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Ranking PST’s favorite 150 players in England’s top flight history

Nov 19, 2013, 1:07 PM EDT

Celebrating 150 years of soccer, the English FA have enjoyed a landmark year. Celebrating 150 years of soccer, the English FA have enjoyed a landmark year.

The English Football Association recently celebrated what’s been a landmark year for soccer’s oldest governing body when the national team face old foes Germany in a friendly at the home of soccer.

Other events, such as the first-ever soccer game at Buckingham Palace, gala dinners and many other high-profile appearances from legendary players and managers, have stretched throughout the special year as the game the English invented has become the most popular sport in the world.

In 1863 the FA was formed and over the last 150 years so many sensational players have graced the English First Division, and now the Premier League, as fans across the globe have marveled at the talent on display.

To celebrate the English FA’s 150 anniversary, myself and my colleague Mike Prindiville thought it would be great to look back and rank our favorite players that helped shape England’s top flight as it is today. It wasn’t easy, as this list could be extended to 250 and plenty of worth players would’ve been omitted.

Anyway, here it goes, our 150 favorite players in English top flight history is about to be revealed. Do you agree?

Top 20

1. George Best

The loveable playboy who dazzled and delighted us all with his mesmerizing skills sits at the top of our mammoth list, he was an entertainer who always delivered. Best was the darling of Manchester United and Northern Ireland and was the most famous man on the planet in his prime. Two league titles and a European Cup plus 181 goals in 474 games for United say it all. Legend. JPW

2. Sir Bobby Charlton

A United 1-2 at the top and they both played in that remarkable Red Devils team that won the 1968 European Cup at Wembley. Charlton was the symbol of United’s rise from the dark days of the Munich air disaster to champions of Europe. He was a terrific midfielder who possessed a hammer of a shot from distance. Charlton still holds the goalscoring record for United and England. JPW

3. Sir Stanley Matthews

When his name is uttered, old black and white footage of a man dribbling and gliding down the wing spring to mind. Matthews was known as the “Magician” and played until he was 50 years of age. Described as one of the finest crossers of the ball the game has ever seen, his status as the first true great of English soccer remains intact today. Blackpool and Stoke City were the only two teams he played for, as well as representing England. JPW

4. Sir Bobby Moore

Still the only man to captain England to World Cup glory, Moore is revered as the best central defender the Three Lions have ever had. His reading of the game was superb and the effortlessness in which he constantly thwarted opposition forwards was a joy to behold. Famous battles with Brazilian legend Pele live on long in the memory during England’s golden generation. The nation was in mourning following his death at an early age, England’s heroic captain now guards Wembley as his statue sits out front of the home of soccer. West Ham legend, Moore will always be remembered as the man who led England to glory on home soil in 1966. JPW

source:

Ryan Giggs is a legend at United

5. Ryan Giggs

With a little more than a week to go before his 40th birthday, there’s no questioning that Giggs is a Premier League legend. The only player to have ever played and scored in every Premier League season, Giggs has won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and two Champions Leagues. Individually, he’s been named to the Premier League Team of the Year six times, the PFA Team of the Century and the UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team. MP

6. Alan Shearer

Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer and the highest scoring player in the history of the Premier League, Shearer is a god to the Toon Army. He broke Jackie Milburn’s famous goalscoring record and scored 206 times for his hometown club, while also winning a league title with little Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Captained England at both World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, Shearer was the finest striker of his generation. JPW

7. Thierry Henry

Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, Henry’s va-va-voom made him a cult hero in North London and across the globe. He led Arsene Wenger‘s revolution with the Gunner from the very start and the young Frenchman turned into one of the greatest strikers the planet has ever seen. Winning a World Cup and European Championship with France and several league championships (including their invincipled season and other domestic honors with Arsenal, Titi will forever by the king of North London. JPW

8. Gary Lineker

England’s second highest goalscorer in history, Lineker’s career was full of poached goals and supreme professionalism as he scored for whatever club he suited up for. Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona all loved his predatory instincts as he scored 281 times in over 500 games during his glittering career. JPW

9. Kenny Dalglish

A fierce competitor and goalscorer for Liverpool, Dalglish netted 199 times in the League and formed a tremendous partnership with Ian Rush. King Kenny was arguably the most successful player-manager the English game has ever known, leading Liverpool to a League and FA Cup double in 1986. Dalglish also endeared himself to Liverpudlians as an inspirational figure following the Hillsborough Disaster. MP

