"Are they still here?!" The Premier League squad fillers
Since the 2010/11 campaign, Premier League clubs have been required to name at least eight homegrown players in their squad lists. Inevitably, that means a lot of deadwood isn't cleared quite so hastily as once before – but it's not just the quota-fillers who are hanging around in club suits on matchday. Presenting an almost-unused XI of box-fresh, as-new footballers-in-theory...
Goalkeeper: Kelvin Davis (Southampton)
At 38, Davis hasn't got too many playing days left. And with Ronald Koeman’s men boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season, any changes to an already-winning formula look unlikely. The Bedford-born stopper currently waits behind Paulo Gazzaniga and £10 million new boy Fraser Forster, who has helped bolster a rarely-changing defensive unit. Davis has made only eight appearances since the start of last season – though he's still hung onto his No.1 shirt (if not position) and status as current club captain. Applause too to Richard Wright, still hanging about at Manchester City.
Right-back: Dwight Tiendalli (Swansea)
He arrived in South Wales two summers ago with a reasonable CV – a former Eredivisie champion and Dutch under-21 international – but the Suriname-born full-back has since struggled to nail down a consistent starting spot under any of the Swans' recent managers. Having featured just twice this season under Garry Monk (both from the bench), and with Angel Rangel and Neil Taylor first-team regulars, the 29-year-old may be regretting the three-year deal he signed just last year. Honourable mention: Danny Simpson at Leicester City. Exactly.
Centre-back: Jores Okore (Aston Villa)
After a nightmare start to his Premier League career when he ruptured his ACL after just three league appearances, the Ivorian-born Denmark international was said to be ready for a "fresh start" after missing the whole of last season. However, he now finds himself arguably fifth-choice behind Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker. Yet to spend a Premier League minute on the pitch this season, Okore will be hoping to get a chance as Villa approach a hectic Christmas schedule.
Centre-back: Dedryck Boyata (Manchester City)
Despite being apparently comfortable playing anywhere across the defence, Dedryck Boyata has never really played regular first-team football. The closest he came was in 2011/12 on season-long loan at Bolton, when he twice appeared in four successive Premier League games (total points haul: three); he also had a year at Twente (total playing time: three hours and seven mins). Now in his fourth season at City, he's one of those that gets wheeled out for cup games – his only appearances this season have come in the Community Shield and the League Cup mauling of Sheffield Wednesday. But the Brussels-born back, now 23, has been at City since 2006 – meaning he qualifies as homegrown. With the likes of Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell gone, the only returning member from last season’s forgotten XI is quite literally making up the numbers. And he signed a new two-year contract in the summer...
Left-back: Zeki Fryers (Crystal Palace)
A product of the Manchester United youth academy, Fryers has had a stop-start career to date. Leaving United for Standard Liege in Belgium, he returned to England with Tottenham for around £3m in 2013 (much to Fergie's fury). The youngster threatened to make an impact at White Hart Lane last season, appearing 16 times across all competitions, but became Neil Warnock’s second signing at Palace (again, for around £3m) after Mauricio Pochettino signed Ben Davies from Swansea. Nevertheless, having represented England at various youth levels and once tipped for big things, it’s perhaps fair to suggest Fryers hasn’t fulfilled his potential yet – he's only made one Premier League appearance this season. It lasted three minutes.
Centre midfield: Wilson Palacios (Stoke)
All seemed well when Palacios signed for Tony Pulis’s Stoke in a £6m August 2011 deal, after Premier League success at Wigan and Tottenham. But the Honduran didn't impress the Welshman, starting life in the Potteries by getting his car confiscated the following month; he made just four substitute appearances in the 2012/2013 season and was named Premier League Player of the Year, but only by FourFourTwo's resident satirists Back of the Net. Things improved during Mark Hughes’ first season, but this campaign he has once again found himself out of the reckoning and without a league appearance. Reports suggest the Potters will be furiously attempting to offload him and his £35k-per-week wage packet for nothing in January.
Right-wing: Shaun Wright-Phillips (QPR)
Wright-Phillips’ cushy situation at QPR was perhaps best summed up by Harry Redknapp recently, when the R's boss revealed that the former Manchester City and Chelsea man had turned down the opportunity to go out on loan. The 33-year-old joined QPR in 2011, reportedly on £60,000 per week, but has scored just one league goal for the club – a winner at Stamford Bridge two seasons ago. So far in 2014, he has made three senior appearances totalling just 136 minutes, with his only started being ignominiously truncated in League Cup defeat at Burton. Wright-Phillips was once a bona fide Premier League star, but ageing and with no league appearances this season, he's now firmly cast aside into west London wilderness.
Attacking midfield: Jimmy Kebe (Crystal Palace)
Kebe was a key member of the Reading side that was promoted to the Premier League in 2012, and he did alright in the top flight with five goals in 18 appearances before injury cut his season short. It was enough for Ian Holloway to take a chance on him with newly-promoted Crystal Palace, but after six appearances it soon became clear that the former Mali international wasn't going to be a big part of the Eagles' safety bid: Tony Pulis loaned him to Leeds for six months. Kebe returned to Selhurst Park this season and hasn't gone on loan – yet – but is in a long queue behind Wilfried Zaha, Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and even Jerome Thomas, who deserves a special mention in a feature like this.
Left-wing: Scott Sinclair (Manchester City)
After Scott Sinclair's six loan moves in four seasons "at" Chelsea, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the flying winger had put his nomadic tendencies to bed when he joined Swansea permanently in 2010. Sinclair proved such an excellent acquisition for the newly-promoted Welshmen, so good in fact that Manchester City came calling in summer 2012. After his experiences at Chelsea, Sinclair may have been wiser to stay in the Swans' smaller pond. Halfway through his four-year City contract, he has played 11 league games for them, of which just two were starts, and has barely featured at all this season: five minutes in the Community Shield and 17 in that League Cup cakewalk against Sheffield Wednesday. As with Boyata, his most valuable asset to City may be his homegrown background.
Centre-forward: Danny Graham (Sunderland)
Another man who has lived to regret leaving Swansea. The Middlesbrough youth product made the jump to the Premier League in 2011, netting 12 goals in his first season. The following January he joined Sunderland for £5m, but the self-confessed Newcastle fan failed to make any sort of impact on Wearside, and didn't net in his 13 appearances that season before being bombed out to Hull the following campaign (where he scored once in 18 games). Gus Poyet admitted Graham was unlikely to regain a starting place this season, although he did appear in the League Cup – for the last two minutes of a defeat to Stoke.
Centre-forward: Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace)
Johnson’s sole season in the Premier League for Palace was a huge success, finishing with 21 goals (including 11 penalties) to make him the campaign's highest-scoring Englishman. But a decade later, it was perhaps with more emotion than reason that the Eagles re-signed the 33-year-old after two injury-ravaged seasons at QPR. Johnson has yet to feature for Palace this time around in the top flight, or even be named in a Premier League squad, making you ponder why they bothered. Fellow summer signing Kevin Doyle, meanwhile, has played 33 league minutes.