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Iconic Moments That Shaped The Premier League

August will see the 20th Premier League season commence after another summer, which to fans can seem like a lifetime. The addictive appeal of the national sports top league seems to grow unstoppably like the age of the competition itself. From the outset in 1992 the league has gained momentum and grown bigger in every sense, standard, stadiums and financial to name but a few. Though it’s now a global phenomenon imposing itself via many mediums, the objective remains the same as day one – entertain the people! Games can be classed as memorable but only a handful of moments can be classed as iconic.

With 12 out of 19 league titles no one can deny that Manchester United have been the dominant force at the top of the game for near two decades. They have always had special players who can wow a full stadium and create a magical moment in an ordinary game. Voted their greatest ever player Eric Cantona was the first proper superstar of the league. The manager believed he was great, the fans believed, even the opposition believed but no one believed as much as Eric. This feeling was encapsulated in a solo goal against Sunderland in 1996 when the Frenchman jinked away from opponents on the half way, glided towards the edge of the box where he nonchalantly chipped the ball over the helpless goal keeper hitting the post and in. Cantona turned to the crowd with his chest out with a suggestion that “this isn’t football but art and I am a creator”. The man who later succeeded the aforementioned artist as Number 7 – David Beckham – had his own historic arrival as superstar that same year when he scored from his own half against Wimbledon (RIP) on the opening day of the season. With his unmistakable technique and vision Beckham spotted Neil Sullivan off his line and placed the ball into the net from 70 yards making it seem as easy to do as placing a teabag into a cup. Beckham moved only upwards in the coming years and was involved in a master class when he combined with fellow former youth team mate Paul Scholes in an away match at Bradford. Beckham played a ball straight from the corner onto the red headed Scholes’s foot for him to volley into the net from 20 yards, a sigh of “my god” preceded the usual cheers as the fans knew they had witnessed something special.

Manchester’s red force may have dominated but there closest challengers throughout the years have oozed class and made the beautiful game beautiful. Arsenal has a style of play that can’t be matched by others around them and in earlier years this style was mixed with a winning habit that together was irresistible on the eye. In 2002 Dennis Bergkamp created footballing magic with only 2 touches of the ball against Newcastle United. With his back to goal a pass was zipped into him from Robert Pires, a touch of the ball to one side of the defender and a spin of a figure skater round the other to meet the ball again then holding of the defender while opening his body and giving a trademark finish into the corner. Commentators remarked “you just don’t try that” well he did. Bergkamp’s partner in crime was the slim agile but powerful Thierry Henry, Arsenals record goal scorer was regarded as the best player on the planet for a couple of seasons and it was hard to disagree with the level of performance he produced on a weekly basis. One of his finest moments came against Man Utd when again with a back to goal and a crisp pass into him he flicked the ball up and volleyed the ball in almost the one movement to leave the full stadium, including goal keeper Fabian Barthez, wondering if this act had actually just happened, the ball was over the goal keeper and in the net before you could say va va voom….

It’s not just the top teams who held all the glorious moments, one man who graced the league for many a year and became a cult hero for West Ham was the enigmatic Paolo Di Canio. The emotional Italian is best remembered for two reasons which simply could not be further apart in the footballing spectrum. The low point was a push to a referee after receiving a red card whilst playing for former club Sheffield Wednesday, although the referee went down somewhat theatrically Di Canio was wrong and made headlines around Europe. The flip side to Paolo emerged whilst playing in the famous claret and blue, a cross field ball was met mid air by Di Canio to scissor kick volley back across goal and into the corner passed another helpless Wimbledon goalkeeper. Other goals will also live long in the memory, who can forget Gustavo Poyet’s volley set up by Zola against Sunderland in the sunshine which made football seem as elegant as poetry. Leeds Tony Yeboah demonstrated perfect technique in match against Liverpool in the mid 90’s when on the back foot he volleyed from 25 yards off the under side of the bar. Liverpool’s own Steven Gerrard has had so many wonder strikes that it became expected of him each week but his finest moments have maybe came in cup competitions.

The league’s top goal scorer cannot go without a mention. Alan Shearer’s Trademark celebration is iconic itself. Bullet like headers and powerhouse free-kicks Shearer scored hundreds of goals. The best of them being a volley against Everton which although was powerful, had guidance and skill also. Truly magnificent. Another Englishman who seems to be in competition with him is Wayne Rooney. His opening episode in the Premier league came at 16 years of age for Everton when he came on against Arsenal to curl a sublime winner and end their 30 game unbeaten run. The famous commentary line “Remember the name: Wayne Rooney” was heard. After a big money move to Manchester United the pressure was on the young man but this didn’t show and if there was any such frustration it was taken out on the ball in a match against Newcastle when from 30 yards he latched onto a ball falling from the sky and showed power, technique, aggression and class with one strike of the ball which tested the strength of the goal net to its maximum. Finally last year’s goal of the season. A moment of genius against the light blues from the same city. Luis Nani deflected cross meant Rooney had to adjust with the ball mid-flight, Rooney leapt into the air and produced a stunning overhead kick into the top corner which must have torn through the TV and touched every football fan watching regardless of allegiance.

No matter what moment stands out to each individual it is clear that football is a dagger in the mind that won’t go away and with next season looming the excitement will only grow.

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