Everton's Worst Starting 11 of the Premier League Era
After lagging behind its European competitors in the late 1980s as a result of rampant hooliganism, a loss of revenue, and a FIFA-imposed five-year ban from continental competition following the Heysel Stadium disaster, top-flight football in England finally started to turn around in the early ‘90s.
In their quick return to European competition, Manchester United lifted the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991. Around the same time, stadium safety standards were prioritized in order to avoid the issues from Heysel and Hillsborough, resulting in all-seater stadiums. With the globalization of football came increased television sponsorships, often labeled as the “Sky sports money,” which ultimately led to the breakaway of the First Division from the rest of the Football League and the establishment of the Premier League.
Of course, the detailed explanations for why the separation occurred are far more extensive than simply a desire for unique corporate sponsorships and television revenue, but it could be simplified to that primary factor.
What is certain is that in 1992 the world witnessed the birth of arguably the most popular domestic football league in history, and since then the sport in England has never been the same.
In 20 years of competition, only five teams have ever won the league: Manchester United (12), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Blackburn Rovers (1), and Manchester City (1). Liverpool and Everton have fallen from the heights of glory to top-half mediocrity and the introduction of foreign oil-rich owners has severely improved Chelsea and City.
Former European contenders and four-time League Cup winners Nottingham Forest were relegated in the inaugural campaign after 16 straight seasons in the top flight and have not returned in well over a decade, and Leeds United fell into oblivion after financial doping saw an implosion at the club in 2004.
So, a lot has changed since the inception of the EPL. Teams and players have come and gone. And there have been just as many bad as good.
In an ode to Everton’s recent push for Champions League football and their improvement under David Moyes, here is a list of their worst starting 11 from the Premier League era.
This ranking will take into account on-field performance, appearances, purchase and resale value, and the direction the players have taken since leaving the Merseyside club.
As lists such as a these are always debatable and subjective, feel free to leave your own opinion of the club’s worst players in the past twenty years.
Richard Wright (GK)
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After seven seasons with Ipswich Town (six as first-choice keeper), Wright was purchased by Arsenal in a multi-million pound deal with the intention of taking over as the long-term successor to David Seaman.
After a season of mishaps, the Englishman was shipped out and signed by Everton. He had a decent initial campaign with the club as they finished seventh in the table. However, Wright suffered a serious of strange injuries in the following years and was replaced by veteran signing Nigel Martyn. In the end, he featured less than 30 times in the league (less than the amount he played in the 2002-03 campaign) in the four seasons until he left for West Ham United.
Two of Wright’s most famous spells on the sidelines resulted from his tripping over a warning sign to not warm up in the goalmouth prior to an FA Cup match against Chelsea in 2006, causing him to severely twist his ankle. Earlier in his Toffee career, he had missed several games after injuring his shoulder when falling from his loft trying to pack a suitcase.
Alessandro Pistone (LB)
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The Italian fullback signed for Everton from Newcastle United for a fee of £3 million in 2000.
In his mid-twenties at the time, there was a lot of promise for Pistone. However, he suffered a series of major injuries almost immediately after signing and managed only 94 league appearances in seven seasons with the club.
After the departure of Walter Smith, the Italian was given a renewed role under Moyes and briefly flourished before he again struggled with knee problems. At the end of his contract, he refused a one-year extension, expecting to move back to Italy with Lecce, but was left club-less after the move fell through.
Eventually, Pistone resigned to Everton for two more season where he made a grand total of two league appearances.
Slaven Bilic (CB)
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The current Lokomotiv Moscow manager endured a difficult three seasons on Merseyside after he was signed for £4.5 million from West Ham United in 1997.
The Croatian had shone previously for the Hammers, as well as with the national side as they advanced to the quarterfinals in Euro 1996. Nevertheless, while he consistently excelled with Croatia, helping them to a third-place finish in the 1998 World Cup, his form with Everton was both inconsistent and infuriating for manager Howard Kendell.
In his first campaign, Bilic was marred by bookings and was suspended for several matches. After the World Cup, he suffered from a groin strain and then featured only four more times for the club. All in all, his three seasons with Everton reaped a mere 26 appearances.
Eventually, Everton settled their contract with the player and he went on to sign with former side Hajduk Split, but appeared only intermittently before he retired in 2001.
Per Krøldrup (CB)
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The towering Danish centre-back looked like a sure thing when Everton signed him for £5 million from Udinese in 2005.
Already a Denmark international, Kroldrup was intended to strengthen the squad following qualification to the UEFA Champions League for the first time. However, he suffered a groin injury before featuring for the side and then went on to make only one league appearance, in a 0-4 loss to Aston Villa.
The Dane admitted to having trouble getting accustomed to the physicality of English football and was transferred for an undisclosed fee to Fiorentina, where he played over 100 matches before being released this past summer.
Marc Hottiger (RB)
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Hottiger had one successful season at Newcastle United before he lost his place and went looking for a new club. In January 1996, he was purchased by Everton for £700,000, but never quite hit the ground running.
