The Premier League Founder Members Agreement was signed on 17 July, 1991 by the game’s top-flight clubs- “The Big Bang” as we might call it.
As the wiki says:
“The newly formed top division would have commercial independence from the Football Association and the Football League, giving the FA Premier League license to negotiate its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements. The argument given at the time was that the extra income would allow English clubs to compete with teams across Europe.”
The English Premier league is a worldwide phenomenon now. Nothing compares to its magnanimity, and it’s indeed the “Premier” league among leagues around Europe. The 20th season of the Premier league Era beckons. Along the way, some names have been razor-marked in history while some moments have become part of the Premier league folklore.
The Cantonas, Bergkamps, Fowlers, Shearers and Zolas of this era have found a cult following; however, the premier league years have found more than a few men who changed the way the English game would be played and remembered. The “Sky Big Four” obsession has over the years diluted the presence of other luminaries; nevertheless, it has surely taken more than four or five clubs to make the Premier league a worldwide modern monster that it is today.
Let’s remember these forgotten heroes and magic moments from the premier league years circa naughty nineties:
Matt Le Tessier
Probably the biggest and the most coveted star outside the glamorous clubs of the nineties, Le Tessier lit up the league like no one ever did or ever will. The attacking midfield sensation had an eye for the extraordinary and never left anything to the imagination. Wayne Rooneys, Didier Drogbas of this world, eat your heart – Tessier was the quintessential magic man of the Premier league. Words can never capture the essence of the Southampton stars impact on the English game; thank god for youtube videos! For enriching the life’s of millions of Premier league fans around the globe all we can say is “Take a bow, Matt!”.
Paolo Di Canio
The Italian magician was a one of his kind and his persona was surely one of the most magnetic to have graced the English game. His eccentricity was, at times, too much for his own good but he provided for quite spectacular viewing. The ones who had the pleasure of watching Di Canio in action knew they were in for a treat, as the Italian wizard always played the game on the knife edge. Di Canio played a lot of his football in the new millennium, but he was still one of the great characters of the late 90’s so to speak. West Ham’s fortunes ebbed and flowed with the mood swings of this wily Italian, from sublime to ridiculous in a matter of days. West Ham rose to as high as fifth in the standings and even qualified for the UEFA Cup as Paolo Di Canio was voted OPTA Player of the season 98-99. Di Canio has to his credit probably the goal of the decade, the volley against Wimbledon is etched in minds of every Hammer and football loving fan in general.
The Frenchmen signed for Newcastle United in the summer of 95 and history beckoned. Ginola helped his new club challenge for league honours; however, Man United pipped them to the post in one of the most memorable title races of the Premier league era. Ginola was the difference maker and along with new signing Alan Shearer, the duo set about overtaking the Red Devils.
However, Ferguson’s ‘golden generation’ was in full bloom and again took over pole position. Ginola then joined Spurs and became an instant hit. The Frenchmen is one of the legends of White Hart Lane where he enjoys a cult following. Ginola’s form reached its zenith in the season 98-99 where he was voted PFA Player of the year despite Tottenham finishing outside the top four. Manchester United won the “treble” the same year, but to eclipse the contribution of any player from that famous side, Ginola’s season must have been quite something. During the 1998/99 season, Ginola scored one of his most notable goals, when Spurs played Barnsley in the FA Cup 6th Round. Ginola weaved in and out of a number of Barnsley players and finished in the left side of the net, the only goal of the game. He was inducted in the Spurs hall of fame in the year 2008, and was surely one of the greats of his era.
This boy from Brazil signed for a relatively unknown and less fashionable club in England – Middlesborough – just as they regained promotion to the top flight. However, in his first two years at the club, Juninho became the heartbeat of the “Teesiders”. “The Little Fella” was the nickname given to the Brazilian wonder kid by the Middlesborough faithful as they fell in love with his breathtaking skills on the football pitch and more so his humble demeanor of it.
Juninho was known to play football with kids on the street and just had no airs about his god-like status in Middlesborough circles. On the pitch he was instrumental in guiding the Teesiders to both the F.A Cup and the League Cup finals in 1997; however, the club was relegated after facing a 3-point deduction. Juninho finished runner up to Zola in the PFA awards, probably because he played for a much lesser club or, perhaps, a less fashionable club.
Juninho went on to pursue his career in Spain but returned one day to guide his beloved borough to the League Cup. In December 2007, he was voted by Boro fans in a PFA fan’s poll as Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player. Juninho famously claimed that winning the League Cup for Middlesborough meant more to him than winning the World Cup with Brazil. The Brazilian is treated as a demi god in these shores as Borough fans continue to idolize their hero to this very day.
