7 of the Best Player-on-Player Rivalries in Premier League History

Football derbies are just wonderful. The intensity, passion and hostility is endearing, which is why we’re doing a wee series on them here at 90min.

​But what about the other rivalries? Yes, you know what we mean, players on opposing sides who just hate the sight of each other, where you can be sure there’ll be a dozen or so expletives shared throughout the match, and a few late tackles thrown in for good measure.

It happens across the board in football, with the ​Premier League being no different. In fact, some of the most notable player disputes have occurred in the English game, so why not take a trip down memory lane with seven of the most fierce? Onboard? Cracking, so let’s get into players who downright loved smashing each other. 


Jamie Carragher & Gary Neville

Jamie Carragher,Gary Neville

You’d be forgiven for thinking these two had been friends for life given the camaraderie and chemistry they share as pundits, but we all know that is far from the case. Playing for their home town clubs – who also happen to be big rivals – certainly added spice to the occasion

As citizens of their respective sides, they wore their hearts on their sleeves, which, more often than not, meant tempers boiled over. Any chance to get up in each other’s grills was taken, so it’s probably beneficial that they were both defenders and rarely came in contact.


Fernando Torres & Nemanja Vidic

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-MAN UTD

Rightly revered as one of the Premier League’s finest central defenders, the fact that Torres got the better of Vidic on a few occasions illustrates just how good the striker was in his pomp.

While at ​Liverpool, Torres saw Vidic get sent off twice for fouls on the Spaniard, first in 2008 and then again just six months later. Not taking too kindly to the rough treatment, the pair came to blows again for the remainder of their league careers, most notably at Stamford Bridge in 2014.


Alan Shearer & Roy Keane

Roy Keane Alan Shearer

In one of the more obvious additions, two Premier League greats pulled no punches – literally – whenever they took to the field together. It started with Keane’s missed punch on Shearer in 2001, and then a series of tunnel bust-ups followed.

Shearer got his revenge on the pitch with a crafty elbow at Old Trafford in a heavy defeat further down the line, but these two never saw eye to even after their playing careers had finished. Which is why it’s a good thing Shearer didn’t join ​Manchester United in 1996, isn’t it?


Ian Wright & Peter Schmeichel 

Arsenal v Man United

Starting with alleged racist abuse directed Wright’s way from Schmeichel, the hatred between the pair during their playing days was both bitter and heated. The Dane was cleared of any wrongdoing, but frequent face-offs would occur each time ​Arsenal played United.

An ill-tempered encounter at Highbury saw their ‘relationship’ reach a breaking point when Wright straight up two-footed the goalkeeper when he had the ball, even though the whistle had gone and he didn’t have hope in hell’s chance of winning possession. They’ve since settled their differences and are good mates though, which is nice to see.


John Terry & Wayne Bridge

Chelsea's John Terry (R) fails to get a

Some rivalries are born out of incidents that happen on the pitch…but not this one. Granted, most of this particular falling out took place in the tabloids, but there is no love lost between these guys. Not one bit.

Which is completely understandable on Bridge’s part, since Terry had engaged in a four-month affair with Bridge’s former partner Vanessa Perroncel, mere moments after they had broken up. Needless to say, when they did meet on the pitch after that, Bridge did what everyone thought and refused to shake Terry’s hand. It was glorious to see. Oh, and Terry got stripped of the England captaincy temporarily. Not so glorious.


Roy Keane & Patrick Vieira

Roy Keane

Back again, but this time for arguably the greatest player rivalry in the history of English football. With gallantry and virility every time they took to the pitch, the most compelling of all tussles was a fascinating sub-plot to each Arsenal versus United clash.

Off the pitch, on the pitch, in the tunnel or in the changing room, it really didn’t matter because these two always found time to kick seven shades of s**t out of each other. Such a tense and pugnacious hatred has never been seen since, although we all yearn for such an almighty war between two individuals to return to the division again.


Diego Costa & Literally Anyone

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Close your eyes and point a finger at a list of all the players ever to come up against Costa. Congratulations, you’ve found someone he’s beefed with. However, Skrtel gets the nod for being one of the few to stand up to the Spaniard’s draining antics whenever possible.

