We’re feeling nostalgic and taking a look back at some of our favourite cult heroes and club icons who have graced the Premier League. So here’s ten players who made an impact on their clubs, the fans and the league in one way or another and are still fondly remembered to this day.
Eric Cantona - Manchester United
Image: Premier League
The enigmatic, slightly crazy, magical Frenchman joined Manchester United for just £1m from rivals Leeds. Cantona was instrumental in changing the mindset at Old Trafford, leading United to their first title in 25 years, followed by two Premier League and FA Cup doubles.
His time in England was littered with big game goals, iconic moments, crazy press conferences and infamous behaviour. The most notable of these crazy moments being when he inexplicably jumped into the crowd to kung-fu kick an opposing fan who was giving him some stick. He received a nine-month ban, during which United were pipped to the title by big spending Blackburn Rovers. Cantona returned to a hero’s welcome and lead United back to glory and another double, only reinforcing the influence and impact he had on his team.
In typical Cantona fashion, he retired unexpectedly, aged just 30 to pursue an acting career. A true hero with the United faithful, synonymous with the start of their dominance of English football.
Matt Le Tissier – Southampton
Image: The Times
Le Tiss was a true one club man, playing no less than 16 seasons at Southampton, where he was, is and will forever be affectionately known as 'Le God'.
Incredibly gifted technically, Le Tissier was the first midfielder to score over 100 goals in the Premier League. He will be remembered by many for some outrageous goals, mostly after embarrassing a few defenders then effortlessly pinging it into the top corner from outside the box. Le Tiss was also one of the best we've ever seen from the penalty spot, missing just one penalty during his career, cooly dispatching the others with ease. His languid, laid back playing style made the sublime look simple and it was a real shame that he never seemed to fit the bill when it came to International selection, earning just 8 caps.
As if he needed to write his name Saints folklore any more, Le Tissier scored the last goal at The Dell, before Southampton moved to their new St Mary's Stadium. The cherry on top of an amazing career.
Paulo Di Canio - West Ham United
Image: Getty Images
The controversial Italian arrived at West Ham fresh off the back of an 11 match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock whilst playing for Sheffield Wednesday. Di Canio would quickly become a crowd favourite, with a string of influential performances and memorable goals, leading the Hammers to a 5th place finish and the UEFA Cup (via the Intertoto Cup).
Compared to his time at other clubs, Di Canio's West Ham career was relatively tame in terms of controversy, with two stand out memorable moments. The first being his goal of the season, a perfectly timed sublime volley into the far corner from a long ball, leaving the Wimbledon goalkeeper clutching thin air. The second memorable moment earned him a FIFA fair play award. Whilst Everton keeper Paul Gerrard led injured in the penalty area, Di Canio was presented with a golden opportunity to stick the ball in an empty net and give his team a 2-1 win. Instead, in a "special act of good sportsmanship" Di Canio caught the ball, allowing the injured keeper to receive treatment.
He went on to join Charlton Athletic, before returning to Italy but his time in England is very fondly remembered, especially with the Hammers fans, a true West Ham cult hero.
Jay-Jay Okocha - Bolton Wanderers
Image: Planet Football
So good they named him twice. Okocha joined big Sam Allardyce's Bolton Wanderers star studded team (yes you did read that right!) on a free transfer after he left PSG. Okocha quickly became a fan favourite with his silky skills, infectious smile and entertaining performances.
Okocha's influence on the team helped guide Bolton away from relegation and led them to the League Cup final the following season, only to lose to Middlesbrough. Deadly from set pieces, a pure joy to watch and bringing skills and moves the Premier League never saw before or after he was dancing around the Reebok Stadium.
In 2017, he was voted Bolton's best ever player. A true club legend and Premier League cult hero.
Faustino Asprilla - Newcastle United
Who can forget when Tino rocked up on a snowy Tynedside in a big grey fur coat?! The Colombian arrived for £6.7m in Februrary 1996 from Parma and became part of Kevin Keegan's 'Entertainers' team who narrowly missed out on two Premier League titles in the mid to late 90s.
