Despite the ever-increasing riches of the Premier League and the sheer privilege, it must be to step out onto those pieces of hallowed turf in front of thousands of adoring fans, football players to their credit share one simple career-defining aim – to win trophies.
Yes, despite our sometimes overzealous attitudes towards these primadonnas with their fancy cars and big houses, it is easy to forget that in their short careers the majority of football players encounter very few opportunities to win a medal, and when they do, it must be grasped with two hands.
Will England’s current crop of hopefuls achieve something that five generations before them haven’t? Will Pochettino’s Tottenham and their obvious talents deliver trophy success? Can Klopp’s Liverpool, already runners-up in three finals, deliver the ultimate prize?
Many great players must still scratch their heads when they look back on their seemingly illustrious careers. Of course, there’s a lot of great players currently doing the rounds that are yet to grab some silverware and even past greats like Alan Shearer only has one Premier League title to his name despite his incredible goalscoring exploits. Here we take a look at eleven Premier League stars who talented as they were, never won a trophy.
Things could have been much different for Cornish shot-stopper Nigel Martyn had his career not crossed over with that of Arsenal stalwart David Seaman, at the very least he would surely have added to his 23 England caps. A career that took in three significant spells at Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Everton earnt Martyn a reputation as a solid, reliable No.1.
However, despite twice attracting the record fee for a goalkeeper in the UK, and being the first goalkeeper to fetch a £1million fee, Martyn failed to lift a single trophy in his career. He was on the losing side for Palace against Man Utd in the 1990 FA Cup Final and, made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League with Leeds.
Probably the greatest tribute that can be paid to Martyn is the fact that Leeds Utd fans found a place for him in a vote for their greatest ever team, while Palace fans acknowledged him in their 100-year celebrations and Everton’s faithful considered him second only to Neville Southall.
Versatile scouser McAteer’s big break came after a hugely successful season with First Division play-off finalists Bolton Wanderers in 1995, when his team also featured in the League Cup Final against Liverpool. Losing out on a winners medal that day, McAteer’s performance was such that he secured a move to the Reds and fulfilled a lifelong dream.
However, his time at Anfield was overshadowed by the infamous ‘Spice Boys’ tag which culminated in a FA Cup Final appearance that amidst defeat to Man United was largely remembered for Liverpool’s choice of pre-match attire. Always a willing runner, with a superb right foot, McAteer was a fan favourite not least for his work rate and commitment to the cause.
Big things had been expected from him after such a promising start to his career at Bolton, a natural central midfielder, maybe the shift to right wing back duties at Liverpool hindered his obvious talents. He had spells at Blackburn and Sunderland but never picked up a winners medal of any sort.
Flying full-back Warren Barton forged a reputation as an outstanding attacking right-back with a knack for delivering quality from the wide areas. Having made a name for himself at Wimbledon, he was a key member of the team that remarkably managed a sixth-place finish in the Premier League in 1994.
However, it was the following year when Barton’s career really took off as he became English football’s most expensive defender following a £4 million move to Newcastle United and a spot in Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’. It was during his first season that Barton would come closer than ever to getting his hands on a trophy as Newcastle lay 10 points clear of rivals Manchester United.
Of course, the rest of the story goes down in Premier League folklore as Newcastle contrived to blow their deficit and finish the season as runners-up. That was about as good as things got for Barton, who had a couple more moves before heading back to Wimbledon for a swansong. He grabbed a handful of England caps, but there was stiff competition for the right-back spot during his time.
Richard Dunne’s career saw him starting out with Everton, before making the switch to Manchester City and following that up with a move to Aston Villa. His final days were spent yo-yoing between the Championship and the Premier League with Queens Park Rangers.
It was during his time at Manchester city that Dunne established himself as one of the Premier Leagues most reliable centre-halves and managed to win their player of the year award four times on the bounce. Perhaps if he’d been a few years younger things could have been much different in the trophy department.
In July 2008 club captain Dunne signed a new four-year contract with City, however only a month later the club was taken over by the Abu Dhabi group and a raft of high profile purchases was made. Dunne signed for Aston Villa the following year and watched City become an elite Premier League team. No trophies but he does hold a couple of unwanted honours, Dunne has the most Premier League red cards a record he shares with Patrick Viera and Duncan Ferguson and leads the way solo with most own goals, ten in total.
One club man Gary Kelly was an all-action full-back who spent his entire career at Leeds United and maybe that explains why he never won a trophy. With the greatest of respect at one stage under David O’Leary, Leeds seemed destined to make good on their extremely talented and youthful squad, which included Mr Kelly.
However, after some tantalising European nights and Premier League promise which often saw blistering early season form tail off, Leeds Utd’s spending under Peter Ridsdale caught up with them and after David O’Leary’s departure, the club rapidly went into decline.
