Inspired by the story of Ryan Giggs’ billionth appearance for United this weekend, Craig takes a look at a few other players who’ve had the best job in the world for quite some time.
Recently, the media focus has been on Arsenalâ€™s young stars â€“ and quite rightly so. But as Ryan Giggs’ is showered with praise as he approaches his 10,000th appearance, it seems necessary to consider that there are many players at the other end of their careers who are still shining in the Premiership this year â€“ most of whom donâ€™t get the credit they deserve for their achievements.
This is by no means an exhaustive list â€“ so let us know who at your club is a golden oldie.
Brian McBride (Fulham) â€“ McBride is one of the most under-rated strikers in the history of the Premiership. His direct, aggressive style of football makes him perfectly suited to the English game and you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of headers he will lose in a season. At the age of 34, McBride has scored 12 goals this season, and would by my choice to win Old Player of the Year Award â€“ if such a thing actually existed.
Gary Speed (Bolton) â€“ At 37, Speed is one of the oldest players in the league â€“ yet he is also one of the fittest, thanks to Sam Allardyceâ€™s strict training regime, the Welsh midfielderâ€™s professionalism and probably some sort of lifelong alcohol allerg. Speed has started every game for Bolton in the Premiership this season and looks like he could keep going at the top level for a couple of years yet. Speed and Ryan Giggs are the only players to have ever scored in every season of the Premiership.
Henrik Larsson (Man Utd) â€“ Many critics questioned Larssonâ€™s ability at the top level, pouring scorn on his goalscoring record because it came in a supposed â€˜weakerâ€™ league. However his performance in the Championsâ€™ League final last season for Barcelona and now his influence at Manchester United have silenced his doubters/idiots. Only a cameo appearance in the Premiership for the 35 year-old Swede, but he has made an important contribution towards Man Utdâ€™s title challenge. Unless his loan is extended he will not receive the Premiership medal his career deserves.
Tugay (Blackburn) â€“ At the age of 36, the Turkish midfielder still holds down a regular place at Ewood Park and scored goal of the season contenders against Spurs and Basel. Although he lacks pace, he makes up for it with his tenacity and intelligent passing and has been the driving force behind Blackburn in many games this season.
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) â€“ At the age of 33, Giggs has been instrumental in Man Utdâ€™s title challenge this season. After a few years where he was widely considered to be the best winger in the world â€“ a period which took in a Championsâ€™ League victory â€“ many believed Giggs was on his way down after a run of poor form over the last couple of seasons. However, the Welshman has been at his best again this season whether playing on the wing or central midfield and is on course to win a record 9th Premiership medal. And whoâ€™s to say he wonâ€™t go on for a few more years and get himself into double figures.
Antoine Sibierski (Newcastle) â€“ Many Newcastle fans were upset at the signing of Sibierski, feeling the club was not showing enough ambition in signing the 32 year-old who had always been a reasonable player in the Premiership with Manchester City, but had hardly set the league on fire. However, Sibierski has been a revelation this year â€“ scoring 8 goals, often crucial, including 4 in the UEFA Cup and impressing mainly in the second striker position playing off Obafemi Martins.
David James (Portsmouth) â€“ Another great season for the Portsmouth keeper, who always seems to perform brilliantly in the Premiership but was never able to do it on the international scene (although I still rate him more highly than Paul Robinson). The 36 year-old has inspired Portsmouth to a number of impressive results this season with 9 clean sheets and will play a major part in their pursuit of European football. Harry Redknapp reckons he’s the best thing since sliced bread and droopy cheeks.
Malky Mackay (Watford) â€“ After 3 consecutive years of winning the Championship play-offs, Mackay was finally given a chance in the Premiership with Watford (both Norwich and West Ham deemed him surplus to requirements after promotion). Although Watford are bottom of the table, the 35 year-old has been impressive at the heart of the Hornetsâ€™ defence and even bagged a memorable double in the FA Cup against Stockport. Mackay is also part of the coaching staff at Vicarage Road.
Claude Makelele (Chelsea) – He’s now got an entire position named after him despite showing up in the Premiership a couple of years ago in his 30’s (he’s now 36). So… he’s quite good.