What is a cult hero? That's the first question FourFourTwo had to answer before we asked a fan of every team in the country's top five divisions to pick out theirs.
The definition, of course, isn't set in stone – after all, such a topic hardly calls for perfection. Above all, though, a cult hero has to be someone who touched fans' hearts more than any other, not necessarily through what they did on the pitch but as a packaged-up personality. They're not supposed to be the best player who played for your club – though they might just have been.
So sit back and enjoy as our 92 fans reveal their all-time favourites, and then join the debate on social media at #FFTCultHeroes.
Accrington Stanley: Jonathan Smith
Lee Walker (@leewasi)
“Six years, two promotions, five trophies over 250 appearances and probably the best aerial ability I've ever seen at the Crown Ground. He may not be obvious to some Stanley fans, but make no mistake: former defender "Smudgie" Smith was one of the best ever to grace the hallowed turf.
“Joining on a free from then-local (and now sadly defunct) rivals Great Harwood Town, Smith went on to become a hero at the club. His no-nonsense tackling and aforementioned aerial prowess made him a legend, and he was one of the main reasons we started the long road back to prominence through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Smashing his cheek bone and having teeth knocked out were regular occurrences.
“Loved by the manager and fans alike, Smith left a gaping hole in the side when he finally left in 2005, after suffering a number of niggly injuries in his final season. He has, however, gone onto bigger and better things and is currently first-team coach of National League North side Chorley alongside none other than former Blackburn Rovers star Matt Jansen.”
AFC Wimbledon: Carl Leaburn
Robert Dunford (@repd1975)
“Leaburn didn’t win trophies like John Fashanu, and hasn't been in a computer game like Adebayo Akinfenwa. But this particular big frontman of Wimbledon is still fondly remembered today by supporters.
“Plenty mocked his lack of goals after he joined from Charlton in January 1998, but Leaburn won them over in the best way possible a month later. The venue was Selhurst Park, and the opponents were the landlords themselves, Crystal Palace. That evening, the striker who never scored did so in front of the Sky cameras – not once, but twice.
“He was unplayable that night, and suddenly a new hero arrived. Getting one over on those you pay rent to was a big deal back then, especially from somebody like Leaburn. Sadly his form didn't last long, and he only scored twice more before leaving in 2001. But after that night in south-east London, it hardly mattered.”
Arsenal: Emmanuel Eboue
Tim Stillman (@Stillberto)
“In England, cult heroes are often celebrated ironically or championed as outsiders. Arsenal have had many down the years – John Jensen and Perry Groves are the two most striking examples. But Eboue was a cult hero of a different vintage. He was almost politically appointed to the role as a concession.
“Eboue was infamously booed off the pitch after an especially substandard display against Wigan in 2008. He was visibly distressed by the mauling he received and thereafter was anointed as a cult hero by Arsenal fans, almost by way of apology, as a manifestation of our guilt.
“He became a kind of court jester, playing up to his role of class clown. But patience expired in April 2011, after a particularly dunderheaded foul gave Liverpool a 98th-minute penalty and a share of the points at the Emirates, almost immediately after Robin van Persie had scored what he thought was the winner. Eboue was sold that summer.”
Aston Villa: Paul McGrath
David Michael (editor, @oldmansaid)
“Every club has its fare share of quirky cult heroes, but few have had a player that transcends such status to become a true legend. Through out his career McGrath was like Billy the Kid, always in the line of fire. He was an alcoholic with dodgy knees who had a tendency to go AWOL before games. The Ireland international was heading for retirement on Alex Ferguson’s recommendation, before Graham Taylor gambled on the injury-prone centre-back for Aston Villa.
“The Villa fans put up with his antics and with the player enjoying a light training regime due to his knees, it turned out to be a marriage made in football heaven. Villa gained a world-class centre-back whose party trick was to allow opposition keeper’s goal-kicks to drop over his shoulder and then clear them with a backheeled volley.
“McGrath was the lynchpin to two Aston Villa title challenges, including the first ever Premier League season, where McGrath finished runner-up to his previous club Manchester United. He got revenge at Wembley the following season in Villa’s 3-1 League Cup final win over United in 1994.
“With his shy and humble demeanour, McGrath was aesthesis of the modern day player, and became the much-loved adopted son of the Holte End, where he is serenaded at every game to this day.”
Barnet: Giuliano Grazioli
Tom Bodell (@Barnet_Bee)
“Grazioli's status as a cult hero at Barnet was perfectly encapsulated after the Bees' 1-0 win at Dartford last April. Barnet fans were filing out of Princes Park when they noticed 'Graz', a pundit for BT Sport, and started to serenade him live on air with the song heard so often during his five-year stay at Underhill. Six years after departing the club and with the side set to return to the Football League, the Barnet-born striker was as popular as ever.
“Sixty-five goals in 147 appearances only tell part of the story. A Barnet fan, Grazioli became a cult figure despite netting five against the Bees in a 9-1 win while at Peterborough and playing for rivals Stevenage.
“He assisted Martin Allen in 2011 before taking charge of the side following Mad Dog's defection to Notts County, helping the Bees stave off relegation once more. He still attends games as fan.”
Barnsley: Neil Redfearn
Simon Gaskell (@simongaskell)
“When a 26-year-old Redfearn arrived at Barnsley in 1991, he'd already taken in spells with Bolton, Lincoln City, Doncaster, Crystal Palace, Watford and Oldham. Seven years later, he had ensured his career would be synonymous with only one club.
“An all-action style, endless work rate and propensity for scoring spectacular goals on either foot immediately endeared 'Redders' to the Oakwell faithful. With the captain's armband, he was the beating heart of the 1996/97 team that inspired the chant 'It's Just Like Watching Brazil'. His 17 goals and talismanic ability to pull his team up by the bootstraps took a perennial First and Second Division side into the top flight for the first time in 99 years, and he added a further 10 goals in the Premier League.
“There hasn't been a man to quite capture the imagination in the same way for the Tykes since. There may never be.”
Favourite moment: “Redfearn scoring with a flying header past Ludek Miklosko on the opening day of the 1997/8 season, in glorious sunshine, in front of nearly 20,000 fans. It wasn't anywhere near his best goal but it showed that Barnsley – unfancied by so many – belonged at that level.”
1:20 for some Redders magic
Birmingham City: Kenny Burns
Kevin Ball (@joysandsorrows)
“There are players like Mark Dennis who regularly saw red for the Blues, Mick Harford who kept us in the top flight with last-minute goals or Obafemi Martins who scored the winner at Wembley in 2011. But my cult hero (even though maybe doesn’t truly fit the definition) is Kenny Burns. Was he a silky skilled footballer? Nope. Was he a football ambassador? Er, not really. Was he someone who gave 100% for the cause? Absolutely.
“In the first game I went to, Burns scored one in a 4-0 defeat of Manchester City. He was a no nonsense, ‘put it about’ forward. Very often when we had our first attack, he would clout the keeper with a hard challenge to try to gain an advantage (different times…). He scored plenty of goals, including four against Derby one season and then, shortly after, a hat-trick against Leicester. He scored the sixth in that game, winning himself a Triumph TR7 (although he never actually received it).
“Although a very good forward, Kenny started his career as a defender but was pushed up front after Bob Latchford left. He returned to defence later in his career. Sure, he won trophies at Forest but always said he loved playing for Blues – and that could be seen in the way he played.”
Blackburn Rovers: David Dunn
(Midfielder, 1998-2003 and 2007-15)
Anna-Louise Adams (@annalouiseadams)
“It has to be Dunn – the blood that runs through his veins, I am sure, is blue and white. His love for our club showed through his performances, and his hatred for our biggest rivals, Burnley, is second to none.
“I’ve admired Dunn for as long as I can remember, and would have done anything to keep him in a role at our club. Despite his failure to recreate Cristiano Ronaldo's skill, and his regrettable involvement in a Venky's chicken advert, his passion and love for the club is unrivalled.
“His experience always stood out and he was a calming influence over the younger squad members, particularly when times were hard at Blackburn. During those times he was a beacon of hope for fans – if he could remain with the club he loved, so could we.
Favourite moment: “Dunn’s equaliser in the dying embers of Blackburn vs Burnley in March 2013 – everyone went absolutely mental… it was incredible.”
Blackpool: Brett Ormerod
(Striker, 1997-2001 and 200912)
Bloomfield Bear (@bloomfieldbear)
“When posing this question to Blackpool fans I was pretty certain there would only be one winner of our Twitter poll – and sure enough that man was Super Bretty Ormerod.
“During two spells with the club – he left to join Southampton in 2001 but came back to us in 2009 from pPeston – Ormerod made 215 appearances, scored 61 goals and became the first player to score in all four divisions for the club. His most important goal in tangerine? Only the the winning goal that sent Blackpool to the Premier League!”
Favourite moment: “That goal against Cardiff in the 2010 Play-Off Final. It was a mental game in which all five goals came before half-time, and both teams had the lead. But Ormerod got the one that mattered most, pouncing in first-half stoppage time after DJ Campbell had wriggled through. What a day.”
Bolton: Ivan Campo
Chris Manning (@19manning83)
“The endearingly scruffy-looking former Valencia and Real Madrid midfielder (a Champions League winner, no less) was a surprising addition to Bolton’s mid-2000s Galacticos, but he’s perhaps the one who left the most indelible mark on the club.
“Initially starting his Bolton career on loan, Campo made 172 appearances for the club, scoring 13 goals before moving to Ipswich in 2008. The shaggy-maned enforcer, part of the best Bolton team in the last 20 years, became an accomplished holding midfielder with a great passing range after a somewhat shaky start at centre half.
“His love for the town and the club was evident, and this feeling was returned in spades by supporters who would turn up for games in matching Campo wigs. The evil Gary Megson refused to extend his contract, and his open letter to supporters in June 2008 showed the character of a man who remains a club icon to this day.”
Favourite moment: “In 2007 he was unfairly sidelined by Sam Allardyce’s replacement, Sammy Lee – and left out of the club’s Premier League squad as a result. It was only a series of poor results under the new manager that meant Campo was recalled to the side. He returned with a majestic performance against Spurs where he controlled the midfield with his usual class and grace – even bagging a goal which was celebrated wildly on the pitch and in the stands. What a man.”
Skip to 2:46
Bournemouth: Steve Fletcher
(Striker, 1992-2007 and 2009-13)
Chris Lines (@NarrowTheAngle)
“Fletcher ticks all the boxes for a cult hero. Built like a tank, strong as an ox and always fully committed? Tick. Played as a striker but only reached double figures for goals on three occasions? Tick. Adored unconditionally by the fans? Great big tick.
“'Supa Fletch' (no one knows why it’s spelt like that, but presumably just because it’s more badass) is a bona fide legend at Dean Court. On joining from Hartlepool in 1992 he was quoted in the press as being impressed by our training facilities, which immediately begged the question of how bad Hartlepool’s must have been.
