In episode 6 of Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists we revert back to the world of football for a topic of epic proportions. With all the international transfers the Premier League has seen, it is obvious that not all of them will succeed in either the short or long terms. But its not just international imports that fail to make the grade in the Premier League. Domestic players can have a good season then slither off into football obscurity, it is done so easily. In fact the hardest part of this list was to narrow it down to three, so lets give it a shot.
This list is the three one season wonders in the Premier League history. These players are players who had one great season for their respective clubs and either haven’t or didn’t follow it off and some were subsequently shipped off/ faded out. Some down to injury, some down to just sheer inability to make an impact. Who could possibly make the list? Here’s who, and to start with we head to the unexpected area of Norfolk.
3) Marcus Stewart – Ipswich Town 2000-02
When Ipswich Town were promoted to the Premier League at the turn of the millennium no one would expect Stewart to be the highest scoring Englishman the following year, firing Ipswich into the top 5 in the Premier League as well as leading them into qualification for the then UEFA Cup. He nearly made it into the England squad. Yes that’s right, Marcus Stewart nearly played for England during the period of Sven Goran Eriksson’s glory days. But anyway he scored 19 league goals in the 2000/01 season and was one of the deadliest finishers in the league.
That is where it all went downhill. Turn the clock forward a year and Ipswich are relegated and Marcus Stewart has only notched up six league goals. Suddenly the honeymoon period was over and Stewart was off to the Stadium of Light where he enjoyed three years at Sunderland. Despite scoring 17 goals in his final season it was clear to Stewart that he was getting any younger and he declared himself “too old” to play in the Premier League.
Subsequent spells at Bristol City, Preston, Yeovil and then Exeter saw Marcus Stewart fade out in the shadow of his former self. Never to replicate the achievements of the 2000/01 season both as an individual or Ipswich as a team. He rightly takes his place on this list.
2) Jose Antonio Reyes – Arsenal 2004-07
When Reyes signed for the Gunners in January 2004 much was expected of the young Spaniard. In his first 12 months he threatened to take the League by storm, scoring at important times and most importantly being apart of the Invincibles of 2004, playing all the way through to the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United the following season. He suffered second season syndrome in that season, despite scoring six goals in his first six games for Arsenal. By the time the unbeaten record had gone, Reyes looked to be a flash in the pan, a future footnote and future entrant in Ryan Butler’s Sporting Lists.
At the back end of his first full season it was reported that Reyes was homesick and wanted to return to Spain. Initially it was believed he was going to be sold to Real Madrid but that never come to be. But before then he still played in some of Arsenal’s biggest games of recent years. After he was sent off in the FA Cup final triumph over Manchester United in 2005 he signed a six year contract (yeah I don’t get it either) and said he was excited to stay for many years in North London.
Crazily after one more season, a season which saw Reyes play in Arsenal’s only ever Champions League final, Reyes openly refused to play in a qualifier for the 2006/07 seasons Champions League as this would make him cup tied for any future club he would join. This lead to him being used as part of a deal for Real Madrid’s Julio Baptise. Reyes was sold to Real’s city rivals Atletico Madrid at the start of the 2007/08 season and was never to be heard of again.
1) Michael Bridges – Leeds United 1999-2004
Michael Bridges is on the list with Dean Ashton as one of the worst tragedies to happen to the England national team. A player who wasn’t given the opportunity due to injuries and a player who ultimately lost his place in the spotlight due to a horrendous knee injury that saw him make ten appearances in 4 years for Leeds. But nothing can beat his first season. His debut, a hattrick against Southampton. Not only did it kick start his career nicely but he also broke a record, becoming the first Leeds United player to score a hattrick in a competitive match since Gary McAllistair in 1995. Not bad for your first match for your new club.
Bridges went on to score 19 league goals that season, helping Leeds qualify for the Champions League along the way. He also fired Leeds into the semi finals of the UEFA Cup before he was seriously injured in a game against Turkish outfit Beskitas. This would prove to take a promising future away from Bridges, who had to settle for the treatment table and watching from the stands for the remainder of his Elland Road career. He went on to have a scattered future with Newcastle, Sunderland again as well as Bolton in between and then after his Stadium of Light return he faded out after playing for Bristol City, Carlisle, Hull, Sydney FC, MK Dons before seeing out his troubled and turbulent career back in Australia with Newcastle Jets.
During his career Bridges won the then Divison One title with Sunderland in 1995, 1999 and 2005 as well as winning the Football League Two title with Carlisle in 2006.
I liked watching Bridges as a player, so did my older brother during his confused Leeds United supporting phase. He could play up top on his own, he was quick and nimble yet strong if he needed to be. He was flamboyant and could do all the fancy stuff, I can vividly remember seeing him score bicycle kicks as some sort of trademark. He was a good striker and a quality player. A player who never even had the chance to replicate his amazing first season in a Leeds United shirt. The best one season wonder in the Premier League history.
There we have the completed line up. A list that nearly contained the following, Andy Caroll, Roque Santa Cruz, Michael Johnson, Charlie Adam and Wilson Palacios. But this list has three different players who for whatever reason only managed one season of promise before vanishing in the blink of an eye.
So now to balance it with this episodes quick list. Quite simply the best free transfers the Premier League have seen.
3) Michael Owen – Newcastle to Manchester United 2009. Mainly for that goal, in that derby, at that end, in that minute of that game. Prime example that class is permanent.
2) Demba Ba – West Ham United to Newcastle 2011. Ba scored 29 goals in 54 games for the Magpies and was a Toon legend before his move to Chelsea. A quality signing that got Newcastle pumping.
1) Michael Ballack – Bayern Munich to Chelsea 2006. One of the best free transfers in World Football ever. Made Chelsea’s midfield world class. Won plenty whilst wearing the Blue shirt too.
That concludes the Ryan Butler Sporting Lists double header for tonight. Hopefully it won’t take too long for me to pull my finger out and grace you with episode 7.
And with the birthday of yours truly next week don’t miss out on a special edition of the Severn Sport podcast as well as content regarding the weekends matches all across the county.