Earlier this year, the Premier League announced the official launch of their own Hall of Fame. Separate to the English Football Hall of Fame, the Premier League version “will recognise and celebrate the exceptional skill and talent of players who have graced the competition since its inception in 1992.” The original launch date was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, all time PL top scorer Alan Shearer was inducted alongside Arsenal icon Thierry Henry as the two deserving inaugural inductees. Being touted as a yearly tradition, the PL have nearly 30 years worth of players to consider for an induction. Let’s help them, shall we?
Here are five former Premier League players who deserve a future induction into the Hall of Fame.
According to the League, “Only a player’s Premier League career is considered in his candidacy” and for this year, “Players must have been retired as of 1 August 2020.”
5: Frank Lampard
Following his ill-fated reign as Chelsea manager this season, it’s easy to forget that Frank Lampard is one of the greatest midfielders in Premier League history. Third on the all-time appearances list with 609 games played, Lampard scored an astounding 177 goals from midfield during spells with West Ham United, Manchester City and, of course, Chelsea.
It was with the blue side of South London that Lampard claimed three Premier League medals – finishing as Chelsea’s top scorer in two of those seasons. The man also managed 102 assists, appeared in the PFA Team of the Year three times and was the PL Player of the Season for 2004/05. An outstanding resume from a similarly outstanding professional. A versatile midfielder, set piece specialist and, maybe one day, a Premier League Hall of Famer.
4: Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole, or ‘Cashley’ as he is sometimes referred to, turned a lot of heads in 2006 when he switched North London’s Arsenal for Chelsea in a highly controversial transfer. However, as a pivotal member of three PL winning squads, he deserves a lot more praise than he gets. Bursting onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, Ashley Cole replaced the injured Sylvinho at left back and never lost his place. Winning the 2001/02 title, Cole honed his craft as the perfect full back as he managed to combine strong attacking play with necessary defensive solidarity.
Soon after, he played an integral role in arguably the best team in PL history – the Invincibles of 2003/04. Cole’s attacking skills on the left mixed with the defensive mindset of fellow full back Lauren, plus Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, made for a formidable back line. Also at Arsenal, Cole had a hattrick of appearances in the PFA Team of the Year in 2003, 2004, and 2005. His move to Chelsea yielded further fortunes for Cole, winning the PL for the third time in 2009/10 and featuring in a final Team of the Year in 2011.
3: Roy Keane
Many young fans will know Roy Keane as the serious, straight talking pundit on Sky Sports’ PL coverage. However, long before he was engaging in a strange but wonderful bromance with Micah Richards, Keane was one of the most aggressive, competitive and simply put hardest players in Premier League history. Playing in the inaugural 1992/93 Premier League season with Nottingham Forrest, Keane had his greatest success under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United where he spent 13 trophy filled seasons. Aside from his incredible seven PL title wins and five Team of the Year appearances, it was often the Irishman’s on and off field antics that helped his legend grow.
The former Man United captain was involved in a number of incidents that are still widely discussed to this day, namely his rivalry with Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. The most notable incident between the two took place at Highbury in 2005 at a time of huge competition and bad blood between United and Arsenal. The two men were filmed in the tunnel prior to the game having a colourful confrontation which very nearly turned physical. Keane also had altercations with Alan Shearer and, most notably, Alf-Inge Håland – the less said about that the better.
Keane eventually left Manchester United and has mellowed somewhat since then. He will, however, always be remembered as one of the most decorated and intense captains the Premier League has ever seen.
2: Nemanja Vidić
It’s so easy to give strikers attention and acclaim due to the fact that goals are the most important and sought-after parts of football. Most of the players recognised around the world as all-time greats (Pele, Messi, Ronaldo etc) are strikers. Defenders are sometimes an overlooked entity when it comes to discussing Premier League greats and it takes someone of real quality to break that mould. In step Nemanja Vidić.
Widely considered to be the world’s best centre-back in his prime, Vidić is one of just three players to have won the Premier League Player of the Season award twice. He holds that distinction alongside Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo – not bad company.
His defensive awareness, strength, leadership and aerial prowess helped Manchester United to three PL title wins in a row for 2006/07, 07/08 and 08/09. The Serbian international also featured in the PFA Team of the Year for each of those seasons and went on to win the league twice more. The no-nonsense defender struggled with injury woes throughout his career but should be recognised as arguably the best defender in Premier League history.
1: Steven Gerrard
The greatest Premier League player to have never won the title? Simply put, yes.
With over 500 appearances, 120 goals and a massive eight Team of the Year appearances, Steven Gerrard proved himself week in and week out as a true jewel in the Premier League crown. A lot can be said for his last two seasons at Liverpool, what with the now infamous slip against Chelsea and the 38 second red card against Manchester United. All of that, however, is not what the native scouser should be remembered for.
Pre-2019 Liverpool in the Premier League were the archetypal nearly club, with fans believing that every year could be theirs until inevitable disappointment reared its head. Some clubs may have sunk under that pressure but Steven Gerrard was the anchor that kept the club above the waterline. Wearing the captain’s armband, Gerrard was the face of not only the club but the city of Liverpool as well. He waived away lucrative advances from the likes of Chelsea during his career and whilst loyalty may not have won him Premier League gold, it did make him arguably the most iconic one club man in PL history. Put him in the Hall of Fame!