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

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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

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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

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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

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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

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.