The cult hero, every club has them. They are not always the best player to turn out for your team, indeed sometimes they can be among the worst. But they had that little something that meant they were held in the highest regard by the fans. Sometimes there is a personal reason why a supporter has a particular affection for a player. Maybe they scored in the first game you attended or perhaps you bumped into them in the street and they made a lasting impression on you? Below are five well known cult heroes, all for differing reasons. There are plenty more of course, and would love to hear your cult heroes and comments below. 1) Shaun Goater – Manchester City
“Feed the goat and he will score!” Was the chant that echoed from the Maine Road terraces, though not too many people know that Bermudan striker Shaun Goater actually began his career at Manchester United. He left the club without making an appearance but carved out a successful lower league career at Rotherham and Bristol City before moving to Man City in 1998. He hit 40 goals in his first two seasons as City won back to back promotions to the Premier League. Goater then finished top scorer for the third successive season with 11 goals, though it wasn’t enough to prevent relegation. The following season though Goater hit 30 goals as City returned to the Premier League as Champions. Kevin Keegan’s men spent big in an attempt to stay in the top flight but despite the high profile signings of Jon Macken and Nicolas Anelka, ‘The Goat’ still managed to score seven times in 14 appearances – including two against City rivals United.
2) Paul McGrath –Aston Villa
Despite leaving Aston Villa 14 years ago Paul McGrath’s name is still sung from the stands today, which shows the high regard in which he is held by the Villa faithful. McGrath’s first club was St Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland before signing for Manchester United in 1982. Often regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, several knee injuries stopped the Republic Of Ireland international from becoming a regular at Old Trafford and he was eventually transfer listed by Alex Ferguson in 1989. Moving to Villa, McGrath played some of the best football of his life despite recurrent problems in his knees which meant he barely trained between games, as well as his recurrent alcoholism. Villa came close to winning the title in McGrath’s first season, finishing second to Liverpool. Four years later he won the PFA Player of the Year as well as being a member of the side that beat Man United in the League cup final. He left in 1996 with his legendary status firmly secured.
3) John Jensen – Arsenal
When new Arsenal signing John Jensen scored a spectacular goal for Denmark from 25 yards in the 1992 European Championship Final, many Gunners fans thought they would soon be celebrating similar strikes at Highbury. However, the reality proved a little different as Jensen’s chronic inability to hit the net became stuff of legend. Arsenal fans would scream ‘shoot’ when he picked up the ball, in the hope he would finally break his agonising duck. Finally, after 98 attempts, Jensen curled home a 25 yarder against QPR in December 1994 before understandably celebrating wildly with the supporters. It would be his only goal in his 132 game Arsenal career, though he did pick up an FA Cup, League Cup and Cup winners Cup medals in his time at Highbury to cement his cult hero status.
4) Jimmy Bullard – Wigan, Fulham and Hull.
Known as much for his off-field antics than those on it, Jimmy Bullard has quickly become a popular figure among supporters of all clubs in the Premier League. He started his league career at boyhood club West Ham but was released in 2001 and joined Peterborough. A successful two year spell at London Road earned him a move to Wigan in January 2003 where he helped them climb two divisions into the top flight for the first time in their history. Moves to Fulham and Hull followed, though Bullard has never really recovered from a serious knee injury that initially kept him out of action for over a year back in 2006. Thankfully for a player who has missed so much football Bullard doesn’t take himself too seriously and always has a smile on his face. He quickly become cult hero for infamous on field antics that included throwing an inflatable ball into play instead of the actual ball and pulling Freddy Ljungberg’s shorts down when the floodlights went out in a league cup match with Arsenal. He also mimicked Hull boss Phil Brown’s infamous on-the-pitch half time lecture when he scored a penalty for The Tigers against Man City in the Premier League. He is a reminder for everyone to not always take life so seriously.
5) Barry Horne – Everton
Barry Hooooorne! Is the chant you may hear from the Everton fans from time to time, despite the player in question last playing for the Toffees in 1996. Why? Well let me tell you. The Boyhood Blue was already 30 when joined Everton from Southampton for £700,000 in August 1992, but enjoyed something of an Indian summer to his career during his time with the club, winning the FA Cup in 1995. Known for his tough tackling and fierce determination, his battling qualities meant he became popular with the fans, who watched a side that consistently battled against relegation. Horne wrote his name in the history books though and became a cult hero in the process when he scored the most important goal of his career. It was the final day of the 1993/94 season and Everton needed a win at home to Wimbledon to avoid going down for only the third time in their history. Midway through the second half, with the Toffees trailing 2-1 Horne chested down a high ball and unleashed a swerving, dipping 30 yard volley that thundered off the post before nestling in the net. Everton fans were delirious and although Graham Stuart’s late winner was the goal that kept Everton up, the importance of Horne’s equaliser cannot by understated – especially by the fans who later sung: “Who needs Cantona when we’ve got Barry Horne!”