There were attempts to gouge eyes out, countless cheeky elbows to the ribs, shoves into the back and legs left dangling and toes trodden on. It was a pretty engrossing affair, to be honest, and one that dominated the headlines before, during and after the pair came to blows. Top quality entertainment from two no-nonsense footballers.


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90min’s Definitive A to Z of Watford

Watford have been around since the 1880s but are yet win a major honour in football. However, their remarkable rise from a relatively small team to an established Premier League club in the space of five years is fascinating. 

Furthermore, they’ve provided one of the most extraordinary and iconic finishes to a football match in recent English football history. So. Handy. 


A is for Aidy Boothroyd

Aidy Boothroyd

One of the best young managers in England during his three-year spell at ​Watford, Bothrooyd gained promotion to the Premier League in his first full season at the club. Things went downhill though and he was replaced in 2008 by none other than Brendan Rodgers. 


B is for Ben Foster

The 36-year-old goalie is still going strong and has been one of the Hornets’ best players this season in his second spell with the club. Ageing like a fine wine. 


C is for Cliff Holton

A deadly goalscorer, Holton bagged a club-record 48 goals in the 1959/60 campaign, scoring a juicy 105 goals for Watford in total. 


D is for Lloyd Doyley


​​The Jamaican defender only scored twice for the club, but clocked up over 400 appearances – making him one of Watford’s longest-serving players in recent history. A true fan favourite. 


E is for Elton John

One of music’s best selling artists, the 73-year-old supported the Hornets growing up and has played a major role in their success as chairman and President. To honour his work, a stand is named after him at Vicarage Road. 


F is for FA Cup Final

Two finals, two losses – their first one came in 1984 when they lost to Everton 2-0, and their recent loss to ​Manchester City in 2019 was (you remember, surely) a 6-0 hammering. 


G is for Graham Taylor


​​From the Football League Fourth Division to the First Division in five years. All led by the great Graham Taylor as manager, also helping them to runner-up places in the FA Cup and First Division. An absolute legend of the club – a statue of Taylor outside the stadium honours his incredible achievements. 


H is for Harry the Hornet

From diving and making fun of Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha to celebrating Odion Ighalo’s goal against Liverpool – Watford’s club mascot is a bit of a hero!


I is for Odion Ighalo

Speak of the devil – the ​Manchester United man impressed in England and bagged 39 goals before his move to China. 


J is for John Barnes 


Better known for his time at ​Liverpool, Barnes debuted for the Hornets aged 17 and was a talented skilful winger. More impressively though, leading up to the 1990 World Cup, he recorded a rap for England’s official team song – World in Motion by New Order. Lethal bars and lethal dribbling, eh?


K is for Marlon King

In the 2005/06 season, the striker was the Championship’s top goalscorer and was named Watford’s Player of the Season. That’s good. 

He’s since been jailed on multiple occasions, including for groping a woman and breaking her nose when she turned him down. That’s very, very bad. 


L is for Luther Blisset

The record appearance maker and goalscorer at the club. 503 games. 186 goals. Certified legend. Need we say anymore?


M is for John McClelland


The Northern Ireland defender was an absolute success at Vicarage Road and was exceptional at the back – picking up the Player of the Season award in 1985 and 1988. 


N is for Nigel Gibbs

Spending your whole career at one club for almost 20 years and making 411 league appearances as a right-back is seriously impressive, isn’t it? Ask Nigel Gibbs. 


O is for Owners – Pozzos

In 2012, the Hornets were acquired by Giampaolo Pozzo and he has invested heavily in the club with his son Gino now taking over proceedings. 


P is for Gary Porter


A midfielder who also played as a left-back – James Milner is that you? Porter was a set-piece specialist and bagged a hat-trick, including the winner, in one of Watford’s most entertaining games ever; a seven-goal thriller against Bolton Wanderers. 


Q is for Domingos Quina

Admittedly not a notable player for the club, but the letter ‘Q’ is pretty tricky. Signed in 2018 from ​West Ham, the midfielder is Watford’s youngest Premier League scorer. 


R is for Ross Jenkins

Ridiculously, there have been two men named Ross Jenkins who have played competitively for the Hornets. This letter is attributed to the forward who spent eleven years at the club – winning the Player of the Season award in 1976 and 1979 – and not…the other one. 


S is for Ismaila Sarr


Yes, he gets in for scoring twice against ​Liverpool to destroy their invincible season, causing many football fans across England to celebrate and crack open the champagne. He deserves it. 


