With the Premier League set to announce their inaugural inductees into the Hall of Fame, let’s take a look at which Everton players – past and present – would be worthy recipients of such high praise.
It would be fair to state that, although Everton are historically one of the biggest football clubs in England, the Premier League era has not been a fruitful period in terms of success.
With that being said, the blue half of Merseyside has housed some exceptional talents over the past 30 years, including some of the best players the Premier League has seen.
Following on from our previous article discussing Liverpool’s potential candidates, this list will be look at former and current Toffees players that are destined to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.
As with our previous entry into this series, it is worth noting that there were a number of players that didn’t make the cut for various reasons.
Duncan Ferguson and Dave Watson were both cult heroes during the 1990s. However, I don’t believe they had the same quality or impact on the Premier League as any of the players on our list.
Some of the stars of David Moyes’ team of the 2000s could count themselves unlucky to miss out. Mikel Arteta was undoubtedly talented, but injuries hampered what could have been a more successful career. Maroune Fellaini was a useful player for the both Everton and Manchester United but never much more than that.
Both Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard were loyal servants to the club and great professionals, and should feel unfortunate not to make the cut.
Onto the list…
10. Tim Cahill
We start this list with probably the best Australian footballer to play in the Premier League (sorry Marks Viduka and Schwarzer). Arriving at Goodison for £1.5 million in 2005, Tim Cahill was a tenacious attacking midfielder that was arguably more dangerous in the air than with the ball at his feet (surprising considering he was no giant).
The Aussie finished his first season on Merseyside as Everton’s top goalscorer. He was awarded their player of the season as he guided the club to fourth, the club’s best finish in the Premier League era.
Cahill also became the first Everton player in 18 years to be nominated for the Ballon D’or in October 2006. A deserving reward for his brilliant first season at the Blues.
A talented player that endeared himself to the blue half of Merseyside, both through his loyalty and his knack of scoring in Merseyside derbies. Cahill should eventually be recognised by the Hall of Fame for his performances.
9. Phil Neville
Part of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ at Manchester United, Phil Neville was a versatile defender that was just as comfortable at full back as he was in central midfield.
Although not a first team regular during his time at United, Neville helped the Red Devils to win six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League during his time in Manchester, making him one of the most successful players on this list.
The current manager of the Lionesses made the move to Goodison in 2005 and became a favourite of manager David Moyes due to his attitude, work rate and tactical flexibility.
Neville lived and breathed football. His attitude and leadership made him the perfect choice to replace David Weir as club captain after the defender’s departure to Rangers in 2007.
The ex-England international finished his nearly two decade long career in the top flight with the Blues, racking up 505 appearances in the Premier League.
Whilst he maybe didn’t enjoy the success of his brother, there is no doubt that Phil Neville is deserving of his own spot in the Hall of Fame.
8. Andrei Kanchelskis
The 1990s was a difficult period for Everton. Andrei Kanchelskis’ 18-month spell at the club was a shining light amongst the darkness.
A right winger blessed with great pace and the ability to bamboozle even the best defenders in the league, Kanchelskis arrived in England in 1991 after signing for Manchester United from Shaktar Dontesk.
The Russian formed a key part of Ferguson’s United side that won the inaugural Premier League trophy in the 1992/93 season, and would go on to win not only another league title, but also an FA Cup to add to the League Cup and European Super Cup won in his first season in England.
The winger made the move to Everton in 1995 for £5 million, becoming the club’s record signing at the time.
His first season saw him bag 16 goals and endear himself to the Gwladys with a brace against Liverpool.
In his short time in blue, Kanchelskis was arguably the best right winger in the country. The nomadic Russian finished the season with 16 goals in the league, but was sold midway through his second season to Fiorentina.
Whilst his time at Everton was short, Kanchelskis’ prior success at United and tantalising performances for the Toffees mean he deserves the honour of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
7. Neville Southall
Possibly past his best for the majority of his time in the Premier League era, there is no denying that Neville Southall was one of the best goalkeepers of his generation.
