On the 1st of March, which happens to fall this week, our Welsh friends celebrate St. David’s Day.
This is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales and falls on his date of death back in 589AD. The more you know, I guess.
Anyway, the proud people of Wales celebrate and the Big Kick Off pulls an article out of it, tale as old as time that.
Look, we done the same for St. Andrew’s Day and will more than likely do it for St. Patrick’s Day. Got to keep that content train moving lads.
Some of you might know the story by now with these articles.
We will be counting down five of the best Welsh players to ever play in the Premier League to commemorate St. David’s Day.
Usual caveats will apply.
A player must be retired to be up for consideration. So, while the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are the best of the current Welsh flock, they won’t be on here.
Only Premier League careers will be taken into consideration. Careers before 1992, national team performances and successes elsewhere didn’t come into the decision-making process. Premier League success, longevity and general legacy did.
Wales has pumped some serious talent into the Premier League over the years. So, that calls for some honourable mentions before we get started.
Ian Rush, James Collins, Dean Saunders, John Hartson and Simon Davies all just miss out for one reason or another. Yes, Liverpool fans, Ian Rush.
While he still had an impressive spell in the league scoring 48 goals across six seasons with Liverpool, Leeds, and Newcastle. You could argue he had more of an impact before the inception of the Premier League.
Now, on with the list.
5. Craig Bellamy
The man that ultimately replaced Ian Rush in our top five.
His 294 Premier League appearances made it quite difficult to keep him off.
Bellamy’s Premier League career began on the opening day of the 2000/01 season and finished when he announced his retirement in 2014.
He played for clubs like Coventry City, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City and Cardiff City. Finishing up his career with the latter, representing his hometown club.
Bellamy was certainly a controversial figure throughout the duration of his playing career. Really, that was part of his charm. He was an absolute nuisance, but a very talented one at that.
He’s the sort of player you would rather have in your team than play against. His work rate, versatility and engine made him a crucial part of any squad on his day.
While you could never call him the most loyal when it comes to sticking with teams. He did become the first player to score for seven diffident clubs in the Premier League. Bellamy also won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award after his first season with Coventry.
4. Neville Southall
Bona fide Everton legend this man.
Neville Southall played 578 times for Everton, with 207 of those showings coming in the Premier League. He also made a sole league appearance for Bradford City during the 1999/00 campaign.
That single Bradford outing perfectly sums up the erratic post- Everton career of Southall, but nothing could take the shine off his time with the Toffees.
This might be a further annoyance to Liverpool fans because Rush was left off. Get over it guys, its only a silly list.
Yes, Southall may have also done his best work before the Premier League.
While both Southall and Rush are undoubtedly legends of their respective Liverpool clubs, Southall does have a better general legacy in the league.
He made more Premier League appearances overall. Plus, he was the first player to reach 200 league appearances. Firmly stamping himself in the history books.
Keeping Everton’s best goalkeeper of all time off the list would be a crime against football.
“Keeping Rush off is a crime against football.”
To that I say, it’s my fecking list and I won’t hear another word about it good sir/kind madam.
3. Mark Hughes
Younger fans may only recognise Mark Hughes as a decent manager during his spells with Premier League clubs.
However, the man known as Sparky was a real live wire going forward.
Another that showed his worth in England and abroad before the Premier League era kicked off. However, his career was far from dying down by the time 1992 came around.
Hughes was a key part of the Manchester United squad during their title winning run throughout the inaugural Premier League season. Both Hughes and United would bring the now famous trophy back to Old Trafford the following season too.
Mark would play in the league until the 2001/02 season. He dazzled at other clubs like Chelsea, Southampton, Everton, and Blackburn.
While no further league titles followed, Hughes was always highly regarded as one of the leagues finest attacking players on his day.
Most would associate Hughes with Manchester United, in fairness the Chelsea faithful still sing the praises of this Welsh wizard. He even won the clubs Player of the Year award after the 1996/97 season.
Overall, Mark Hughes made 297 Premier League appearances, scoring 64 goals during that time.
2. Gary Speed
While the story of Gary Speed is one of tragedy, football fans must always remember him for the gifted player that he was.
Speed made 535 Premier League appearances, the sixth highest amount of all time.
Over the span of 17 seasons, he represented Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers.
He started his career in the top-flight during the first Premier League season. Talk about making an instant impact, Speed was included in the PFA Team of the Year after that opening campaign.
While silverware wasn’t a prominent part of his lengthy career. Gary Speed earned something more important, respect and love.
The flood of emotion when he passed speaks volumes of the positive impact he had on the game.
Always the ultimate leader, Gary Speed will be remembered as one of the finest players to ever come out of Wales.
1. Ryan Giggs
Look, it was always going to be Ryan Giggs here. It wasn’t even up for a slight debate.
Yes, his reputation may have received a kicking with recent allegations made against him but let’s keep things strictly on-field.
Giggs spent his entire senior career with Manchester United from 1990 until his retirement in 2014.
Both Giggs and United won 13 Premier League titles, with Ryan becoming a vital part of the team during that success.
His eye-catching skill, precious crossing and reading of the game make him one of the true greats at Manchester United.
He is a two-time PFA Young Player of the Year, been included in six PFA Team of the Year line ups, part of the PFA Team of the Century and was voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year after the 2008/09 season.
Ryan also won United’s Young Player of the Year award after the first Premier League season. Along with winning the clubs Matt Busby Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards throughout his glittering career.
The man has the second highest Premier League appearances of all time with 632 and scored 109 goals during that run. He even scored in every Premier League campaign from 1992/93 until 2012/13.
Not only the greatest Welsh player of all time, but one of the best Premier League players of all time.