Past hero: Thierry Henry (1999-2007)
Nobody had the Va-Va-Voom quite like the Frenchman, transformed from an unwanted winger at Juventus to the most feared striker in the Premier League by Arsene Wenger. Four-time golden boot winner and club record striker but Henry’s game was more than just about the goals. It embodied grace, pace and beauty, thrilling dribbles, deadly strikes, sheer impudence and joy. Arguably the greatest player the Premier League has seen. Certainly the best talker.
Present hero: Robin Van Persie (2004-2011)
Every Arsenal season ends with the fans saying “If only Robin has stayed fit” and just 112 league starts in seven years hints at the problem. But nobody at the Emirates is more adept at putting the ball in the net and with 19 goals in as many games in 2011 so far Van Persie’s value to Wenger’s team has never been more keenly felt. Predominantly left-footed but no slouch with his right or in the air and quick, too.
Past hero: Peter McParland (1952-1962)
Only eighth in Villa’s all-time scoring charts behind 20s star Billy Walker but the Ulsterman represented the sort of old-fashioned centre-forward generations recall with misty eyes. Signed from Dundalk for just £3880, McParland infamously shoulder-charged Manchester United keeper Ray Wood out of the 1957 FA Cup Final, in which he netted twice, and won the inaugural League Cup in 1961. Scored five for Northern Ireland in 1958 World Cup.
Present hero: Darren Bent (2011)
Only arrived in January in deal worth £24m but goals to keep Villa up were priceless and no question they will keep on coming from a player whose game has developed hugely in the past two years. Double at Arsenal were instinctive proof of his new maturity in front of goal, with Bent now looking like a player who expects to score, rather than being worried about the consequences of missing. Will need more of the same this season.
Past hero: Alan Shearer (1992-1996)
Returned to Tyneside as a Local Hero but the Geordie’s finest moments for club and country came when he was a Blackburn player. His £3.6m signing from Southampton was proof of the resolve of Kenny Dalglish and Jack Walker and despite two cruciate injuries Shearer was an elemental, powerful and fearsome attacking force, strong as an ox, brave as a lion and utterly ruthless as Rovers became unlikely champions.
Present hero: Jason Roberts (2006-2011)
That the much-travelled Roberts is by far the leading scorer on Rovers books says everything about the problems facing Steve Kean to keep the Ewood side in the top flight. Goal record at Wigan of a goal in every three games brought his £3m move and at times can be a barnstorming handful yet not one of the frontmen centre-halves have nightmares over facing. Will need to up his game.
Past hero: Nat Lofthouse (1946-1960)
It was not just Bolton but the whole of football that came out to pay tribute when the Lion of Vienna died at 85 earlier this year. Lofthouse spent his entire career at his home-town club and became part of the fabric of the town, a genuine legend who inspired love and affection. Raw-boned but subtle when he needed to be, few defenders fancied themselves against a man who scored 30 in just 33 England games as well.
Present hero: Kevin Davies (2003-2011)
Formerly viewed as little more than a bruiser, Davies has transformed his reputation and there were few more well-received England debuts than his run-out against Montenegro last season. Remains the focal point of the Bolton attacking armoury even if he has never been a natural goalscorer but his rumbustious nature is guaranteed to galvanise his own supporters and enrage opponents. Captain in every sense.
Past hero: Bobby Tambling (1958-1970)
Sussex-born winger turned inside forward joined the Blues from non-league Havant as a 16-year-old but moved inside after the departure of Jimmy Greaves and became Tommy Docherty’s skipper by the age of 21 although he was part of the group of players whose major 1965 fall-out with The Doc brought the manager’s end. Always a hero of The Shed, scoring five against Aston Villa in 1967, the year he scored in the FA Cup Final loss to Spurs.
Present hero: Didier Drogba (2004-2011)
The complete modern day centre-forward and still the king of Stamford Bridge even if Chelsea spent £50m to land Fernando Torres. At times frustrating but nobody else in the game embodies the same qualities of physical power and strength and the ability to score every type of goal, from tap-in to long-range thunderbolt. Twice the Premier League Golden Boot and even at 33 remains the stand-out striker in the top flight.
