The goalscorer. The maverick. The one-club man. Every club and fan has a cult hero.
Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Micah Richards have been discussing Premier League cult heroes and what it takes to become one in the latest Match of the Day: Top 10 podcast.
To hear how they made their final selections, make sure you listen to the podcast on BBC Sounds and you can rank yours at the bottom of the page too.
Faustino Asprilla (Shearer: 10th, Richards: 10th)
Colombia forward Faustino Asprilla joined Newcastle United from Parma in February 1996 for £6.7m. He went on to score 18 goals in 61 appearances for the Magpies, but the club were unable to win any trophies during his stay at the club, before he returned to Parma in January 1998.
Shearer: He was a nice lunatic – he was brilliant and brilliant for the dressing room because he was a character, he loved a laugh and a joke. He could do no wrong in the dressing room because he didn’t speak a lot of English.
I remember one incident where the clocks were going to change and I was last out of the dressing room on the Saturday and I said to him ‘don’t forget the clocks go back’, but they were actually going forward. We were in training the next day and he rocks in an hour or two late and shouted at me in front of everyone.
Chris Waddle (Shearer: 8th, Richards: 9th)
Chris Waddle was a tricky winger and attacking midfielder who had spells at Newcastle and Tottenham before the Premier League began in 1992. He was at French side Marseille when the new division was formed and joined Sheffield Wednesday for £1.35m that summer. He was part of the team that finished runners-up in the FA Cup and League Cup in 1992-93 and he scored 13 times in 117 appearances in all competitions for the Owls.
Lineker: He didn’t look like a footballer but I loved playing with him. He was one of the main reasons I signed for Spurs when I left Barcelona. I did the deal and I was on holiday in the Caribbean and I got a phone call from my agent saying that he’d been sold to Marseille for £15m. It was like someone just snatching 15 goals a season out of my pocket.
But he is loved in Marseille, he’s a proper cult hero there, he’s one of their most popular players in their history. And he was the only person who could share a room with Gazza!
Shearer: Wherever he has played everyone talks very highly of him.
David Ginola (Shearer: 9th, Richards 6th)
French winger and midfielder David Ginola joined Newcastle in 1995 from Paris St-Germain for £2.5m. He spent two seasons on the Tyne, scoring seven times and laying on 17 more goals in all competitions. He joined Tottenham in 1997 where he scored 15 goals and assisted eight before spells at Aston Villa and Everton.
Richards: Beautiful looking – he was brilliant and just so cool, so smooth.
Lineker: I worked with him on the 1998 World Cup where France won and he was left out of the squad and it was a big deal he was left out. I was in the ground doing pitch-side reports with Ginola and he did the best job ever of trying to disguise that he was absolutely gutted to be missing out on the World Cup winning squad. I felt for him because he had to pretend he was ecstatic, I’m sure he was pleased for his country, but inside you could tell he was gutted.
Shearer: He was frustrating at times, but unbelievable ability – he could twist and turn but when I made my run I wanted to know the ball was coming in and sometimes it wasn’t. He’d been at Newcastle for five or six games and no balls were coming into the box for me so we had it out at half-time in the dressing room one game and after that it got better.
Jay-Jay Okocha (Shearer: 6th, Richards: 7th)
Nigeria midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha joined Bolton on a free transfer from PSG in 2002. He scored seven goals in his first season to steer the north-west club away from the relegation zone and netted 18 in total during his four-season stay. He captained the club to their first cup final in nine years, when they lost to Middlesbrough in the 2004 League Cup final.
Lineker: You wouldn’t see him as a Big Sam type of player, would you?
Richards: I’ve watched him a lot, he’d just flick it over players’ heads and he was so calm with it, he’s one of the most skilful I’ve seen and he’s loved in Bolton. He possibly could have gone in a bit higher but I think there is better above him.
Shearer: He made the difficult things look easy – I must’ve tried that flicking over heads a million times and it’s never come off once. Gifted, natural ability, superb player.
Matt Le Tissier (Shearer: 2nd, Richards: 8th)
Matt Le Tissier joined Southampton on a YTS contract in 1985 and stayed at the Saints until 2002. The attacking midfielder scored 124 times in 334 games for the club – with 102 of them coming in the Premier League, including 25 in the 93-94 season, and 20 the following season when he was named in the Premier League team of the season.
Shearer: He was so laid back and the ability that he had, left foot right foot, touch, technique, control, everything. He loved playing under Alan Ball because he built the team around him.
I was lucky enough to play with him at Southampton. He was laid back and he had so much natural ability. He was so loyal to Southampton, it was his football club and that’s why he’s loved by the fans.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Shearer: 4th, Richards: 5th)
Norway striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined Manchester United for £2.25m in 1996 and went on to score 126 goals, and lay on another 50, in 365 games for the Reds. He scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, which sealed the Treble for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. He won six Premier League titles during his 10-season stay at Old Trafford.
