Aside from the actual Premier League title, each season a lot of fans look forward to seeing who makes it into the PFA Team of the Year for England’s top flight.
There were no major surprises in the Team of the Year for 2020/21 as champions Manchester City dominated with six players, followed by second-placed Manchester United (two), Tottenham Hotspur (two) and Liverpool (one).
But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, an unexpected candidate makes the cut such as David Silva in the 2019/20 edition of the team. Yes, the Spaniard is one of the greatest players in Premier League history and his departure last summer brought the end of an era, but were his performances across the previous deserving of a place in the Team of the Year?
With all that in mind, we’ve rolled back the years and assembled a combined XI of players you may have forgotten once made the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year.
GK: Brad Friedel (Blackburn)
The Premier League has long boasted a strong contingent of American shot-stoppers over the years, and Friedel was one of the finest ‘keepers to venture across the Atlantic to ply his trade on English soil.
For years, the bald bulwark was a formidable force between the sticks, but he was never quite at world class level, which is why his inclusion in the 2002/03 instalment of the Team of the Year was a slight shock, especially when you consider Blackburn finished sixth that season and Newcastle finished third with Shay Given in imperious form – not to mention Man Utd won the league having conceded just 38 goals.
RWB: Stephen Carr (Spurs)
The year is 2001, Spurs are in the bottom half of the Premier League table, George Graham has just been sacked after overseeing a disappointing campaign, and eternal adversaries Arsenal have just knocked their north London neighbours out of the FA Cup – and yet Carr still makes the Team of the Year.
In fairness to the Irishman, he was forging a reputation as one of the league’s most energetic and forward-thinking full-backs at the time. But fortune didn’t particularly favour Carr as injury forced him to miss the entire 2001/02 season, and he never truly rediscovered his early career form from there.
CB: Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan)
The Frenchman was a massive hit at the DW Stadium during his maiden campaign, which was incidentally Wigan’s debut season in the Premier League. Under the guidance of Paul Jewell, the Latics finished 10th and Chimbonda pipped the likes of Gary Neville, Steve Finnan and Paulo Ferreira to the coveted right-back spot in 2005/06. He went on to play for Spurs, Sunderland and Blackburn, but he will always be remembered for that one season along the River Douglas.
Nominally a right-back by trade, Chimbonda has been utilised at centre-back across his career and would not be out of place in this formation.
CB: Richard Dunne (Aston Villa)
When Dunne wasn’t rifling shots into his own net, with the Irishman still holding the record for most Premier League own goals, he was the chief policeman in Villa’s watertight defence across 2009/10.
However, considering the likes of John Terry and Nemanja Vidic were still enjoying the prime years of their illustrious careers that season, it’s a little underwhelming that the selected centre-back partnership that year was Dunne and Thomas Vermaelen.
CB: Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle)
A legend on Tyneside and one of the catalysts in the Magpies’ scintillating 2011/12 season – a memorable year that saw Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba et al light up St. James’ Park, and all under the tutelage of Alan Pardew.
Coloccini has no doubt etched his name into the hearts of many Newcastle fans, but with likes of Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney among the eminent alumni of that year’s edition, the curly-haired Cordoba-native will forever stand out as a peculiar figure in that distinguished list.
LWB: Wayne Bridge (Southampton)
There were a number of players who could have filled this void, with Sylvinho and Ryan Bertrand among the notable nominees, but Bridge takes the mantle as he never truly fulfilled his career post-Southampton.
Plus both Sylvinho and Bertrand went on to lift the Champions League in their careers, while Bridge endured unsuccessful spells at Chelsea, Man City and (whisper it quietly to West Ham fans) Avram Grant’s relegated Hammers.
RM: Steve Stone (Nottingham Forest)
A Forest icon, Stone was an integral part of Frank Clark’s mid-table City Ground side 24 years, and he even beat some of world football’s finest players at the time to secure his place in the 1995/96 Team of the Year, including Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and quite incredibly Steve McManaman – who started every game ahead of him for England at Euro 96.
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CM: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Coming up through the Arsenal ranks Wilshere was considered one of the most prodigiously gifted budding starlets English football has ever seen. In fact, such was his promise and early excellence, he even managed to earn a place in the 2010/11 Team of the Year at just 19 years of age.
Of course, we now associate the England international with long spells on the sidelines and sporadic appearances across the season, as his career has experienced a massive downward trajectory due to persistent injury problems.
CM: David Batty (Newcastle)
If we’re talking the 96/97 David Batty then this wouldn’t be a surprise, a long way from it in fact. But a year after making the highly-coveted XI, the former England international retained his spot among the league’s elite, despite the Magpies finishing 13th.
And that poor form spilled over to the next season, which saw Kenny Dalglish sacked after just two games and Ruud Gullit installed as head coach – and as part of his Newcastle revolution, the Dutchman sold Batty just three months into his tenure.
LM: Arjen Robben (Chelsea)
One of world football’s greatest ever players. A man of Robben’s calibre and pedigree is certainly not lost among the star names in the 2004/05 Team of the Year, but the Dutch flier played just 18 games that season – less than half the overall fixture list, albeit due to injuries.
Granted when Robben played he mesmerised and wowed Stamford Bridge in equal measure, which is testament to his ability that he even made the XI having played so few games, but the argument of lack of playing time has been used to count so many stars out of the running over the years.
ST: Andrew Johnson (Crystal Palace)
Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Alan Shearer…Andrew Johnson. Between 2000/01 and 2004/05 these were the strikers that dominated the English top-flight, scoring goals at sheer will.
Three of those names sit in the pantheon of footballing greats, while Johnson is nothing short of a legend at Selhurst Park. His incredible 21-goal haul in 2004/05 saw him burst onto the scene, with his meteoric rise to prominence fostering a step up to the England reckoning. Unfortunately, his goalscoring exploits weren’t enough to keep the Eagles in the Premier League that season, and he went back down to the Championship the following year.