Football

Return of the Premier League super sub

Hernandez the modern day Solskjaer. (©GettyImages)
Hernandez the modern day Solskjaer. (©GettyImages).

When the clock is ticking away, a super sub is just what any manager orders. The type of player that comes on with fifteen minutes to go, when his team is down, and masterfully changes the game.

The Premier League has provided a stage for numerous players to write their names into English football folklore, whether their goals stopped their club from being resigned to relegation, or won them that all-important title.

It's hard to think of a better super sub than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United - the Norwegian striker was hailed by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best substitute ever - his razor sharp instinct, and ability to come up with a crucial goal often proving to be the fine line between success and failure.

How many times did he rescue his team? When he did, he did it with style including one 4-goal haul against Nottingham Forest. Remember the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich? You can't get more super than that!

Now, Manchester United have a new super sub in the form of 23-year-old Mexican hitman Javier Hernandez. Despite arriving at Old Trafford less than two years ago, 'Chicharito' has already moved up to joint second in the club's top scoring substitute charts behind the aforementioned Solskjaer.

His equalising goal in the recent 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was Hernandez's 10th strike in only 30 United appearances from the bench, drawing him level with Ryan Giggs, while Solskjaer's 28 substitute goals came from 150 bit-part appearances.

Solskjaer's impact was down to the intense way he studied the game from the bench and was able to take advantage of any defensive frailties he saw, and Hernandez seems to have the same ability, but he is at a loss to explain why he has been so effective.

"I don't have the answer to what makes me effective as a substitute," he told United's official website. "In football you can always come up with a reason for anything, perhaps it is nothing more than having a little bit of luck.

"I just know if I play one minute, or 10, or 90, I try to play the same way. My mind is always to do my best and help my team.

"The only thing I can change is my attitude. I can do everything that I want with that. There are parts of the game I cannot do anything about. But I can ensure my attitude."

Despite scoring regularly for United this season, Hernandez still finds himself battling with Danny Welbeck and Dimitar Berbatov for a starting spot alongside Wayne Rooney in the United attack. But whilst some players may complain about being stuck on the bench, you won't hear any complaints from him.

"I don't care if I am on the bench," Hernandez added. "Last year I was on the bench for a long time. I still got into the team at the end of the season.

"Every player in every team wants to play as many minutes as possible, but I don't care if I start or I'm a substitute. I just want to enjoy it. I am living a dream to play for Manchester United."

Other players to have graced the super sub 'hall of fame' include David Fairclough for Liverpool, Ronnie Rosenthal for Tottenham and Tore Andre Flo at Chelsea.

GMF takes a walk down memory lane to remember players past and present who have regularly come off the bench to save the day.


ARSENAL | Nwankwo Kanu & Thierry Henry

The long-legged Nigerian striker quickly became known for his goalscoring prowess from the bench after signing for Arsenal in 1999. His appearances for the Gunners gradually became less frequent, particularly after the emergence of Thierry Henry.

In all, Kanu played 197 games for Arsenal (nearly half of them as a substitute), scoring 44 goals before leaving on a free transfer in 2004.

Meanwhile, Thierry Henry's second coming in north London saw the 34-year-old New York Red Bulls striker utilised by Arsene Wenger as an impact sub during a two-month stint at the Emirates Stadium during the MLS off-season.

The Frenchman netted three goals in seven substitute appearances for Arsenal, and signed off in style with a last-minute winner in a 2-1 Premier League win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.


CHELSEA | Tore Andre Flo & Frank Lampard

Tore Andre Flo is Chelsea's most revered super sub - the Norwegian striker constantly found his playing opportunities limited by manager Gianluca Vialli's squad rotation policy, despite an impressive goalscoring record.

Competition for places at Stamford Bridge increased following the arrivals of Pierluigi Casiraghi, then later Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen, eventually resulting in a transfer request from Flo.

He made a total of 163 appearances for the Blues (69 of which were as a substitute) and scored 50 goals.

In today's climate, no one is more aware than Frank Lampard that, in the light of Andre Villas-Boas' determination to rebuild the Chelsea squad, 33 is a dangerous age.

Lampard is a member of the generation the Portuguese tactician is intent on banishing, but the England midfielder will carry on fighting to regain his place in the side, though he may have to be content with a revised role as super sub.


LIVERPOOL | David Fairclough

Known affectionately as 'super sub' because he was a talented goalscorer who rarely started matches, but frequently made an impact from the Liverpool bench.

In his first season at Anfield, Fairclough scored seven crucial goals in just 14 appearances to land Liverpool the League championship – nine of which were as a substitute.

The pecking order of strikers at the club saw Fairclough trailing behind the dream duo of Kevin Keegan and John Toshack in his early years, and was later overlooked as Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush struck up a fruitful partnership in attack.

Fairclough's most famous Liverpool goal came at Anfield as a substitute in a crucial European Cup quarter final against the French side St Etienne - a goal which prompted ITV commentator Gerald Sinstadt to famously bellow: "Super sub strikes again!"


TOTTENHAM | Ronnie Rosenthal

Rosenthal arrived in north London having earned the 'super sub' tag at Liverpool as he would often come on and nick a goal. Tottenham were staring down the barrel of an early FA Cup exit at the hands of Southampton. Two goals down at half-time and on came Ronnie "the Rocket".

An hour later and Spurs were celebrating one of the greatest FA Cup comebacks of all-time with a 6-2 victory - Rosenthal marched off with the match ball under his arm after turning the game on its head with a stunning hat-trick!

The rest of his Tottenham career is all but forgotten after securing his place in an iconic piece of the club's history - Rosenthal is a face who always gets a hero's return at White Hart Lane!

Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal
Football
Chelsea
Premier League
Manchester United
Javier Hernandez
Liverpool

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