EPL: 10 English Players Who Never Reached Their Potential
England has produced an amazing amount of talent during the Premiership years, players who have gone on to lead great careers but also unfortunately players have emerged who looked like they had the world at their feet but they never lived up to their hype.
I decided to look into 10 players careers I felt didn’t match up to the ability they showed when they were younger. This could be if a player fell by the wayside due to form or injuries or if a player's career never achieved the success it warranted. Hope you enjoy the read!
10. Dean Ashton
Coming up through Crewe Alexandra’s renowned youth academy, Dean was their brightest young star in the early 2000s. Scoring goals for Crewe and winning honours with England at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level it was only a matter of time before a bigger club came knocking for him.
Arriving at Norwich for £3 million he finally had a taste of Premiership football. After scoring 17 goals in his first year he was on the move again, joining West Ham for £7 million. His continued good form in the top flight lead to a much called for and deserved England call up in August 2006 and when he eventually achieved his goal that’s when disaster struck. In training the day before the game against Greece, Ashton broke his ankle.
It was a devastating blow to the 22-year-old and he subsequently missed the next year of football making his next appearance in July 2007 in a friendly. He went on to play 35 league games that season and started to slowly show that his previous form hadn’t deserted him, scoring 11 goals, even finally getting his England cap, and the club rewarded his comeback and form with a new five year contract.
At the start of the 2008-09 season the ankle problems which had started to become forgotten to Ashton, resurfaced and he never kicked a ball again. Dean Ashton retired on 11 December 2009 at the age of 26. His last game was against West Brom on the 13th September 2008
9. Seth Johnson
Part of the famed youth academy at Crewe that many Premiership footballers have came from and gone on to have noteworthy careers. Johnson was picked up by Derby County in 1999 for a club record £3 million, where he even rejected the advances of Liverpool.
The tough tackling grafter of a midfielder continued his amazing form at Derby where he was turning heads in the Premiership, making managers take notice of this promising player. He even managed to gain an Engalnd cap playing in the game against Italy becoming the last English player to be capped whilst playing for Derby.
Big spending Leeds United eventually snapped the 22-year-old up for £7 million with the intention of building their team around the passionate player and expecting him to become a regular fixture in the England squad. However, the footballing gods had other ideas, a series of horrific knee injuries limited the midfielder to just 54 games in four years. He was let go on a free transfer where Derby County eventually picked him back up to the delight of their fans who had got their long standing hero back.
Johnson started to build his career back up at Derby shaking off any problems he had and was in line for a bit of redemption when Derby was in the playoff final to gain promotion back to the Premiership. With three minutes left Derby was leading West Brom one goal to nil with the Premiership in sight. Johnson, who had an outstanding game, was just casually jogging up the field when his knee buckled on him and he hit the floor in agony. He never kicked a ball again. At the age of 28 his career was over.
8. Michael Owen
Owen has played for some great teams and also a former European player of the year winner, so what brings him on this list? Because he should of been so much better. Given the hype surrounding Owen when he burst on to the scene as a baby-faced 18-year-old he should have turned out to be one of England’s greatest strikers of all time.
Now at the age of 31 can Owen look back at his career and say it reached the potential that he once showed? If someone had told you in 1998 this is how Owens career would be winding up wouldn't we all be shocked? I think even Owen would agree that it didn’t go as it should have, granted he has played for teams like Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United but in the years that should have seen Owen at the peak of his game he was nothing more than a player on the sidelines.
Injuries are mainly to blame for the derailment of his career but for a striker who has never hit 20 league goals in a season can he be called a great? He’s only nine goals off Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goal scoring record, which he was well on his way to breaking, but the chances of him breaking that are now practically nonexistent, his last England goals coming in a game against Russia in September 2007
To show just how far his star had fallen when Owen was available on a free transfer in 2009 his advisors commissioned a brochure about the player highlighting how he was a good prospective signing for teams. Here’s a link to it if you haven’t seen it!
Owen finally clinched a league title this summer with Man United, even though he only made a measly 11 appearances scoring twice and he now seems content to life sitting on the bench at Old Trafford signing a new one year contract in June. His best days came when he was in his early 20’s just how good could he have become if he had stayed at Liverpool?
7. Alan Shearer
Yes, he was one of the greatest strikers the Premiership has seen, but Shearer should have been challenging for the title every year. His ability never deserted him throughout his time in the game, but did his career reach its utmost potential?