T is for Troy Deeney

Captain. Leader. Legend. The burly striker joined in 2010 and has since been a constant source of leadership, grit and goals for the Hornets. He’s also provided one of the greatest self-assessments in football: “I’ve got a big head and teeth like a shark, so what?”

Moreover, the talisman has scored one of the most incredible goals in English football – read on to find out more… 


U is for Dave Underwood

Not the easiest letter, so if you’ve heard of this guy give yourself a pat on the back. The goalkeeper played for a year in Hertfordshire and then left to go to Liverpool. 


V is for Vicarage Road

Watford FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Home to Watford’s matches since 1922, the stadium houses just over 20,000 fans. 


W is for Wilf Rostron

Spending ten years at the Hornets, the left-winger/left-back’s attacking instincts helped the club to second place in the First Division and a FA Cup Final. 


X is for An Extremely Exciting End To A Football Match

Insane. Extraordinary. Unbelievable. 

14th May 2013 – Watford vs Leicester – stoppage time.

YouTube it. 

Now. 


Y is for Yellow and Black

The Hornets don the attractive “bee-esque” kit and have had the two colours on their kit since 1959. 


Z is for Z-Cars

In 1964, Watford adopted the television drama Z-Cars as its tune for the players to walk out to. Why? Well, because it was the manager’s favourite television programme – so thank Bill McGarry for that. 


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Alan Shearer at Man Utd – What Could’ve Been Had He Not Joined Newcastle

​Turning down Manchester United at the peak of their powers? Now that’s one ballsy call.

While in the current climate that could easily be filed under the ‘lack of ambition’ category, you have to admire someone who chose to join his boyhood club and earn legendary status instead of seeking the riches and glamour that the world’s biggest club could offer – especially after a phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Alan Shearer talking about his ​1996 decision has caused a divide among the neutral onlookers, who are torn between whether he was right or wrong to do so. But let’s be honest, who cares. Shearer did what Shearer thought was right, and he went on to become the ​Premier League‘s all-time leading scorer with 260 goals. His choice, fair play.

However, in an alternate universe where the striker opted to head to Old Trafford, there could have been a totally different picture painted with countless humorous outcomes. Well, that’s the way we’re going to look at it anyway, since this is all entirely hypothetical.


Daily Run-Ins With Roy Keane

Roy Keane Alan Shearer

There is no love lost between these two, Going back to 2001, some five years after Shearer’s non-move to ​United, the pair’s first public dispute saw Roy Keane see red – in more ways than one.

A piss-poor attempt at a punch failed to land – or an equally nimble dodge prevented it – as the Irishman was given his marching orders. Shearer returned the favour 18 months later with an elbow that did connect, and the duo would go on to hate each other’s guts forever.

So, how would have this relationship transpired if they were teammates? Probably in exactly the same manner. Keane can pick a fight with his shadow, and the Geordie is not one to mince his words. They’d set the house on fire, not get along like one.

Would they have needed separate training sessions and separate changing rooms? Or would they have sorted out some kind of direct debit with the local dentist for their constant check ups? Both, you’d expect, and no doubt they’d have put Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer to shame on more than one occasion.


Shearer’s Bar Getting Renamed

Alan Shearer of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Shola Ameobi

It speaks volumes of how admired you are in your hometown when a bar attached to the club’s stadium is named after you. Opened in 2004, it houses the bi-weekly swathes of Toon fans who come to sink a few before kick off and herald their local hero. It’s since been renamed, but let’s pretend that’s not the case.

But…if he didn’t play there, it’d need a different name, right? So, who else could be bestowed with that honour? What other Geordie legend is earning of that right? Shola Ameobi, of course.

Born in Nigeria but raised on Tyneside, he’s adored by the locals. Sure, his scoring rate isn’t quite Shearer’s (79 in 397 compared to 206 in 405), but sod it, he’s the next best thing.

Not to mention, you could call it ‘Ameobar’, which has a nicer ring to it.


Breaking the 1000-Goal Mark in the Premier League

Alan Shearer celebration

Maybe just a slight exaggeration, but there is doubting that Shearer would’ve scored a shed-load more goals had he made the move to Old Trafford. Playing alongside Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Andy Cole might just have made hitting the back of the net a tad easier.

