It”s time to feel old
Think back to the dawn of the new millennium, what do you think of? Y2K? The promise of M. Night Shyamalan’s career? Or do you simply remember all the good times you’ve had in the past fifteen years? (Yes, that’s right, fifteen).
You, of course, think of none of these things. You instead think of the PFA Young Player of the Year award, given annually to the most promising Premier League player under the age of 24. Whatever happened to those young lads? Well, prepare to feel old as we find out.
STEVEN GERRARD 2000/01
Steven Gerrard, aka Mr. Liverpool. Making his Liverpool debut in 1998, Steven Gerrard would go on to become the personification of the club during one of the most tumultuous times in its history. Gerrard would captain the Reds during their fall from top-flight dominance, with Liverpool coming close to the Premier League title twice but never quite climbing back to their perch. He had, and still has, the incredible ability to absolutely leather a ball, a skill that helped him become the only player to score in the final of the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League, and ultimately add eight pieces of silverware to Anfield’s trophy cabinet.
Gerrard was also part of the England dream-team midfield pairing that never was, making 114 appearances for his country, and eventually captaining the team through Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup before hanging up his boots in 2014. “Why can’t Gerrard and Lampard play together?” remains one of life’s great unanswered questions.
At times Gerrard’s career has courted controversy; opposition fans will undoubtedly remember him for his love of Phil Collins, late night boxing, and a certain doomed, prophetic speech in the 2013/14 season. But as he leaves the Premier League for LA Galaxy, he will be remembered as an icon of English football and, on Merseyside at least, as one of the greatest midfielders of the Premier League era.
- 702 career appearances, 183 goals (all for Liverpool).
- 114 England caps, 21 goals. The third most England caps in history.
- Career silverware: MBE, 1 Champions League, 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, and 2 UEFA Super Cups.
- Due to leave Liverpool for LA Galaxy in 2015.
CRAIG BELLAMY 2001/02
Club: Newcastle United
Every generation of footballers has its fair share of ‘hard lads.’ The footballers who aren’t afraid to get stuck in, spout off, and follow it up by, say, throwing a chair at your manager, tackling a pitch invader or using golf clubs to make their teammates sing karaoke. Even rarer is the small group of footballers who have the attitude of a hard man and the skill to back it up.
This is where Craig Bellamy comes in, who, despite winning the award in his first year at Newcastle, admitted that anger issues blighted the early years of his career. Spending those days under the tutelage of Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer, Bellamy would go on to play for a number of teams including Liverpool and Manchester City before finally finishing his career at his boyhood club Cardiff City, where he retired in 2014 and become an academy coach.
Despite his hard man image, Bellamy is the founder of the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone, which provides boys with free education and football coaching. A big softie at heart.
- 546 career appearances, 170 goals.
- 128 appearances for Newcastle United, 43 goals.
- 78 Wales caps, 19 goals.
- Career silverware: 1 League Cup, 1 Scottish Cup, 1 Community Shield and 1 Championship title.
- First player to score for seven different Premier League clubs
JERMAINE JENAS 2002/03
Club: Newcastle United
It would be unfair to say Jermaine Jenas was a flash in the pan, but despite his status as the best young player in the league in 2002/03, Jenas’ career never reached the heights initially promised. Two years after winning the award, Jenas was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £7 million, where he would make over 200 appearances. The later stages of his career were marred by injury and poor form, leading to loan spells at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, before he was shipped off to Queens Park Rangers. However, a series of anterior cruciate ligament injuries meant that Jenas never really regained the form of his teens, and he was eventually released at the end of the 2013/14 season. He currently works as a pundit for the BBC.
- 431 career appearances, 46 goals.
- 152 appearances for Newcastle United, 12 goals.
- 202 appearances for Tottenham Hotspurs, 26 goals.
- 21 England caps, 1 goal.
- Career silverware: 1 League Cup.
SCOTT PARKER 2003/04
Club: Charlton Athletic/Chelsea
After accidentally flying his Spitfire through a wormhole in 1938, Scott Parker took up football with Charlton Athletic to pass the time until he could return home. Luckily for him, he was pretty good at it, even winning the PWA Player of the Year award in the 2010/11 season, despite his then-team West Ham being relegated. Parker went on to establish himself as a solid central midfielder and a Premier League regular, winning the title with Chelsea in 2004/05 after joining them from Charlton for £10 million. He has represented England at every level, and played in every match of its Euro 2012 campaign.
- 494 career appearances, 35 goals.
- 145 appearances online casino for Charlton Athletic, 11 goals.
- 18 England caps, 0 goals.
- Career silverware: 1 League Cup, 1 Premier League title, 1 First Division (Championship) title, and 1 Intertoto Cup.
- Only player to get his first four England caps playing for four different clubs.
- Currently plays for Fulham
WAYNE ROONEY 2004/05, 2005/06
Club: Manchester United
Age: 19, 20
At the time he joined Manchester United from Everton, Wayne Rooney held the title of the most expensive teenager in world football, a record only recently broken by fullback Luke Shaw. That’s a lot of pressure for a youngster, but Rooney has, despite critics saying otherwise, lived up to his pricetag. The third player in history after Ryan Giggs and Robbie Fowler to win this award two seasons in a row, Rooney will undoubtedly go on to become England’s leading all-time goalscorer, and they already say he is a legend at Old Trafford. While his early career was spotted with incidents of hot headedness, he has undoubtedly matured into one of the finest strikers England has ever produced, and Mike Myers’ greatest muse.
