alan shearer, roy keane, eric cantona, thierry henry

THE PREMIER LEAGUE HALL OF FAME INDUCTED SIX LEGENDS OF THE GAME TO JOIN ALAN SHEARER AND THIERRY HENRY

The Premier League inducted six more former players and champions to its Hall of Fame. stalwarts Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Roy Keane, Liverpool fixture Steven Gerrard, Dutch icon Dennis Bergkamp and Chelsea record holder Frank Lampard joined the first-ballot inductees- hero Alan Shearer and talisman Thierry Henry. FootTheBall goes down the memory lane in order to understand what made them Hall of Fame perfect fits in England’s top flight.

 

ALAN SHEARER

The Premier League’s all-time top scorer with 260 goals, Shearer was your typical centre forward. He used his body to great effect, was imperious in the air and from distance as well as having deadly instincts inside the penalty box. The former Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle man helped the Rovers clinch the league title in 1996. That win was considered the most improbable feat in the era and matched only by Leicester’s triumph in 2016. 

 

 

A three-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, Shearer is most fondly remembered for the 10 years he spent at St. James’ Park. His boyhood club helped him to scale new heights all throughout his career. The iconic “raised hand” celebration by the Geordie is one of the most recognisable sights in English football.

 

 

Injuries cut short his career, with Shearer retiring in 2006. His last goal came against arch-rivals Sunderland, with Shearer describing it as the right way to leave the game he so dearly loved. He still holds the record of most penalties scored (56), most goals from inside the box (227) and the fewest games taken to reach 100 goals (124 games). It is true what they say, they don’t make them like Alan Shearer anymore. 

 

THIERRY HENRY 

The French forward signed for Arsenal in 1999, after a frustrating season with Italian giants Juventus. Then-manager immediately moved Henry into the central striker position and the results were staggering. Henry became the nightmare for every opposing defender due to his super-quick feet, incredible pace and ability to hit the ball so perfectly. 

 

 

‘King Henry’ as he was christened by the Gunners fanbase, led the club to unprecedented success. Aside from three FA Cups and four Golden Boot awards (a record), Henry was the creative force as Arsenal won two league titles at the turn of the millennium, in 2002 and 2004. The latter one is the stuff of legends.

 

 

The London club went the entire season undefeated, the only time such a feat has been achieved in the Premier League era. Henry scored 30 goals enroute to a 26-12-0 season and firmly established himself in the pantheon of footballing greats. The club would also make the Champions League final under his watch but would lose to Barcelona 2-1 in 2006.

 

 

The legacy of Henry added a further chapter in 2012 during his short loan spell back. He scored one goal to take his Premier League goal tally to 175 (6th overall). To this day, Henry remains Arsenal’s leading goal scorer in all competitions with 228 goals. A true Premier League great.

 

ERIC CANTONA

Manchester’s own royalty, King Eric, was the type of player you would only want on your team. Merging brilliant skill, vision and creativity with a killer instinct in front of goal, Cantona was the physical embodiment of Manchester United in the first five years of the Premier League era. He is widely credited with having revolutionized the modern English game and firmly putting the just created new top-flight amongst the best in the world.

 

 

Cantona joined the Red Devils after having won the last of the old First Division title in 1992. Having not won the league since 1967, Manchester United seemed to have the perfect player to lead them to it. Indeed, Cantona’s signing is regarded as one of the greatest transfer coups of legendary manager Sir . By the time the Frenchman left five years later, United had won the Premier League four times. 

 

 

Though he was never a blazing goal scorer, his linkup play with the other players was something that the club had been sorely lacking. His flamboyant nature on the pitch inspired all to do better with Cantona ending up as league-leader in assists in both 1993 and 1997. It is said that without Cantona, the team would not have been able to reach the heights of the 1990s that confirmed the club’s status as legitimate title winners.

 

 

His most iconic moment for United was of course THAT celebration after chipping the goalkeeper against Sunderland in 1996. King Eric turned all around the stadium with his collar up, his arms raised as if to say, “There is no other king.” Indeed, there has been no other in terms of the French genius. 

 

ROY KEANE

The most successful player on the list so far in terms of titles won (7), “Keano” was the player you would see fighting for the badge in front of the shirt. The most no-nonsense midfielder of the times, Keane was the first proper ‘general’ of a football pitch. When the match started, his leadership was an example for all to follow.

 

 

Dynamic, hard-working and tough tackling, Keane made his name with Nottingham Forest before joining the Red Devils. Over his 12 year period with the club, he would become an inspiration for the players coming through the ranks at Old Trafford. Indeed, his tenacity and eye for the most important passes have been praised by all his former teammates who credit him for having raised their standards on the pitch.

