The 20 best Welsh players of the Premier League era – ranked

The 20 best Welsh players of the Premier League era – ranked

Wales has produced some of the very finest players to have graced the Premier League over the years.

A number of Welsh stars have gone on to earn legendary status during their time in the Premier League, whether it be because of their goalscoring exploits, their leadership qualities, or their robust, tough tackling in the centre of the park.

Whatever the case, England’s top flight would not have been the same without them. So here at 90min, we have decided to rank the 20 best Welsh players of the Premier League era…

Chris Coleman was a fine player, as well as a decent managerChris Coleman was a fine player, as well as a decent manager
Chris Coleman was a fine player, as well as a decent manager | Stu Forster/Getty Images

A slightly controversial inclusion, considering the number of Premier League appearances Chris Coleman made, but his talent and love his country is impossible to overlook.

Coleman was eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland, but this was never an option for him as he wanted to thrive for the Welsh side. Indeed, he earned 32 Wales caps and even went on to coach the national side.

His playing days were cut short through injury, but the centre-back (most of the time) showed during his time in England’s top flight why he was so widely tipped for a bright future from such a young age.

Paul Jones is best remembered for his time at SouthamptonPaul Jones is best remembered for his time at Southampton
Paul Jones is best remembered for his time at Southampton | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Celebrated winning 50 caps for his country by shaving his head, Paul Jones also made 209 Premier League appearances.

191 of these came for Southampton, but Jones also featured for Wolves, while he also made two appearances for Liverpool during a loan spell.

King lifted the Premier League with LeicesterKing lifted the Premier League with Leicester
King lifted the Premier League with Leicester | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Alright, there may be better and far more experienced players that could be included, but you can’t beat a bit of Andy King.

Yes, he’s not exactly a dazzling footballer, but he was a crucial part of the Leicester squad that produced one of the most iconic moments in sporting history. When we will see another moment quite like that again? We don’t know.

What we do know is that although he may not have started every game in 2015/16, he was a valuable squad member that made 25 appearances.

Mark Pembridge of FulhamMark Pembridge of Fulham
Mark Pembridge of Fulham | Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Mark Pembridge’s style of play wasn’t for everyone, but the versatile midfielder was a key squad member at each club he turned out for. Pembridge went on to make 228 appearances in England’s top flight, most notably for Everton and Fulham, but injuries impacted much of his playing time.

Pembridge, who has won 54 caps for Wales, is now coaching at Fulham.

Dean Saunders during his Nottingham Forest daysDean Saunders during his Nottingham Forest days
Dean Saunders during his Nottingham Forest days | Getty Images/Getty Images

Forgettable managerial career aside, Swansea born Dean Saunders was one of the Premier League’s sharpest shooters during the early years of the competition.

Most notably, Saunders chipped in with 12 goals in the Premier League’s first season as Aston Villa pushed Manchester United all the way in the title race. Though Man Utd went on to claim the crown, Saunders would help Villa get revenge on United two years later as he bagged a brace in the 1994 League Cup final – helping his side pick up their first piece of silverware for 12 years.

Overall, Saunders netted 45 times in the Premier League in just under 200 appearances.

Hartson has turned to punditryHartson has turned to punditry
Hartson has turned to punditry | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

Hartson enjoyed the best spell of his career during his time with Celtic, grabbing 41 goals in 85 appearances. But the Welshman did also chip in with a few goals in the Premier League, too.

Hartson made 154 appearances in England’s top flight, scoring 54 goals in spells with Arsenal, West Ham, whom he saved from relegation alongside Paul Kitson during 1996/97, Wimbledon and Coventry City.

James Collins is affectionately known as GingeJames Collins is affectionately known as Ginge
James Collins is affectionately known as Ginge | Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Believe it or not, James Collins played in the Premier League for 13 seasons in a row between 2005 and 2018.

He joined West Ham in 2005, but after struggling to nail down a starting spot, departed for Aston Villa four years later. Collins would later return to the capital and would feature more regularly for the Hammers, eventually ending his top flight career with 279 appearances.

Not bad going, James.

Allen earned a surprise move to Liverpool early in his careerAllen earned a surprise move to Liverpool early in his career
Allen earned a surprise move to Liverpool early in his career | Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Joe Allen’s sparking performances for Swansea earned a surprise move to Liverpool in the summer of 2012, though he’d later admit that the nickname the ‘Welsh Xavi’ did him no favours in his attempt to succeed at Anfield.

Though his time on Merseyside didn’t really work out, Allen’s always been a hugely influential for the Welsh national team. To date, he has made just under 200 appearances in the Premier League.

Williams is now retired after a length careerWilliams is now retired after a length career
Williams is now retired after a length career | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Tough, no-nonsense tackling, Ashley Williams was a nightmare defender to play against at his peak.

After joining Swansea City in 2008, Williams guided the club to Premier League promotion for the first time in 2011 – with his reliability and leadership qualities leading to many calls for interest from the ‘big six’.

Eventually, it was Everton that secured his services in 2016, but he was a little past his best by the time he rocked up at Goodison Park.

Ben Davies joined Spurs from SwanseaBen Davies joined Spurs from Swansea
Ben Davies joined Spurs from Swansea | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Ben Davies may not be the most glamorous left-back in the world, but he’s built his career on being a model of consistency.