I also think he retired from International football much too early, especially when he could of had one more World cup in him and I think he would have made a huge difference in that tournament for England, compared to Emile Heskey.
It’s understandable that Shearer wanted to play for his home club, and you could always see that he actually loved it there but in hindsight can Shearer honestly say that he didn’t make a huge mistake in not furthering his career to the heights it deserved by not joining Manchester United? He has all his goals but only one medal to show from his time in the game, recognized nationally but at another club or in another league he would of been called one of the best in the World.
6. Richard Wright
Richard Wright was a promising goalkeeper from a very early age playing for Ipswich in the second tier and turning heads, looking like a future England goalkeeper for the future, there was even rumours that Manchester United looked at him as one for the future as a replacement for Peter Schmeichel. During his spell at Ipswich he even managed to win an England cap.
In the end it was in fact Arsenal who signed him in 2001 for £6 million, as a long-term replacement for David Seaman. An injury to Seaman early on in the season allowed Wright the chance to show just what he could do and he didn’t quite live up to expectations with some poor performances including punching the ball into his own net against Charlton.
Wright only played 22 games for Arsenal before he was shipped off to Everton. Although a starter for the team when he first joined he soon found himself behind Nigel Martyn and when he retired he then found himself the newly signed Tim Howard.
After five years and only 60 appearances his contract was up and he joined West Ham where he failed to get a game. He later rejoined Ipswich where he played for two years but a knee injury ended his time there and his contract was ended in 2010. Sheffield United gave him a trial in September where he played two games but they decided not to give him a contract. He is currently without a club aged 33.
5. Kieron Dyer
In the late '90s and early 2000s Ipswich were producing a few exciting English kids but none were more exciting than Kieron Dyer. Dyer was easily the best player to emerge in the lower divisions and every club in the Premiership seemed to have him on their radar. He eventually moved to Newcastle in the summer of 1999 when they paid £6 million for the 20-year-old's services.
Dyer made the step up to Premiership football with ease and by the end of his first season was linked with moves in the press to Leeds United and Barcelona with even Manchester United reportedly prepared to spend £20 million to bring him to Old Trafford.
Kieron continued to improve at St. James Park but eventually injuries started to take a grip on his career. His hamstring became prone to being injured and he often had to sit on the sidelines during his last years at Newcastle. He strived to put a run of games together but struggling with personal problems at the club and failing to find a regular starting place in the team he was eventually allowed to leave the club.
He joined West Ham for £6 million in 2007 hoping to revive his career but just ten days after his debut his leg was broke in two places in a league cup match. Many people thought his career was over but after 17 months out he finally made his comeback in the FA cup but unfortuantly his problems were never far away and the niggling injuries from Newcastle kept haunting Dyer restricting him to 18 games in three years.
He recently had a loan spell back at Ipswich where he only managed four games and is now back at West Ham. It was all so promising for Dyer but he has been so unlucky with injuries, he could have been a real star for England but unfortunately he only won 33 caps. There are rumours he could be retiring soon, aged only 31.
4. Lee Sharpe
Manchester United were blessed during the '90s for having an array of talent on either side of the wings and way before Beckham and even before Giggs started to make a names for themselves, Lee Sharpe was the darling of Old Trafford.
Sharpe was an exciting, very talented left-footer who had versatility about his game which helped him when he was battling for the left wing spot which Giggs eventually won. The big time also went to Sharpe’s head, his love for money, booze and women drove Sir Alex Ferguson up the wall and his patience was wearing thin.
After eight years at the club, Ferguson eventually sold him to their rivals, Leeds. He started well there but a change in management and a struggle with knee injuries saw him loaned out to Sampdoria and Bradford City where he was eventually sold to the latter.
He was a regular starter when he joined the club but eventually lost his place in the team finding himself loaned out to different clubs in the lower leagues and even for a team in Iceland. Still struggling to find a regular place in a team, Sharpe retired from the game in 2003 at age 32.
It's a shame that Sharpe liked the party more than he liked the game, if he managed to stay focused and fit he would have been one of the all time greats. It didn’t help that Giggs came through so soon after Sharpe, even there wasn’t that much between the two players at the time, but when you compare the two careers it shows just what Sharpe could of had if he had been more dedicated.