Initially, the Switzerland international had trouble obtaining a work permit and only featured in nine matches, scoring one goal. The following August, he failed to secure a starting berth and played less matches over the course of a season where Everton flirted closely with relegation.
The right-back problem was ubiquitous for the Toffees in the ‘90s, with Earl Barrett also struggling in front of Hottiger, but seemed to be solved temporarily with the emergence of Tony Hibbert.
Eventually, Hottiger was sold back to Lausanne Sports in his native country in a £25,000 deal and after two mediocre seasons finished his career at FC Sion.
Niclas Alexandersson (LM)
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Although he featured largely on the right-flank, Alexandersson has earned this place for the simple fact that our worst right-sided attacker is arguably one of the most dreadful signings in Premier League history.
The former Sweden international played at Everton from 2000-03, following a spell with Sheffield Wednesday. Alexandersson was voted Player of the Season by Wednesday in their relegation-doomed campaign prior to signing with Everton for £2.5 million.
In his first two seasons on Merseyside, the versatile winger featured regularly, then lost his place after a succession of injuries and the arrival of David Moyes. He played only seven times over the next two seasons, was loaned out shortly to West Ham United, and then left back to Sweden as a free agent where he played five more seasons with IFK Göteborg.
Dinyar Bilyaletdinov may top many Evertonians’ lists in this position after his very inconsistent 2.5 seasons with the Toffees. Both players suffered from a terrible lack of belief and were often found out-of-place in central midfield (although Bily believed that was his best position).
Alexander Nyarko (CM)
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Everton supporters who understandably grumble when Phil Neville is played in a central midfield role will at least be thankful it is no longer Ghanaian flop Nyarko patrolling the center of the park.
Signed from Lens in Ligue 1 for £4.5 million in 2000, the midfielder went on to make a meager 33 appearances in four seasons with the club, before being released by then-new boss David Moyes.
In his first season with Everton, the Ghanaian was famously confronted by a fan in a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal and asked to swap jerseys, implying he wasn’t fit to wear the Everton kit. Nyarko threatened to quit football afterward and was eventually loaned out to Monaco and then PSG.
For the rest of his time at the club, Nyarko was known as the Invisible Man and his career fizzled out after once being compared to Patrick Vieira in both stature and technique.
Stephen Hughes (CM)
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Hughes played his one and only season at Everton alongside Nyarko in 2000-01.
The Englishman arrived with much promise from Arsenal in a £3 million deal, but largely failed to live up to his potential and was allowed to leave on a free transfer the following summer.
Hughes was an unspectacular player in an unspectacular side, and after flopping at both Watford and Charlton Athletic in his post-Everton career, became the captain and star player for Coventry City in the Championship from 2004-08.
Andy Van Der Meyde (RM)
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The Dutch winger, who played for Ajax and Inter Milan prior to joining Everton for a fee of £2 million, is probably the best example of promise gone totally down the drain.
Much like Royston Drenthe, who was on loan with Everton last season from Real Madrid and is now in obscurity in Russia, Van der Meyde preferred partying to football in his four year spell at Everton. His only notable contribution to the side was an assist to Dan Gosling in the goal that eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup in 2009.
Then in his mid-twenties, the Dutchman played only 20 league matches in four seasons, largely because of his lack of fitness and drinking problems. Eventually, issues with cocaine, an affair on his wife, and a lack of determination to turn his situation around led to him being released at the end of his contract in 2009.
Van der Meyde retired after failing to find regular football afterward, returning only top lay for an amateur side briefly in 2012.
James Beattie (ST)
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Prior to Marouane Fellaini, Beattie was Everton’s record signing after Moyes dished out £6 million to sign the striker from Southampton in 2005.
From 2000-04, the Englishman managed 60 goals in 117 league appearances for the Saints, and many expected him to impress with Everton as they sought to be a force in England and Europe.
However, he scored only 13 goals in 76 appearances at the club, and was sold at a two million pound loss to Sheffield United in the Championship after 2.5 seasons on Merseyside.
In his fifth league appearance for the Toffees in 2005, Beattie committed his most famous feat in an Everton kit when he was ejected for headbutting William Gallas.
He later blamed Moyes for his demise at the club, but from that moment of controversy, coupled with the different style of play at Everton, Beattie was simply not the right fit for the puzzle
Brett Angell (ST)
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You know a player has had a it rough when they somehow make their way on the list at Rubbishfootballers.com. So it is with journeyman striker Brett Angell, who endured two torrid loan spells and one full season with Everton in the mid-nineties.
Purchased for £500,000 from third-tier Southend United, the 6’4’’ striker scored a solitary goal in 20 league appearances for Everton. However, he still managed to be sold on for a profit to Sunderland, where their supporters were able to witness first-hand the clumsy, clog-footed specimen.
The latest news on Angell from 2009 was that he had relocated to New Zealand to take up a regional coaching role. Evertonians will be hoping that the training focuses on something other than scoring, an area of the game the striker never quite mastered during his short spells in top-level football.