Past hero: Dixie Dean (1925-1937)
William Ralph Dean never appreciated the “Dixie” nick-name but every Goodison fan appreciates the legend of his remarkable goalscoring records. Birkenhead-born striker spent two years at Tranmere become crossing the Mersey to become part of Everton folklore with his astonishing and unsurprisingly unmatched tally of 60 league goals in 1927-28, one of two league title campaigns he enjoyed while also scoring at Wembley in the 1933 FA Cup Final victory.
Present hero: Tim Cahill (2004-2011)
The Samoan arrived as an attacking midfielder but has developed into David Moyes’ most likely source of goals, a box predator who scores far more with his head than he is ever entitled to net. Does have a penchant for extravagant celebrations while his tackling proves that even if you take the man out of Millwall, you can’t take Millwall out of the man. But a thorn in the flesh of many sides and a vital component of this Everton side.
Past hero: Gordon Davies (1978-1984, 1986-1991)
“Ivor” was described by his team-mates as “probably the laziest centre-forward there was” but the priceless knack of being in the right place made him a huge hero at the Cottage after joining from home-town club Merthy Tydfil in 1978. Part of Malcolm MacDonald’s team, including Ray Houghton, Paul Parker and Tony Gale, which so nearly made the top flight. Left for brief spells at Chelsea and Manchester City before returning to become Fulham’s record scorer.
Present hero: Bobby Zamora (2008-2011)
A late bloomer who has forced his way into Fabio Capello’s England thinking at the age despite last season’s broken leg on the back of his outstanding displays, line-leading and goals in Fulham’s incredible run to the 2010 Europa League Final. Still revered by Brighton fans, it did not work out for Zamora at Spurs, who sent him to West Ham in the Jermain Defoe swap deal. Was barracked at the start of 2009-10 but won the supporters over with form and goals.
Past hero: Ian Rush (1980-1987, 1988-1996)
Boyhood Everton fan was a teenage sensation at Chester before his £300,000 move to Anfield and while he waited more than a year for his first Liverpool goal, they then kept coming. The lethal edge to Kenny Dalglish’s creative genius he scored 30 in his first full season and simply never stopped thereafter. Brief spell in Italy with Juventus was a flop and Rushie was not quite as prolific on his return but remained a remarkable threat to any side.
Present hero: Luis Suarez (2011)
Still played just a handful of games since arrival from Ajax but Copa America heroics show the World Cup and his initial impression at Anfield were no flukes. The Uruguayan has pace, trickery and an eye for the target, immediately adapting himself to the different demands of the Premier League. Dalglish wants him to form a formidable partnership with £35m Andy Carroll and the South American is clearly the real deal.
Past hero: Neil Young (1959-1972)
Born and bred a City fan in Fallowfield, Young turned down United to join his boyhood club and made his debut at just 17 although it was events at Wembley 10 years later, when he scored the goal that won the FA Cup Final against Leicester, that sealed his reputation as a Maine Road great. The striker with a fearsome left foot also scored in the Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1970. Many City fans believe winning the FA Cup in 2011 was Fate after Young’s sad death from cancer.
Present hero: Carlos Tevez (2009-2011)
Still a City player after the collapse of his proposed move back to Corinthians and last season’s leading top flight scorer will be hard to replace even if he is a monumental pain in the backside. Remarkable work-rate for such a big-name player and proved Sir Alex Ferguson under-estimated his goal return with his scoring record since moving across the Manchester divide. Without Tevez, City are lessened.
Past hero: George Best (1963-1974)
The “fifth Beatle” was more than just a footballer. He was a cultural icon, living legend, enduring myth. Best had everything - looks, charm, and a talent of which the Angels would be jealous but the destructive streak was also prevalent and meant his brilliance burned out as he flew too close to the sun. Still the memories of the genius remain, undiminished, tears shed around the world when he died aged just 59.
Present hero: Wayne Rooney (2004-2011)
Has spent his entire career as the “saviour” of English football and occasionally failed to cope with the burden but nobody can deny his influence for club and country. That 12 month spell of injury and mental anguish was finally shoved aside by the brilliant derby winner against City and nobody was more influential in the title run-in as United racked up their record-breaking 19th crown. If he plays, United play. Simple as that.