“A north-east lad born and bred, moving down to the south coast was a life-changing decision for Fletcher but he’s never looked back.”
Favourite moment: “The seminal moment in Fletcher’s Cherries career came when Eddie Howe brought him back from Crawley during the 2008/09 League Two season. We’d previously been deducted 17 points by the Football League but Fletcher’s thumping winner in the last home game of the season against Grimsby secured our Football League status. Since then, it’s been an almost entirely upward trajectory for the club.”
Bradford City: Stuart McCall
(Midfielder, 1982-88 and 1998-2002)
“Over two spells at Valley Parade, McCall ranks as the club’s greatest modern day player – if not of all time. The midfielder emerged through the ranks at Bradford and almost took the Bantams to the top flight during the 1980s. He left to enjoy a glittering career with Everton, Rangers and Scotland – but for City fans, the best was still yet to come.
“In 1998, McCall came home, re-signing for his first love and fulfilling a career-long desire in romantic fashion. In his first season back he captained Bradford to Premier League promotion. In the top flight, McCall was typically heroic and a true inspiration.
“McCall is loved for his energy, commitment and drive. He was also a tremendously talented player to watch. Great in the tackle, wonderful in his range of passing and fondly remembered because he would never, ever give up.”
Favourite moment: “Captaining Bradford to the Premier League in 1999 – 11 years after he had left the club following the failure to get promoted to the top flight. McCall labelled the 3-2 win at Wolves, which sealed promotion, as the greatest moment of his career. And it was an achievement he truly immortalised: falling off a car live on Sky.”
(We'll just conveniently ignore the daft YouTube video title, OK?)
Brentford: Gary Blissett
Nick Bruzon (@NickBruzon)
“There was so much more to ‘Bliss’ than a luxuriant moustache and 79 goals in 223 games. He forged a terrific partnership with Dean Holdsworth, who was so often the grateful recipient of Gary’s hard work. His brace against boyhood heroes Manchester City in the 1988/89 FA Cup was a feat he repeated in the fifth round at Blackburn Rovers, giving this unfashionable Third Division team a rare taste of success.
“His defining goal came in the final game of the 1991/92 season where a first-half header at Peterborough secured us the (old) Third Division title. He was the man to call on when an emergency goalkeeper and a clean sheet was needed, mid-game.”
Favourite moment: “Blissett’s er… ‘coming together’ with another keeper, Fulham’s Jim Stannard, that saw him shown straight red at Craven Cottage and leave the field to a hero’s ovation. Back then, the derby mattered as much to the players as it did to the fans.”
Brighton: John Crumplin
Darren McKay (@DarrenMcKay)
“It’s difficult for Brighton fans of a certain age not to use the words ‘football genius’ when talking about Crumplin. After signing from Bognor for £6,000 in 1987, he put in a string of indifferent performances which saw Albion fans chanting "Johnny Crumplin, Football Genius" with significant amounts or irony.
“Slowly, however, he turned it all around, peaking at Anfield in 1991, where then-Second Division Albion earned a cup replay by coming from two down against the reigning champions and table-toppers. Seven thousand travelling Albion fans saw JCFG keep England winger John Barnes in his back pocket all afternoon.
“Crumplin was a player we all could relate to. He wasn't the most gifted, nor technically brilliant, but he always gave absolutely everything he had every time he played. Some of us still have the t-shirts to prove it!”
Bristol City: Bob Taylor
Patrick Connolly (@bristolpat)
“The 1980s was not a good time for Bristol City fans. We went from (old) Division One to Division Four in consecutive seasons and then struggled to get back out of the bottom two leagues. But then in 1989 we signed Bob Taylor from Leeds.
“He kept scoring goals. It made no sense. Bristol City weren’t supposed to have a player like Bob. Bob Bob Super Bob, Super Bobby Taylor. The best goalscorer we’ve had at Ashton Gate since John Atyeo in the 1960s. He wasn’t with us long but brought so much joy.
“Bristol City fans will probably never forgive manager Jimmy Lumsden for selling him. He showed with his goals afterwards for other clubs that it was a big mistake. I did subsequently try to name my son ‘Taylor Bob’ although that plan was vetoed by my (now) ex-wife.”
Favourite moment: “A particular highlight was a game I didn’t even see. I went to see a girl that weekend. We won 4-0 away to Birmingham and Bob scored twice. It was undoubtedly the highlight of my weekend.”
Bristol Rovers: Stuart Sinclair
Nathan Bees (@NathBees)
“Instantly recognisable for his majestic ginger beard and flowing blond hair, you can’t help but notice midfielder Sinclair. There is so much more to him than his incredibly apt look as a pirate, though. He is an energetic and combative player who can go from making a tackle outside his own box to spearheading a counter-attack at the other end of the pitch without even breaking sweat.
“One of the most endearing things about Sinclair is that he genuinely loves being a professional footballer for Bristol Rovers. It’s a pleasure to watch a player fulfil his dream when he plays for your club – it reminds you what the game is all about.
“He plays like a supporter would do if they pulled on the famous blue and white quarters, and that’s why he’s a firm fans’ favourite and a modern-day cult hero.”
Burnley: Roger Eli
Tony Scholes (@utcdotcom)
“Trying to determine the ultimate cult hero proved to be difficult but when I asked the question at The Bee Hole End, the name continually put forward was Eli’s. He had been signed as a full-back, or a midfielder – no one was sure which – but when he came on as a substitute and played up front in a cup tie against Scunthorpe he was never to play in any other position again.
“He became a massive favourite for a couple of years before an injury finally ended his career, but he'll always be remembered for his goals and his play in the Fourth Division promotion team of 1991/92.
“Over two decades later he remains hugely popular with Burnley fans and still plays for the Vintage Clarets who play games to help raise money for charity. ELI-ELI-ELI-ELI...”
Eli's last Burnley goal features here
Bury: Andy Bishop
Liam Smith (@liam_bish_smith)
“For me there is only one man worthy to be named Bury's best cult hero – I grew up watching Bishop bang in goals on a consistent basis.
“His capability on the ball and in the air thrilled fans in his 200+ appearances, and his name was always sung that little bit louder than the other players'. His never-say-die attitude epitomised everything our team is about, and even through all the injuries he gave 100% every week – essentially playing with one knee towards the end of his spell.
“I still hold my arms straight either side of my body when I score a five-a-side goal, honouring the poor man’s Robert Lewandowski.”
Favourite moment: “This goal shows Bishop’s fearlessness at its finest. As he peels away from his marker and the ball nears his head, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Du du du, super Andy Bishop!”
Burton Albion: Aaron Webster
Ash Wilkinson (@AshWilkinsonBM)
“How many left-backs would, having been brought on as a substitute at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, make nutmegging Gary Neville their first priority? Aaron Webster did – and got a rousing ovation from the 11,000 travelling Brewers fans that night in Manchester.
“Few former Burton Albion players are as adored as the man who made 600 appearances for the Brewers over a 15-year career before he left the club in 2013. Not only did he play a key part in two promotions, taking Albion to the Football League for the first time, but his natural confidence made him a hit both on and off the pitch.
“He is still a regular around the Pirelli Stadium, working with the club’s community trust and running coaching sessions for the future stars of the club. There can be fewer better figures for future Brewers to learn from.”
Favourite moment: “Could have been the promotions and titles – but on his testimonial, he provided a moment that sums the man up entirely. It was the 89th minute against a Derby County side managed by Nigel Clough, and Albion won a penalty. Of course, Webster stepped up to take it. But rather than smash the ball either side and guarantee a goal on his testimonial, Webster struck the sweetest of panenkas and ensured it was a moment to remember.”
Cambridge United: Dion Dublin
Scott McGeorge (@Scotty_mc10)
“Dublin is possibly the most famous player to don the amber and black. He had four successful years at the Abbey Stadium, scoring 52 goals in 156 appearances for the U's, and formed a formidable partnership with another Cambridge great, John 'Shaggy' Taylor, under John Beck in the early nineties.
“Dion was one of the most feared strikers in the lower leagues as Cambridge gained successive promotions and reached two FA Cup quarter-finals. Inevitably the U's lost Dublin in 1992 to Manchester United for £1 million.
“He now has a bar under the main stand named after him and has regularly visited the Abbey Stadium during the dark days to raise funds for the club.”
Cardiff: Kevin McNaughton
Steve Davies-Evans (@The_Real_SDE)
“At Cardiff, for every Robin Friday there's an Eddie Johnson; for every Graham Kavanagh a Jorn Schwinkendorf (seriously, Google him). But when all's said and done, there's only one cult hero who stands out: Mr Kevin McNaughton.
“Not too many Bluebirds knew about Kev before he joined in 2006, but in nine years and 254 lung-busting displays, McNaughton’s a name will always be held dear. A never-say-die attitude, coupled with the bravest of brave hearts, ‘Super Kev’ endeared himself to the Cardiff faithful instantly. (After all, it's not often a player will be offered the wives of every fan on the terraces repeatedly.)
“McNaughton played every game as if he was born at Ninian Park itself, and that's always going to go down well.”
Favourite moment: “The image of him being held aloft the night we finally reached the Premier League is one that will live on forever in all Cardiff fans’ hearts.”
Carlisle: Dean Walling
Lee Rooney (@leerooney)
“When Walling arrived at Brunton Park as a 22-year-old in the early ‘90s after spells in Canada and non-league football, he was a forward with a not-particularly-impressive goalscoring record.
“By the time he left to join Lincoln in 1997, he was an imposing centre-back with a handy knack of scoring goals from corners. He'd become such a huge fans’ favourite that there was an uproar when he was allowed to leave by then-chairman Michael Knighton (yes, he of ex-Manchester United infamy).
“Player of the season in the 1994/95 Third Division title success, any corner won by the Blues that season was met by cries of "Deano! Deano!". And with good reason too: he grabbed nine goals in all competitions that season.
“His whole-hearted displays and love for the club (he still refers to Carlisle as "we" in his occasionally radio commentary appearances) are why he's still fondly remembered almost 20 years since he left.”
Favourite moment: “Stepping up to score from the spot in the penalty shootout of the 1997 Auto Windscreens Shield final win over Colchester United at Wembley. We won it 4-3.”
Charlton: Yann Kermorgant
Matias Grez (@matias_grez)
"'Quality is expected, effort is demanded'. Those are the words every player reads in The Valley tunnel before making their way onto the pitch – and no player embodied the phrase more than Kermorgant.
“A brute of a striker able to withstand challenges from the Championship's most robust defenders, the Frenchman was also capable of producing moments of individual genius – often several times a match. Yet he was the first player sold under the current unpopular owner, leaving fans wondering what could have been had the striker remained at the club to spearhead the team’s attack.
“Rarely has a player enjoyed such a unique and personal relationship with the fans, and Kermorgant’s popularity hadn’t waned three months later on his first return to the club as a Bournemouth player – the whole stadium stood up in unison to sing ‘We all dream of a team of Kermorgants’.”
