10 players you didn’t even know had won the Premier League title
Tony Gale (Blackburn Rovers, 1994/95)
Gale isn’t meant to be from the Premier League era. He is gloriously 1980s: one of those pundits who leans back, frowns and remarks that it wasn’t like that in his day. And he’s right, too: in his day, players spent their afternoons in the pub and their mornings thinking about their afternoons in the pub.
Remembering that Gale was in a Premier League title-winning squad with Shay Given is enough to break your brain in two. These are players from two alternate ages, like John Lennon standing on stage with Blur for a version of Tender. But there he is, starting 15 games in 1994/95.
This will leave you agog: Tony Gale played against Robbie Fowler in the Premier League. Time is a mysterious mistress.
Ronnie Wallwork (Manchester United, 2000/01)
As wonderful as Manchester United’s Class of '92 were, the success of their poster boys (Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Butt, the Nevilles) inadvertently created a secondary group of Forgotten Ones. These were the players who got the same opportunities as their famous team-mates, but for various reasons failed to kick on. Yet because that youth team became so synonymous with success, we still remember them: Philip Mulryne, Chris Casper, Ben Thornley, Michael Twiss.
Ronnie Wallwork is another; a midfielder who somehow stayed at Manchester United until 2002 despite a host of loan spells and an attack on a referee in Belgium that initially earned him a lifetime ban from the game. And yet in 2000/01, having previously only played nine games in all competitions for United across five seasons, Wallwork played 12 Premier League matches as they won the league.
Tomasz Kuszczak (Manchester United, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2010–11)
Hardly the most notable name on a list of Manchester United goalkeepers, Kuszczak played at least five league games in five successive seasons under Ferguson. That’s all the more remarkable given that he only managed 11 senior caps for Poland in his career.
But there is great merit in a backup goalkeeper who does never kicks up a fuss and never expects to becomes first choice. Edwin van der Sar was one of Ferguson’s best signings, but at his age, United’s manager knew he needed reliability in reserve. Kuszczak offered just that.
Still, it does mean that his impact has become largely forgotten. Kuszczak has as many Premier League winner’s medals as Ashley Cole, Dennis Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard, and more than Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Eden Hazard and many, many more.
Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, 2013/14)
There are a number of people who come out of the Netflix documentary Sunderland Til’ I Die well, but Rodwell is not one. You can hardly blame him for staying in a contract that he was perfectly entitled to under law, but such things define a reputation: he became a poster boy for the greedy and entitled modern footballer.
How the mighty did fall. Rodwell cost Manchester City £12m in August 2012 after rising to prominence with Everton, but almost immediately began to suffer a series of injuries that meant he could never hope to establish himself at the Etihad. By 2014 he’d joined Sunderland on a permanent deal, but not before scraping five appearances as City won the league under Manuel Pellegrini.
Rodwell played a grand total of 19 league minutes after the end of September, and 83% of his total league minutes that season in a 0-0 draw away at Stoke.
Matthew Upson (Arsenal, 1997/98 and 2001/02)
The mind really does play tricks on you. Before researching a list like this, you have established false memories about players. In this writer’s head, Upson had been at Arsenal very briefly, never made the first team for a regular spell and was sold to Birmingham without making much of a mark. Part of that may well be true, but Upson left Arsenal having played five or more league games in two different title wins.
The first was in 1997/98, when he struggled with injury and having Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould ahead of him in the pecking order. Upson spent a year out injured with a cruciate ligament tear and was then loaned out to Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace, as he barely registered at Highbury.
But by 2001/02, with Arsenal’s old guard ageing and Sol Campbell now at the club, Upson played alongside Campbell and established a decent partnership. He managed 14 league games that season, but only a broken leg in February – ending his season – stopped it being many more. Had Upson not suffered that serious injury, might he have stayed at Arsenal for far longer?
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