The Welshman spent 17 years at Goodison Park, winning a slew of both individual and team honours during the 1980s. Southall was an superb shot-stopper, nearly unbeatable in one-on-on situations. It is no surprise that whilst the keeper was at his best, the Toffees enjoyed their most successful period in history.
The Premier League era was a different story, however.
Southall, whilst still a great player, could do little to stop the rot as Everton declined over the 1990s.
The club were a dwindling force that routinely finished in the bottom half and flirted with relagation. However, their one shining moment during this period came in 1995 when they beat Manchester United 1-0 to win the FA Cup.
Southall’s double save from Paul Scholes secured the trophy, which cemented the stopper as the most decorated player in the club’s history.
Although the majority of his success came in the 1980s, Southall remains the greatest goalkeeper to have played for Everton in the Premier League era.
6. Romelu Lukaku
Whilst his big money move to Manchester United left many Evertonians with a bad taste, Romelu Lukaku remains the best striker the Blues have had in the last 30 years.
Lukaku initially joined the Toffees on loan as a young striker with bags of potential. He bagged 15 goals as Everton finished 5th with a club record 72 points.
His performances warranted manager Roberto Martinez to make the move permanent the following season, paying Chelsea £28 million (a club record transfer fee) to secure the services of the big Belgian.
The striker’s unmatched strength, pace and keen eye for goal made him a nightmare for opposition defenders.
Whilst at Everton, he relied on his athleticism and lethal left foot to play as a poacher looking to run off the shoulder or roll defenders.
His goal scoring tally improved year upon year for the Toffees following his permanent move. Lukaku bagged 10, 18 and then 25 goals in his three years as an official Everton player.
He was at his best in his final season. At the age of 24 he passed the 80 goal mark in the Premier League, and was included in the shortlists for both the PFA Player’s Player and Young Player of the Year.
The Belgian earned a move to Manchester United in 2017 worth an initial £75 million and has since departed for Inter Milan last summer.
For many, Lukaku’s time at United was considered a failure (despite scoring regularly in his first season) and has somewhat tarnished the memory of just how good he was for Everton.
Before departing for Italy, Lukaku took his tally to 113 Premier League goals, surpassing the likes of Didier Drogba and Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the league scoring charts.
As it stands he should already be worthy of nomination come his retirement, and who knows, maybe if he returns to England he might further cement his legacy.
5. Peter Beardsley
One of only a handful of players to have played for both the red and the blue sides of Merseyside, Peter Beardsley truly was a mercurial talent.
Signing for Everton in 1991 after enjoying 4 trophy laden years with Liverpool, Beardsley fell into a similar scenario that faced the previously mentioned Neville Southall. It may not have been the best years of his career but his class was still clear to see.
In his early years, the Englishman was a tricky second striker that was at his best dropping deep to create moments of magic in his pre-Premier League years.
The 32 year old really made his mark on the Premier League after his return to his boyhood club, Newcastle United. Forming a deadly partnership with Andy Cole, the 59-capped England international was part of Kevin Keegan’s infamous side that acted as Manchester United’s closest competitors throughout the 1990s.
As he aged, the forward began to be deployed deeper. In 1996 he was switched to a role in midfield to accommodate the incoming Alan Shearer.
Despite it being a foreign role, the Geordie enjoyed some of his finest moments, as he was able to dictate and create in the centre of the park, in what was a brilliantly attacking Newcastle side.
Although he may not have enjoyed the large part of his peak during the Premier League era, Beardsley is among the finest creative players to have graced England in the last 30 years, and deserves every bit of recognition he gets.
4. Gary Speed
A consummate professional both on and off the pitch, there were few better examples to follow for young players than Garry Speed.
Speed was a versatile player that was comfortable anywhere down the left-hand side or in the centre of midfield. Possessing a great tactical awareness and an innate knowledge of the game, there was little wonder why he went on to captain most of the sides he played in.
Coming through as a trainee at Leeds, the former Wales manager would play 248 times before transferring to his boyhood team, Everton.
His time on Merseyside was bitter-sweet. The midfielder finished his first season as top scorer and the club’s Player of the Year before being named captain by new manager Howard Kendall.
