A Decade In The Premier League


As we approach the end of a decade which has seen the popularity of world football and the Premier League increase ten-fold, we look back upon what an incredible past ten years it’s been with appreciation and maybe even a little bit of nostalgia. As I’m sure we’ll say again in ten years time, the Noughties have been an incredibly important decade for the growth of the world’s game in America. The potential remains endless.

The culmination of the Noughties takes place in just over six months in South Africa as fans across the globe are treated to the 19th World Cup Finals. What better way to kick-off (pun intended) the next ten years of football than by staging the first ever World Cup Finals on the continent of Africa? – The ushering in of a new, global era, if you will. The Premier League’s best will all be displayed on the world stage, so it’s sure to be a spectacle to remember as we enter into another decade of the beautiful game that we all love so much.

The Illusive Zeitgeist

To look back over the past 10 years of football and attempt to sum up what we’ve seen may not be as futile as we once thought. The following words come to mind: money, irresponsibility, debt, foreign investment. Maybe those words are slightly unfortunate and unfair, but from tactical innovations,and money-hungry left backs, to the temporary demise of English football giants Leeds United, the Noughties have seen it all.

The advanced decision by the league to sell the television rights to BSkyB in 1992 was a risk, but ultimately a gamble that did in fact set up the eventual success of the Premier League from 2000 through the end of 2009. From 2001-2004 the League sold the domestic rights for £1.024 billion, the league then brought in £320 million for it’s international rights during a three year period stretching from 2004-2007, before their monopoly was eventually broken up by Setanta Sports in 2006. The two television giants paid the Premier League a combined £1.7 billion in August, 2006 for the rights to broadcast matches world wide. Contract after contract, the Premier League continued to gain valuable TV money that they could splash to the twenty worthy clubs who could then buy the best footballers on the planet.

The Premier League has grown in quality and popularity more in the past decade than any other league in Europe and for that matter, the world. The amount of money available to purchase the world’s best players and subsequently pay them the highest wages possible continue to attract the world’s best. Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Thierry Henry and Fernando Torres, to name a slight few, were all purchased from other clubs in the Noughites (except for Henry, from Juventus, August of ’99) and went on to excel in the Premier League. If the groundwork for the Premier League’s success was laid in the Nineties by players such as Bergkamp, Cantona, Beckham and Michael Owen, it’s safe to say the reigns have been seized with strength and authority by the worlds best in the Noughties.

The Premier League XI of the Noughties


As much a fan of lists as I am coupled with the fact that not only are we ending a year, but also a decade, I simply can’t help myself in constructing what I believe to be a world-beating Premier League best eleven from the past decade. A 4-4-2 with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm starts with a back line of:

  • Evra, Ferdinand, Terry and Neville – Most would have Ashley Cole in place of Patrice Evra. I believe they’re pretty close to equal, so I choose Evra because of Cole’s off-the-pitch exploits.
  • In midfield: Ronaldo, Lampard, Gerrard, Giggs – the consistency and brilliance of all four of these players make this an easy choice.
  • Up front: Henry, Drogba – before he mixed up his hand for his foot, Henry was arguably the best player to grace the Premiership since it’s inception in 1992. Drogba, when not on the ground, remains the blueprint for an ideal target man – big, strong, fast and deadly in front of goal.
  • Keeper: Shay Given – rarely makes a blunder, solid in goal.
  • Bench: Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Roy Keane, Edwin van der Sar, Patrick Viera, Sol Campbell.

As we end one decade and enter into another, fans of the beautiful game should sometimes take a step back from the fast-paced, super-charged, money-driven (necessary evil) world that often stains the Premier League. If you’re new to football like so many of us Yanks stateside, take some time to discover the rich history of not only your beloved club, but of English football as culture, institution and a way of life. I have and still continue my education, and I’m ultimately more enriched because of it. (If you haven’t seen The Damned United, it’s playing in first run and art house theaters currently nationwide. It comes highly recommended and it’s a good place to start your “research”.) The respect we as football fans accrue from the rich history we’ll discover will take us into the next decade, and many decades after. Here’s hoping the next ten years in football give us just as many, if not more memories as the Noughties have.

8 thoughts on “A Decade In The Premier League”

  1. From 2000 onwards Manchester United have dominated capturing 6 PL titles.

    A couple of years Chelsea looked unbeatable interrupting Manchester Uniteds haul of trophies.

    I wonder what the future holds. Will Chelsea be the superpower they were under Mourinho in the next decade, will Manchester United continue their PL dominance of the last 17 years?

    One wager I am willing to make is over the next decade Manchester United will be Asian/Chinese owned.

    With the popularity that Manchester United has in Asia at the moment that club is going to get bought out by Asian businessmen sooner rather than later. I’ve been out there and you’d think you were in the middle of Manchester with the way people have adopted that club it’s unbelievable.

  2. Watch the Damned United as a ‘starting point’ for an introduction to English football culture? Hardly. If anything I would actively encourage any ‘fan’ of the English football (the ‘EPL’ being a strange acronym never used in England) to avoid doing so.

