The Football Faithful’s latest rewind through the Premier League years takes us to the 1997/98 season, a campaign which saw Arsene Wenger guide Arsenal to a memorable domestic double.
Wenger’s success saw him become the first manager from outside of the UK to win the Premier League, whilst the season also saw the stunning emergence of England’s latest ‘boy wonder’ at Liverpool.
We’re continuing our look back at the star performers from each Premier League season, revisiting the 1997/98 PFA Team of the Year:
Goalkeeper: Nigel Martyn – Leeds
George Graham’s second season at Elland Road saw Leeds begin to make notable progress, a previously shot-shy side bolstered by the addition of prolific forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
The increased goal threat of the Yorkshire side saw Leeds secure an impressive fifth-placed finish and UEFA Cup qualification, though it was a reliable presence at the opposite end of the field who was recognised by his fellow professionals.
England international Nigel Martyn featured in all but one of the club’s league fixtures and kept 11 clean sheets, earning an inclusion in the top flight Premier League’s Team of the Year for the first time.
Right-back: Gary Neville – Manchester United
Gary Neville had established himself as arguably the finest right-back in the Premier League during the mid-nineties, becoming an undisputed first-choice for club and country during the latter years of the decade.
The 1997/98 season saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side miss out on the league title by just a single point, though the club comfortably possessed the best defensive record in the division – conceding just 26 goals throughout the course of the campaign.
Neville’s performances at full-back were recognised with inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year, the England international named amongst the league’s best for the third consecutive year.
Centre-back: Gary Pallister – Manchester United
Another member of United’s league leading defence, Gary Pallister was named in the league’s best XI during a campaign which proved to be his final season at Old Trafford.
The centre-back made 43 appearances in all competitions in what ultimately proved to be a rare season without silverware for United, though his performances saw him once again rated amongst the best defenders in the division.
Pallister’s inclusion in the Premier League’s Team of the Year was his fourth in just six seasons of the newly formed division, though the defender brought a nine-year stay at the club to an end with a move to former side Middlesbrough at the end of the campaign.
Centre-back: Colin Hendry – Blackburn
Colin Hendry’s second spell at Blackburn saw the defender play a key part in the club’s rise to the summit of English football, with the club winning a first league title in 81 years during the 1994/95 season.
Rovers’ fortunes, however, dipped after that title triumph but the club bounced back from a disappointing 13th-placed finish the previous year to finish sixth and secure UEFA Cup qualification in 1997/98.
Hendry was a commanding presence at the heart of the defence for Roy Hodgson’s side, earning a second inclusion in the Premier League’s Team of the Year before a summer return to Scotland with Rangers.
Left-back: Graeme Le Saux – Chelsea
Another of Blackburn’s title-winning squad, Graeme Le Saux was once again named as the Premier League’s finest left-back, though this time in the colours of first club Chelsea.
Le Saux became the most expensive defender in the history of English football when moving to Stamford Bridge ahead of the 1997/98 campaign, where he played a vital role in a hugely successful season for the west London outfit.
Chelsea of the late nineties developed a reputation as cup specialists, Le Saux forming part of the side which lifted both the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup during his first season.
Right-wing: David Beckham – Manchester United
The reigning PFA Young Player of the Year enjoyed another stand-out season at Manchester United to make it back-to-back inclusions in the Team of the Year, Beckham scoring 11 goals in all competitions and finishing as the leading assist provider in the Premier League for the first time.
The season saw Beckham inherit the club’s fabled number seven shirt following the departure of Eric Cantona, the academy graduate following in the footsteps of the iconic Frenchman, Bryan Robson and George Best.
Amongst his highlights included a brace at Wimbledon – scene of his brilliant half-way line goal the previous season – and a delightful whipped free-kick during a 3-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Midfield: Nicky Butt – Manchester United
Manchester United’s lack of silverware counted for little when it came to being recognised by their fellow professionals, with five members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side voted into the division’s best XI.
The absence of Roy Keane for the majority of the season with an ACL injury saw Nicky Butt shine as the club’s midfield enforcer, making 42 appearances in all competitions and playing a pivotal role in United’s title challenge.
Butt’s committed displays led to his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year for the sole time in a career that delivered six league titles amongst his major honours, whilst the campaign also saw the midfielder become a regular in the senior England side.
Midfield: David Batty – Newcastle
One of three players to make it back-to-back inclusions in the divisional Team of the Year, Batty was named amongst the Premier League’s finest during each of his two full seasons at St James’ Park.
The midfielder established himself as a firm fans’ favourite during his time in the North East and provided the combative edge to an attack-minded side under Kevin Keegan and later Kenny Dalglish.
The England international made 47 appearances in all competitions for Newcastle during 1997/98, as the Magpies finished 13th and reached the final of the FA Cup.
Left-wing: Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
The last of the Manchester United quintet to make the Premier League’s Team of the Season, Giggs continued to enhance his reputation as one of the league’s most exciting wide players during the 1997/98 season.
Despite making just 29 league appearances, Giggs was a reliable source of goals for the Red Devils, scoring eight league goals including braces against both Barnsley and Tottenham at Old Trafford.
The Welsh winger also provided nine assists for his teammates, finishing amongst the leading providers in the Premier League.
Forward: Dennis Bergkamp – Arsenal
The arrival of Arsene Wenger in north London unlocked the true genius of Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal, the Dutchman enjoying a sensational 1997/98 campaign to be named as the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.
The Netherlands international scored 16 league goals for the season as the Gunners secured a domestic double, producing a series of magical moments including finishing first, second and third in August’s Goal of the Month competition – the only player in Premier League history to have achieved the feat.
Two of those goals came as part of a stunning hat-trick in a thrilling draw with Leicester at Filbert Street – a treble widely recognised as the greatest in the history of the division – with the latter goal later named as the Goal of the Season.
Forward: Michael Owen – Liverpool
Michael Owen announced himself to world football courtesy of a brilliant breakthrough season at Liverpool, the teenager finishing as the leading scorer in the division as the Reds secured a top-three finish.
Possessing electric pace and an unerring self-confidence in front of goal, a fresh-faced Owen terrorised top-flight defences to establish himself as the most exciting talent in English football.
Owen scored 18 Premier League goals for the season to earn a share of the Golden Boot alongside Chris Sutton and Dion Dublin, becoming the youngest player in history to win the award aged just 18-years-old.
He would later be named as the PFA Young Player of the Year and as the Premier League Player of the Season, in addition to being named in the PFA Team of the Year and later starring at that summer’s World Cup.