10. Peter Shilton

With 125 appearances, Shilton is England’s most capped player ever. Known for his remarkable agility, Shilton’s career spanned an incredible two decades (he retired at the age of 47) where he won back-to-back European Cups at Nottingham Forest and played in a World Cup semi-final. He will forever be best known, however, as the victim of Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God.” MP

source: Getty Images

England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation

11. Steven Gerrard

Stevie G is Liverpool. The one-club man is one of the best midfielders of all time and remains the only player to have scored in an FA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final and a Champions League Final. Named to the Premier League Team of the Year seven times and the FIFA World XI three times, Gerrard captains the England side for which he has made over 100 appearances. MP

12. Nat Lofthouse

He scored 30 goals in 33 games for England… a sublime goals to game ratio that nobody has ever beaten. Lofthouse was one of the finest forwards England has ever seen as he played for his hometown side Bolton from 1946-60. Was dubbed the “Lion of Vienna” after England beat Austria 3-2 and he scored the winner despite being battered around the pitch. His bravery to stick his head in where it hurt grabbed him many goals, a poacher of epic proportions. JPW

13. David Beckham

A global superstar who has won titles in England, Spain, France and the USA, Becks has done it all. He holds the record for most caps picked up by an outfield player for England (115), his performances on the pitch were always of the highest quality. His crossing ability was phenomenal and his spectacular goals saw him elevate his legendary status further. Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to have him on their side. A true England great. JPW

14. Eric Cantona

Part footballer, part philosopher, part artist, perhaps no man had greater influence on the Premier League than Cantona. Credited by Sir Alex Ferguson as the signing that changed everything for Manchester United, Cantona won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, was part of the Premier League Team of the Year in 1993-94, and was voted the club’s Greatest Ever Player by the magazine Inside United. He’ll forever be known for his kung fu kick of a Crystal Palace supporter but with the bad came so much good, including one of the best goal celebrations of all time – the popped collar stare down. MP

15. Wayne Rooney

When you think of English football it’s impossible not to think of Rooney. The Everton product announced himself to the world with his blistering strike against Arsenal in his first Premier League appearance and he hasn’t looked back since, transferring to Manchester United where he has won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. Individually, Rooney has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times, the Fifa World XI (2011) and was awarded the greatest ever Premier League goal for his bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011. MP

source: Getty Images

Wayne Rooney is poised to become England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer

16. Tony Adams

He’s nicknamed “Mr. Arsenal” for good reason – with 504 total appearances, 255 of which were in the Premier League, no one encompasses the Gunners more than Adams. A fierce defender who had a knack for getting forward and scoring big goals, Adams was named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times and also earned a place in the Team of the Decade (1992/3 – 2001/2) at the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards. MP

17. Kevin Keegan

One of the finest midfielders in English history, Keegan rose from the depths of Scunthorpe United to starring for Liverpool, Southampton, Hamburg and his hometown side Liverpool and won the European player of the year award. For England he was the first name on the team-sheet throughout the 1970’s and Keegan’s delightful perm inspired a generations hairstyles! Magnificent athlete and leader who squeezed out every inch of his talent. JPW

18. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s time in England may have been cut short but it will long live in the memory of fans across the Premier League. Ronaldo remains the most expensive player of all time and made 196 appearances for Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. On an individual level he was named to the Premier League Team of the Year four times and also won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 while at Old Trafford. Arguably the best player in the world, Ronaldo’s time at United will go down as the major turning point in his career. MP

19. John Charles

A world-class center-forward and a world-class center-half, Big John Charles was one of Leeds best ever players. Despite playing half his games in defense, Charles scored 93 goals in 155 League matches before becoming one of the first-ever British players to move abroad, to Juventus in 1957 for a world-record £65,000. The Welshman was adored in Turin where he was affectionately known as King John and would often start up front, score a goal and then move back into defense. MP

20. Paul Gascoigne

Perhaps the best raw talent of any British player on this list, Paul Gascoigne’s career has sadly been overshadowed by his ongoing battles with alcohol. As a player though, few were more unpredictable or inspiring than Gazza, whose performance at the 1990 World Cup was unbelievable and whose goal for England at Euro 96 easily goes down as one of the best ever. MP

