
Niko Kranjčar (Tottenham)
Kevin Davies (Bolton)
Matt Jarvis, Arteta and Kranjčar are all extremely talented players. Arteta, for one, certainly deserves more credits than what comes his way. The little Magician from Spain is unlucky to have played in an era when the Spanish team has embarrassment of riches in its midfield. He is one player who would be a starter for nearly any other national team in the world.
Kranjčar is another gifted player who is being wasted at Tottenham. He certainly deserves more playing time. This might be his season as Modric seems to be on his way out of White Hart Lane.
Kevin Davies is a typical English Center Forward. He is strong and extremely hard working. He is not known for his goal scoring, but he can disrupt any defense and make spaces for others to score. He has been a long servant of the game and his work ethic is something for the youngsters to learn from. Interestingly, he is the most fouled player in Premier League history.
We would like to hear from you, the names that you think should also be included in the list.