    The Premier League doesn’t allow you to learn about English football as a ‘culture, institution and a way of life’. It’s a spectacle that you nor I can relate to. Football (as we knew it) is dead. Long live football.

    One single Hans van der Meer photograph says more about the beautiful game than 97 minutes of The Damned United can.

    1. Matt, I respectfully disagree. I had the good fortune of seeing The Damned United last night in a small independent movie theatre near me, and I think the film is required viewing by all soccer fans who follow the Premier League and/or Premier League clubs.

      Why? One, it provides an excellent history of where English football came from and how unfashionable clubs such as Derby County, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest achieved great success. And two, it shows how far English football has come from the dark and dingy corridors of the Baseball Ground to the modern stadiums.

      I’m not familiar with Hans van der Meer, but I’m checking out his photographs right now at http://hansvandermeer.nl/ and I’m really impressed so far.

      The Gaffer

      PS – While EPL is definitely not a widely used acronym in the UK, it is used now and again even by the mainstream press there. But outside of the UK, it’s an appropriate acronym based on all of the other Premier Leagues out there (there are several throughout the world).

    2. Matt,

      Thanks for your comment. I myself just finished Brilliant Orange by David Winner this past month. It’s definitely an essential read for any fan of the beautiful game and of course features many passages (and even photos) of Hans van der Meer. A true talent! – and an incredible read.

      Curious though, why do you feel The Damned United doesn’t serve as a starting point for new fans to English football? You didn’t really give any reason as to why? The book from which the film originates is self-described (by the author, David Peace) “a fiction based on fact”. So sure, there may be some creative freedom taken by the author, however Brian Clough (a very important figure in English football history) did in fact only last 44 days at Leeds United – a great club in English Football, and the events that are portrayed in the film were in fact actual events that took place in English football in the 1970’s. Love them or hate them, all the players, coaches and individuals in the film are also important figures in the history of football in England – Don Revie, Billy Bremner and Peter Taylor to name a few. This is history whether you agree with me or not.

      Also, I challenge you to re-read the article with a more open mind. I, like many other football fans do in fact agree that football has definitely “changed” over the years – influx of money, foreign players, available on TV word wide, etc. – but I do not believe football is dead, and will in fact never really die. Unsure as to what you meant by that.

  3. An attempt to clarify the vague nonsense I previous posted.

    I think the Damned United is a great film. It’s entertaining, without doubt. Unfortunately it is (as you say) fiction based on fact and should be seen with that in mind – not as a starting point for ‘research’. Ask John Giles what he thinks of it – ‘there is much about the film that is simply not true.’ If you insist on doing so, it’s worth reading ‘We are the Damned United’ by Phil Rostron for factual clarification.

    How ‘far’ has football come? You cite modern stadia as an example of ‘progress’. In my opinion, it’s the exact opposite. We’ve traded relative comfort for soul. I’m not anti-progress, nor opposed to change (per se) but as a supporter of one of those unfashionable clubs I think the Premier League is slowing nullifying what made so many fall in love with this game. It’s ripping the game from the fabric of society, and selling the rights to it’s death throes to the highest bidder.

    I follow one of those unfashionable clubs. I’ve seen my local side play Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan…and…Brentford, Yeovil and Exeter. While I loved those European nights and can’t wait to return to our former heights to see quality football, I’ll miss Griffin Park and Roots Hall with a passion. The MK Bowl is enough for me. The JJB, Riverside, Pride Park et al, no thanks. As someone who would rather see my club win a corner than England win the World Cup, I can’t help but wonder whether ‘another year down here’ might not be such a bad thing after all.

    Football in the top flight is not what it was and this isn’t teary eyed sentimentalism. It’s dead. I read the article with an open mind, but from a different perspective. I live in a grim Northern town. Football nor the Premier League have grown ‘ten-fold’ in their popularity. Sky Sports say ‘we know how you feel, because we feel the same’. They don’t. If they did they wouldn’t be rearranging games at a whim to suit their broadcasting needs.

    I agree with much that was said, in terms of the Premier League as ‘spectacle’ (we’ve seen some wonderful football over the last ten years) but not English football as ‘culture, institution and a way of life’. It’s a different game altogether. I find the knowledge of many American ‘soccer’ fans impressive and admire their enthusiasm for the game. I just urge them to look away from the beautifully packaged sell of the Premier League. It’s soul no longer lay in Old Trafford or Emirates, but has been scattered to those ‘dark and dingy corridors’ of our lower leagues.

    If I owe football that which I know most surely about morality and the duty of man, the last decade has been one of harsh lessons.

    Happy Christmas!


  4. This decade in the EPL will always be marked with the most embarrassing season a Derby fan had to endure in the clubs history. I don’t know how I made it through that season, I do know a lot of alcohol was involved, w/out disowning Derby. Sadly that record will not be broken any time soon.

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