The best of the rest…

21. Paul Scholes

22. Dennis Bergkamp

23. Dixie Dean

24. Roy Keane

25. Dennis Law

26. Alan Ball

27. Frank Lampard

28. Bert Trauttman

29. Billy Wright

30. Ian Rush

31. Michael Owen

32. Didier Drogba

33. Gordon Banks

34. Graeme Souness

35. Peter Schmeichel

36. Liam Brady

37. John Terry

38. Bryan Robson

39. Patrick Vieira

40. Ashley Cole

41. Stan Mortensen

42. Robin van Persie

43. Pat Jennings

44. Geoff Hurst

45. Duncan Edwards

46. Johnny Haynes

47. Mark Hughes

48. Cliff Bastin

49. John Barnes

50. Gareth Bale

51. Andy Cole

52. Matthew Le Tissier

53. Luis Suarez

54. Neville Southall

55. Jurgen Klinsmann

56. Trevor Francis

57. Tom Finney

58. Jackie Milburn

59. Ruud van Nistelrooy

60. Marcel Desailly

61. Jimmy Greaves

62. Steve Heighway

63. Patrice Evra

64. Ian Wright

65. Robbie Keane

66. Wilf Mannion

67. Peter Osgood

68. Danny Blanchflower

69. Jim Baxter

70. Petr Cech

71. Gary Speed

72. Steve McManaman

73. Gareth Barry

74. Dave Mackay

75. Gianfranco Zola

76. Ossie Ardiles

77. Joe Mercer

78. Bobby Tambling

79. John Greig

80. Sol Campbell

81. Jimmy Armfield

82. Terry Butcher

83. Pat Rice

84. Teddy Sheringham

85. Paul McGrath

86. Robbie Fowler

87. Malcolm Macdonald

88. Jamie Carragher

89. Johnny Giles

90. Cesc Fabregas

91. Peter Beardsley

92. Dwight Yorke

93. Mark Hateley

94. Dean Saunders

95. Andy Gray

96. Rio Ferdinand

97. Gary Neville

98. Shay Given

99. Carlos Tevez

100. Paul Mariner

101. Juninho

102. Roger Hunt

103. Emmanuel Petit

104. Georgi Kinkladze

105. Les Ferdinand

106. Juninho

107. Harry Gregg

108. Mark Viduka

109. John Aldridge

110. Dennis Mortimer

111. Sergio Aguero

112. Steve Bloomer

113. Billy McNeil

114. Michael Carrick

115. Tommy Taylor

116. Martin Keown

117. Michael Thomas

118. Robert Pires

119. Glenn Hoddle

120. Terry Paine

121. Yaya Toure

122. Alan Gilzean

123. Arjen Robben

124. David James

125. Joe Harvey

126. Ray Wilson

127. Ian Callaghan

128. Kerry Dixon

129. Nemanja Vidic

130. John Robertson

131. David Ginola

132. Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer

133. David Platt

134. Chris Sutton

135. Colin Bell

136. Peter Reid

137. Martin Chivers

138. Vincent Kompany

139. John Toshack

140. Paolo Di Canio

141. Diego Forlan

141. Jermain Defoe

142. Kevin Phillips

143. Jaap Stam

144. Freddie Ljungberg

145. Harry Kewell

146. Stan Collymore

147. Darren Anderton

148. Billy Bonds

149. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

150. Paul Ince

  1. imagreatguy76 - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    151. Brad Friedel?

  2. angusmcdowall - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Bit weird to have so few Liverpool players from their great 70s and 80s teams, don’t you think? I mean this was a club that dominated for nearly two decades, winning the league for fun and notching up four European Cups, and you only have Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and John Barnes in the top 50. By comparison, and not to get into a tedious Scouse-Manc slagging match (I support QPR), but Man Utd’s dominance of the past two decades is represented by 12 players.

    • angusmcdowall - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:43 AM

      Also, how on earth does Barnes only come in at 49? He was an awesome player and the creative heart of Liverpool’s 1988 team, one of the best English club sides in the past half century. He was much better, and had a bigger impact for longer, than Michael Owen who you have at 31. Peter Beardsley should make that top 50 too.
      Worth reading this lovely piece on John Barnes in the Guardian from a few weeks back, and then sticking him in the top 15 where he belongs. http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/aug/22/on-second-thoughts-john-barnes

  3. angusmcdowall - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    And how in the name of all that’s holy did Glen Hoddle only stumble in at 119? And no room Chris Waddle at all? Really? Two of the most creative English players in history and they’re upstaged by a bunch of plonkers like Mark Viduka, Gareth Barry, Gary Speed and Robbie Keane?

  4. navyeoddavee9 - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Billy Bremner?Ray Clemence?

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