Past hero: Jackie Milburn (1943-1957)
Wor Jackie was as emblematic to Newcastle as Matthews to Blackpool, Lofthouse to Bolton and Finney to Preston. Famously arrived for his Toon trial with a pair of borrowed football boots wrapped in brown paper, and his lunch - a pie and a bottle of pop. But scored six in his second trial to make the grade although worked in the mines before the end of the War and his chance to shine. Key in the FA Cup wins of 1951, 1952 and 1955. A genuine giant.
Present hero: Shola Ameobi (2000-2011)
Destined, perhaps, to spend his career in the shade of others, having understudied Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson and then played second fiddle to the likes of Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Andy Carroll. Yet Ameobi has played more than 300 games for the Toon and is still a mix of genuine talent and frustrating inability to focus it properly. Can be a real pain for opposing defenders, yet too infrequently.
Past hero: Johnny Gavin (1948-1954, 1955-1958)
Limerick-born Gavin was working as a painter and decorator for Irish Railways when he was approached by Norwich boss Doug Lochhead but went on to become the club’s record scorer in two spell broken by a season at Spurs, who took Maurice Norman to allow him to return to Norfolk. More a winger than a traditional forward, he was not always hugely popular with the Carrow Road fans either, admitting he enjoyed the cut and thrust of receiving stick and giving it back.
Present hero: Grant Holt (2009-2011)
A scoring return of better than one every two games has seen Holt spearhead City’s climb from League One to the top flight, finally coming good at his ninth club in 12 years. Now Paul Lambert’s skipper as well, the 30-year-old has developed a cult following although he knows that this will be his toughest test yet, playing in the Premier League for the first time in his career. All a long way from Workington, Halifax and Barrow.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Past hero: Les Ferdinand (1987-1995)
Born in Acton and who came to Rangers’ attention when playing for non-league Hayes, Ferdinand earned his place in the QPR fans’ “all-time” team with his line-leading displays which propelled him into the big time. Prodigious in the air considering his 5ft 11in height, quick as a leopard and strong as an ox, Ferdinand went on to be loved at both Newcastle and Spurs and was a non-playing member of England’s Euro 96 and France 98 squads.
Present hero: Adel Taarabt (2009-2011)
The Moroccan’s Loftus Road future is uncertain and he can be a monumental pain in the backside but Neil Warnock knows he was the main reason for last term’s promotion-winning campaign. Arrived at the club on loan from Spurs, where he failed to settle under either Juande Ramos or Harry Redknapp, before completing £2m permanent move last summer. Outstanding on his day, especially with the ball at his feet. Does that day come round enough?
Past hero: John Ritchie (1962-1966, 1969-1975)
Signed unseen from Ketteringing by Tony Waddington he scored 30 in his first season for the Potters before a shock sale to Sheffield Wednesday which remains unexplained. Waddington took three years to concede his error and Ritchie was part of the team including Gordon Banks, Mike Pejic, Terry Conroy, George Eastham and Jimmy Greenhoff that beat Chelsea in the 1972 League Cup Final to win Stoke’s only major trophy.
Present hero: Kenwyne Jones (2010-2011)
Giant Trinidadian was surprisingly allowed to leave Sunderland for £8m last summer and he rapidly installed himself as the focal point of Tony Pulis’ attacking armoury. Linked well with Jonathan Walters and benefitted from the excellent flank supply. Huge and physically impressive although can sometimes go missing. But bullied John Terry and David Luiz to distraction at the Britannia last season and unplayable at times.
Past hero: Charlie Buchan (1911-1925)
The Londoner moved to Wearside at the age of 20 and became an adopted Mackem in 14 seasons interrupted by World War One, in which he earned the Military Medal. Still Sunderland’s record league scorer, Buchan was tall and elegant as well as a master finisher. Helped developed the WM formation when he linked up with Herbert Chapman at Arsenal and subsequently co-founder of the Football Writers’ Association.
Present hero: Asamoah Gyan (2010-2011)
Started last season as part of a three-strong attacking line but now shoulders the responsibility of scoring the goals and nurturing new recruit Connor Wickham. The Ghanian filled the void after Darren Bent’s shock departure to Villa, justifying the acclaim that met his World Cup displays as he showed scoring instincts from the outset, even if he initially struggled to cope with the intensity of the Premier League. Will expect more from himself now.
