Premier League's Ultimate Cult Heroes

Richard MorganContributor IOctober 4, 2013

Premier League's Ultimate Cult Heroes

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    Hero figure: players such as Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were real cult heroes during the Premier League era
    Hero figure: players such as Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were real cult heroes during the Premier League eraLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The Premier League landscape has been dominated by a number of well-known and never-to-be forgotten cult heroes down the years.

    And in case you may have forgotten who some of these figures were, we are here to give your memory a quick nudge and remind you of some of the most memorable characters, in no particular order….

Eric Cantona (Manchester United)

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    The legendary French striker lit up Old Trafford for a number of years in the '90s with his vast array of outrageous skills, including the usual assortment of eye-catching flicks, back heels, nut megs and drag backs that would wow not just the Old Trafford faithful, but also, if they were honest, opposition fans too.

    And while “King Eric,” as he was known on the Stretford End, may be remembered in neutral fans’ eyes for his infamous kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace in 1995, at the “Theatre of Dreams” he will always be the man who started the club off on their subsequent two-decade-long domination of English football.

Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea)

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    The seven years that the little Sardinian spent at Stamford Bridge in the mid-'90s turned out to be the best football that Zola ever played in his entire professional career, with the diminutive forward going on to be remembered as one of the best foreign imports in the 21-year history of the Premier League.

    And as for the west London club, the twinkle-toed magician will never be forgotten by the Blues faithful, whether it be Zola’s always smiling face, his nonchalant flicks, the curling free kicks or that velvet first touch, all joys to behold.

Robbie Fowler (Liverpool)

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    Anyone known by his own set of supporters simply as “God” must have enjoyed a fair degree of popularity, and that is the high regard that the Toxteth-born striker was held in by those fans on the Kop at Anfield during his electric and goal-laden nine years, across two different spells, with the Merseyside giants.

    The instinctive marksman was, of course, one of the fans, which is why the Reds faithful took him to their hearts more so than other Liverpool player of recent times, until the emergence of both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher that is.

    Although his prodigious scoring, outrageous celebrations and simple love of the game were also strong factors in making Fowler such a cult figure at Anfield in the late '90s.

Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

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    The Gunners’ greatest-ever player? Most definitely, but it was not so much the mountain of goals that the Frenchman plundered during his two spells in north London, although they of course helped.

    No, it was more the manner and style of “Titi’s” strikes that will live long in the memory and made the playmaker such a cult hero at the club, with Henry capable of pretty much netting any type of goal possible, although he was especially fond of the both spectacular and impossible though.

    And you would be hard pressed to come up with the forward’s most memorable strike. However, such was his collection of the sublime and the ridiculous from his eight-year spell in the capital.

Paolo Di Canio (West Ham United)

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    Fans may find this hard to believe in the light of recent events at the Stadium of Light, but the volatile Italian was a massively positive influence on the Hammers’ young crop of emerging stars at Upton Park at the turn of the century with his rigorous adherence to fitness regimes, strict dietary requirements and all-round professionalism.

    Meanwhile, on the pitch itself the east London club's supporters just loved to watch the maverick striker in action week in, week out, probably because they did not know from one minute to the next just what he was going to do …. And you know what, nor did he!

    However, when he did manage to pull things off, such as with his Goal of the Season against Wimbledon in March 2000, then it was all worth the wait from this most unpredictable of characters.

Alan Shearer (Newcastle United)

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    On Tyneside, there really is only one man who fits the bill of a Newcastle United Premier League cult hero, and that is their former skipper and goal machine Shearer, who banged in a highly impressive 206 strikes in total in just 404 matches in all competitions for the Magpies between 1996 and 2006.

    However, the England captain was not your average striker when it came to scoring goals, with Shearer capable of your everyday tap-ins, sure, but also your bullet headers, long-range pile drivers, unstoppable free kicks and powerful volleys.

    And each strike was met by an enormous roar from the Gallowgate End, who simply idolised their goalscoring local hero at St. James’ Park.

Vinnie Jones (Wimbledon)

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    The Dons hard man, now an actor out in Hollywood, was one of the Premier League’s great pantomime villains following his spells with the likes of Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Chelsea in the late '80s and early '90s.

    However, what a lot of people often conveniently forget about the midfield player is that behind the cheeky grin and the late tackles, Jones could actually play a bit when not trying to kick his opposite number off the park that is!

    And down at Plough Lane, the home fans loved the irascible Welshman, who as a result became a real cult figure in south-west London.

Matt Le Tissier (Southampton)

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    One of a select band of players who can call themselves a one-club man in the Premier League era “Le God,” as he was known as by the Saints faithful at the Dell, was one of the most naturally gifted and talented forward players the English top flight has ever seen.

    And for those who had the pleasure of watching the two-footed playmaker in action firsthand on the South Coast during the '90s, you can understand just why this king of the set pieces was so adored.

Juergen Klinsmann (Tottenham Hotspur)

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    The German striker arrived at White Hart Lane in July 1994 with a reputation for going to ground too easily, and yet soon won over the Spurs fans by both scoring shed-loads of goals in his one-and-a-half seasons in north London across two different spells, and his willingness to laugh at himself with his swan-dive celebrations.

Shaun Goater (Manchester City)

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    The Bermuda-born striker’s name is still sung regularly by City fans at Eastlands, who to a man just loved the lanky marksman during his five-year stay in the north west, and this even despite the fact that the “Goat,” as he was affectionately known as during his time at Maine Road, began his professional career at, of all places, city rivals Manchester United!

    And what is more, the City supporters even penned a song in Goater’s honour, with the never-to-be forgotten lyrics: “Feed the Goat, and he will score!"