 

 

Keane was the linchpin of the Manchester United side that dominated the Premier League right from its inception. He quickly became Alex Ferguson’s most trusted lieutenant who excelled at breaking up plays and carrying the ball forward whenever necessary. Furthermore, his knack for contributing with goals now and then made his contribution to the team even more precious than what meets the eye. A proper battler if there ever was one. 

 

FRANK LAMPARD

The player who is synonymous with Chelsea. Lampard was one of the path-breaking midfielders ever to play the game. With his superb attacking instincts, ball control, creative linkup play and mastery over goal scoring, Lampard’s numbers are staggering for a non-striker to achieve in the top-flight.

 

He has scored 177 goals in the Premier League across spells with West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City, putting him 5th on the all-time list (even ahead of King Henry). Lampard is also Chelsea’s all-time top scorer with 211 in all competitions. However, as mentioned, he was brilliant in setting up goals. That is evidenced by his 102 assists in the top-flight, which is the fourth highest and bagged him the top assists provider award three times, including Player of the Season in 2005.

 

The result? Chelsea firmly entrenched itself as one of the most dominant clubs in England and Europe. Fittingly, Lampard’s two goals against Bolton Wanderers sealed the Blues’ first league title in more than 50 years in 2005. He would go onto lift the Premier League a further two times along with a whole host of other silverware. 

 

His contributions to the team go beyond goals of course. Lampard was one of the most recognisable faces of the nation and really led the way for the modern attacking midfielders. He showed that output in goals can be kept up even if you are not the front man. Furthermore, his partnership with another Chelsea great, Didier Drogba, are some of the fondest memories one can have as a supporter.

 

DENNIS BERGKAMP

The “Non-Flying Dutchman” due to his fear of air travel, Dennis Bergkamp was the perfect partner on the pitch. Deployed by Arsene Wenger in the second striker or behind the main striker, Bergkamp was one of the most technically brilliant players of all time. His first touch was a dream, combined with excellent ball control, speed and deadly accuracy.

 

Therefore, it is no surprise that his play flourished alongside the likes of Ian Wright, Nicolas Anelka and of course, Thierry Henry. Bergkamp joined the Gunners in 1995 and was one of the most important catalysts for Arsenal’s sustained success. He won three Premier League titles, and was a part of the ‘Invincibles’ squad of 2003-2004. His 94 assists put him 5th on the all-time list, but really it was the goals with Bergkamp.

 

The standout amongst them was the one against Newcastle in 2002. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, his first touch on his left boot spun the ball away from the defender. Bergkamp rushed past the confused player and slotted the ball home on his other side. This was one of the many times he had juggled the ball, showing off his brilliant daring. The perfect foil to every central option who played for the team every time.

STEVEN GERRARD

‘Stevie G’ has been the epitome of the modern day midfielder. A hardworking box-to-box midfielder with great passing range and vision, Gerrard did it all. He is revered for his long range strikes, plenty of which will make any highlight reel of the Premier League. Having played for 16 years at Anfield, Stevie G is still one of the most iconic players amongst their pantheon of greats.

 

Of course, critics will be first to point out his biggest heartbreak. Gerrard and Liverpool never managed to win the league title together. However, to question his induction to the Hall of Fame based on this is short-sighted. The former skipper racked up 120 goals and 92 assists during his time at the club, along with two FA Cups and three League Cups. He even led the club to three European trophies, with the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ the greatest of the lot.

 

Gerrard’s association with the club started in 1998 as an eighteen-year-old. Since then, he appeared for the club 504 times, and became a cult hero. One of the cleanest hitters of the ball, his strength and commitment to the badge never seemed to fade, even during the dry spells of the club. A fan favourite at all times, Gerrard has totally earned his place in the first round of 

inductees as a devoted servant of the league.

 

DAVID BECKHAM

“Bend it like Beckham-” how many times have we heard that phrase? Beckham had such mastery over striking a ball that they made a movie about it. The first glamour footballer to emerge from England, Beckham was arguably the man who made distance a non-factor when it comes to shooting. 

 

A six-time Premier League champion, three-time assists leader and Balon D’Or runner-up in 1999, “Becks ” was a specialist in accuracy. The art of free-kicks, long balls from right to left and beating your man down the wing are just some of the things that he personified every time he stepped on to the pitch. Beckham had made the right flank his own and defenders had nightmares when it came to dealing with his trickery and pace as he delivered pin-point passes all over.

 

Having scored 62 goals and 80 assists, his greatest goal was hands down the one against AFC Wimbledon on opening day 1996. Beckham saw the goalkeeper was way off his line and lobbed a shot from beyond the halfway line. The ball nestled into the net and the journey to the Hall of Fame inductee had well and truly taken off.

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