Emerton and the Premier League’s Top Five Australian imports
Australian cricket may be in rude health following the 5-0 whitewash of England in the Ashes, but when it comes to the Premier League, there’s a noticeable lack of stars from Down Under.
And that can hardly bode well for the Socceroos’ chances at the World Cup, with the team facing a daunting task to qualify from a group containing Spain, Holland and Chile.
Australia are overwhelming favourites to exit the competition early, priced at 1/12 with Ladbrokes, while South American opponents Chile are on at 8/15 to beat the Aussies in their group opener with Holland 4/11 to claim a win that would effectively end their campaign.
If only they could call on Brett Emerton, who retired from football this week, or the following five Premier League legends in their prime.
Tim Cahill – Everton
An attacking player fondly remembered by Toffees fans for his penchant for headed goals and a boxing-the-corner-flag celebration, Cahill actually began his career in England with Millwall.
Arguably the best investment made by then Lions chairman and Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis, the attacker scored 52 goals in 217 appearances, reaching the 2004 FA Cup final before moving to Goodison Park for just £1.5m.
He continued his impressive form in the Premier League, amassing 56 goals in 226 games for David Moyes’ side and earning a place as an Everton legend for scoring five goals against old enemy Liverpool.
Robbie Slater – Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United & Southampton
He may be a leftfield choice but Robbie Slater remains arguably the most significant as the first Australian to collect a Premier League winner’s medal.
Signed by Kenny Dalglish after impressing during a four-year spell at Lens, Slater made 18 appearances during Blackburn’s title winning campaign with his skills as a utility player proving useful.
Moves to West Ham and Southampton followed as Slater maintained his status as a Premier League fixture for the next three years. His final stint in England came at Wolves, with the player now a regular on A-League football coverage Down Under.
Harry Kewell – Leeds United & Liverpool
Signed as a teenager by Leeds after impressing on a tour with Sydney youth side Marconi Stallions, Kewell was an integral part of the Whites side that reached UEFA Cup and Champions League semi-finals under David O’Leary.
A tally of 45 goals in 181 appearances for Leeds, including a cracker against Arsenal, meant he was hot property when the club ran into financial difficulties, though Kewell ultimately saw out his contract and left under something of a cloud, moving to rivals Liverpool.
His spell with the Reds was an inconsistent one as injuries took their toll. But Liverpool fans will ultimately best remember him for coming off in the Champions League final against AC Milan with replacement Vladimir Smicer scoring as the Merseysiders pulled off their unlikely comeback.
Mark Schwarzer – Middlesborough, Fulham & Chelsea
The veteran stopper, who currently warms the bench at Stamford Bridge, edges out Mark Bosnich in the Top Five list due to his unerring consistency for Premier League sides Middlesborough and Fulham, where his standout performances marked him out as one of the best ‘keepers in the division.
We can only wonder and what could have been with Schwarzer, who at one time was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, which would have allowed the netminder to test his skills at the top table of English and European football.
Arsene Wenger may have baulked at the proposed £2m transfer fee, but had the Aussie arrived a little earlier, then perhaps the Gunners would have an extra League Cup title in the trophy cabinet and a little more besides.
Mark Viduka – Leeds United, Middlesborough & Newcastle United
One of the last true big men, Viduka’s bulky frame belied an extremely skilful striker who was as adept with his feet as he was in the air.
Signed from Celtic by Leeds for £6m after a sensational 30 goals in 37 games north of the border, the forward linked up with fellow Aussie Kewell at Elland Road, helping the club to achieve newfound success in the Premier League and Europe.
His finest hour for the Whites came against Liverpool in his first season, with the forward grabbing all four goals in a sensational 4-3 win over the Reds.
After Leeds fell into the Championship, he moved to Boro, where his goals helped the club reach the Europa League final, before making his final bow in the English top flight with Newcastle, where he suffered yet another relegation.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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