The 11 Premier League XIs the streets will never forget

  • Rob Swan

The Premier League isn’t – and never has been – just about the top six.

Sure, the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have helped to make England’s top division a global success since its inception in 1992.

But it’s the competitiveness of the league which has played a major role in making it the most popular on the planet.

Every now and again, one of the so-called smaller teams will make a big impact.

And we thought we’d look at some memorable XIs that the streets will never forget. You won’t find Arsenal’s Invincibles or Man Utd’s treble winners here, for once this isn’t about the big boys.

Bolton 2004/05

Team: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Tal Ben Haim, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo, Kevin Nolan, Gary Speed, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Jay-Jay Okocha, Ricardo Gardner, Kevin Davies, Henrik Pedersen.

Sam Allardyce assembled a team of ageing Galacticos for Bolton in the mid-2000s, bringing in a string of household names including Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo.

And it paid off remarkably well. Between the 2002/03 and 2006/07 seasons, Bolton finished 8th, 6th, 8th and 7th.

After finishing sixth in 2004/05, Bolton entered the UEFA Cup the following season and reached the Round of 32.

Fulham 2009/10

Team: Mark Schwarzer, Chris Baird, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, Paul Konchesky, Zoltan Gera, Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey, Dickson Etuhu, Simon Davies, Bobby Zamora.

Fulham took a gamble in 2007 by appointing Roy Hodgson, who hadn’t coached in England since leaving Blackburn in 1998, as their new manager.

And the Cottagers ended up finishing seventh in his first season in charge, qualifying for the 2009/10 Europa League win the process.

And that season turned into one of the most unforgettable seasons in the club’s history, culminating in an appearance in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid after knocking out Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg along the way.

They came agonisingly close to winning what would have been their first major title, but Diego Forlan’s stoppage-time winner saw them finish as runners-up.

Southampton 2014/15

Team: Fraser Forster, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane, Jay Rodriguez, Graziano Pelle.

Southampton finished seventh this season and just how good is that team looking back at it?

Alderweireld, Tadic and Mane in the same XI!

It could be argued that the following season, Southampton were even stronger after adding Virgil van Dijk to their ranks. However, they did not have Alderweireld or Schneiderlin, who left for Tottenham and Manchester United, respectively.

The Saints – who also had the likes of Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw in previous teams during the early-2010s – finished sixth in the 2015/16 season and the streets will certainly never forget this era for the club.

Tottenham 2010/11

Team: Heurelho Gomes, Alan Hutton, Younes Kaboul, William Gallas, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Luka Modric, Sandro, Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch.

Spurs were incredibly fun to watch under Harry Redknapp during the early-2010s.

Modric pulling the strings in midfield, Bale transformation into a world-class winger, Van der Vaart bagging goals behind Defoe and Crouch.

Fans who had a season ticket at White Hart Lane that year certainly got their monies worth.

West Ham 2002/03

Team: David James, Glen Johnson, Christian Dailly, Tomas Repka, Nigel Winterburn, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Di Canio, Jermaine Defoe, Frederic Kanoute.

When you look at this team on paper, it’s still difficult to work out how they got themselves relegated from the Premier League.

West Ham finished 18th in the table this season under Glenn Roeder (and then Trevor Brooking) despite boasting a team featuring the likes of Carrick, Di Canio and Defoe.

But they still produced some brilliant moments that season – including knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford – and the streets will certainly never forget them.

Leeds United 2001/02

Team: Nigel Martyn, Danny Mills, Rio Ferdinand, Jonathan Woodgate, Ian Harte, Olivier Dacourt, Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, Robbie Keane, Mark Viduka, Robbie Fowler.

Yes, it all ended in disaster a couple of years later, but the good times were incredible while they lasted.

Leeds had a magnificent squad of players during the early-2000s and ended up finishing fifth in the Premier League table.

Ferdinand and Woodgate at the back, Harte scoring free-kicks with that quality left peg of his, Kewell in the form of his life, Viduka, Keane and Fowler as options upfront, along with Smith… so much talent.

Newcastle United 2011/12

Team: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse.

Several Newcastle teams could have qualified for this list, in fairness, but this team is the one that people of all ages will remember very well.

The Magpies finished fifth in the table this season under Alan Pardew, who was rewarded for his fine work with an eyebrow-raising eight-year contract.

For that incredible front-three alone (Ben Arfa, Ba and Cisse) the streets won’t ever forget this wonderful Newcastle team.

Portsmouth 2007/08

Team: David James, Glen Johnson, Hermann Hreidarsson, Sol Campbell, Sylvain Distin, Lassana Diarra, Papa Bouba Diop, Sulley Muntari, Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Defoe, Benjani.

This was the season Portsmouth won the FA Cup and their starting XI on paper was straight fire.

Defensive solidity, a powerful midfield, goals in attack – this team finished eighth in the league in 2007/08.

Leicester City 2015/16

Team: Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki.

Putting Leicester in this list feels a bit like cheating because they won the Premier League title this season.

Every player in this team excelled themselves during the 2015/16 campaign and they were thoroughly deserved 5,000/1 champions come the end of the season.

It was one of the greatest team achievements in sporting history and will never, ever be forgotten.

Swansea City 2012/13

Team: Michel Vorm, Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Chico Flores, Ben Davies, Leon Britton, Jonathan de Guzman, Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge, Pablo Hernandez, Michu.

After impressing everyone with their style of football after coming up from the Championship under Brendan Rodgers, many people thought Swansea might suffer from second-season syndrome – especially after losing Rodgers to Liverpool.

But Michael Laudrup steadied the ship and Swansea went on to enjoy another fantastic season, finishing ninth in the Premier League table and winning the League Cup.

The Swans were largely inspired that season by Michu, who bagged 22 goals in his debut season in England.

Blackburn Rovers 2007/08

Team: Brad Friedel, Stephen Warnock, Ryan Nelsen, Christopher Samba, Brett Emerton, Tugay, Morten Gamst Pedersen, David Bentley, David Dunn, Roque Santa Cruz, Benni McCarthy.

Blackburn were a very solid Premier League side during the mid-2000s under Mark Hughes.

They finished seventh in 2007/08, with Santa Cruz and McCarthy bagging 34 goals between them.

Pedersen, Tugay and Bentley are also ballers the streets will never forget.

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