Trailblazers & Record Breakers
Shay Given and Robbie Keane’s records will stand for a long time, writes Seán Creedon, as he shares interesting statistics involving Irish players in the Premier League.
Christmas is traditionally a busy time for footballers in the English Premier League (EPL). This year there are full series of games scheduled for Saturday, December 22nd, St. Stephen’s Day, Saturday, December 29th and New Year’s Day. Some of those fixtures may be re-scheduled to accommodate television coverage nearer the date.
Statistics show that if a club is bottom of the EPL table at Christmas, then the likelihood that come May they will be relegated. West Brom (2004-05), Sunderland (2013-14) and Leicester (2014-15) are the exceptions, as they all survived the drop to the Championship, having been bottom of the table at Christmas.
In the seventies and eighties there were several Irish internationals playing with top clubs in the old first division, players like: Liam Brady, David O’Leary, Kevin Moran, Frank Stapleton, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan and Steve Heighway.
However, in recent seasons the number of Irish players with clubs in the top half of the EPL has fallen dramatically with most of the Irish internationals now playing for clubs in the lower half of the EPL or in the Championship. Last season only 18 Republic of Ireland players featured in the EPL and this season the number is approximately 12.
The first series of games in the EPL were played on August 15th, 1992 when Sheffield United’s Brian Deane made history by scoring the first goal after five minutes against Manchester United.
When the 26th EPL season ended last May, Shay Given’s record for most appearances by a Republic of Ireland player still stood, as did Robbie Keane’s record as our top scorer in the EPL.
Given made 451 League appearances for: Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City before retiring last year. The nearest Republic of Ireland player to Given is John O’Shea who made 445 EPL appearances.