Favourite moment: “On the final day of the 2011/12 season, with promotion to the Championship already secured, Hartlepool threatened to spoil the party atmosphere at The Valley by going 1-0 up, before goals from Danny Hollands and Danny Haynes put Charlton ahead. Then up stepped Kermorgant with an audacious far-post scissor-kick lob to seal the win and a record 101 points tally.”
Chelsea: Gianfranco Zola
“Chelsea were nothing special back in 1996, but were at the beginning of a glorious 20-year period. Zola, a £4.5m signing of Ruud Gullit’s, was immediately involved en route to winning the FA Cup for the first time in 26 years.
“He was voted FWA Player of the Year despite having only joined in November, and went on to score the winning goal in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Stuttgart in 1998. Tying Julian Dicks up in knots was another personal highlight.
“Simply, he gave us unprecedented quality. It’s almost unheard of these days that a Chelsea player would be universally liked but his attitude and infectious smile made Zola special and different to most modern day footballers.”
Favourite moment: “Turning Jamie Carragher inside out and leaving him on his backside, beating another two Liverpool players in the process.”
Chesterfield: Jack Lester
Lesley Brentnall (@Lesley_CFC)
“I can still remember the day Lester signed for us in the summer of 2007. It felt surreal at first” as a fan base we had adored his career from afar watching him forge local success with Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United.
“Jack quickly became a cult hero, and his ability to seek out a pass and create goals out of nowhere were a pleasure to watch. There was a cheeky side to his game, and he knew how to frustrate opposing defenders to turn that to his advantage.
“His most spectacular performance featured a hat-trick against Stockport on New Year’s Day 2011. Even when he retired at the age of 37 he could still pose a threat to any team in this division!”
Colchester: Roy McDonough
(Forward, 1981-83 and 1990-94)
Jon Waldron (@JonWaldron1)
“For Colchester United fans of a certain age, McDonough’s name instantly conjures up images of bravado, goals galore and non-league success – but mostly, red cards.
“There aren’t too many players who are adored by supporters of the U’s and Southend alike, but hard man Big Roy is up there in the folklore of both Essex clubs. What you saw was what you got with him – both on and off the pitch.
“The big forward would be worshipped from the Barside at Layer Road during his two spells there in the eighties and early nineties – and then in Colchester High Street on a Saturday night when the beer was flowing.
“Roy’s cult hero status among most Colchester fans was cemented when, as their player-manager and spearhead, he led them to a glorious non-league double in 1992. But it wasn’t merely the success he enjoyed as the U’s player and boss – it was the way he did it.”
Favourite moment: “Helping Colchester win the Conference title on the final day of the 1991/92 season. The U’s went into the final day level on points with Wycombe Wanderers and duly thrashed Barrow 5-0 to claim the Championship (with RM getting one of them). It cemented McDonough’s status as more than just a hard man.”
Coventry: Brian Kilcline
Neil Allison (@skybluesblog)
“FA Cup-winning captain Kilcline is the only Sky Blue to back up an iconic persona with tangible success, making him a god among Coventry fans.
“Kilcline was a rugged and unconventional personality on the pitch, and that character shows no sign of restraint during retirement. Now 53, the evolution of his moustache into a seemingly never-ending beard means he resemble a wackier conjuring of Tolkien’s imagination with every passing year. His most recent appearance came at the 2016 Legends Day which he attended in clothing more akin to a pirate, and yet it all felt perfectly normal.
“As he strode onto the pitch with the FA Cup aloft, it was clear that this man is very different to the ex-pros surrounding him. His reputation as the ultimate unconventional hero remains secure, and is one he continues to revel in.”
Favourite moment: “The 1987 FA Cup victory is the only moment of magic for an obscene proportion of Coventry fans, with Kilcline the embodiment of our grit and determination that day. But he didn’t actually finish the game.
“A clash with Gary Mabbutt in the second half left Kilcline struggling, and he was replaced a minute before the end of full-time by Graham Rodger. Ironically it was Mabbutt who later intervened to give Coventry victory, and Kilcline his big moment. No injury was going to prevent him leading his team-mates up the Wembley steps, though, and as he kissed the famous trophy and let out a snarly roar, it’s that moment which to this day remains both his, and Coventry City’s, crowning footballing glory.”
Crawley Town: Sergio Torres
Carol Bates (@CarolBates)
“It's a talking point that could go on forever, but the majority of Crawley fans would agree that our cult hero would be Argentine Torres. He joined us from Peterborough in 2010 when we were in the Conference, and over the next four years became a real fans’ favourite.
“Sergio moved to non-league Whitehawk (where he resides today) when his contract wasn’t renewed in 2014, but has still remained in contact with supporters and often returns to help the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance with community work.
“Torres was also known for being everywhere on the pitch (and had a song which said as much), always giving 100% and he always had time for the fans. A true cult hero indeed.
Favourite moment: “Sergio will be best remembered for his injury-time winner which knocked Derby out of the FA Cup in 2011. That Monday evening on January 10 will forever be etched in the memories of all Crawley fans.”
Crewe Alexandra: Rodney Jack
Matt Withers (@mattwithers)
“There was a frisson of excitement at Gresty Road in July 1998 when Jack arrived from Torquay for a record £650,000. He was a full international. For Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, yes. But a full international.
“Jack soon ingratiated himself with the fans. An explosive, unpredictable player who played comfortably on either flank with a smile on his face, he hit both goals in a 2-0 debut win over Oldham and went on to form a good understanding with fellow favourite Colin Little. Leaving after five years for Rushden & Diamonds, he returned in 2006 for another, less fruitful season.
“But it was off the pitch where he became a cult hero. Living locally and always willing to pose for photos in pre-selfie days, he went on to play for local team Nantwich Town and was last seen plying his trade in Iceland. Not the country. The Crewe branch.”
Favourite moment: “On Sam Allardyce’s debut as Bolton manager in October 1999, Jack sprinted half the length of the field, cut inside two defenders and scored from fully 30 yards.”
Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni
Jack Pierce (@FYPFanzine)
“When a long-haired Argentine made his Palace debut at Carrow Road in August 2004, few would have thought Julian Speroni would become the Selhurst Park favourite he is.
“Having initially lost his place to the pyjama-wearing Gabor Kiraly, Speroni had to wait nearly three seasons before regaining his place at the start of the 2007/08 season. From there, he barely missed a game for eight seasons.
“A four-time winner of the club’s player-of-the-year award with 386 appearances for the Eagles behind him, there are plenty of reasons why Palace fans have labelled his mitts the manos de dios. That’s the ‘hands of god’, of course.”
Favourite moment: ”A season-defining save against rivals Brighton during the second leg of the 2013 Play-Off Semi-Final ranks as perhaps his greatest moment in a Palace shirt. Glancing Ashley Barnes’ effort onto the bar provided the platform for Wilfried Zaha to inspire Palace to a memorable win.”
Speroni’s save at 1:30
Dagenham & Redbridge: Jamie Cureton
Tid Page (@missmusicmad)
“Even as the oldest outfield player in all four leagues, Cureton still has the ability to turn a game on its head. After a career spanning 14 clubs, his experience as a journeyman striker is something Dagenham have relied on in a number of games this season and last.
“In his first season, Cureton picked up the club’s player-of-the-year award after scoring 19 league goals – not bad indeed for a man who was approaching 40.
“He might have recently started his coaching badges, but Cureton's love for the game hasn't dwindled yet and I for one hope we'll see him at Victoria Road for a few more season yet.”
Favourite moment: “His Goodison Park debut... at the age of 40!”
Derby County: Igor Stimac
Ollie Wright (@derbycountyblog)
“My generation of Derby fans have to put up with our dads' stories about the 1970s: Brian Clough, league titles, legendary players. In the eighties and nineties, things were less magical.
“Then Lionel Pickering came along with a plan to reinstall Derby to the top. He turned to Jim Smith, who turned to foreign flair. First came a supremely cultured central defender from Croatia who ordered Smith to switch to a back three – prompting a charge to promotion so dizzying it seemed like we'd never lose again.
“The newly built Pride Park would later be graced by some sumptuously talented players, but it was Stimac who sparked a new era in Rams' history.”
Favourite moment: “We had a charity fancy dress day at my school and I went as David Seaman, complete with bushy moustache (drawn on with eyeliner pencil). Rumours had been swirling that the great man himself, Igor, was coming to sign autographs – but nobody believed it.
“That was until he materialised before us and sat patiently (while fielding a stream of incoming phone calls in Croat) until the vast, snaking queue children all got their chance to get a photo with 'Prince Igor'. As he drove away, me and a few mates dropped to our knees and performed the 'we're not worthy' salute from Wayne's World. Stimac pipped his horn and waved before speeding off. What a day!”
Doncaster Rovers: Billy Sharp
(Striker, 2009-12 and 2014)
“Sharp arrived at Doncaster in 2009 to little fanfare, in a move that was mostly met by shrugs from the fans. The self-proclaimed ‘fat lad from Sheffield' left three years and 40 goals later, having become only the second player to leave Donny for over £1m.
“He also left fans with an iconic moment we will never forget. After the tragic death of his newborn son in 2011, Billy chose to take to the pitch against Middlesbrough just three days later. On an emotionally charged night, Sharp scored an unbelievable left-foot volley and revealed a t-shirt that read 'That's for you son'.
“It was a moment that personifies the kind of man he is both on and off the pitch; a moment to remind everyone that while some things are more important than football, the game is a constant companion even during the darkest times.”
Everton: Kevin Sheedy
Gary Naylor (@garynaylor999)
“Sheedy is an Everton cult hero – even sweeter to write as he could, and should, have been a Liverpool one. But they let him go.
“He had some of the skills and limitations of David Beckham, except he was even more one-sided (left), never headed a football (except once vs Manchester United), never tackled and never beat a man for pace or with a trick. He never warmed up, and if taking up a position at the opposite side of the pitch from the tunnel, barely made it to his place, so slowly did his bandy-legged walk carry him over the ground.
“He was average in height, could be riled, but was generally placid in temperament and shunned the press. He celebrated boisterously, but almost immediately slumped the shoulders and, on those bandy legs, trudged back to the halfway line. You could have stood with him on the bus on the way to the ground and never have noticed the hero next to you.
“But he averaged 10 goals per league season over seven years as a wide midfielder – without taking penalties – at a time when the rules made it much harder to score. He won everything Everton were allowed to compete for in the ‘80s. He once did the below at Anfield. Then he beat cancer.”
Exeter: Adam Stansfield
Josh Denham (@_Josh Denham)
“I believe many Exeter fans will agree with my choice of Stansfield here. What can you say about him? 110% effort and enthusiasm for the game, he never stopped running and always seemed to be the man who popped up with a crucial goal when we needed it.
“Despite being diagnosed with cancer in April 2010, Stanno still turned up for pre-season training because he loved the club and the club loved him.
