Best XI players to fall from Premier League grace
The old adage goes ‘they’re too good to go down’.
However, we have risked the wrath of pundits across the land by challenging the cliched norm to come up with a list of players who were, apparently, of too greater ability to be on the wrong end of a relegation dog fight.
QPR’s last line of defence was frequently called upon during the Loftus Road club’s mess of a campaign, something that Cesar wouldn’t have dreamed he’d ever experience back when he was winning the Champions League as Inter Milan’s No. 1 in 2010. Capped 67 times by Brazil, it is hard to imagine that he’ll stick around in the Championship next season.
The Liverpool and England full-back broke into the West Ham side as a 19-year-old in the 2002/03 season, but his frequently encouraging displays couldn’t save the Hammers from the drop. That summer he became the first signing of the new Roman Abramovich era when Chelsea snapped him up for £6 million, and he’s since won 47 caps for his country – forgetting all about his relegation no doubt.
“You’ll never beat Des Walker” used to be the popular terrace chant, but the same couldn’t be said of the former England defender’s Sheffield Wednesday team in the 1999/2000 season, when they were relegated from the Premier League. The 59-times capped centre-back stuck with Wednesday for another year before a switch back to his first club Nottingham Forest.
It would have been the Champions League and not the Championship on Argentina defender Coloccini’s mind when he joined Newcastle from Deportivo La Coruna for £10.3m in 2008. The centre-back couldn’t save the Magpies from relegation in his first season inEngland, but he deserves credit for sticking with the club and providing the defensive platform for them winning England’s second tier the following campaign. He’s now seen sense and is plotting a way out of the north east.
Forever associated with England’s failed campaigns to win both Italia 90 and Euro 96, left-back Pearce’s club career was best remembered for the 12 years he spent at Nottingham Forest. Those years ended on a sour note however, as Pearce – who took up the complicated role of caretaker player-manager for four months of the season – was part of the Forest side who were relegated in 1996/97.
Included if not only for his ability to appear like he actually fought in the trenches in World War II, the tenacious midfielder and one-time England skipper was the only man who seemed bothered about fighting West Ham’s relegation in 2011. He worked tirelessly at the base of the Irons midfield, landing the FWA Player of the Year Award, and earned himself a move to Spurs where he continued to run.
The image of Juninho in tears on the Elland Road turf at the end of the 1996/97 season was one of the most defining of the Premier League at that time, and ensured an even stronger place in the hearts of Middlesbrough fans for the Brazilian. The diminutive attacking midfielder came second in the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award that year despite Boro’s relegation, and he subsequently returned to Teeside for two more spells at the club.
His career was a series of highs and lows. The highs: a Premier League title with Blackburn and a Champions League semi-final with Leeds. The lows: relegation with both teams and a measly three England caps during a period when both Terry Venables and Glen Hoddle were desperate for more options on the left side of midfield.
The Belarusian was impressive in his spell at Arsenal so much so that he went on to join Barcelona. However, his career nosedived and he ended up plying his trade at St Andrews and more gravely under the stewardship of tiki-taka connoisseur Alex McLeish. Hleb played 19 league games for The Blues and let everyone know his form was the fault of his clueless boss.
Paolo Di Canio
The exuberant Italian was, and indeed still is, one of the most engaging men to grace the Premier League. He notched 51 times in 147 starts for the Irons and also turned out for Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton. He deserves to be in this side for ‘that goal’ alone but he was powerless to prevent his beloved Hammers from the drop in 2003.
The White Feather jetted in to Teeside with the hopes of heading up a new era in the north east but soon realised that he had in fact signed for Middlesbrough. Nevertheless the Italian international smashed 17 league goals in a poor Boro side, including a blistering hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool and departed for Marseille at the end of the campaign.