Worst Premier League Winning Players

One of the more surprising news stories this season was the arrest and subsequent jailing of former West Bromwich Albion defender Ronnie Wallwork. Perhaps even more surprising was the realisation that he has a Premier League winner’s medal in his back pocket from his time at Manchester United. This got me thinking, who are the worst players to have won the Premier League? Please note, these probably aren’t the worst players technically to have won the league, that’s David May. Instead, they are a celebration of ineptness, cheek and downright wastes of money.

Goalkeeper: Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak fought off tough competition from perennial substitute Stuart Taylor (63 league starts in 12 years since his debut) and former England goalkeeper Richard Wright to claim the number one spot in our team. I’ve not picked Kuszczak because of his inability to keep goal, but because of the astonishing fact that he has managed to pocket three Premier League medals, despite making a total of 18 appearances during these three seasons. A League medal every six matches takes some doing.

Right-back: When Arsene Wenger took over as Arsenal manager, he instantly signed two French midfielders, to differing levels of success. While Patrick Vieira went on to become an Arsenal legend and one of the most sought after players in world, Remi Garde started just 27 matches in his three seasons at Arsenal. Never more than a useful squad player, Garde played in virtually every defensive position, but played just 10 matches as he helped himself to the 1998 Premier League title.

Centre-back: “He’s bald, he’s shit, he plays when no-one’s fit” are the lyrics that will forever be associated with Pascal Cygan. Astonishingly, he managed 98 appearances in an Arsenal shirt over a four year period, even contributing 10 league starts in Arsenal’s 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ season as first choice back up to Sol Campbell and Kolo Touré – doesn’t that 49-match unbeaten run sound even better when you think how often Cygan played?

Centre-back: Cygan’s partner in crime at the back has to be the aforementioned Ronnie Wallwork. And when I say partner in crime, his arrest was not the first time he’s made the news for the wrong reasons. While on loan at Royal Antwerp of Belgium, he manhandled a referee and was banned for life from football – if only that hadn’t been reduced. He bounced back to feature 10 times as Manchester United cantered to the 2001/02 Premier League title before being shipped out to West Bromwich Albion. Controversy seemed to follow Wallwork, and in 2006 he needed life-saving surgery after being repeatedly stabbed with a fish knife in a nightclub fracas.

Left-back: In 2005, it was clear Chelsea needed a left-back. William Gallas had spent much the previous season there, ahead of the injured Wayne Bridge. However, Gallas was clearly not happy in the position, and after Chelsea failed in their first attempts to sign Ashley Cole, Asier del Horno was signed from Athletic Bilbao. While he certainly isn’t the worst player in this list, he’s most known for being sent off as Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League to Barcelona. He was sold within six months, and Chelsea finally got the left back they wanted.

Right-wing: Has anyone labelled the ‘next David Beckham’ actually been successful (I’m looking at you, David Bentley)? Luke Chadwick certainly wasn’t. Known throughout his career more for his facial appearance than his football ability, Chadwick’s career peaked aged 20, winning the 200/01 Premier League alongside Ronnie Wallwork (Arsenal must have been really poor that season). His career fell away after that, playing for West Ham, Stoke and Norwich before finding his level at MK Dons.

Central midfield: When you’re the manager’s son, you get an easier ride than you would otherwise. Darren Ferguson joined Daddy in winning the very first Premier League title in 1993. However, he’d only play a further five games for the club before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers, where the likes of Steve Corica and Neil Emblen kept him out of the team. Ferguson went on to make over 300 appearances for Wrexham, before managing Peterborough and Preston North End, where once again he uses his family connections, this time securing young Manchester United players on loan.

Central midfield: Signed from Bordeaux, Alexei Smertin was one of the first signings of the Roman Abramovic era, before being promptly loaned out to Portsmouth. Here he impressed, but not enough to convince Jose Mourinho of his value in the starting-11 on his return. In his time at Chelsea, he made just 25 appearances for the Pensioners, spending much of his time out on loan.

Left-wing: What is it about Russian’s playing for Chelsea? You’d have thought the managers were being influenced by someone above them with an interest or something. Costing a massive £18 million, Yuri Zhirkov should be remembered as one of the Premier League flops, if anyone could remember him ever actually playing for Chelsea. Signed on the recommendation of Guus Hiddink from CSKA Moscow, Zhirkov always seemed an expensive back-up for Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda. After two uneventful and injury hit years, Zhirkov was quietly shipped back to Russia, and Anzhi Makachkala.

Forward: Given that only 15 Blackburn Rovers qualified for a medal in their 1994/95 title winning season, it is of perhaps little surprise that they are few Blackburn players in this team. A couple were candidates; Ian Pearce and Robbie Slater spring to mind, but I’ve selected Paul Warhurst. Despite being signed as a defender, he played as a striker for much of his Blackburn career, a fact belied by the fact he scored 4 goals in 57 league appearances. He would play for 16 clubs through his 20 year career, averaging a goal a season.

Forward: This is probably the only player I’ve picked for personal reasons. The date was Sunday April 5th 1998, the venue was Villa Park. FA Cup semi-final day. Wolves 0, Arsenal 1. The goalscorer?  Christopher Wreh. Wreh would only score five goals in an Arsenal shirt, but that one broke my heart and set Arsenal on the way to completing a famous Double. His career never reached those heights again, even dropping out the professional game to play for Bishop’s Stortford and Buckingham Town. Serves him right in my opinion.

Tom Bason @toomb306

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