“Tragically he passed away in August of that year aged just 31, but his memory lives on. Today we long for another player like Stanno.”
Fleetwood: Nathan Pond
Rob Stocks (@robstocksbpl)
“When it comes to cult heroes at Fleetwood Town there can be only one. Forget Jamie Vardy and his fleeting goal-filled cameo, and step forward Nathan Pond.
“Pondy is Mr Fleetwood Town – a Guinness World Record holder having played for the same club in seven different tiers of domestic football. Now in his 13th season at Highbury, having signed from Lancaster City when Fleetwood were playing in the North West Counties League, Pond's rise has been as remarkable as the club's.
“He's been written off after every promotion, but more than 400 games prove each and every one of those doubters wrong. Surely it's only a matter of time before another record is broken as the 30-year-old closes in on the club's all-time appearance record. Just don't mention the derby day own goal at Blackpool!”
Fulham: Johnny Haynes
Thomas McIlroy (@thomasmcilroy)
“It's rare that a club's legend is one that a large number of fans won’t have seen play in person, but Haynes is undoubtedly who comes to mind when discussing Fulham heroes.
“He holds the record for the most number of games played for the Cottagers at 657, scoring 157 times. He was the first player to command a £100-a-week salary and was described by Pele as 'the best passer of the ball' he has even seen.
“Haynes has a stand named after him at Craven Cottage, which seems fitting for the greatest player to ever grace the pitch on the bank of the Thames.”
Gillingham: Andy Hessenthaler
(Central midfielder, 1996-2006)
Danny Smith (@NiceMarker)
“Though Hessenthaler's Gillingham career was jam-packed with match-winning performances and vital goals, this was the most successful period in the club's history and in truth there were a number of other players from that time about whom you could say the same.
“But what those other players didn’t do was rugby tackle Nottingham Forest winger Andy Reid to the ground when he was clean through to protect a 2-1 lead, or violently chase a streaker off the pitch at MK Dons, simultaneously berating the stewards while doing their job for them.
“And they certainly didn’t get sent to the stands for dissent as player-manager, only to quickly bring themselves on as sub, a move with virtually no tactical merit beyond spiting the referee (he was inevitably booked later on, surely the first yellow card given to a player who had already been sent off).”
Hartlepool United: Adam Boyd
Striker (1999-2006 and 2009-12)
Jordan Richardson (@JordRich97)
“Boyd was one of two amazing strikers that Hartlepool United had when I first started going to games. He played in the biggest game in our club's history, a 4-2 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the 2004/05 League One Play-Off Final, and scored over 20 goals that season.
“It’s about what could have been for him, though. He was linked with bigger clubs but never really made it, instead increasing his waistline and getting caught half-naked running away from the angry boyfriend of a girl he was seeing.
“His best moment was arguably his hat-trick against Wednesday on a wet April Friday night at Victoria Park; if some of the goals had been scored by Lionel Messi they would have been all over the internet.”
Huddersfield Town: Andy Booth
(Striker, 1992-96 and 2001-09)
Greg Marah (@HTAFCPodcast)
“Huddersfield fans always love a homegrown player, and none more so than Booth. Right from his debut he has been one of us, living the dream. In his first spell with the club he scored 52 goals in 123 appearances – 29 of which came in the 1994/95 season that culminated in a Wembley play-off promotion in which he scored the first goal.
“After being sold to Sheffield Wednesday for a club-record fee, he returned five years later with dodgy knees but a big heart, and pulled the club from the basement. He helped secure another play-off promotion in 2004 until his retirement in 2009, having scored another 85 goals in 270 appearances.
“Since then he has become the club’s ambassador and helped raise over £1m for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity.”
Hull City: Ian Ashbee
(Central midfielder, 2002-11)
Rick Skelton (@HullCityLive)
‘When Ashbee joined Hull on a free transfer in 2002, he was supposed to be the midfield general who’d finally dig us out of the bottom division. Six years later he completed one of the most unique achievements in English football history and by far the most under-appreciated.
“‘Ash’ skippered the team to three promotions: in 2004 to League One, 2005 to the then-new Championship and in 2008 the Premier League. He proved himself as a player in light of every elevation and overcame a serious degenerative bone disease along the way.
“His ‘win the ball and give it to someone who’ll use it’ style didn’t always convince all fans but he was intelligent enough to know his limitations and brave enough to overcome them. Most of all, he was a fearless and respected leader.”
Favourite moment: “After nine soul-destroying seasons scrabbling around in the bottom division, promotion in 2003/04 was fittingly sealed at Yeovil by Ashbee’s curler into the top corner – the club’s first promotion since the mid-’80s.”
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Ipswich: Mauricio Taricco
Philip Ham (@twtduk)
“Kevin Beattie and John Wark between them may win all of Town’s greatest player polls, but 1990s full-back Taricco always looked favourite in a vote to discover the club’s cult hero.
“After a slow start – he made only one appearance in 1994/95, his first season following his move from Argentinos Juniors – eventually his heart-on-sleeve approach (if not always strictly within the laws) quickly endeared him to the Blues’ faithful.
“Suffolk’s favourite Argentine was one of those players who understood what derby matches mean to fans, declaring ‘I don’t like yellow’ in a TWTD interview and scoring a brilliant goal in a 2-0 home victory over Norwich, one of several memorable strikes during his Town career.
“Inevitably, the Premier League – Tottenham, specifically – eventually came calling in 1998, but Taricco remains a hero at Portman Road.”
Leeds United: Gary Kelly
Matthew McKeith (@RITGK)
“Since Leeds were formed in 1919 we have been blessed with an array of cult heroes to wear the white shirt. But for me one man who has stood up and symbolised what it means to be Leeds is one-club man Kelly.
“Through thick and thin, ups and downs, Kelly was always a key figure during his 15-year career at Elland Road. So much so that I named our fans’ site after him.
“My ultimate Kelly moment has to be his cracker of a goal against Wigan in the FA Cup. He wasn’t renowned for his goalscoring ability but that effort will always live high in Leeds fans memories’. What we would do to have a team of Gary Kellys now.”
Leicester: Esteban Cambiasso
(Central midfielder, 2014-15)
James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd)
“When Cambiasso signed last season, there was excitement at the arrival of a legend, but also a hint of concern. Could he still do it? The answer was hell yes.
“He was the heartbeat; the chess grandmaster always five moves ahead of the opposition and, at times, his team-mates. He instructed, reassured, calmed. When all seemed lost, the Argentine made everyone believe. He wanted the whole city to know Leicester were not dead.
“Middle-aged men had his named printed on the back of shirts. The club shop ran out of A’s twice. He was only here for a season, but he made an impact that will stay with Leicester fans forever.”
Favourite moment: “It could be his equaliser against Manchester United in the 5-3 victory, his 20-yard volley against West Ham, his disagreeing with goal-line technology at West Brom, telling a ball boy to calm down, picking up a plastic bag and trying to put it in the referee’s pocket, that 30-yard blind first-time ball against Chelsea. They could all qualify.
“But he saved the best for last: his end-of-season bow. On the last game of the season against QPR, Cambiasso scored in the 5-1 win. He ran over to the adoring fans and stooped low, like a magician in front of his awestruck audience, to say thank you and goodnight for an unforgettable season.”
Leyton Orient: Steve Castle
(Central midfielder, 1997 and 2000-01)
Mat Roper (@Pandamonium1881)
“What makes a club cult hero? A local lad and tough-tackling, goalscoring midfield captain who came up through the youth ranks? Castle is that man.
“He came through the O's youth team and was every bit the fairy tale story. With family roots, Castle burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 18-year-old and gave 110% in every game.
“He could defend, he could attack, he could tackle (properly) and he could score, but his stock rose to astronomical proportions when he equalised from the penalty spot, in the 90th minute, against neighbours West Ham United in the FA Cup. It’s an overused word in football these days, but Castle was an absolute legend.”
Liverpool: Gary McAllister
(Central midfielder, 2000-02)
Chris McLoughlin (@TheKopMagazine)
“Cult heroes are generational, and at Liverpool we’ve had plenty. But the cult hero of my generation is McAllister.
“Signed by Gerard Houllier on a free transfer from Coventry in 2000 at the age of 35, Kopites wondered how he’d get a game ahead of Didi Hamann and Steven Gerrard, but McAllister proved to be a shrewd signing. His experience and dead-ball expertise made him the Reds’ key man as he scored six times in 10 games during a run-in that saw Liverpool win a unique treble of the League, FA and UEFA Cups, the latter in which he was man of the match.
“Indeed, Gary Macca became such a cult hero that Kopites still sing about his contributions – including a dramatic injury-time Merseyside derby winner at Everton from 35 yards out – in a hoedown like no other.”
Luton Town: Steve McNulty
Michael Patel (@MichaelP26)
“Signed when we were at our lowest ebb, McNulty’s signing was greeted with derision and disbelief, mainly due to his size.
“How wrong could we be? A solid debut was met with ironic cheers every time he touched the ball, and an instant cult hero was born. A commanding centre-half, McNulty continued to dumbfound his critics with his ability to read the game, fine positional sense and good technique.
“Steve is a real leader on and off the pitch, and his passion, desire and commitment shone through to every Luton fan. He was excellent during our promotion season and a series of individual awards followed. Most of all, Steve proved you can never judge a book by its cover.”
Manchester City: Pablo Zabaleta
Steven Allweis (@viewfromablue)
“The man from South America who plays like a fan from south Manchester, Zabaleta has turned himself from a solid, committed defender into a cult hero at City, the most popular star in a squad bursting with brilliance.
“There are far more talented players at the club, players far more likely to produce a moment of magic and change the pattern of a game, but there is nothing that appeals to the fans more than the sight of Zabaleta careering into a tackle as if his life depended on it. Passion. Spirit. Pride. He bleeds for the cause. Literally.”
Favourite moment: “Most players nowadays celebrate success with a selfie posted to social media. Not our Pablo. Whether in the middle of a post-match interview, or after a gruelling season when you’ve just lifted the Premier League trophy, he is all too happy to burst into a rendition of Status Quo. Zabaleta really does rock.”
Manchester United : Eric Cantona
Scott Patterson (Republik of Mancunia, @R_o_M)
“Manchester United fans have been spoilt with the number of world-class players they’ve seen wear their shirt. From Duncan Edwards to George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton to Bryan Robson, Ryan Giggs to Cristiano Ronaldo, and so on.
“Even when it comes to cult heroes, the players who aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but who make up for any flaws with their connection to the fanbase, United are also blessed. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Gary Neville and Patrice Evra were all adored.
“One player who managed to combine both of these attributes was Cantona, the catalyst behind ending the title drought which lasted 26 years. When he came to the club, everything changed. He inspired the team to success and then when he left, the young lads who had idolised him went on to totally dominate English football.
“Twelve years after leaving, he explained exactly what the club meant to him. ‘I still support United and always will,’he said. ‘I will die with them in my heart.’ Ooh ahh Cantona.”
