In its first 20 years the Premier League has moved football from a state of unprecedented crisis against a backdrop of recession, strikes and hooliganism to a global sport of unimaginable riches. To mark this anniversary Ian Ridley takes stock of a phenomenon that has changed English football and English society forever.
15 Best Strikers in Premier League History
Taking in the game at all levels and across the country, There's A Golden Sky is a full picture of the game today with all its glitz and glamour, rags and riches. From Hackney Marshes, clinging on in the shadow of the Olympic park, to the vastness of Old Trafford; from Doncaster Belles women's team to the rebirth of Cornish football in Truro; through to the modern game's relationship with Sky and the big bucks of Abramovich, Ridley takes us on a journey through the English game from grassroots to the topflight.
Ian Ridley took a long hard look at the game back in the early s when it was beset by problems both on and off the pitch and seen as the epitome of all that was wrong with our society. In terms of titles, however, the Manchester United star's five Premier League medals easily outstrip the solitary success of title managed by Shearer.
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The barrel-chested playmaker and Guernsey native was the rarest of beasts during his long stint in the Premier League: a one club player. Matt Le Tissier played his entire career for Southampton, sticking with the club from the South Coast to establish himself as an all-time favourite with the Saints.
Le God, as he was known at the Dell, played games for Southampton, and it would have been more had it not been for recurring injury troubles.
The sight of the sometimes ungainly forward putting his body on the line, dragging his team clear of relegation, became a fixture of April and May's action, and there were more than a few Southampton supporters who were convinced that they had the messiah present at No. The rest of the league, meanwhile, remembers fondly Le Tissier's capacity for some truly spectacular strikes, that for years were a staple of the Goal of the Season competition.
It is fair to say that Teddy Sheringham represented the antithesis of the stereotypical lumbering British centre-forward. Calm, cerebral and possessed with great vision, the London native was one of the most talented attackers in the Premier League's nascent years — not to mention one of the most under appreciated. The first season of the Premier League saw Sheringham leave Nottingham Forest for Tottenham, and it was there he first made an impact alongside the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann.
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Partnerships with a quicker or stronger players became a staple for Sheringham, as he forged great combinations with the German and later with Andrew Cole at Manchester United and Alan Shearer for England. Not an out and out striker, Sheringham nevertheless scored goals in the Premier League, and proved his longevity by making his final appearance in the top flight at the grand old age of Michael Owen's career will forever carry with it an asterisk, allowing for the fact that it was so often frustrated by injury.
His exploits as a young star at Liverpool, however, will not be forgotten easily by the Premier League. That form was noticed at the Bernabeu, and after moving to Real Madrid the English top division rarely saw Owen again at his best.
What a Comeback!
The diminutive striker hung up his boots at the end of last season after an abortive attempt to get his career back on track with Stoke. The final years may not have been vintage Owen, but the young speed merchant who burst onto the scene in the s deserves a place among the best. Love him or loathe him, and there are plenty who fall into each category, Didier Drogba's eight years of exemplary service to Chelsea mark him out as one of the great Premier League strikers.
Signed in at the start of the Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho revolution, the Ivory Coast native's decision to leave Marseille for Stamford Bridge was immediately vindicated. In his first season, Drogba bagged 10 goals and set up a further five to make an important contribution to the Blues' first title in 50 years. In total Drogba hit league goals for Chelsea, playing a vital part in the transformation that saw the club go from London's fourth biggest team to a major force in European football.
Not only was Robbie Fowler one of the Premier League's biggest, most controversial characters in its early years, he was also one of its greatest stars and most natural hitme.
There's a Golden Sky How Twenty Years of the Premier League Have Changed Football Forever
Not to mention, a sort of precursor for the wayward legend Mario Balotelli. Whether it was pretending to sniff up a sideline during a goal celebration, showing off shirts in favour of striking dockworkers or deliberately missing a penalty because he disagreed with the decision, it was rarely dull watching Fowler. The financial backing from Sky, in particular, helped create the juggernaut we see today. Players and managers are handsomely rewarded by the television money poured into the clubs, and the very best enjoy a profile that is tantamount to that of a member of the Royal Family.
Considering how football was reported back in the s, the Premier League has done a lot to promote the game in good light. A big thank you to everyone who has followed, subscribed and liked this blog.