While most of the globe celebrates all things Irish in March, Four Four Two made a major boo-boo this month. The normally respected publication dedicated their entire issue to foreign players in the Premier League and omitted all Irish entries.
So there you have it. It seems, as usual, we’ve been lumped in with the Brits.
The Emerald Isle has been sending world-class footballers to Britain for generations, back to the days of Jackie Carey, captain of Manchester United who also skippered the Rest of the World XI against England.
In 1949 at Goodison Park, the Republic became the first side to inflict defeat on England on home soil. We’ve been beating them at their own game ever since.
Four Four Two explored the phenomenon of the influx of foreigners into the Premier League with some startling statistics such as, over the 20 seasons of its incarnation, the total number of foreign players has exceeded 50%.
In a diagram depicting all the nations who have sent their footballing sons to Blighty, France stand-out with 149 players, then Holland (84), Italy (54) and Spain (53).
How they can dismiss their nearest neighbour is pretty outrageous. No one more than the Irish loves to hear how great we are from people overseas but to be snubbed so blatantly by the Auld Enemy leaves a bitter taste.
The magazine also examined the thirteen players including Eric Cantona who pioneered the foreign revolution in the maiden season of the Premier League. In addition it analysed every league club in England and Scotland nominating the best and worst foreign imports.
While we’re happy no Paddies were labelled in the flop categories, there’s plenty who could have made the list for the top foreign players since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
Leaving out names like Keane, Given, Dunne, Irwin, Duff, and McGrath reduces this usually authoritative and insightful publication to a mockery.
Here’s just a few stand-out Irishmen who have graced the English game in the Premier League era.
Roy Keane (Manchester United)
Arguably the most influential player during United’s enduring dominance of the Premier League, he was named in the best overseas XI by Premier League managers to celebrate 10 years of the top flight. Try tell Keano he’s considered home-grown. We can’t even claim him outside Cork.
Denis Irwin (Manchester United)
Lauded by Alex Ferguson as one of his greatest signings. Irwin won 7 Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the Champions League, and a host of other trophies. Further ridiculing Four Four Two, Irwin was named in the Premier League Team of the Decade in 2002.
Shay Given (Newcastle)
We could claim he single-handedly, sometimes literally, kept Newcastle in the Premier League for many seasons playing behind a porous defence including the likes of Sebastien Bassong and Titus Bramble. He was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2002 and 2006 when he was also named Newcastle player-of the-year
Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur)
His return to White Hart Lane didn’t go so well but first time around Keane was a revelation finishing as the club’s top scorer with 13 goals in 2002, a feat he repeated in his second campaign finishing on 16 goals. In 2006 he finished as the fourth top scorer in the league and earned the vice-captaincy at Spurs. Keane posted his highest ever tally of 22 goals in the 2007 season and later the same year he scored his 100th Premier League goal. The Tallaghtman was the first Spurs player to win club Player of the Year awards on three occasions.
Damien Duff (Blackburn Rovers)
Signed as a trainee, Duffer won the man-of-the-match award on his first team début at the age of 18. In more than 180 appearances for Blackburn, he helped them to the League Cup title in 2002 and finished the club’s top scorer a year later which saw him signed by Chelsea with whom he won the Premier League title.
Richard Dunne (Manchester City)
Dunne made over 350 first team appearances for City. In the days before the middle-eastern money, Dunne was the first City player to win four consecutive club Player of the Year awards from 2004-8 and was named club captain at the age of 26. He was also named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2010.
Paul McGrath (Aston Villa)
Although his time at Villa spanned just a few years of the Premier League era, he is regarded as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. Nicknamed ‘God,’ McGrath was named as the PFA Player of the Year in 1993, his second time to win the award, in the season Villa finished runners-up. They still chant his name at Villa Park.