The 10 greatest seasons by players newly promoted to the Premier League
Many will be expecting Ryan Sessegnon and Ruben Neves to make a big impression on the Premier League after dominating games in the Championship last year. Neither has any experience of playing in the top flight of English football but that doesn’t have to be any barrier to success.
None of these 10 players were new signings; all earned their chance to impress having won promotion the previous year and went on to have a major impact on their clubs’ fortunes in the Premier League. There’s surprisingly prolific goalscorers, lower-league journeymen who eventually made the step up and discarded players who had a point to prove.
John Beresford (Newcastle, 1993/94)
Andy Cole was the undoubted star turn of Kevin Keegan’s newly-promoted Newcastle side, scoring 34 goals as the Magpies finished third in the table – but a single appearance in the First Division for Arsenal three years earlier rules him out of contention for a place in this list. John Beresford might not have grabbed as many headlines but he was still a key component in the rise of the free-scoring ‘Entertainers’.
An attack-minded left-back who delivered plenty of crosses for Cole, Peter Beardsley and others to feed off, Beresford started 35 games for Newcastle as they qualified for the UEFA Cup. The former Barnsley and Portsmouth man also earned the first of two England B caps towards the end of the season, although he was unable to break into the full senior squad.
Muzzy Izzet (Leicester, 1996/97)
Full of running, a good technician and an excellent distributor of the ball, Muzzy Izzet was a big part of Leicester’s success under Martin O’Neill. Unable to make the grade at Chelsea, he was loaned out to the Foxes during their promotion-winning season, making the move permanent for £800,000.
It proved a bargain. The London-born midfielder, who went on to represent Turkey in the 2002 World Cup, forged a great understanding with the combative Neil Lennon as Leicester finished in the top half of the table on their return to the Premier League. Izzet made 34 league starts and scored three goals, one a cracking long-range strike away to Middlesbrough, as well as contributing to the club’s League Cup final win against the same opponents.
Kevin Phillips (Sunderland, 1999/2000)
The archetypal example of a promoted player picking up where they left off from the previous season. A clever and instinctive striker, Kevin Phillips had scored 23 goals in 26 games to take Sunderland to the First Division title despite missing four months of action through injury. He even earned an England debut along the way.
Released by Southampton as a trainee, Phillips impressed at every stage on his journey back to the top, starting in non-League with Baldock Town. Doubts persisted despite his subsequent rise, however, and Sky Sports pundit Rodney Marsh infamously predicted that he would struggle to score more than five goals in the Premier League.
Phillips had notched that many by the end of August and finished the season with 30 goals and the European Golden Shoe. Big bids from Arsenal and Aston Villa followed but he chose to stay put for another three years.
Marcus Stewart (Ipswich, 2000/01)
Following hot on Kevin Phillips’ heels was Marcus Stewart, another striker who’d worked his way up from the lower leagues and retained his goalscoring touch when he reached the top level. There were concerns that Stewart wouldn’t cope with the physical demands of the Premier League as it took him five games to get off the mark, but from then on he never looked back.
The former Bristol Rovers and Huddersfield frontman scored consistently throughout the season to finish just behind Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the race for the Golden Boot. His 19 goals, including a hat-trick against Southampton, were the most by an English player in the Premier League that year but an international call-up eluded him. Regardless, Stewart helped to fire Ipswich to fifth place and qualification for the UEFA Cup.
Steve Finnan (Fulham, 2001/02)
The right-back took a circuitous route to the Premier League, via Welling, Birmingham and Notts County, but quickly proved himself once he made it. Steve Finnan was 25 years old and full of confidence coming off the back of an outstanding year with Fulham, who easily won the First Division title under the guidance of Jean Tigana.
Hardy and dependable, Finnan didn’t miss a single minute of action in his first Premier League season as he helped the Cottagers to mid-table safety. The Irish international was named Fulham’s player of the year and also voted into the PFA Team of the Year ahead of some far more illustrious names. Another season of consistently excellent performances raiding down the right side earned Finnan a move to Liverpool, where he won the Champions League in his second season.