Favourite moment: This.
- ONE-ON-ONE Eric Cantona: I didn’t punch him strong enough. I should have punched him harder
- PERFECT XI Eric Cantona's finest selection
Mansfield Town: Matt Rhead
“Where cult heroes are concerned, being the best player doesn’t matters. Heart, passion and fight, however, do. At 6ft 4in and around 18 stone, former JCB employee Rhead showed all of that.
“A relic of a player and almost unplayable at times, nobody had an easy time keeping him wrapped up. I, like many others, will fondly remember him for helping Mansfield gain promotion to League Two in 2012/13.
“Everyone at Mansfield will rave about Matt Green’s goal at Hereford on that Tuesday night which put us back in contention, but Rhead was the playmaker, beating his man in the air to set his strike partner through and send Stags fans into ecstasy. We will never forget… ‘Boing boing, Rheady Rheady!’”
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Middlesbrough: Massimo Maccarone
“After an in-depth discussion on the oneBoro Forum, it was Maccarone who brought back the unbelievable memories of Boro’s UEFA Cup run in 2006.
“Maccarone arrived at the Riverside Stadium in 2002 for a record £8.15m. After scoring twice on his second appearance the goals soon dried up. Netting nine in 34 in his first season and seven in 30 in his second, he was subsequently sent on loan to Parma and Siena.
“However, on his return he made a significant impact in Boro’s 2006 UEFA Cup run that instantly entered him into Boro folklore. In the quarter-finals, Maccarone’s 90th-minute goal helped overturn a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 win against Basel.
“The semi-final exploits against Steaua Bucharest were even more remarkable, as he came off the bench to score twice. The most memorable was his 90th-minute diving header, an act that drove Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to delirium. ‘Massimo? I love him until I die... it's unbelievable!’”
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Millwall: Terry Hurlock
(Central midfielder, 1987-90 and 1994)
“Let me take you back in time; back to a cold January night at Cold Blow Lane in 1990. Back to a different football world. There was no foreign money greasing around our great game back then, but lots of hard-faced men hewn from the working-class rock of our game.
“Men like Terry Hurlock of Millwall and Peter Reid of Manchester City – both of whom took to the field in a New Cross version of ‘Twilight of the Gods’ as the Lions faced City in an FA Cup third-round replay.
“Picture a loose midfield ball; a fifty-fifty some might call it. But for Hurlock and Reid there was no such thing. Only ‘their’ ball. No other way. The Richter Scale boom as both men hit the football at the same time echoed around The Old Den. How did the ball not burst? That, I still don’t know…”
Milton Keynes Dons: Jon Otsemobor
Mike Gurner (@TheMooCamp)
“Otsemobor (‘semi’ to his friends) may seem an odd choice for a Milton Keynes Dons terrace favourite. He made just 19 appearances for us and scored only two goals. He was a solid right-back, but not a player who was ever likely to stand out much.
“He seemed like a nice guy but was a standard journeyman footballer – we were his 10th club. So far, so unremarkable. That was until December 2, 2012, when in the 91st minute he scored the goal that tore up the script.
“Picture the scene. You’re playing a club that doesn’t like to acknowledge that you exist (even though they brought five times their usual away following). It’s the 90th minute, it’s 1-1, and they’ve just missed a great chance to win the game. You have a corner. After being cleared, the ball gets played back into the box and Otsemobor, his back to goal, puts out a cheeky heel. The ball loops off it and over the helpless keeper, into the net, and Stadium:MK erupts in scenes that surpass anything I’ve seen in 40 years of watching live football. Jon Otsemobor – the Heel of God.”
Morecambe: Michael Twiss
(Left midfielder, 2004-10)
“Twissy signed from Chester City in 2004 when we were still a relatively successful Conference outfit looking to push on and get into the the Football League. The much-admired midfielder was courted by then-Shrimps supremo Jim Harvey alongside four other big names who would hopefully fulfil our dreams that season.
“As it turned out the other four were empty vessels but Twissy? Well, he stole our hearts. An explosive talent, strong and quick with thighs like steel, he was an immediate fans’ favourite, scoring and supplying in equal measure that season. In a little over 200 games he scored 53 goals – not bad for a player who most of the time operated as a wide left midfielder.
“When a trainee at Manchester United, Peter Schmeichel claimed Twiss had the hardest shot he had ever faced. His finest moment came at the Abbey Stadium, Cambridge, where a superb performance saw him again score high into the net from another equally impossible angle in the first half, then finish off a sublime four-man move with a curling 30-yarder with the outside of his left foot.
“It all culminated with our 2007 Wembley win which gave us our long-awaited league status. The quiet and unassuming man had finally achieved what he’d been brought in to do.”
Newcastle: Philippe Albert
Andy Gurr (@andy_gurr)
“Albert was loved by the fans and seemed to be a striker stuck in a centre-back's body.
“Many times, even in open play, he would pop up from nowhere in the box. He only scored eight goals in his time at Newcastle, but all of them seemed to be great ones. Particularly notable were his outside-of-the-boot curler past stand-in Wimbledon keeper Vinnie Jones, and his brace away at Manchester City.
“But my favourite Albert moment has to be the icing on the cake from the 5-0 win against Manchester United in the 1996/97 season. The commentary from Andy Gray and Martin Tyler sticks in my mind to this day: “Lee, on a day where Newcastle would have taken 1-0... here they are, looking for number five with Philippe Albert... ooooooohhhhhh!'. Watching it still sends a shiver down my spine.”
Newport County: Kevin Moore
(Right winger, 1979-83)
Martyn Phillips (@MartynPhillips1)
“Moore is a man who will live long in the hearts of Newport County fans. He was before my time, but loved and renowned for his exploits in the 18-yard box, where he won more than his fair share of penalties.
“Moore was one of many County greats who took Newport into the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals in 1981, where they finally bowed out to Germany’s Carl Zeiss Jena.”
Northampton Town: Ian Sampson
Joe Ball (@jballie94)
“‘Sammo’ was a great centre back for the club and made over 400 appearances. Not many players stick around for that long but Sampson did and made a huge impact during his time at Sixfields.
“One moment that many Cobblers fans will remember is his winner in a 2-1 victory away at rivals Peterborough back in 2000. He also played a big part in the teams who reached two play-off finals, winning in 1997 against Swansea but losing in 1998 to Grimsby.
“Sampson will also be remembered for being in charge when Northampton knocked out Liverpool in the 2010 League Cup.”
Norwich: Grant Holt
Jack Reeve (@TalkNorwichCity)
“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind when I talk about our cult hero – the man who scored crucial goals in abundance and led us to back-to-back promotions against the odds.
“Holt is a man whose chant still rings around Carrow Road every matchday, and whose goals are still watched by Canaries all around the world. He remains the only player to have won Norwich's player-of-the-season award three years running, and deservedly so.
“In truth, he probably deserves a statue that all Norfolkians should bow down to every day for that hat-trick against Ipswich alone. Thinking about him brings back happy memories. What a man.”
Nottingham Forest: Stuart Pearce
Nick Miller (@NickMiller79)
“One of the first things you generally notice is the thighs. When the fashion for longer shorts arrived in English football in the early 1990s, Pearce eschewed the trend and instead had shorter shorts – specially made – to give his colossal thighs room to flex and breathe.
“Pearce was perhaps among the last real hardmen in English football; the sort of player who these days would suffer so many disciplinary problems that he'd be written off as a liability. He had a ferocious tackle and a Thor's hammer of a left foot, but the reason Nottingham Forest fans loved him – and still love him – is that intangible quality of 'getting it'.
“Pearce understood what supporters wanted, he empathised, and felt like one of us on the pitch. Clubs like Forest don’t hang onto players like Pearce anymore, so we'll probably never have another like him who was 'ours'. A shame, but boy we're glad we did have him.”
Favourite moment: “A few months after Italia 1990, Pearce had received some rather spicy abuse from fans across the country, notably when Forest travelled to Old Trafford that September.
“In the first half, Pearce lined up a free-kick from 30 yards out, swung that left boot and deposited the ball into the top corner. As enjoyable as the strike was, it was the speed with which the boos and jibes from the Stretford End turned to absolute silence that was most satisfying.
“A special mention too for this 'tackle', on Derby's Ted McMinn, that summed up the more 'robust' side of Pearce's game.”
Notts County: Lee Hughes
David Beighton (@DBeighton84)
“Hughes clearly won’t be a popular choice, and there were some at Meadow Lane who never took to him thanks to his past, but he is the most complete striker the club have had in generations.
“It's not just that he scored goals that endeared him to the fans, but the way he played the game too. The desire and effort he showed to get into goalscoring positions was like something most of us at Meadow Lane had never seen before; his constant mischief, winding-up of defenders and goalkeepers all executed with a beaming smile.
“And finally that daft dance of his, possibly the most contagious celebration ever seen at Meadow Lane.”
Favourite moment: “His first goal at Meadow Lane against Bradford on his debut. For five years we had strikers who looked like they were never going to score, but after a mistake by the defender he ran through, easily rounded the keeper and rolled the ball home. At this point I knew we had a striker.”
Oldham Athletic: Roger Palmer
Keith Gledhill (@kgquantum)
“Palmer is synonymous with the glory days of Oldham Athletic from the mid-’80s through to the early ‘90s. Signed by Jimmy Frizzell for a meagre fee from neighbours Manchester City in November 1980, he played over 450 times for the Latics, scoring 143 goals to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer.
“His elusive nature on the pitch – often arriving into the box unchecked to poach a vital goal – was reflected off it: his whereabouts were often speculated about, and many a tale was told of trying to find him. Indeed, 20 years after his playing career finished, the club struggled to make contact with Roger to invite him back on a special matchday. Thankfully he was found, presented on the pitch at half-time to a hero's welcome and serenaded with a vociferous rendition of the favourite terrace chant: 'Oooohhhh Roger Palmer'.
“His crowning glory was being part of the team that won the Second Division title in such dramatic fashion on the last day of the 1990/91 season, and it was fitting that his testimonial match against Manchester City was played two days later to a capacity crowd. Of course, Roger scored in a 3-2 victory.”
Oxford United: Joey Beauchamp
(Left midfielder, 1989-2004 and 1995-2002)
Tony Fallows (@TonyFallows)
“Ask any football fan about Beauchamp and the chances are they'll tell you about one of West Ham's greatest transfer flops – the young, homesick lad playing his football in London, a tale of unfulfilled potential to be sneered at.
“Ask any Oxford United fan about Beauchamp and you’ll hear about one of the finest players to ever pull on the yellow shirt. True, Joey could have played at a higher level, but he was an Oxford boy and all he ever wanted was to play for his beloved Oxford United.