It was his performances for Swansea that took him into the limelight, and it wasn’t long before Tottenham opted to bring him to the capital. A regular since then, Davies has plenty more left in his Premier League tank.

Ian Rush is a Liverpool legendIan Rush is a Liverpool legend
Ian Rush is a Liverpool legend | Anton Want/Getty Images

Though his most successful years were arguably behind him, Wales legend Ian Rush proved he could still cut the mustard when the Premier League was formed in 1992.

Rush had led Liverpool to many glories during the 1980s, but he bagged 45 Premier League goals for the Reds before winding down his career with short, rather forgettable stints at Leeds and Newcastle.

Simon Davies whipping in a corner at Craven CottageSimon Davies whipping in a corner at Craven Cottage
Simon Davies whipping in a corner at Craven Cottage | Warren Little/Getty Images

Simon Davies’ consistency at the highest level went largely under the radar, even though he made
303 Premier League appearances during his time with Tottenham, Everton and Fulham.

He’s best remembered for his time at Fulham, and played a pivotal role in the west London club’s famous run to the Europa League final during 2009/10.

Savage is now a well-known punditSavage is now a well-known pundit
Savage is now a well-known pundit | Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

A real pain to play against, Wales icon Robbie Savage was an all-action, never let your opponent gain a yard on you kind of player.

Was he elegant? No, not really.

Was he effective? Yes.

Was he world class? He thinks so.

Whatever the case may be, Savage was given his chance to shine in the Premier League with Leicester in 1997, and it was an opportunity he seized with both hands. He went on to feature in England’s top flight for the next 11 years, making 346 appearances.

Craig Bellamy was a nomadic strikerCraig Bellamy was a nomadic striker
Craig Bellamy was a nomadic striker | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

If you were asked to describe Craig Bellamy, 99.9% of people would say ‘pain in the f*cking arse’.

And guess what, he was a complete pain in the arse. But that – along with some god given talent – is what allowed him to go on and make just under 300 Premier League appearances.

Bellamy may only have reached double figures in the Premier League twice during his career, but it was his tireless work ethic, versatility and determination that made him a crucial asset for all of the seven clubs he played for at the highest level.

Hughes celebrating a goal for Manchester UnitedHughes celebrating a goal for Manchester United
Hughes celebrating a goal for Manchester United | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Mark Hughes was one of the key players for Manchester United in the early years of the Premier League, finishing the inaugural season as their top scorer.

Hughes would win two Premier League titles with the Red Devils before departing for Chelsea, where he enjoyed domestic cup and European success. He would down his top flight career with Southampton, Everton and Blackburn, finishing on 297 appearances and 64 goals.

Aaron Ramsey was a household name at ArsenalAaron Ramsey was a household name at Arsenal
Aaron Ramsey was a household name at Arsenal | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Were it not for injuries, Aaron Ramsey could easily have become one of the Premier League’s greatest ever midfielders.

Intelligent, creative, and a good reader of the game, Ramsey had all the tools to succeed apart from one thing – a body that wouldn’t let him down. That said, the Welshman still managed to make 262 Premier League appearances for Arsenal before departing for Juventus on a free transfer, so he must have been doing something right.

Plenty of time for him to come back and add to that figure, too.

Gary Speed, pictured during his time as Wales managerGary Speed, pictured during his time as Wales manager
Gary Speed, pictured during his time as Wales manager | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Taken from us far too soon, Gary Speed is gone but he will never be forgotten.

The ultimate professional, Speed was versatile, born leader who always set the best possible example for his teammates and those watching on. He was one of the most respected players in the Premier League, and spent 16 years in the top flight between 1992 and 2008.

Speed had – and will continue to have – a hugely positive impact on Welsh football.

Neville Southall of Everton makes a pointNeville Southall of Everton makes a point
Neville Southall of Everton makes a point | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Everton and Wales’ greatest ever goalkeeper, Neville Southall represented the Toffees at the highest level for 17 years. His best years may have been past him by the time the Premier League was formed, but he still tucked 208 appearances away under his belt – becoming the first player to break the double century barrier.

To this day, he remains his country’s finest ever goalkeeper.

Bale's first spell at Tottenham was out of this world goodBale's first spell at Tottenham was out of this world good
Bale’s first spell at Tottenham was out of this world good | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Full of speed, flair, and ruthlessness, not one Premier League defender knew how to deal with peak Gareth Bale.

A winner of two PFA Player of the Year awards. Bale was electrifying for Tottenham after his defensive minded reins were let off, and there was little surprise when Real Madrid eventually came calling. When the time to return to England came, it was only fitting that the Welshman went back to the club who helped him become world class.

Giggs is one of the Premier League's best everGiggs is one of the Premier League's best ever
Giggs is one of the Premier League’s best ever | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Barring an absolute miracle, no player will ever come close to matching Ryan Giggs’ bulging trophy cabinet from his two decades at Manchester United.

A winner of 13 Premier League titles, Giggs also won four FA Cups and two Champions League crowns, and played at the highest level into his 40s.

A scorer in each of the first 21 seasons of the Premier League, there was nothing the Welshman couldn’t do – and he’ll forever be remembered for his exceptional pace and breathtaking dribbling ability. Truly, one of the best natural wingers to ever play the game.

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