- 548 career appearances, 246 goals.
- 471 appearances for Manchester United, 229 goals.
- 103 England caps, 47 goals.
- Career silverware: 5 Premier League titles, 2 League Cups, 3 Community Shields, 1 Champions League and 1 Club World Cup.
- Third player in history to win the award two seasons in a row (along with Ryan Giggs and Robbie Fowler).
- Currently plays for Manchester United.
CRISTIANO RONALDO 2006/07
Club: Manchester United
It’s hard to write a snapshot of Cristiano Ronaldo’s career since winning the award at the end of the 2006/07 season. Simply put: He’s accomplished so much. Constantly at the center of a series of civil and well-reasoned internet debates about his place in world football relative to Lionel Messi, it’s safe to say Cristiano Ronaldo has gone on to develop into one of the finest talents in world football. He’s a household name in every country on earth, and one of the most decorated footballers in history. After being sold by Manchester United to Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of £80 million, his career has never really seen a dip in form. His current buyout clause with Real Madrid is approximately €1 billion. It’s scary to think just how much Ronaldo can achieve in what remains of his career.
- 609 career appearances, 417 goals.
- 292 appearances for Manchester United, 118 goals.
- 289 appearances for Real Madrid, 294 goals.
- 118 Portugal caps, 52 goals.
- Career silverware w/ Manchester United: 3 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 Community Shield, 1 Champions League, 1 Super Cup and 1 Club World Cup.
- Career silverware w/ Real Madrid: 1 La Liga title, 2 Copa del Reys, 1 Supercopa de Espana, 1 Champions League, 1 Super Cup and 1 Club World Cup.
- Second highest paid athlete in the world (behind Floyd Mayweather Jr). It”s $80 million a year if you wanted to feel bad about your job.
- Currently plays for Real Madrid.
CESC FABREGAS 2007/08
It’s not really a surprise that the first human to be born part man, part football club would eventually go on to be one of the best players. While his bonds to Arsenal may now be irreparably damaged, he was a sensation during his early years at the club. Arsene Wenger planned the future of Arsenal around young Fabregas before a long—and frankly ridiculous—transfer saga saw him leave for Barcelona in 2011 for a total of £40 million.
Since then, he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best midfielders in the world, however his career has been continually marred by a notable slump in form during the second half of the season. This trend is especially evident during the current season, which saw him assist or score fifteen times for Chelsea during the first half, but only twice in the second. While he may be aging terribly, his footballing abilities don’t seem to be dwindling and the only hope is the second half of his career stays as fruitful as the first.
- 491 career appearances, 103 goals.
- 303 appearances for Arsenal, 57 goals.
- 151 appearances for Barcelona, 42 goals.
- 94 Spain caps, 13 goals.
- 3 Catalonia caps, 0 goals.
- Career silverware w/ Arsenal: 1 FA Cup and 1 Community Shield.
- Career silverware w/ Barcelona: 1 La Liga title, 1 Copa del Rey, 2 Supercopa de Espanas, 1 Super Cup and 1 Club World Cup.
- Currently plays for Chelsea FC.
ASHLEY YOUNG 2008/09
Club: Aston Villa
The Aston Villa of 2000-2010 was a very different club to the one currently struggling for Premier League survival. At the latter stages of the last decade, Villa appeared to be on the cusp of reclaiming their position as a force in the Premier League, with players like Ashley Young leading the charge. Sadly, that’s not how things work, and after a series of impressive performances Young was bought by Manchester United for an undisclosed fee. Since then, he’s been performing well, but has never quite capitalized on his incredible early potential.
- 403 career appearances, 72 goals.
- 190 appearances for Aston Villa, 38 goals.
- 103 appearances for Manchester United, 12 goals.
- 30 England caps, 7 goals.
- Career silverware: 1 Premier League title and 1 Community Shield.
- Currently plays for Manchester United.
Famous for: Having a bird commit a red card offense on him.
JAMES MILNER 2009/10
Club: Aston Villa
Virtually an old man by the time he won the award, James Milner had played in the Premier League for an incredible seven years before eventually having his talents recognized. His career has been long and stable, but, as with a lot of utility players, never particularly exciting. His lack of flair has seen him sarcastically dubbed “The Yorkshire Figo” and has spawned a parody twitter account that he has publicly recognised. It is uncertain what the future holds for Milner, with rumors circulating that he will be leaving Manchester City for Liverpool at the end of the current season, but it is certain that he will remain a consistent midfield presence in the Premier League for the next few years at least.
- 542 career appearances, 55 goals.
- 126 appearances for Aston Villa, 22 goals.
- 187 appearances for Manchester City, 24 goals.
- 53 England caps, 1 goal.
- Career silverware: 2 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 Community Shield and 1 League Cup.
- Currently plays for Manchester City.
It's a shame we didn't win today but if I'm not back too late tonight I can end the day on a high by getting the spare bedroom hoovered
— Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) January 31, 2015
I said to Yaya That pass wasn't very good. He said Sorry I thought Pablo was still there. I said You should look before you pass. He said OK
— Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) March 1, 2015
At the start of the week it was really cold & I had to wear a winter coat but today it's quite mild & I only needed a lightweight jacket.
— Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) March 6, 2015
A shortened version of this post originally appeared on reddit. Eight by Eight contacted the author, who offered to write a longer version for this website.