Time For Heroes: Premiership Legends Present and Future

Jordan HarrisContributor IApril 10, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Ryan Giggs of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at Upton Park on December 5, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Football can make heroes out of players if they choose the right path, and it will continue to do so. But which players in the Premier League at the moment have the potential to be this special type of legend ?

Not a legend in the style of Maradona, Pele, Best, or any of the standard "greats". They can be great players, but they need to carry a close connection to a club with them, or earn the respect of the league as a whole. It is an emotional thing, to a certain extent.

The prime example of this sort of legend, or hero, is Ryan Giggs. He has 583 appearances and counting for Manchester United, and countless winners medals. He's a perfect role model off the pitch, and a wizard with the ball. He has earned the respect of everyone and has a special place in Manchester United fans' hearts for life.

Paul Scholes and Gary Neville are the same, though Giggs's sheer amount of records put him slightly above them.

It doesn't always have to be a fairy tale story like Giggs', however. I would put Sol Campbell in the same category. Things haven't always been rosy in his relationship with Arsenal. A controversial move in the first place, he was not always the most reliable center back or personality (Leaving the stadium at half-time after being blamed for both goals conceded against West Ham in 2005).

But the passion he is showing for the club now that he is back, alongside the fact that he was actually a great defender for them, will put him in the hero book. His numerous heroic performances for England will also make the non-Arsenal fans appreciate Campbell as a legend.

It's not only the players themselves who can achieve this status, of course. Managers can also get there, though it is obviously a lot harder when most don't even last a year now.

Sir Alex Ferguson is clearly the greatest example of this. Nothing really needs to be said; his long, ridiculously successful reign at Manchester United speaks for itself.

But Jose Mourinho will always be a hero in the eyes of Chelsea fans, proving that you don't need to stay at a club for a long time to entwine yourself into its culture. The man will never receive a bad reception at Stamford Bridge, and you would have to believe that they would have him back any day.

But what about the future? What players, or managers out there at the minute can take over from these greats? Each generation needs its heroes.

The Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes of today are surely Frank Lampard and John Terry. They are respected and despised by all other clubs at the same time, which is perhaps the essential quality to have if you are to make a hero of yourself, as it makes your fans appreciate you more.

Other teams can insult Terry and Lampard all they like, they would still trade most of their team for those two players. Chelsea through and through, it is hard to imagine the club without them. They are pretty much certain to take over from Giggs, et al.

Wayne Rooney is another pretty obvious choice, but he is in an interesting situation right now. He clearly loves Manchester United, but would he want a move to Barcelona, Madrid or even a team like Inter if they were to come calling? If so, despite all he has done already, he could well become despised by United fans.

If Rooney stays, then he is guaranteed to be a legend, no doubt about it. The fans love him, he is a player who you just cannot wait to tell your children about, even knowing they will probably never understand. My guess is that he will stay. Just looking in his eyes, you can see the hunger he has to become one of these heroes.

Carlos Tevez has the legend already made for him, all he has to do is play to his best ability and hope whoever comes into the Man City squad does so too. This will lead to success, and he can forever be credited with turning City into a big, big club. But does he take a gamble on staying with a club that could end up treating him badly, with all the personnel change that will happen over the next few years, especially if the success expected doesn't come as soon as hoped?

But let's move away from the more obvious choices. What about players like Bobby Zamora? So long on the outskirts, almost in a humorous way, he now finds himself on the verge of a World Cup call-up. If he were to go to South Africa and impress in front of the world, bigger clubs would show interest.

Would it be wise for him to take the chance and try to prove himself against the best, or stay at Fulham, a club on the up, in European semifinals, but are probably never really going to be one of the clubs to playfor?

Managers are, as I have said, a lot harder to turn into heroes. They take all responsibility for the club's fortunes, a lot for one man to take. Roy Hodgson at Fulham is on the up at the minute, a few more years moving in an upward direction and he is going to be a legend.

But it is a gamble he may not be willing to take if factors such as Zamora possibly being tempted away, or Hodgson himself, trying to secure himself a job and his reputation, might be tempted to leave as well.

At the bottom of the league, Avram Grant, despite all that has happened over the season, seems to be building a connection with the Portsmouth fans, an us against the world mentality that fans love. He was treated awfully by Chelsea so will no doubt be appreciating the love shown to him at Portsmouth. He could find himself a hero sooner than most others if he stays at the club next season and possibly gets them promoted again.

I'm sure there are many many more that I have missed, some obvious, some less so. There are no wrong or right answers, becoming a hero at a football club is all down to taking a gamble and sticking with clubs through thick and thin, in the hope they stick with you.