Sure, he had David Ginola, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand at St James’ Park, but further down the line, the quality of squad just doesn’t compare. Jean-Alain Boumsong and ageing pair Ian Rush and John Barnes being just a few that spring to mind. 

Meanwhile, United kept their squad mainly intact for the rest of Shearer’s career, and just kept adding further quality to it.


Being Hated in Newcastle

Alan Shearer Testimonial

Imagine the vitriol around St James’ Park every time Shearer played there for United, undoubtedly scored, and then proceeded to run to the corner flag with his right arm aloft.

He’d be detested throughout the city, in every trebles bar and Greggs there is. Grey’s Monument in the city centre would be transformed into a giant ever-burning effigy of the man, and both Northumbria and Newcastle universities would run a ‘biggest traitor’ course that receives nine times more applicants each year than it has space for.

Road blocks would be set up at every road leading in or out of the city, just to check there are no hidden Premier League strikers cowering in a car boot, and there would be a city-wide ban on naming children ‘Alan’. 

We can assume as such, anyway, which is why it’s a good thing he joined them isn’t it?


Adopting a Bizarre Mancunian-Geordie Accent 

Alan Shearer

If his voice comes on the radio, you know immediately its Shearer’s. The subtle, yet distinctly Geordie tones of his voice are unmistakable, and living in the city and playing for ​Newcastle for all those years made sure it never waned.

So what if he was surrounded by Scholes, Phil and Gary Neville each day? What sort of weird hybrid accent would he have adopted? An amalgamation of two completely different sounding local dialects would have been fascinating (OK, that’s a bit excessive) to hear.

Can you imagine ‘Ha’way’ ending with a long, drawn out ‘ehhhh’ at the end? I’m trying to, but it’s tough and, frankly, weird.


No Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? No…Many Things?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Speaking of mad half-Manc accents…Sir Alex Ferguson missed out on signing Shearer (in ‘real’ life) so instead plucked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from Norwegian obscurity. He’d go on to spend 11 trophy-laden years with the club and earn legendary status.

Well, well, well then. So if he didn’t join, does that mean we might be seeing Mauricio Pochettino in the Old Trafford dugout? If he didn’t join, there would never have been that night against Paris Saint-Germain? Going further back, if he didn’t join, would the magic of the 1999 ​Champions League final never have taken place? If he didn’t join, then no injury time winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup? 

Wait, wait, WAIT! Would this also mean that Shearer would be the club’s manager??? Would Solskjaer be hosting Match of the Day??? 

Good lord, imagine.


For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!  

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The Best Players Ever to Wear Each Shirt Number at Aston Villa From 1 to 11

Success-starved ​Aston Villa fans often need a reminder of their former glory. There’s not been much to shout about in recent years, mediocrity has wiped the club off its feet and dumped them into an ever-sinking hole. The days of a European odyssey, league titles, and housing most of Ireland’s greatest ever players seem like ancient history. 

That’s not to say it’s been all doom and gloom in the Midlands though. Villa have had some memorable players, some players with pure ability and some players, well, their names will reside in the Holte End forevermore. 

Here are the best players ever to wear each shirt number at Aston Villa from 1 to 11. Strap in. 


#1 – Mark Bosnich

VILLA V EVERTON

A controversial character but a fine, fine goalkeeper. His performances between the sticks made him a solid first choice keeper for seven full seasons and though his personal activities seemed to swing from the laudable to the lamentable, he flourished under the lights of Villa Park. A penalty-saving expert. 

Honourable Mention: Jimmy Rimmer


#2 – John Gregory

John Gregory


Player from 1977-1979, manager from 1998-2002. John Gregory loved it at Villa and the fans loved him. Although he primarily wore #2, Gregory is the only player to play in every outfield position, wearing numbers 2-11 over the course of two seasons. Versatile.

Honourable Mention: Mark Delaney


#3 – Steve Staunton

Steve Staunton

A regular in the Villa defence in the 90s, picking up two League Cups and an Intertoto Cup along the way. The ginger curls poking through the backwards baseball cap in the beaming heat at USA ’94 is typically what people remember of Staunton, but let’s not forget the steadiness he brought to the Villa back-line in their run to the UEFA Cup quarter finals in 1996-97.