“Who could sneer at that? His short-lived exile as West Ham’s first £1m player (a move Beauchamp was forced into to save the cash-strapped Us from administration) ended with a shock transfer to Oxford’s bitter rivals Swindon Town, in a deal worth £800k. Unsurprisingly, Beauchamp never settled at Swindon and before long he was back at Oxford – for a cut-price £75k.”
Favourite moment: “Beauchamp didn’t take long to recapture his form, and later that same season he netted officially the best goal ever scored at the historic Manor Ground to overcome promotion rivals Blackpool. The Us ended the season promoted to Division One (the Championship), pipping Blackpool to the post by one point.”
Peterborough: George Boyd
Chris Dowsett (@ChrisDowsett17)
“The White Pele, with his flowing locks, signed from Stevenage in 2007, scoring 60 goals from the wing in a Posh career spanning just shy of 300 games. Boyd was a player who fans love: a player who ran himself up and down and into the ground, but also possessed more skills than a magician at a six year-old’s party.
“Boyd had many crowning moments in Posh blue; a memorable 35-yard volley against Boston, a hat-trick in an 8-2 drubbing of Accrington, and the single-handed demolition of Millwall in his final Posh appearance. But his jewel in the piece was saved for Huddersfield, when he produced a stunner from the halfway line in the Championship.”
Plymouth Argyle: Tommy Tynan
(Striker, 1983-85 and 1986-90)
“For fans of a certain vintage, Plymouth and Tynan go together like word association. He had three spells in green and was voted into Plymouth’s Team of Century. One of the all-time greats, he scored 145 goals in 310 games, was part of the team that reached the 1984 FA Cup semi-final, was a three-time player of the year and in 1984/85 won the Third Division Golden Boot. He was Argyle’s top scorer in six different seasons.
“He actually began his career under Bill Shankly at local club Liverpool, after winning a local newspaper talent competition. He didn’t make an Anfield bow, though, and played for Swansea, Dallas Tornado, Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City before joining Newport County, forming a dynamic partnership with John Aldridge. His goalscoring record led to his move to Argyle in 1983 and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Favourite moment: “A bullet header from a powerfully hit Kevin Hodges cross in a 4-0 promotion-winning game against Bristol City in front of 20,000 at Home Park in April 1986.”
Port Vale: Sam Bennion
(Left-back (ish), 1894)
Rob Fielding (@onevalefan)
“This is the story of ‘Mr Port Vale’. During a lifetime with the Valiants, Bennion was fan, official, player, manager, chairman and club saviour.
“Bennion had supported the fledgling club as a boy and soon got a job as a club official. In 1894, he even made an appearance for the first team. After a player missed the train, Vale were a man down so Sam slotted in as left-back in a 2-2 draw at Oldham.
“In 1906, he added another string to his bow as he was appointed manager – a cost-cutting measure by cash-strapped Vale who folded a year later. But Bennion soon came to Vale’s rescue. He organised a consortium of businessmen to invest in the club and became the club chairman in 1908.
“Sam was in the Vale boardroom until 1933 – just eight years before his death in 1941. It’s unlikely that Port Vale or any other club will see his like again.”
Portsmouth: Robert Prosinecki
Brendon Bone (@brendonvbone)
“It will always be Robert Prosinecki. We signed the god-like genius Croatian in 2001, and this was in no small part due to his relationship with then-owner Milan Mandaric.
“Managed by Graham Rix, Prosinecki led a team of misfits and bargain buys – including Peter Crouch – to a usual lower-half table Second Division finish, but along the way the mercurial chain-smoker provided us with some of our greatest memories as Pompey fans.
“The one that will always stick in the mind was his exceptional hat-trick against Barnsley that put us 4-2 ahead, a scoreline that stood until six minutes from time when we still managed to snatch a 4-4 draw.
“Prosinecki never talked much – he let his football do the talking. But in that one crazy season, we all fell in love with the mad Croat.”
REMEMBERED Robert Prosinecki, the surprise superstar of Fratton Park
Preston: Sean Gregan
Oliver Dawes (@ClarkeBackPost)
“Undoubtedly one of Preston's finest signings of the last 20 years, Gregan remains a hero to North End fans everywhere; his Wikipedia page even labels him 'God' off the back of his spell at Deepdale.
“A born leader snapped up from Darlington in 1996, Gregan bossed every game he played regardless of whether he was in defence or midfield, with opposition fans often dreading the thought of facing the robust lynchpin of Gary Peters' or David Moyes' sides. Supporters quickly embraced his no-nonsense, never-say-die attitude before seeing him leave for a shot in the Premier League with West Brom in 2002. Few players since have been able to match his hero status at Deepdale.
“Whether in the third or the second tier, Gregan was North End's inspiration, and you could always guarantee that he would have the biggest heart, the biggest mouth – and the biggest backside – every time he was on the pitch in Preston's famous lilywhite shirt.”
Favourite moment: “None summed up Gregan's influence better than his penalty in the 2001 Division One Play-Off Semi-Final shootout against Birmingham. When North End needed to keep their calm and book their place in the final, Gregan confidently ran up to hammer his penalty into the roof of the net before rallying the crowd. The running joke among Preston fans is that if the net wasn't there, that ball would still be travelling.”
QPR: Stan Bowles
Clive Whittingham (@Loftforwords)
“QPR’s greatest-ever team was beaten to what would have been the club’s only ever league title by Liverpool in 1975/76 – a campaign billed by the BBC’s Match of the 70’s series as a dramatic fight to the death between Liverpool and Manchester United.
“Stan Bowles was the talismanic leader in that team, with the likes of Gerry Francis and Dave Thomas almost as wonderful behind him. He scored 97 goals in 315 appearances for us between 1972 and 1980, setting a record for goals scored by a British player in a single European campaign with 10 in our run to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 76/77.
“But it’s not just the goals that make him QPR’s ultimate cult hero, nor the oft-touted stories about him regularly being seen in the bookies next to the ground in his full kit 10 minutes before kick-off. Or going across to take throw-ins so he could ask people in the stands with radios for the racing results.
“It was the swagger and style he played with, in an era of heavy pitches and even heavier tackles; the shimmies, jinks and brashness. We’ve had similar maverick talents in that position before and since – Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie, Roy Wegerle, Adel Taarabt – but Stan was a one off, on and off the pitch.
“The absolute genius of the man, coupled with his flawed personality, made him the very epitome of what QPR were at the time and would dearly love to be again.”
Sadly, Stan has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s recently and his family and the club are raising funds for his care, and Alzheimer’s charities. Our 4-2 win against Rotherham earlier this season was ‘Stan Bowles Day’. He received a rapturous reception on the pitch at half time, and was the last one to leave the Crown and Sceptre that evening.
Reading: Robin Friday
Dan Wimbush (@TheTilehurstEnd)
“We decided to open this up to our readers, and unsurprisingly Friday topped the vote. Why? Well that’s fairly easy to understand: after all, how many fourth-tier players get a song written about them, appear on an album cover, have a book written about them and a feature film in the works?
“Friday was a maverick, a man whose legacy has lived on despite spending just over two years at the club 40 years ago. Robin drank, smoked and joked his way into the hearts of Reading fans but he was more than just a cult hero off the field, with the forward twice scooping player-of-the-year honours and leading our goalscoring charts in both of his seasons at Elm Park – the last of which ended with a promotion out of Division Four.
“With the modern fan considering a social media spat to be edgy, Robin went about 100 steps beyond that when a dispute with Mark Lawrenson reportedly ended in the then-Cardiff striker using Lawro’s kitbag as a toilet.
“Sadly his rock ’n’ roll lifestyle prevented Friday from ever really reaching his full potential, and he lost his life aged just 38. Still, his legacy lives on and he’ll never be forgotten by Reading fans.”
RECOMMENDED Robin Friday: The greatest player you never saw
Favourite moment: “Only 3,000-odd may have been in the crowd but so many people tell this story that you’d have thought 30,000 were packed into Elm Park. It’s 1976 against Tranmere when right-back Gary Peters hits a high diagonal ball to Friday, who leaps in the air to cushion the ball. He’s about 30 yards out, but duly hits the ball over his own shoulder and into the top corner.
“The goal was so good that even a man who’d refereed in two World Cups, Clive Thomas, hailed it as the best he’d ever seen. After hearing that from Thomas, Friday replied: ‘Really? You should come down here more often, I do that every week.’ Sadly there’s no video, but here’s a tribute.”
Rochdale: Grant Holt
(Striker, 2004-06, 2016-present)
Dave Sweetmore (@davesweetmore)
“Holt it this generation’s ultimate dale hero. He worked his way up the leagues from non-league to Premier League, with his first Dale stint back in 2004 helping him make his mark.
“The striker has stayed in our hearts and minds ever since. So when last month the totally unexpected news broke that Holty had returned to Spotland until the end of the season, the whole club was given a massive lift – one I don't think any other player could have brought.
“In his two-year stint with the club over a decade ago, Holt scored 34 times in 75 appearances, and since he's been back his substitute appearances so far have been game-changers. None more so, though, than last Saturday’s 2-0 win against Sheffield United, where he scored his first goal since returning.”
Rotherham: Adam Le Fondre
Jonathan Elston (@JonathanElston)
“Fans always love a striker, and with Le Fondre we had one of the most natural finishers to ever pull on a Rotherham United shirt. When he joined we were in the Football League’s basement and our team was filled with nearly-men and triers.
“His eye for goal and technical ability made him stand out. In the 2009/10 season he scored 25 goals which took us to the play-off final, which we then promptly lost to Dagenham & Redbridge (I did say we were dross).
“Despite being the standout player and attracting interest from bigger clubs, he didn’t engineer a move but instead played another full season in which he scored 29 goals. The club still finished ninth but, rather than force himself away, Le Fondre waited for the club to sell him instead. All of these elements meant that he will always be a fan favourite.”
Favourite moment: “This is one of my favourite Le Fondre moments simply because Rotherham in general don’t score goals as technically difficult as this – and especially at that time.”
Skip to 2:36
Scunthorpe: Alex Calvo Garcia
(Attacking midfielder, 1996-2004)
Matt Blanchard (@ironbru_net)
“Alejandro Calvo Garcia flew into Manchester in September 1996 without a word of English. He left in 2004 a Scunthorpe United legend; an undisputed cult hero.
“On his arrival, the former Real Sociedad youngster’s grasp of the English language was so limited that he didn’t understand he was playing for Scunthorpe’s reserve side. He was also unable to tell the club his preferred position in midfield. The situation was comical.
“The club believed Alex to be a centre-forward and he was offered a one-year deal by manager Mick Buxton, largely due to the fact that the team were misfiring in front of goal. However, it became quite clear that this was not the case. He flopped in the role; so much so that former goalkeeper Tommy Evans claimed the players thought they had signed "the least skilful Spanish player in the world”.
“To Garcia’s relief, future boss Brian Laws asked one of the directors’ daughters to talk with the young Spaniard. She could speak a little Spanish and it was the first time he had spoken to anyone since his arrival in England. Alex was able to tell Laws that he was more of an attacking midfielder, and from that moment he never looked back.