Past hero: Ivor Allchurch (1947-1958, 1965-1968)
“The Golden Boy” of Welsh football also had spells at Newcastle and Cardiff but it was with Swansea - then “Town” rather than City - was described by Sir Matt Busby as as not needing a number on his back because “his polish, his class could not be missed” while Sir Bobby Charlton recalls his “footballing presence and charisma”. Allchurch, predominantly left-sided, scored most of his goals from outside the box as he created space to let fly. Quiet and unassuming but a true great.
Present hero: Scott Sinclair (2010-2011)
Struggled to make an impact at Chelsea or Wigan but Brendan Rodgers believed in the winger and that faith was utterly justified even before the Wembley hat-trick that earned the Swans their first dance at the biggest ball in the game. Left-sided but with pace and the ability to cause problems with either foot, Sinclair has made a quantum jump forward over the past 12 months. Now, though, comes the acid test of his quality.
Past hero: Jimmy Greaves (1961-1970)
Bill Nicholson famously paid £99,999 to bring the homesick striker back from AC Milan and prevent him having the first six-figure price-tag and for that he acquired the ultimate assassin. The top scorer in the country on six occasions - four for Spurs after two at Chelsea - and looked effortless as he picked his spot, placing rather than blasting the ball home. Injury saw him lose 1966 World Cup place to Geoff Hurst but every Spurs fan knows Greaves was the greatest.
Present hero: Jermain Defoe (2004-2008, 2009-2011)
A natural scorer, he fell out with Juande Ramos after losing the faith of Martin Jol but Harry Redknapp could not get the Beckton-born front-man back to White Hart Lane fast enough. Struggled last season with ankle ligament injury sustained just days after an England hat-trick against Bulgaria as Redknapp preferred using Rafael Van Der Vaart behind Peter Crouch but remains the best finisher in N17, hitting the target more than most.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Past hero: Jeff Astle (1964-1974)
Tony “Bomber” Brown scored more goals but for every Baggies fan Astle will always be, simply, “The King”. A thunderous header of the ball and old-fashioned centre-forward, his legend has been enshrined at The Hawthorns with the “Astle Gates”. Scorer of the 1968 FA Cup Final winner his five England brought no goals but a memorable 1970 World Cup miss against Brazil. Death at just 59 was attributed to damage done by repeated heading of the heavy ball.
Present hero: Peter Odemwingie (2010-2011)
Born in Uzbekistan the Nigerian made his name in France and Russia before racism drove him out of Lokomotiv Moscow and into West Brom's arms last summer. Twice player of the month and fifth leading scorer in his first season at the Hawthorns, he demonstrated pace and awareness. Keeping hold of him may be a big ask for Roy Hodgson.
Past hero: Andy Liddell (1978-2004)
Spent eight seasons at Barnsley - including their memorable year in the Premier League under Danny Wilson - before crossing the Pennines to join a Latics side then in division two and was on his fifth Wigan manager when sold by Paul Jewell to Sheffield United in 2004. Beat the club scoring record set by David Lowe in his final season at the club. Now in charge at Rotherham but still recalled with fondness at the DW Stadium.
Present hero: Hugo Rodallega (2009-2011)
Colombian striker played in his home country and Mexico before his £4.5million move to Wigan and while he is hardly deadly his goals have been vital, none more so than the winner at Stoke on the final day of last term that ensured Roberto Martinez was showered in champagne. Occasionally headstrong, especially when he feels hard done by, but has the potential to score more goals than he has so far if he gets better service.
Past hero: Steve Bull (1986-1999)
You can’t get a more authentic hero than the man from Tipton, who ignored a series of top flight offer to play virtually his entire career with the Molineux club, scoring a staggering 18 hat-tricks, including 52 goals in 1987-88. Bull by name, bull by nature, the former factory worker turned centre-forward was an old-fashioned barnstormer. Forced his way into Bobby Robson’s 190 World Cup squad despite his lack of top flight football. Still revered.
Present hero: Kevin Doyle (2009-2011)
Outstanding when he broke into the top flight with Reading, the Irishman has been less prolific since his £6.5m move to the West Midlands but is absolutely integral to the way Mick McCarthy’s side play with his non-stop movement and intelligent running into the channels to provide room for others and to galvanise the team’s preferred pattern of play. Injury last term almost cost Wolves their top flight status.