Everything Tino did was both majestic and mad in equal measure. From a hattrick against Barcelona and a leading role in the classic 4-3 against Liverpool to countless nightlife stories and pornstar girlfriends, Tino quickly became a fan, squad and club favourite.
He would only play three seasons at St James' Park but Tino will forever be etched into Toon folklore for his role in the one of the clubs greatest periods (albeit with no silverware to show) and his larger than life character.
Paul McGrath - Aston Villa
Image: Premier League Archive
You don't get labelled 'God' without being pretty good. Paul McGrath came to Aston Villa for just £450,000 in 1989 courtesy of Graham Taylor’s eye for talent plus Alex Ferguson’s reluctance to keep hold of a player whose knees were basically shot to pieces.
Manchester United’s loss was Villa’s gain, and he was instantly loved by their adoring fans, in particular, the Holte End faithful who still chant his name to this day.
Notching up 323 appearances for The Villains, he was crowned PFA Player of the Year in 1993 when Ron Atkinson’s side were pipped to the title by McGrath’s former club. Not bad for a guy who never trained whist also representing his beloved Republic of Ireland on 83 occasions. One of Jack's famous boys in green.
The Daily Telegraph once penned this magnificent description, “Like Bobby Moore, Paul McGrath played football as though he was wearing a silk smoking jacket with a crystal glass in his hand." Ooh, Aah, Paul McGrath, indeed.
Shaun Goater - Manchester City
Image: Manchester City FC
We remember a time when the term GOAT was reserved for this guy, not banded around willy nilly whenever anyone has a handful of good games. The big Bermudan striker is a cult hero with Man City’s fans (not the ones that have turned up in the last decade or so) for his goalscoring regularity during a difficult period for the club, dragging City up the leagues and back to the big time.
The Goat was far from an eye-catching ball playing silky forward, but his effectiveness, effort and knack of getting the ball in the back of the net is unquestioned and never forgotten by the City faithful.
Goater’s role in the promotion winning playoff final alone etched his name into City folklore, not to mention his two goals against city rivals United, when famously pickpocketing Gary Neville and chipping Fabien Barthez. Just two stand out memories of his time at City, a true cult icon.
“Feed the goat and he will score!”
Tony Yeboah - Leeds United
Image: Planet Football
Yeboah arrived at Elland Road for a then club record £3.4m from Eintracht Frankfurt and quickly became a club hero, scoring 13 goals in just 16 starts, leading Leeds to the UEFA Cup.
It was not just his contribution of goals the fans took to, but the way he scored them. Although his time in England was relatively short lived, Yeboah’s goals live long in any 90s Premier League fans mind. His volley against Liverpool and his thunderbolt against Wimbledon being stand out goals, the latter earning him the BBC Goal of the Season award.
His time at Leeds also saw him score three hattricks, helping him to an impressive 32 goals in 66 appearances for the whites. Many a kid would have screamed ‘Yeboah’ when volleying a ball from long range down the park during his brief spell in the Premier League.
Park Ji Sung - Manchester United
Affectionately nicknamed ‘Park Three Lungs’, the South Korean was a regular pick by Sir Alex Ferguson for the biggest games and man marking tasks, which says it all.
The tireless midfielder won four league titles, a Champions League in 2008, three League Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup during his time at Old Trafford and was loved by teammates and fans alike for his all effort displays and versatility.
His time at Old Trafford came to an end due to injuries and limited game time, with him moving onto Queens Park Rangers. A cult hero amongst the diehard United fans who will never forget his role during a trophy laden period for the club.
Julian Dicks - West Ham United
Image: West Ham United FC
We would love to see how some of the modern wingers would take to playing up against this guy in his prime! As hard as nails, the no nonsense former captain is a cult hero with the West Ham faithful, spending a large part of his career with the Hammers, making 326 appearances for the club.
Despite playing left back, Dicks also scored an impressive 65 goals, 35 being scored from the penalty spot. Dicks’ approach to the game was in some way summed up by his spot taking style, where no messing around was done. His penalties were hit and stayed hit.
His all or nothing attitude to the game and anyone in his way on the pitch endeared him to the Hammers fans, who named him Hammer of the Year no less than four times during his ten years at the club.