“Off the field, García began to teach himself English by immersing himself in the Daily Star. He settled in the town with his long-term partner and fell in love with the town and its people.
“After retiring he wrote a book about his days with Scunthorpe, called Scunthorpe hasta la muerte ("Scunthorpe until I die”). The title tells you everything you need to know. Legends Gaizka Mendieta and Juninho turned out as thousands of fans paid tribute in a special benefit match for the frizzy-haired Spaniard. The unlikely yet likeable hero, who so very nearly got away.”
Favourite moment: “A looping header against Leyton Orient which fired the Iron to play-off glory at Wembley in May 1999, cemented his cult status. His story and the famous Wembley goal meant the town of Scunthorpe take him in as one of their own. No player that has ever pulled on the claret and blue has had as special a connection with the Iron fans.”
Sheffield United: Bob Booker
Ian Rands (@unitedite)
“When Dave Bassett signed Booker from Brentford, he was hardly a name to fill up the senses of Blades fans. Booker had played little football following an 18-month absence with a serious injury, and at the time was mulling over a testimonial offer from the Bees and investigating the possibility of setting up a window cleaning business.
“The cumbersome player failed to impress in his early Blades performances, and fans were soon on his back. But resilient and mentally strong, he plugged away and won fans over with his heart, commitment and effort.
“Booker became an integral part of the side that won back-to-back promotions to the top flight, and captained the side at Leicester on the final day of the 1989/90 season, when a 5-2 victory sealed promotion. He played just over a season in the top flight, scoring some vital goals, and was a real man of the people. Once he took up a fan’s offer of tea at his house by turning up on the doorstep one night for meat and potato pie.”
Sheffield Wednesday: David Hirst
Laura Jones (@YICETOR)
“‘It’s not a question of who will replace Lineker, but who will partner David Hirst.’ This quote by then-England manager Bobby Robson makes Sheffield Wednesday fans both proud and devastated at the same time. It highlighted what might have been for this Owls hero if he’d not been blighted by injury.
“Hirst was the ultimate striker; versatile, strong, with frightening acceleration and a powerful shot. He had it all. He signed from Barnsley in 1986, played 294 times and scored 106 goals for Wednesday.
“Hirsty is a lasting hero at Hillsborough because he was part of a golden era in the ’90s and yet he was always approachable. As a local lad he always felt like one of the fans, and not just a player. Courted by Alex Ferguson, lauded by Bobby Robson and adored by Owls fans. He will always be one of the Hillsborough greats.”
Favourite moment: “His versatility was demonstrated in the four goals he scored in the 5-1 win over Hull in 1990. His first was a stunning volley on the turn, the second an instinctive poacher’s goal, the third from a halfway line run, and his fourth an easy tap in.”
Shrewsbury Town: Jermaine Grandison
Andrew Greenway (@B_and_A_Fanzine)
“We’ve had Dean Spink, Steve Anthrobus, Mickey Brown, Arthur Rowley... but Jermaine ‘Grando’ Grandison is an enigma. He is talented, yet still yet to realise his full potential. Most importantly, he is full of character and passion for the club having been with us for six years.
“He is always smiling off the pitch, but offers a cold-blooded stare on it. He’s a 6ft 4in gangly centre-back-cum-right-back who bombs down the right wing performing step-overs at any given opportunity.
“In an era where cult heroes are lacking, ‘J-Money’ is a refreshing modern breed who matches his likability off the pitch with his determination on it.”
Favourite moment: “Well, there are a few. There was the time he grabbed a microphone and sun during our on-pitch promotion party in 2012. There was his driving, dribbling, mazy goal (with step-overs) against Notts County in League One the following season. And then another Messi-esque goal against Morecambe in 2015. Epic.”
Southampton: Mark Dennis
Nick Illingsworth (@theuglyinside)
“It’d be easy to say Matt Le Tissier, but that would be taking the easy way out. Le God is arguably the most popular player, but perhaps the first true Cult Hero was Mark Dennis in 1983.
“This was the era of the ‘casual’, and Dennis – or Psycho, as he became known long before Stuart Pearce was a thing – looked like the lads on the terraces. He had the same haircut and a bad-boy reputation from his time at Birmingham City.
“His swashbuckling early appearances at left-back quickly endeared him to all sections of the Saints support, although the younger element didn't just love him as a player – they identified with him. He was one of us, even though he was born in Streatham.
“Dennis should have played for England. He was the best left-back in the country between 1984 and 86, defending with gusto and mastering the role of an overlapping full-back. He left in 1987 after only 129 games, with off-field stories overshadowing his departure. He continues to live locally 30 years after he left the club and still remains a cult hero to Saints fans.”
Favourite moment: “His cult status was secured within months of joining in a volatile fourth-round FA Cup tie at Portsmouth in January 1984. With the score at 0-0 and 90 minutes already up, Mark was felled by a coin thrown from the crowd.
“He went down to get treatment, and as he got up seemed to wink at the Saints fans packed behind the goal as the Pompey supporters behind him hurled abuse. He took a throw-in, and in the time added on for the incident, up popped Steve Moran to win the game for Saints.”
Southend: Ian Benjamin
Liam Ager (@realliamager)
“Who put the ball in the Bury net? Benjamin’s name still rings around Roots Hall 25 years after his deciding goal in a 1-0 win at Gigg Lane in May 1991.
“Last year Benji’s goal was voted by fans as the most important goal in the club’s history (with over 50% of the vote), as it meant that Southend were promoted to the second tier for the first time. Promotions are won over nine months and not 90 minutes, but there is always something magical about achieving something on the final day of the season and football fans will always remember those who made the difference.
“Southend remained in the old Second Division for six seasons, with many fans seeing Benjamin’s goal as a definitive moment in the club’s history. The goal was unremarkable from a striker with an unremarkable scoring record, but as the ball hit the back of the net Benjamin was on his arse and the visiting supporters in dreamland.”
Skip to 00:20
Stevenage: Mark Roberts
(Centre-back, 2008 and 2009-13)
Pete from @boroguide
“Chelsea fans can wax lyrical about John Terry being 'Captain, Leader, Legend' all they want, but he doesn't even come close to matching the impact that Mark Roberts had during his time at Stevenage. It's no coincidence that Boro's rise towards the top of League One came during the time that Robbo was the mainstay of our defence.
“Robbo led by example, the vanguard of our march into the promised land of the Football League and up further still. Hell, he's even been our caretaker gaffer on two separate occasions – and not many managers can say they’ve started off with a 5-1 win away from home.
“Quite simply, Robbo was (and still is) the physical embodiment of what that Stevenage side were all about. And my word how we've missed it since.”
Favourite moment: “Rochdale 1-5 Stevenage, 14 January 2012. After overseeing the club's rise into League One, Graham Westley left for Preston and Boro had to somehow find a replacement who could maintain that momentum. We had no idea what our future had in store, but any fears were swept away at Spotland under Robbo's management.”
Stoke: Ricardo Fuller
Scott Richards (@ScottRichardss)
“Stoke were eating scraps and suffering mid-table mediocrity in the Championship before Fuller joined the Potters for a measly £500,000 in 2006. But the Jamaican was part of a core group of players that galvanised the club and allowed us to finally dine at the top table.
“Fuller was a magician and a genius who dazzled opposing defenders. He was a maverick who at times was unplayable. Whether it was receiving his marching orders for slapping his captain, or curling one into a rippling Boothen End net, nobody knew what Fuller what do next which kept us gripped to our seats.
“He was mercurial, enigmatic and a sublime striker who had the ability to carry us over the line, win a game and give us Potters memories that will live forever. Ricardo Fuller, City’s No.10…”
Favourite moment: “The Ricky Villa-esque goal against West Ham stands out, but for me nothing beats his jaw-dropping goal against rivals Aston Villa in our opening Premier League game.
“Taking the ball with his back to goal, Fuller had it all to do. Most players would have laid it off to support and gone for the one-two – but Ricardo wasn’t a ‘normal player’. His movement was like Bergkamp’s versus Newcastle. He flicked and spun around a stranded Martin Laursen before smashing the ball past Brad Friedel from a ridiculous angle. A tremendous goal.”
Sunderland: Nyron Nosworthy
Gavin from @RokerReport
“When Sunderland signed Nosworthy – a right-back who’d had a fledgling career in the lower leagues – few could have envisioned that he’d go on to play over 100 games for the club, most notably as a centre-half under Roy Keane.
“What Nyron lacked in technique, he more than made up for in heart. His funny name and Cruyff turns inside his own penalty area strangely made Sunderland fans warm to him, and thus he was voted the 2005/06 Fans’ Player of the Season.
“Nyron was the ultimate over-achiever, and his obscene work rate often masked his limited ability as a footballer.”
Favourite moment: “I can’t mention Nyron without this, arguably his defining moment as a Sunderland player – dancing and singing with the fans after we won promotion to the Premier League away at Luton. Ellis Short – I’m calling you out. Build a Nyron statue, and build it now.”
Swansea: Lee Trundle
Dan Barnett (@We_R_PL)
“Of players in recent memory, Ashley Williams, Garry Monk and Leon Britton all have strong claims (with Ferrie Bodde perhaps most befitting the cult hero moniker). But for me it has to be Lee Trundle, who embodies what football is meant to be about – fun.
“Swans fans have been fortunate in recent years with a play-off win, cup final and European nights, but Trundle was the kind of player you looked forward to watching regardless of the match.
“One of his best games was arguably a table-topping clash vs Southend in 2005 when he ran the show, and there are numerous showreels of his skills online, but the best single moment was possibly his brilliant goal in the JPT against Carlisle.
“If his on-field displays weren’t enough to love him for, he’s now back at the club as an ambassador and rarely a day goes by where he’s not pictured at a school or charity event.”
Swindon: Shaun Taylor
Joe Bennett (@bennettjp)
“Shaun Taylor. A tough-tackling, goalscoring, no-nonsense, 'proper centre-half'. Fearless.
“Was he the greatest player we've ever had? No, probably not. But have we ever had a captain like Taylor? No. The man was willing to put his head in places that some wouldn't risk their feet.
“'Ooh Shaun Taylor' would ring round the Country Ground as soon as we'd have a corner, and if Taylor's head met one, invariably the ball ended up in the back of the net. His goal at Wembley in 1993 was probably easier to volley in, but Taylor decided to dive head first into the onrushing keeper to put us 3-0 up as we won promotion to the Premier League (eventually beating Leicester 4-3). What a day, what a man. Fans long for commitment like his.”
Skip to 2:45
Tottenham: Ledley King
Tom Hayward (@TheTottenhamWay)
“It’s only the most unfortunate circumstances that stopped King becoming just another player who left when they finally outgrew Spurs. We all know why he spent his entire career at Tottenham, but it doesn’t stop us being any less grateful that he did.
