Winning the Premier League would be a dream for any footballer, so it’s no surprise that some players will go out of their way to get their hands on a medal.
Over the years, many players have made their way to a Premier League winner’s medal on the back of dead rubbers and substitute appearances. Some pushed their managers to it, while others were really embarrassed to get hold of personal silverware.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Michael Owen winning his first and only Premier League winner’s medal despite starting just one game, we found 10 other players who have made their way down the history books without really contributing anything.
Considering he won the Premier League Golden Boot (twice) and Liverpool Player of the Season, Michael Owen probably deserves a Premier League medal.
But did he deserve one in 2010-11, a decade after his heyday, playing for Liverpool’s biggest enemies?
To be fair to him, Owen scored two goals in 11 appearances in Alex Ferguson’s penultimate season, who won the title at Man United, one of which saved the game against Bolton.
And he was also quite modest about the honor.
“There are players who deserve a Premier League medal 10 times more in this team than I do, so it’s not like I’ll flash it,” Owen said.
“But there’s no point in being embarrassed to accept something you’ve been a part of. I didn’t get two medals for scoring two goals in the FA Cup final in 2001. ”
Yet all of his 11 appearances except one came as a submarine.
Former England starlet Jack Rodwell is receiving a lot of unfair stick: for not realizing his potential, for moving to Man City and for simply seeing a contract in Sunderland.
We won’t accept that kind of slander, but Rodwell really went out of his way to be considered a Premier League champion in 2013-14, making one start and four (very short) substitute appearances, leading him to the five that have been required since 2012.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were City’s main midfielder, but Rodwell could have given the unforgettable Javi Garcia (29 appearances) a run for his money.
In the summer of 2015, it seemed very possible that Switzerland captain and two-time Coppa Italia winner Gokhan Inler would have a bigger impact at Leicester City than uncapped N’Golo Kante.
Both arrived for a modest transfer fee, and both were aiming for a place in Claudio Ranieri’s central midfielder.
Instead, Inler suffered possibly the most unfortunate title win in history. He only made five appearances and, compounding the misery, was excluded from the Swiss Euro 2016 squad due to his lack of minutes.
National team boss Vladimir Petkovic said he was “sincerely sorry”; probably Inler was too.
Martin Keown was 37 during the Arsenal Invincibles season and therefore played a peripheral role. His biggest impact – a good one, admittedly – was his sting of Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Battle of Old Trafford.
Keown was also part of perhaps the most famous example of a manager selecting players specifically to guarantee them a medal.
In late April 2014, with Keown, Kanu, Jose Antonio Reyes and Jeremie Aliadiere all on the verge of the 10-appearance threshold, there was a lot of talk about whether Arsene Wenger would help these players hit the target.
Ultimately, the manager handed out replacement appearances like delicious candy, with Keown coming off the bench in each of the last four games of the season, never before the 87th minute.
In the very last game, with Keown in nine appearances, Ray Parlor joked the defender by claiming Wenger was playing him instead.
READ: Forensic analysis of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s penalty against Arsenal
To his credit, Jeremie Aliadiere won most of his 10 appearances in 2003-2004 on merit, and his handful of late-season cameos – unlike Keown – typically lasted more than three minutes.
Less to his credit was his ability as a footballer: the French striker hasn’t scored in any of those 10 appearances and is clearly the worst player on this list.
In his time, Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be a wonderful footballer. He could even win Premier League titles in the future.
But his medal for Chelsea’s 2016-17 triumph is certainly the toughest ever.
Loftus-Cheek made six under-appearances totaling just 30 minutes – well short of medal-winning contemporaries like Rodwell (108 ‘) and Inler (195’).
“I didn’t contribute to it,” he said in 2019.
Henrik Larsson and Alan Smith
If Martin Keown and Jeremie Aliadiere had played under Alex Ferguson, they wouldn’t have been so worried about hitting the 10-appearance threshold as the Scotsman regularly requested a ‘special dispensation’ when his players played too little.
In 2006–07, forwards Henrik Larsson and Alan Smith made seven and nine appearances, respectively, with Larsson limited by the length of his loan contract and Smith by injury.
Larsson gained cult status for his influential role in the dressing room, but it’s worth pointing out that he only scored one league goal that year, while Smith did not score any.
It is a rule for some …
Ronaldo, Rooney, Larsson … we really had an amazing player at United during the 2000s pic.twitter.com/FQHR1VNpKe
– Owen Heffernan (@TheRealOwenHeff) April 7, 2021
The substitute goalkeepers are obviously struggling to qualify for a winner’s medal, but Tomasz Kuszczak’s three Premier League medals, all from special dispensation, really take the byszkyt.
Thierry Henry has fewer titles to his name.
Another backup keeper to receive a metal disc is Asmir Begovic, but the ex-Chelsea man didn’t even want that dubious honor.
“They really need to review this rule because I don’t think five appearances should be worth a medal,” he told Sky Sports.
Begovic has actually only played twice, benefiting from the ‘Kuszczak rule’ after Chelsea kindly requested it.
Honestly? We prefer the attitude of Michael Owen.
Last season, Jurgen Klopp lambasted the Premier League for failing to recognize the contributions of fringe players who end up playing fewer than five games.
“People don’t understand how important a team is to winning a championship,” Klopp said. “Even if you don’t play a game, you should get a medal.”
In fact, winning clubs are given 40 medals to play as they see fit, provided each player with five or more appearances gets one.
Elliott duly secured one of the spares, although the Premier League website does not list him as an official league winner like he does for Begovic, Kuszczak and Larsson.
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