There are some football debates that always get people talking … this is one of them.
Just who were the Greatest English League Champions of all time?
Here, we’re going to look at a selection of teams in a bid to answer that question ….
Let’s start with …
Manchester United 1998-1999
Manager – Sir Alex Ferguson
Captain – Roy Keane
Top Scorer – Dwight Yorke (18)
Strongest XI – Schmeichel, Neville, Irwin, Stam, Johnsen, Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Giggs, Cole, Yorke
Manchester United made history during this season as they became the first and still the only English side to complete the much coveted European treble. This was the pinnacle for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester dynasty and the moment his club became the world renowned colossus it exists as today. The team had the complete package in terms of ruthless efficiency and sheer willpower as they played with a direct style that benefited the array of international starlets that formed the side. The most impressive aspect of the team was how many academy graduates were used and how they grew into imperious winners together.
Tottenham Hotspur 1960-1961
Manager – Bill Nicholson
Captain – Danny Blanchflower
Top Scorer – Bobby Smith (28)
Strongest XI – Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Jones, White, Allen, Dyson, Smith
Tottenham are identified by the brand of free flowing football demonstrated by their double winning side and have often been touted as the revolutionaries of the technical skill we see in the Premier League today. The team created an identity and a vision on how the game should be played which was made possible under the management of meticulous Bill Nicholson. The team scored over 100 goals during the campaign and were a dominant entity from the very start as they raced through the first eleven games without dropping a solitary point. This is a stand out moment not only for the club but for English football collectively.
Manager – Arsene Wenger
Captain – Patrick Vieira
Top Scorer – Thierry Henry (30)
Srongest XI – Lehmann, Lauren, Cole, Campbell, Toure, Ljungberg, Vieira, Gilberto, Pires, Bergkamp, Henry
The mental capacity to endure an entire league campaign unbeaten is highly commendable and the feat was achieved with classy and creative football by this Arsenal team. Critics and fans laughed off Arsene Wenger when he famously claimed his side were capable of achieving the feat but his belief in his side and subsequent response meant dreams were turned into reality. The style of play was far cry to the bland football fashioned under George Graham as the side played with expansive creativity and flair being demonstrated by some of the most technically gifted players English football has ever gazed upon. This still stands up as the club’s finest achievement and one that has asserted Wenger iconic status.
Manager – Bob Paisley
Captain – Graeme Souness
Top Scorer – Ian Rush (31)
Strongest XI – Grobbelaar, Neal, Kennedy, Lawrenson, Thompson, Hansen, Souness, Lee, Whelan, Rush, Dalglish
Liverpool were at the height of their European and domestic dominance when they clinched this particular league crown without breaking a sweat. The team had grown together and winning was second nature to the players and their serial title winning manager Bob Paisley. Consistency and determination to succeed and improve on what was already a golden age for the club was a monumental feat and created a snapshot for the trophy laden past we associate with Liverpool in the modern day. To have the drive and passion to keep winning is a powerful habit for footballers and it was certainly an attribute this Liverpool side had in abundance.
Nottingham Forest 1977-1978
Manager – Brian Clough
Captain – John McGovern
Top Scorer – John Robertson (12)
Strongest XI – Shilton, Burns, Anderson, Lloyd, Robertson, O’Neill, McGovern, Gemmill, Woodcock, Withe, O’Hare
The team was put together by charismatic Brian Clough and endured an extraordinary football story laden with monumental triumphs. The team were a second division outfit merely the season before and were in no real shape to even contemplate challenging for the English title. Through managerial brilliance and a well structured team, they were able to see off a foray of illustrious challengers such as Shankly led Liverpool and Tony Book’s impressive Manchester City side. The quick trajectory of the players into first division champions from seemingly nobodies is the best indication of how special Brian Clough was in his incredible prime.
Manager – Jose Mourinho
Captain – John Terry
Top Scorer – Frank Lampard (13)
Strongest XI – Cech, Ferreira, Gallas, Carvalho, Terry, Makelele, Tiago, Lampard, Duff, Robben, Drogba
Chelsea broke many records during this season but the one that stands out is the impressive points tally of 95 which is yet to be surpassed. The team was a machine like structure that held game play discipline and tactical know how to a premium in every encounter. A rock solid defence was complimented by a new array of world class talents that had an ominous winning habit throughout the duration of the season. For a newly formed team to gel and click into place so quickly was highly commendable and the dominant title triumph propelled them into English footballing folklore. The achievement was heightened by the fact they made Arsenal’s invincible side look distinctively ordinary.
Leeds United 1968-1969
Manager – Don Revie
Captain – Billy Bremner
Top Scorer – Mick Jones (14)
Strongest XI – Sprake, Reaney, Hunter, Charlton, Cooper, Bremner, Gray, Giles, Madeley, Jones, O’Grady
Don Revie was a determined competitor who set up his teams to win football matches under any means necessary. His Leeds side were a hard hitting outfit that used serial intimidation to insert fear and doubt into opposition sides. The aggressive passion demonstrated was synonymous with the style of football being played at the time but Leeds were unquestionably the best. Players were thick skinned and had a winning mentality that mirrored the pragmatic and authoritative leader they played under. Had Liverpool or Brian Clough not emerged, there is reason to believe this team could have won numerous titles instead of playing second fiddle on too many occasions.