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10 forgotten heroes of the Premier League

Michu is just one of the Premier League
Michu is just one of the Premier League's forgotten heroes.
Scott Newman
Modified 24 Sep 2020, 15:41 IST
Top 5 / Top 10

The Premier League's history is littered with the names of some of the biggest superstars in football history. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Luis Suarez all rose to tremendous fame in England's top flight, and debates over who the best players in Premier League history are constantly ongoing.

Of course, over the course of its 27-year history, there have also been some great Premier League players that for one reason or another have since been largely forgotten. These players would not be considered up there with the Premier League's best, but were certainly well-respected in their time and ought to be more fondly remembered than they are.

Here are 10 forgotten Premier League heroes.

#1 Mustapha Hadji

Morocco's Mustapha Hadji (right) became a cult hero at Coventry City.

Named as the African Footballer of the Year in 1998 following his impressive performances for Morocco in that year's World Cup, Mustapha Hadji made his way to the Premier League a year later in 1999. A highly skilled, goalscoring midfielder or winger, Hadji surprisingly didn't join one of England's glamour clubs.

Instead, the Moroccan signed for perennial strugglers Coventry City, during a period in which the Sky Blues had hopes of breaking into the upper echelon of the Premier League. Hadji was an immediate fan favourite upon his arrival at Highfield Road – to the point that Coventry fans began to wear fezzes to games in a tribute to his Moroccan heritage.

Hadji repaid their faith with his performances on the pitch, too. His first season saw him help to transform Coventry's attack into one of the Premier League's most potent, and he starred in impressive victories over Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Arsenal. He ended the season with six goals to his name in 33 appearances.

Unfortunately, the Moroccan couldn't save the Sky Blues from relegation – despite scoring another six goals in 2000-01, and ended up moving to Aston Villa in the following season. Hadji spent another three seasons in the Premier League at Villa Park, but never really reached the heights he'd done at Coventry.


He moved to Espanyol in 2003 and ended his Premier League career with 97 appearances and 14 goals to his name.

#2 Bryan Roy

Bryan Roy was one of the Premier League
Bryan Roy was one of the Premier League's first successful overseas imports.

It's generally accepted that the Premier League became more cosmopolitan at some point in the late 1990s, as players from all over the world flocked to England's top flight. However, there were, of course, a handful of outstanding overseas imports before that point.

Everyone remembers the likes of Eric Cantona and Jurgen Klinsmann, but one player who has largely become forgotten is Dutch attacker Bryan Roy.

A speedy winger who could also play as a forward, Roy featured in the Netherlands' 1994 World Cup side, scoring one goal. Following the tournament, he made a somewhat surprising move at the time, switching from Serie A side Foggia to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest.

The signing had a tremendous impact on Forest's fortunes. Roy formed a partnership with striker Stan Collymore, and along with the likes of Steve Stone and Ian Woan, Frank Clark's side took the Premier League by storm.


Roy ended the season with 13 goals in 37 appearances as Forest finished in third place – still the highest placed finish for any promoted side in the Premier League era.

Collymore departed for Liverpool in the summer of 1995, but Roy stayed at the City Ground. He continued to score goals in the Premier League, while also helping Forest to the quarter-finals of the 1995-96 UEFA Cup.

The Dutchman's career in England came to a conclusion in 1997 when he moved to Hertha Berlin, and he ended his time with 24 goals in 84 Premier League games.

#3 Dean Ashton

Dean Ashton
Dean Ashton's West Ham career was cruelly cut short by a reoccurring ankle injury.

When people discuss the best English strikers of the mid-2000s, there are a few obvious names that instantly come to mind. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch all starred during that time period, scoring plenty of goals in the Premier League.

One player who could've been mentioned amongst them, had it not been for injuries, was Dean Ashton. He broke through in the early 2000s at Crewe Alexandra, scoring 74 goals in 177 appearances for them before departing for Premier League side Norwich City midway through the 2004-05 season.


Ashton was an immediate hit at Carrow Road, scoring on his debut against Middlesbrough and following that with a classic goal against Manchester City. However, despite scoring seven goals in just 16 matches, he was unable to save Norwich from relegation.

An inevitable move back to the Premier League followed in January 2006, as West Ham paid £7m to bring him to Upton Park. Again, Ashton made an immediate impact. He scored six goals in 16 games during his first half-season with the Hammers, helping them to the 2006 FA Cup final – where he also scored in their eventual loss to Liverpool.

When he received an England call-up shortly after the 2006 World Cup, it appeared he was destined for stardom. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sustained on international duty kept him out of the entire 2006-07 season. It was also the beginning of the end of the striker's career.

Ashton returned in 2007-08 and scored another 10 Premier League goals, but his ankle injury returned again early in the 2008-09 season and restricted him to just four appearances. That turned out to be the last fans would see of him, as he was forced into retirement at the age of just 26.

Over a decade on, Ashton remains a cult hero with West Ham fans, who often wonder what could've been.

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Published 24 Sep 2020, 15:41 IST
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