Here’s a man who will always be remembered as a Premier League legend more so than a club legend, quite simply because Ferdinand played for as many as six different clubs in the Premier league. Les was virtually perfect at the art of heading the ball and is well known for his Jordanesque “hang time” when jumping in air to head the ball.
His most fruitful seasons were spent at QPR where he slammed goals left, right and center for the London outfit. Ferdinand also enjoyed a great run of form during his two-year stint at St James’ Park. He scored 29 goals in his first season with Newcastle, and contributed significantly to the side’s getting within touching distance of the Premiership title in the 1995–96 season. Ferdinand formed one of the most lethal strike partnerships in English football history as Shearer and Ferdinand tore teams apart in the mid 90s. He joined his boyhood club Tottenham in the season 97-98 but injuries derailed his first season at his new club. Ferdinand enjoys the honour of scoring the 10,00th goal of the Premier League era when he scored against fellow London rivals Fulham.
Goals are undoubtedly the lasting memory of most games; here’s a recap of the top five premier league goals of the magnificent 90’s. Do you remember any better?
David Beckham v Wimbledon (96’)
This goal from inside his own half announced David Beckham on the world stage and let’s just say it has been a privilege watching him play ever since.
Paolo Di Canio v Wimbledon (99’)
Di Canio gets a 10/10 for visualizing this piece of skill in his mind, a 10/10 for attempting it without the fear of looking like a fool had it not come off and an 11/10 for the execution. Was this the best volley ever, perhaps?
Tony Yeboah v Wimbledon (96’)
Wimbledon FC have probably irked quite a few football gods it seems as they have been on the receiving end of a lot of these gems. Tony Yeaboh decided he needed to do something special and ended up surpassing even his expectations. The first touch is sublime as the Ghanian shifts the ball away from the defender, the second seems a bit clumsy but the third is irrepressible. Just wow!
Denis Bergkamp v Leicester City (97’)
Bergkamp scored a hat-trick and the game finished in an enthralling 3-3. The non-Flying Dutchman scored a brilliant opener and a great second but his third was an absolute gem, a piece of unparalleled skill that he and only he could ever execute. Berkamp went on to replicate the same on the world stage with his winner for Holland against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Arsene Wenger described the goal against Leicester as the best he had seen from the Dutchman and just reminiscing the goals Bergkamp scored, it was surely worth a compliment of the highest order.
Matt Le Tessier v NewCastle United (91’)
‘Le God’ deserves his place in the all time great goals category more so than any footballer to have ever graced this great game. Le Tessier on his own can have all the top five nominations and we’ll probably still miss out on at least 10 of his glorious strikes. He was a great goalscorer but he was also a scorer of great goals. We chose his second strike in the same game against Newcastle as probably his best goal ever. This goal is so sublime that in many ways it’s almost unfair for the defending team as there is absolutely no way the defenders would have a clue as to what is about to happen next, not that it would have mattered anyway.
Let’s not forget the men between the post who have always added to the charm and at times, turned the script upside down. Here’s a collection of top five saves from the decade:
Ludek Miklosko v Man United (95’)
This save by the former Hammer shot stopper meant more to the Blackburn fans and even Liverpool fans than to West Ham themselves. Miklosko’s improbable save from a Lee Sharpe header denied United the win they craved on the final day of the season and the title went Rovers’ way.
David Seaman v Middlesborough (99’)
This Dean Gordon strike had goal written all over it, Seaman however had other ideas. The agility shown by the legendary English keeper is almost beyond belief as the ball seemed to have gone past him but brilliance certainly has no limits.
Peter Schmeichel v Liverpool (93’)
The Great Dane was probably “the” keeper of the decade and it’s no surprise that he made this list. This save against eternal rivals Liverpool is remembered as fondly in United circles as most goals against the hated neighbours. Don Hutchison thought he had scored against the old enemy but Schmeichel outstretched hand denied him his place in Liverpool folklore.
Peter Schmeichel v Newcastle United (97’)
This save has been voted as the best save of the first decade of the Premier league era. John Barnes delivered a peach of a header that seemed destined to end in the back of the net but the Great Dane intervened in almost god-like fashion to rescue the situation.
Shaka Hislop v Tottenham (99’)
Spurs’ Chris Amstrong powered home a close range effort but Hislop flew to his left and turned it away.