However, Speed was sold the following season following the pair’s relationship breaking down.
Moves to Newcastle and Bolton would follow. His time at the latter would see him become the first player to make 500 appearances in the Premier League when he played in the Wanderers’ victory 4-0 victory over West Ham in 2004.
His playing days were filled with many highs, but his story was ultimately one of tragedy. On the 27th November, Garry Speed took his own life in what was a hugely sad moment for the world of football.
A player that mentored plenty of others and touched the hearts of many of the fans that watched him, his impact and legacy as an icon of British football should cement his place in the Hall of Fame
3. Leighton Baines
If not for Ashley Cole, we might be talking about Leighton Baines as the finest left back to have played in the Premier League.
A deadly striker of the ball, from both open play and set pieces, the former Wigan Athletic player was graced with a wand of a left foot. One only has to have seen his thunderbolt against Newcastle to understand his prowess from dead balls.
Signed by Everton in 2007, it may have taken Baines a season to find his feet at Goodison Park, but once he got in the team, he was there to stay.
Continually courted by Manchester United, the full back enjoyed his best years in the first half of this decade. His performances in 2011-12 saw him named in the PFA team of the year, a feat he would replicate the following year.
The current Everton vice-captain is the current record holder for most assists for a defender in the Premier League era and did hold the record for most in a season, until he was overtaken by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold.
Whilst he may never have come close to winning a league title, there is no doubt that he had the quality to play for the teams competing at the top.
He is among the finest in his position to have played in the Premier League and will be more than deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame.
2. Gareth Barry
You don’t play 653 games in the Premier League and hold the record for the most appearances in the competition without being a great player, and Gareth Barry was just that.
Joining Everton towards the end of his career, even as he aged the England international’s quality was of such that he remained an important part of the Blue’s squad right up to his departure in 2018.
A versatile midfield player that was just as capable playing on the left-hand side as he was in the centre, Barry was the modern day professional. The former Aston Villa captain could have been included in our previous list had Rafael Benitez had his way, with him nearly joining Liverpool in 2009.
The midfielder would eventually leave Villa Park for Manchester City, a move that would bring him an FA Cup and, more importantly, a league title.
As the record appearance maker in the Premier League, Gareth Barry will certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
1. Wayne Rooney
Whilst his best years may have came before and after his two spells with the Blues, there is no doubt that Wayne Rooney is the greatest player to have played for Everton in the Premier League.
From the moment a 16-year-old ‘Wazza’ burst onto the scene with his stunning winner against Arsenal, everyone watching knew what a special talent the Toffees had on their hands.
An explosive forward that mixed footballing intelligence with sheer power, Rooney was just as capable at finding a clever reverse pass as he was at bursting the net with his rocket of a right foot.
At club level he won it all. League titles, the Champions League, FA and League Cups to add to his plethora of personal accolades. Its funny to think that a player who is both the second top scorer in the league, England’s all-time top goal scorer and a serial winner is said to have underachieved by many.
Probably at his best in the second half of the 2000s, Rooney formed part of a lethal trio alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in what is probably the greatest Premier League side in history. The front three were nearly unstoppable as they recorded back-to-back-to-back Premier League triumphs between 2006 and 2009.
As it does with all players, there came a point were his athleticism diminished. Such was his quality however, the now Derby County man was dropped into a role in midfield, which allowed him to create and dictate from deep, something the Scouser thrived in.
After 13 trophy laden years at Manchester United, the former England captain made his fairy-tale return to his boyhood Everton in 2017. Although not the player he was before leaving back in 2004, the now older and more mature ‘boy wonder’ was still capable of moments of magic.
As his career is drawing to an end and we can look back on just how good he was, there is no doubt that once he does hang up his boots, there is very few more deserving of receiving a place in the Premier League Hall of Fame.
So what do you think? Did we miss anyone out? Should any of our honourable mentions replace the players in our Top 10? Let us know in the comments or on our social media.
(Featured photo licensed to use by Creative Commons Zero)