Lineker: I’m surprised he’s on this list, he’s not a massive personality – a top-class striker, of course, but he’s not a kind of mad personality.
Shearer: What you do at that particular football club and how important it is determines who you are and that goal he scored for Man United in the 1999 Champions League final and the part he played in that – the fans still sing his name now because of what he did as a player.
When you look at the number of players that club have had, for them to still sing his name because of what he did as a player… But as a manager, that trophy will have to come pretty soon for him though.
Richards: Man United had a bit of a sticky patch and they were right to stay with him – I think he’s doing very well but now he has to get more respect for his tactics. But when you consider the amount of problems he had when he took over, he has galvanised them.
Paolo di Canio (Shearer: 5th, Richards: 4th)
Italy forward Paolo di Canio first came to the Premier League in 1997, when he joined Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer from Celtic. He scored 15 Premier League goals for the Owls in 41 games before a £2m move to West Ham in January 1999. He scored 51 goals in all competitions for the Hammers in four and a half seasons before spending a year at Charlton.
Shearer: I think he would have been very interesting in the dressing room, but Ian Wright always says he was a great professional. Apparently he was teacher’s pet with Harry Redknapp at West Ham. Harry signed so many players like that who were not easy to manage, Harry found a knack of doing it. But a very, very good player.
Richards: When he pushed the referee it was hilarious. He must’ve been sent off for that? Nonsense.
Mario Balotelli (Shearer: 7th, Richards: 1st)
Italy striker Mario Balotelli joined Manchester City from Inter Milan for £26.5m in August 2010. He reunited with former boss Roberto Mancini and scored 30 goals in 80 games for the club, and was part of the team that won the FA Cup and Premier League. He also spent a season at Liverpool, scoring four times.
Richards: He’s brilliant, I’m always reluctant to tell stories about him because he’s still playing. But the firework story – he set off the firework and burnt down his own house – but that wasn’t the only time he had done it. He came to do it at my house and chased me around my house with fireworks which were lit. I couldn’t believe it – it sounds ridiculous.
He was crazy in a good way – he was only 18 when he came to Man City, he was just messing around. He was brilliant to have around the squad – a cult hero not just for the nonsense he did off the field but on it as well. The only assist he got was that one for Sergio Aguero in the Queens Park Rangers title-winning game, he scored two goals in the 6-1 against Man United and the fans now love him.
The best thing about him is he’s a lovely guy, he’s not arrogant or how the papers try to perceive him, he’s just a bit mad.
Paul Gascoigne (Shearer: 3rd, Richards 3rd)
Attacking midfielder Paul Gascoigne played most of his football in England before the Premier League began in 1992. He scored 25 goals in 104 games for Newcastle, before a £4.68m move to Tottenham where he netted 33 times in 112 games. He moved to Lazio in 1992 before spells at Middlesbrough and Everton in the Premier League.
Shearer: Wherever he has played, everyone has fond memories of him and stories about him. He would’ve been a nightmare to have every week at your club. It was all right for me because I only saw him playing for England, I couldn’t put up with him every week – and my room was two doors down from Gazza and I used to ask to move because I could hear him up in the night!
Lineker: I played with him for three years and there wasn’t a day went by without something ludicrous happening or some practical joke. Gazza was so funny but there was a line, and he would cross it, and then cross it again. He was always so hilarious and everyone has so many stories.
The first time he was with the England squad, we had a golf day which we all had to go to the dinner for after which was a bit of a pain, we were all sat round and the golf club chairman did a speech for about 10 minutes and we all just wanted to get back to the rooms. But when he’d finished talking, Gazza stood up and did 40 minutes’ stand-up and he was hilarious, telling jokes and stories and that was his first time in the England squad!
Eric Cantona (Shearer: 1st, Richards: 2nd)
France forward Eric Cantona first came to England when he joined Leeds for £1.35m in 1991. He scored 13 times in 30 games for the Yorkshire club before a £1.62m move to Manchester United in November 1992. He scored 81 times in 180 games for the Reds and won six major honours including four Premier League trophies.
Lineker: Of course there was the speech to the media about seagulls following the trawler.
Alan and I played against Cantona for England at Wembley, Alan scored in the first half and I scored in the second and it was when France had been on a long run under Michel Platini.
Shearer: If you’ve got the balls to go and jump feet first into the crowd when someone’s abusing you, you’ve got to be slightly bonkers. But in terms of the fans loving him and what he did for the club, he helped to change Man United and everyone looked up to him, he was their leader.
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