Alternative Premier League Hall of Fame: Ade Akinbiyi, Rory Delap, Mike Dean and more

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Alternative Premier League Hall of Fame: Ade Akinbiyi, Rory Delap, Mike Dean and more - Action Images
Alternative Premier League Hall of Fame: Ade Akinbiyi, Rory Delap, Mike Dean and more - Action Images

The Premier League has formed a Hall of Fame, with Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry its first two inductees.

The idea is to "recognise and celebrate the exceptional skill and talent of players who have graced the competition since its inception in 1992."

Here we suggest an alternative list of names who, while they may not be troubling trophy engravers any time soon, have certainly contributed to the Premier League saga.

James Milner for his longevity

There is something special about playing top-flight football in three different decades. Anyone familiar with pub quiz machines will know that Tony Adams is the only player in English football to captain a team to league titles across three decades, while the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and our own Jamie Carragher enjoyed one-club careers across a similar time span.

All would be worthy recipients of this award, but Milner is still going and looks more than capable of playing for another season or two. He became the second-youngest Premier League player when he made his Leeds United debut at West Ham aged 16 in November 2002. Milner played alongside Lucas Radebe that day, who was born in 1969, and now lines up alongside Trent-Alexander Arnold, who was born in 1998. Perhaps there is a portrait of Milner in an attic somewhere.

Then there are his powers of reinvention. Milner began as a jinking winger with wicked delivery, became a driving force in central midfield under Martin O'Neil at Aston Villa, was a man for all seasons in two title-winning Manchester City teams and moved back infield to be an important cog in Liverpool's pressing machine. Oh, and he was Jurgen Klopp's back-up left-back for a long while.

Some people turned their noses up at the chance to sign Milner on a free transfer in 2015 but how wrong they were.

James Milner of Liverpool with the Premier League Trophy -  Bradley Ormesher
James Milner of Liverpool with the Premier League Trophy - Bradley Ormesher

Ade Akinbiyi for the misses

There is a minor storyline in Mike Bassett: England Manager in which ailing striker 'Smallsy' has developed such an aversion to scoring it has to be treated like a phobia, with the concept of putting the ball in the net slowly reintroduced.

Comedic hyperbole you would think, but life came close to imitating art when Ade Akinbiyi pulled on a Leicester City shirt.

Despite never threatening to score one in every two appearances at Gillingham, Bristol City and Wolves, Leicester decided to make Akinbiyi their record signing for a little more than £5 million in 2000. He had the unenviable of task of replacing Emile Heskey and did score nine league goals in his first season before things started to go badly wrong.

A hat-trick of misses in a home game against Liverpool in 2001 condemned Akinbiyi to the dubious legacy of featuring in every own goals and gaffes DVD known to man. There were even boos from Leicester fans by the end of that game which is always difficult to stomach. Just ask Emmanuel Eboue.

There was no grand redemption arc for Akinbiyi but something of a happy ending when he finally scored his first goal of that season against Sunderland, ripping off his shirt in celebration to show off quite the physique. Sadly, Hugh McIlvanney's memorable description of boxer Joe Bugner as being "built like a Greek statue, but with fewer moves" was all too apt.

Rory Delap for the long throws

Agricultural they may have been, but Stoke City and Delap's long throws were one of the Premier League era's great innovations. Anyone who causes palpable excitement to spread through a stadium at the award of a throw-in deserves a place on this list.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life," said then Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari.

In Stoke's first season back in the top flight in 2008-09, a quarter of their goals came from throw-ins, two of them against Arsenal in a fixture that was perhaps English football's first post-modern culture war.

Eventually outlawed, the use of the towel to dry the ball added to the sense of theatre, like Michael Holding shining the ball on his whites while standing at the end of his mark.

The only question is: if they were so potent, why didn't every team copy Stoke? Probably because it's quite hard to find a player who can hurl the ball startling distances at such a piercing trajectory.

Rory Delap's long throws caused chaos - PA
Rory Delap's long throws caused chaos - PA

Ali Dia for the cheek of it

A Premier League career which lasted just 53 minutes. Everyone knows the story: Southampton manager Graeme Sounness was duped by a call purporting to be from Ballon d'Or winner George Weah recommending he take a chance on Dia.

Southampton gave the striker a one-month contract and an injury crisis gave him his chance against Leeds United in 1996. Dia came on in the 32nd minute but was substituted himself late on.

“He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice,” Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier said. “It was very, very embarrassing to watch. We were like: ‘What’s this geezer doing? He’s hopeless.’"

Dia did finally score goals in English football though: two to be precise, for non-league Gateshead later that same season.

Amr Zaki for being the ultimate one-hit wonder

The Premier League has a rich history of strikers who enjoy a never-to-be-repeated hot streak and then fade into obscurity. Jon Stead and Nikica Jelavic are two good examples or Michael Ricketts at Bolton who earned an England call-up.

None endured such a spectacular reversal of fortune than Egyptian striker Amr Zaki at Wigan Athletic. Signed on loan from Egyptian club Zamalek in 2008, people started to wonder if Wigan's scouting department housed geniuses of Nasa proportions.

Compared by owner Dave Whelan to Alan Shearer, Zaki's barrelling style made him a right handful. He scored 10 league goals before Christmas, including two at Anfield, which put him behind only Nicolas Anelka and Robinho in the scoring charts.

Things went downhill from there though, much of it self-inflicted. Zaki failed to report back to Wigan after one international fixture, leading manager Steve Bruce to call him the most unprofessional player he had ever seen in football. Wigan did not take up their option and, bar a brief loan at Hull City, English football fans never saw Zaki again.

Wigan Athletic's Amr Zaki celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield - PA
Wigan Athletic's Amr Zaki celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield - PA

Julian Dicks for hitting penalties really hard

Unfortunate to play in the same age as other outstanding left-backs Stuart Pearce and Denis Irwin. Dicks was a fine player, but also played the game with an air of menace and mischief that is hard to find in the Premier League of 2021.

It's his penalty-taking technique that gets him a spot on this list though. Peter Schmeichel is an intimidating presence in goal, but Dicks almost takes his head off with this one (about two minutes and 20 seconds in):

As an aside, Dicks is also an excellent golfer and made a go of trying to earn a living on the mini-tours.

Mike Dean for the memes

Loveable scoundrel or narcissistic irritant? You decide. It is questionable whether a referee should cultivate a public personality like Dean has, but in the age of the meme he simply has to be included. Premier League football is the business of content production now and Dean provides plenty of it with his apparent goal celebrations, strenuous gesticulations and quick resort to on-pitch banter with players.

As we saw when on the terraces supporting his beloved Tranmere Rovers, Dean is not subdued away from work.

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Dan Burn for most unlikely player

He is a six foot seven inch man playing at left-back. Need we say anymore?

Premier League Ian Tuttle /NMC Pool Demarai Gray and Dan Burn. -  Ian Tuttle
Premier League Ian Tuttle /NMC Pool Demarai Gray and Dan Burn. - Ian Tuttle