The Premier League Hall of Fame continues to announce its initial inductees, with Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham joining inaugural members Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry this week.
Each of those players are deserving inclusions following their contributions to England’s top-flight over the past three decades and we’re continuing our look at some of the stars who should be contenders for Hall of Fame inclusion.
Our latest offering looks at some of the very best central defenders from the first decade of the division, here are five 90s centre-backs that should make the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Named as the Premier League’s finest player at the end of the division’s first ever season, Paul McGrath remains one of just three defenders to have won the PFA Player of the Year award since the inception of the league in 1992.
McGrath was a centre-back who made defending at the highest level seem effortless, a classy customer who was strong in the challenge and comfortable stepping forward in possession.
The former Republic of Ireland international spent seven seasons at Manchester United before moving on to Aston Villa as his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson became strained, the defender’s recurring knee issues and well-documented personal problems leading to his Old Trafford exit.
McGrath, however, enhanced his legacy during a brilliant eight-year spell at Villa Park, becoming one of the club’s greatest players of the modern era and twice winning the League Cup.
He helped Villa finish as runners-up in the Premier League’s inaugural campaign to be named as the league’s best player and remains one of just three Irish players – alongside Liam Brady and Roy Keane – to have won the PFA award.
McGrath was also named as Aston Villa’s Player of the Season in four consecutive campaigns to earn the nickname ‘God’ from the club’s fanbase, the Irishman remaining unquestionably one of the best defenders of the early Premier League era.
Gary Pallister claimed the PFA Player of the Year award in the final pre-Premier League season, before playing a key role as Manchester United dominated the early seasons of the division.
Pallister helped the Red Devils to the division’s best defensive record as a first league title in 26 years was secured in 1992/93, forming an excellent centre-back partnership with Steve Bruce and adding a further three league winners’ medals throughout the nineties.
The former England international was named in the divisional Team of the Year in each of the first three Premier League campaigns, a testament to his quality and a demonstration of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow professionals.
Pallister was an almost ever-present during the Red Devils’ first seasons in the Premier League, featuring in 125 of 126 league matches between 1992 and 1995, his distribution from deep and rapid recovery pace marking him out as one of the division’s best defenders.
He departed for former club Middlesbrough in 1998 having won nine major trophies in nine seasons, leaving as United’s most decorated player ever at that time.
Tony Adams marshalled Arsenal’s defence for almost two decades and remains one of the Premier League’s great one-club, an unmistakable figure in the Gunners history after making 672 appearances in all competitions.
After coming through the ranks at the north London side the centre-back made his debut as a teenager, later becoming the youngest captain in the club’s history aged just 21.
Adams is the only player in history to have captained title-winning sides in three different decades, winning two titles before the Premier League era before leading Arsenal to domestic doubles in both 1998 and 2002.
The former England captain was a natural leader and formidable opponent, forming part of Arsenal’s iconic back four alongside Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn.
That backline helped Arsenal to a succession of cup successes under George Graham during the early nineties, before fusing with a new influx of foreign talent upon Arsene Wenger’s arrival as manager to form one of the best teams of the Premier League era across the turn of the millennium.
Sol Campbell’s greatest silverware successes came following the turn of the millennium, but the former England centre-back was one of the Premier League’s best defenders during the nineties.
Campbell made his debut for Tottenham during the Premier League’s first season before becoming a regular in the side the following campaign, establishing himself as one of the best centre-backs in England’s top tier and earning international recognition.
His influence continued to grow and he was named Spurs captain, leading the north London side to League Cup success in 1998/99 – a season which also saw him recognised in the PFA Team of the Year.
Campbell was a hulking physical presence and viewed as the rock that held a mediocre Spurs team together during the nineties, before making one of the Premier League’s most controversial switches with a free transfer move to north London rivals Arsenal in 2001.
His reputation only enhanced upon arriving at Highbury, winning a domestic double in 2001/02 and forming part of the Gunners’ legendary ‘Invincibles’ side that completed an entire league season without defeat in 2004.
The departure of the aforementioned Pallister saw Manchester United spend big on a replacement, signing Jaap Stam from PSV Eindhoven with the imposing defender quickly proving money well spent.
Stam’s first season at the club saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side win a historic Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble, with the Dutchman’s emerging as one of European football’s best defenders.
The former Netherlands international was a tower of strength and had the pace to match even the quickest of Premier League forwards, individual duels often appearing a mismatch given Stam’s physical prowess.
Stam spent just three seasons with the Red Devils, though finished each campaign with a Premier League winners’ medal and as part of the PFA Team of the Year.
His departure for Lazio in 2001 – amid some unwelcome revelations in his autobiography – has since been cited by Ferguson as one of his greatest mistakes with the centre-back continuing to star for Lazio and AC Milan in his latter career.