Honourable Mention: Jlloyd Samuel


#4 – Olof Melberg

Olof Melberg

Olof just simply refused to lose, and his Scandi-battling mentality took him a long way in his career. A bona fide modern-day Aston Villa legend, with 232 club appearances spanning seven years. His footballing knowledge, positional awareness and strength solidified his centre-half spot for many years.

Honourable Mention: Gareth Southgate


#5 – Paul McGrath

ASTON VILLA V NEWCASTLE

Sometimes in life, something or someone will come along and deviate from the normality that we all know. Well, say hello to Paul McGrath. Widely considered one of Ireland’s greatest ever players despite chronic injuries and a non-existent training schedule. 

McGrath turned defending into a work of art all while playing 46 games a season in his thirties at Villa. Some effort that.

Honourable Mention: Ugo Ehiogu


#6 – Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry

It seems like the Premier League would implode in on itself if Gareth Barry ever retires doesn’t it? Just the 441 Villa games for Barry – that’s A LOT of football – so it would be wrong not to include him at #6.

Honourable Mention: Dennis Mortimer


#7 – Gordon Cowans

Gordan Cowans of Aston Villa

Consistently rated as one of their three best ever players by Villa fans, Cowans was the exceptional with both feet and, had tough tackling and spectacular assists in his locker. During his three separate spells at Villa Park, Cowans picked up a First Division title, a League Cup, a European Cup and a European Super Cup. His mantlepiece must be cluttered. 

Honourable Mention: Ashley Young


#8 – David Platt

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The strong-running, free-scoring midfielder will be remember at Villa for his goals with 64 goals in 148 appearances, and winning PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1989/90. Platt has been somewhat airbrushed from the pub discussions of the best English midfielders of modern times but his trademark late runs are something we should all cherish. 

Honourable Mention: Brian Little


#9 – Andy Gray

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Best known for commentary and punditry for the young ones amongst us, Gray was a sublime striker in his day. In the 1976/77 season, he netted 29 times to carry Villa to fourth in the League and also to glory in the League Cup.

Honourable Mention: Peter Withe


#10 – Dwight Yorke

Dwight Yorke of Aston Villa in action

By anybody’s standards, Dwight Yorke enjoyed a magnificent career. He’s famed for his antics at Old Trafford but it all started in the Midlands after Yorke was discovered by the late Graham Taylor on a tour of the West Indies in 1989. Plucked from the beaches of his beloved Trinidad & Tobago and catapulted to the big stage at Aston Villa.

Honourable Mention: John Carew


#11 – Gabby Agbonlahor 

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Between the years of 2006-10, Agbonlahor was different class, and being the local lad rising through the youth ranks to not only break into the first team but make himself a fan favourite? Every kid’s dream. Definitely not appreciated enough retrospectively.

Honourable Mention: Stiliyan Petrov


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Barcelona and Lazio Set for Summer Transfer Battle Over Alessio Romagnoli

​Barcelona’s search to strengthen the centre of their defence has seen them linked with AC Milan’s captain Alessio Romagnoli. 

The Italian could be set for a tug of war between the Spanish giants and Italian side Lazio, who are also interested in the defender. 

Alessio Romagnoli,Giorgios Kyriakopoulos

However, Sport report that Barcelona could face a couple of problems bringing Romagnoli to Camp Nou. ​AC Milan are reluctant to sell one of their best players, and a mixture of Barcelona’s (relatively) tight financial constraints and their desire to buy a big-name forward mean they are not able to spend a large amount on the centre-back, with a potential transfer costing around 50m.

Added to that, Romagnoli’s agent is Mino Raiola – who is known for his tough negotiations, and willingness to play hardball with both buying and selling clubs when it comes to transfers and contract renewals. 

Stefano Pioli,Alessio Romagnoli

As well as looking around at potential new destinations, Raiola will be attempting to secure his client a new deal worth more than his current €3.5m a season. 

However, ​Barcelona are desperate to find a new left-sided centre-back and have been following Romagnoli for a while, with Samuel Umtiti tipped to depart this summer after a litany of injury issues. 

Moreover, midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha may be offloaded in order to raise funds for a summer rebuild. 

Alessio Romagnoli

Already a natural leader as captain of AC Milan, the former Roma defender is seen as someone who could have a crack at filling the void left by the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of the Italian national team’s defence when they retire. 

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