Kelly stuck around through the good times and the bad, however despite the dizzying heights of the O’Leary/Ridsdale days, you have to go back all the way to 1991/92 and the last First Division season when Leeds were crowned champions and a young Gary Kelly made a couple of appearances which unfortunately for him was not enough to qualify for a winners medal.
Signed with Abramovich’s millions during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, many of you may rightly wonder how on earth Scott Parker ended up with a trophyless career. Rotten luck really, having picked up an injury during the 04/05 season in which Chelsea won the title and League Cup, Parker’s lack of game time meant he was not eligible for a medal.
Following that short stint at Chelsea, Parker turned out for Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham. And despite consistently impressive performances that saw him regularly scooping Player of the Year recognition, Parker never came close to getting his hands on some silverware.
A Europa League quarter-final in 2013 against Basel looked a promising opportunity, but no cigar. Scott Parker did appear in that McDonald’s advert back in 1994 however, and you can’t take that away from the man.
Matt Le Tissier
Probably one of the greatest players to have never won a trophy, Matt Le Tissier’s reluctance to swap the South Coast for, well, anywhere, meant that despite interest from Man United, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea amongst a host of European clubs, legendary status at Southampton and a trophyless career beckoned.
You always got the impression from Le Tissier that he didn’t really care about winning trophies or much else for that matter, but whilst he seemed to play the game at his own pace, when he was in the mood he was one hell of a talent. He scored 161 goals for Southampton including 47 penalties from a possible 48, making him unparalleled from 12 yards out.
You have to admire his loyalty and the fact that at the end of the day he just enjoyed playing football. He surely could have earned a lot more money had he taken one of the big moves and the likelihood is he’d have bagged himself some winners medals but c’est la vie.
Another member of Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’, Rob Lee is undoubtedly one of Newcastle’s finest ever players, certainly in the Premier League era. The heartbeat of Keegan’s side, his box-to-box enthusiasm and lung-busting runs accompanied with a keen eye for goal meant Newcastle so very nearly became Premier League champions.
International recognition followed as Lee featured under Terry Venables, and that’s really about the top and bottom of his story. Aside from going close in the Premier League, there were also two FA Cup Final defeats for Lee during his time at Newcastle.
And despite their emergence as a team that could contend at the top of the table under Bobby Robson, Lee left Newcastle without a medal. He went on to play for Derby and West Ham with clearly his best days long gone, he did, however, manage to play in the lower leagues until the ripe old age of 40.
Once the Premier League’s most expensive player, Collymore was a truly outstanding talent back in the early nineties. A big powerful unit, he was similar in build to Brazilian legend Ronaldo, he also knew where the back of the net was to boot.
His performances in the First Division for Southend and Nottingham Forest alerted all the big boys including Manchester United who it has been reported on numerous occasions came extremely close to signing Collymore ahead of Andy Cole. Indeed it was Liverpool who splashed out a record £8.5 million and while always courting controversy he continued his fine goalscoring record at Anfield.
A leading member of the aforementioned and rather inanely christened ‘Spice Boys’, Collymore like McAteer would miss out on a FA Cup winners medal during his time at the Reds. A series of moves followed including a stint at boyhood favourites Aston Villa before retirement that belied his then still modest age. Besides finishing his career trophyless, you can’t help feeling Collymore never made good on his undoubted talent.[coffee]
Another gifted individual to emerge in the early nineties was dynamic wide-man Trevor Sinclair. One reason Sinclair has made this team is probably down to the fact that he never got a move to one of the big hitters which would have at the very least provided a platform for silverware.
Why that never happened is a mystery when considering that in the mid-nineties he was continually linked with all the main contenders. It was probably during his time at QPR that Sinclair really started making an impression on the wider footballing world, not least because of that goal he scored in the FA Cup third round against Burnley.
It remains the best overhead kick you’ll likely see. Maybe Sinclair made some bad decisions, who knows, but his timing and choice in terms of transfers always seemed a little off. He turned out for England and had a solid career, but it could have been so much more.
Okay, he’s still playing so we won’t write his story just yet, but it’s remarkable that Defoe’s largely successful career allied to his supreme striking talents has not garnered a trophy. For sheer bad luck, however, Defoe deserves a medal for the 2008 season in which he moved from Tottenham to Portsmouth in January.
Having played in the FA Cup already for Tottenham, he was cup-tied and unable to feature for his new club as they went on to win the FA Cup and to rub salt in the wounds, Tottenham went on to win the League Cup in his absence. Could there be one last hurrah with Bournemouth?
Manager: Sam Allardyce – We could have gone for David Moyes or Kev Keegan as managers who’ve never won a trophy but Big Sam no stranger to controversy himself is probably the man to lead this mixed bag.
League Cup Wonders – There are also some true greats that despite their incredible talents and seemingly successful careers only managed to get their hands on a paltry League Cup. Stuart Pearce, Ledley King, Les Ferdinand, Ugo Ehiogu and Jonathan Woodgate we salute you.
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