“His name is still sung, his performances are still the benchmark for any centre-back since, and he gave us one of the best last-ditch tackles the Premier League has ever seen.
“King was certainly good enough for the biggest stage, but his dodgy knee meant he had to make do with the local theatre.”
RECOMMENDED Ledley King: One-on-One
Walsall: Adrian Viveash
Gilbert Alsop (@TheGilbertAlsop)
“At the start of every game, Viveash would sprint out the tunnel with a dead-eyed stare, revealing the mixture of commitment and psychopathy that make him Walsall’s cult hero.
“In his five years at the club he gained one promotion and two player-of-the-season awards, and showed a total dedication to Walsall that no one else has matched. When we conceded a goal he would beat the ground with frustration and react like his best mate had ran off with his wife. Clean sheets and goals were celebrated with an intensity that showed us a player playing for the club we love cared for it as much as we did.
“When Aida clapped the fans goodbye in his final appearance, the tears in his eyes were matched by many Walsall fans. What a man!”
Favourite moment: “His fists clenched, eyes-popping celebration after scoring the winner against Sheffield United – this, following stitches in his head and coming back on with a bandage.”
Watford: Lloyd Doyley
Mike Parkin (@WatfordPodcast)
“I’ll be honest and say from the outset that he wasn’t always a hero in our household. I even have to admit that, many years ago, I presented his autograph to my brother as a ‘joke’ Christmas present, such was my younger sibling’s lack of enthusiasm for defender Doyley. Forgive us, for now we realise we have sinned.
“Lloyd was released by Watford at the end of last season having made a total of 443 appearances for the Hornets. Early in his career, most supporters would have suggested he’d be lucky to forge a career spanning 443 minutes. He was ungainly and looked almost permanently uncomfortable. Fans would fidget in their seats when he was on the ball, convinced a mistake was on the horizon. The thing was, though, that mistake very, very rarely materialised.
“I’m not sure exactly when the penny dropped, but it eventually became evident that Doyley was actually an extraordinary defender. Virtually impossible to get past, Lloyd was a vital part of the team for well over a decade. The Hornets’ fortunes would fluctuate wildly during his career, but his performances never suffered. Hard working, diligent, committed and yes, talented.
“It hasn’t always been the Premier League, multi-million pound transfers and Spanish head coaches at Vicarage Road, and Lloyd was there for us when we needed him most. He’s a true cult hero.”
Favourite moment(s): “Lloyd’s Watford career can probably best be summed up by two. His debut came in September 2001 under Gianluca Vialli, during a home fixture with Birmingham City. Doyley was to replace the injured South African Pierre Issa, but as he prepared to enter the pitch he will have heard a huge roar from the crowd. A goal? No. The injured Issa had been tipped from his stretcher; the hapless bearers slipping as they carried him round the pitch perimeter.
“This extraordinary start to his career was matched only by events of December 7, 2009. It was a home fixture against QPR and marked Lloyd’s 269th appearance. That’s his 269th appearance without not only scoring, but ever coming close. Those that were there will never forget it – Doyley finally breaking his duck with a diving header. Obviously.”
(Here is the celebratory song created by the From the Rookery End podcast; a reworking of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe. It shouldn’t work, but just like Lloyd himself, it gets the job done)
West Brom: Bob Taylor
(Striker, 1992-98 and 2000-03)
Nathan Carr (@BaggiesGalore)
“Robert Taylor is one of the greatest strikers to have ever donned the West Brom shirt. Affectionately known as ‘Superbob’ by Albion fans, he scored an incredible 113 goals in 256 league appearances across two spells with the club.
“Initially brought in by manager Bobby Gould, Taylor formed a prolific striking partnership with Andy Hunt and the pair played an influential part in Albion’s victory over Port Vale in the 1993 Division Two Play-Off Final.
“He wasn’t the most technically talented player on the pitch, but he stood out for his tremendous work ethic, strong aerial threat and knack of being in the right place at the right time. His goals, all-round commitment and humble personality were what made him such a popular terrace favourite.”
Favourite moment: “Superbob scored plenty of goals for the Baggies, but perhaps his most memorable came against Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2001/02 campaign. Darren Moore sent us into the lead before Bob smashed home from close range for 2-0. It was such a simple yet important finish and will forever go down in West Brom folklore.”
West Ham: Paolo Di Canio
Gordon Thrower (@kumbdotcom)
“Cult heroes fall into two categories: often they are limited players who inexplicably get taken to heart by the crowd. Others marry talent to a personality that strikes a chord with the faithful.
“Paolo Di Canio was one of the latter. He was a player whose talent was so rare that even the unexplained long-term ‘injury’ that mysteriously cleared up the second Glenn Roeder wasn’t picking the team was forgiven by the faithful.
“It’s often said that there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and to be honest I’m still not quite sure which side of that line Di Canio fell. However, we love a talented player at the Boleyn and we’re also quite fond of a nutter, so Di Canio ticks all of the boxes. Just don’t let him manage your side!”
RECOMMENDED Paolo Di Canio: One-on-One
Favourite moment: “The Wimbledon goal. I can still hear the extra cheer from the crowd as the replay came up on the big screen!”
Wigan: Bobby Campbell
This Northern Soul (@TNS_WAFC)
“I grew up as a Latics fan listening to myths and legends of Harry Lyon, the big No.9 who helped the club dominate non-league football throughout the 1960s. Then, as a 15-year-old, me and my mates got our very own No.9 to look up to.
“Robert ‘Bobby’ McFaul Campbell was a man who would run through brick walls just because they were there, despite looking like he needed a fag if he had to break into so much as a jog. He was a man who could tell an opposition defender everything he wanted to in a glare, which was a good job because they’d not be able to make head nor tail of his impenetrable Irish accent.
“He scored goals and helped Wigan to the FA Cup quarter-finals and play-offs in his first season. What more could you want from your cult hero?”
Favourite moment: “Apart from that cup run, Campbell will go down in Latics legend because of his hat-trick against bitter rivals Bolton in a 1987 second-leg League Cup tie at Burnden Park. The 3-1 win turn around the 3-2 lead they had walked away from Springfield Park with.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Matt Murray
James Fielden (@James_Fielden)
“Despite only making 100 appearances for Wolves during his injury-blighted career, Murray was a firm favourite with the Molineux crowd and is remembered as one of their greatest-ever goalkeepers.
“He joined Wolves aged nine, but only played regularly in two senior seasons because of numerous long-term injuries. A huge presence in goal, 6ft 5in Murray had a great command of his penalty area and his huge frame made him incredibly hard to beat for opposition strikers. Fans were in awe week after week as he made breathtaking saves and demonstrated his monstrous throw.
“He won five caps for England U21s having also been picked for the 16s, 18s and 20s. Mick McCarthy, Wolves manager when Murray sadly retired aged 29, remarked that he ‘would have been one of the England regulars’.
“Former team-mate Paul Ince said: ‘In all my time in football I have never seen anyone as dedicated to being a world-class goalkeeper. He had all the attributes to be England’s No.1 one and he would have gone on to be world class but for the setbacks he suffered.’
Favourite moment: “It came in the most famous game in Wolves’ recent history, as they beat Sheffield United 3-0 in the 2003/04 Division One Play-Off Final. Wolves scored three first-half goals but Murray denied the Blades a way back into the game as he saved Michael Brown’s penalty early in the second half. Other crucial saves followed and 22-year-old Murray won the man-of-the-match award as Wolves returned to the top tier of English football for the first time in 19 years.”
Skip to 4:37
Wycombe Wanderers: Dave Carroll
Phil Slatter (@phil_slatter)
“In midfielder Carroll’s first full season with Wycombe, he played on a muddy non-league slope at Loakes Park. In his last full season, he played in an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.
“In over 13 years with the Chairboys, Carroll played three times at Wembley and scored over 100 goals. He played a key part in so many iconic moments, including Wycombe’s last-ever goal as a non-league club in the 1993 FA Trophy Final, a brace in the 1994 Division Three Play-Off Final, an equaliser in Wycombe’s most dramatic ever game against Wimbledon in an FA Cup fifth-round replay and a free-kick at Wrexham that had Soccer AM labelling him ‘better than Pele’.
“An exaggeration, maybe, but to Wanderers he was a true saviour at times – the fans named nicknamed him ‘Jesus’. With seemingly effortless ability and an absolute wand of a right foot, he is a cult hero and club legend.”
Favourite moment: “With Wycombe 3-2 up against Preston in the 1994 Division Three Play-Off Final, Carroll picked the ball up in his own half and carried it all the way to the edge of the area. The defenders couldn’t get near him, and eventually Carroll was able to cut back inside onto his favoured right foot and fire in from the edge of the area to seal a 4-2 win and promotion.”
Skip to 1:08
Yeovil Town: Terry Skiverton
Ben Barrett (@benbarrett10)
“It takes a special someone to play in the middle of nowhere for arguably the most unglamorous side the in the league, but it takes someone extra special to really touch the fans' hearts.
“The recent history is broken up into two eras: non-league pre-2003, and league football since. But only one man transcends both – and that’s Skiverton
“He joined us in 1999, helped oversee a cup win and a decade of success as a player, has managed us twice and is still on the books as No.2 to Darren Way (who is probably worthy of his own nomination in this department).
“A simple, no-nonsense defender who bled green and white, his goals came at the most important times, his leadership guided all those around him, and as he cried at Wembley following promotion in 2013, everyone in the ground cried with him.”
York City: Paul Aimson
(Striker, 1964-66 and 1969-73)
Chris Forth (@YCFCSouth)
“My earliest York City memories are terrace wags shouting ‘You’re not as good as Paul Aimson’ as we endured three successive re-election campaigns in the late 1960s. Aimson, a tall, cultured, ginger-haired centre-forward, had struck 30 goals as we were promoted in 1965. He was powerful in the air and good with both feet. What more could you want?
“Aimson left in 1966 and returned in 1969. A season later, his 31 goals steered us to promotion. In mid-table at Christmas, an epic cup tie with high-flying Southampton was followed by 10 wins in 11 games (Aimson scored in 10) and promotion.
“There are few players any club will sign twice and sell for a higher fee both times. Singlehandedly, he replaced the MacDougall-Boyer partnership at York and then at Bournemouth when he finally left City in 1973.”
Favourite moment: “Southampton, who were to finish the season seventh in Division One and had Ron Davies and Mick Channon up front, visited York in an FA Cup fourth-round game in January 1971. In those days, the FA Cup was something special – many supporters still spoke about our 1955 semi-final.
“After a quiet first half, the game lit up in the final quarter. Southampton raced into a two-goal lead but with about 12 minutes to go, York pulled one back. Yet hopes of a draw quickly evaporated as Southampton restored their healthy advantage.
“With about three minutes left, Aimson out-jumped the defence to knock down for Dick Hewitt to blast home from close range. Then, with Southampton defending desperately, another cross from the right found Aimson whose powerful header earned City a well-deserved equaliser.”
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