3. Matt Le Tissier
Nicknamed Le God by the Southampton fans, Le Tissier could of walked into any team in the World on his day. His talent reached the potential he showed as a youngster but his career could have been so much more just if he had ventured away from Southampton.
Bigger clubs always came knocking but Matt was happy playing his trade on the South Coast, for around 10 years he was the inspiration that was keeping the Saints aloft in the Premier League but because of his unwavering loyalty it meant Le Tissier’s career never produced any trophies.
Even superstars across the World appreciated his ability with players like Xavi said he was his inspiration growing up "His talent was simply out of the norm. He could simply dribble past seven or eight players but without speed—he just walked past them. For me he was sensational".
A classy, creative, goal scoring midfielder having scored 162 goals for the Saints (Once scoring 30 goals in one season from his central role) he was the winner of numerous ‘goal of the month’ competitions due to the brilliance of a lot of his strikes.
If Matt had played for a more illustrious club then surely he would have won more than just eight England caps, a bigger stage would of surely been the platform for Le Tissier to be recognized as one of the most gifted players this country has produced but I feel due to never testing himself somewhere where his talents his deserved he never fulfilled his career potential.
2. Stan Collymore
Stan once held the British transfer record when he moved from Nottingham Forest to Liverpool for £8.5 million in 1995 so that should serve as some indication as to just how good Collymore was in the early part of his career. A powerful striker with a great eye for goal, he was one of the most exciting English strikers produced in years.
A proven goal scorer for Forest, scoring 50 in 71, and still being young at 24 big things were expected when he arrived at Anfield. Although not a flop there, scoring regularly and including some important goals he never really settled. Controversy followed him and he was shipped out after only two years to Aston Villa, breaking their own transfer record with a £7 million deal.
His career went on a downward spiral the minute he left Liverpool, after three years and only 15 goals for Aston Villa; he ended up having short stints at Leicester, Bradford and finally Real Oviedo in Spain. His spells at these final three clubs all followed a very similar pattern. He would start explosively and then would get involved in some sort of fight with management and then leave in controversial circumstances. He retired from the game in 2001 at the age 30.
A player that should have been Liverpool’s and England’s (He only ever made three appearances for his country) best player of the '90s. Collymore should have been hitting his best form around the '98 World cup and Euro 2000, but his career was already nearly over.
1. Robbie Fowler
And here’s my No. 1! The most naturally gifted goal scorer England has produced since Jimmy Greaves. Spotted when he was just 10 years old after scoring 16 times in one match and constantly breaking local scoring record, Fowler was snapped up and quickly rose through the Liverpool youth ranks. The skillful forward was scoring plenty at every level and was only a matter of time till his big break through.
Fowler helped England U18’s to the '93 European championships and then made his Liverpool debut which he scored on. Two weeks later in only second professional game he scored five goals against Bolton in the league cup, and on his fifth appearance for the club he scored his first league hat trick. His first 13 games brought him 12 goals and he finished debut season with 18 goals.
He continued to grow at Anfield where he was regularly scoring 20-plus league goals a season until the ugly face of injuries started show its head. Picking up knee ligament damage in 1997, the emergence of Michael Owen, a bad relationship with Houllier and constant niggling injuries Fowler struggled to get back to his goal scoring best, and a change of scenery to Leeds United hoped to bring the best back out of him.
With financial insecurities facing the club and Robbie again struggling to shake off the recurring injuries coupled with a lack of fitness, Leeds offloaded Fowler after a year to Manchester City for half the price they paid.
Fowler struggled for goals and fitness at City and with him picking up a large pay packet it was only a matter of time before the fans got on his back. They eventually cut his contract and he was shockingly picked up by Liverpool. Fowler featured rarely in his final spell at Liverpool but he did manage to overtake Dalglish in the clubs all time goal scorers list.
When his contract expired Fowler had short spells at Cardiff and Blackburn but eventually made his way to Australia where he still plays today. Fowler did manage to play 26 times for England, but with the ability he possessed before injuries, it’s frightening to think what kind of partnership him and Shearer could and should have struck up.
So that's my list!
There's certain people you may have noticed aren't there, Francis Jeffers for example. Did he really have that much potential to begin with? Then theres Gazza, but because I've done it about the Premiership he didn't really fit, he never played in the Premiership till 1998. If there's anyone you think who is a glaring omission then let me know in the comments!
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