The 1996/97 Premier League season followed a memorable summer for English football, England’s run to the last four of a home European Championships having captured the imagination of the nation.
Premier League football resumed amid much change with a world-record move for the division’s leading forward and a collection of expensively assembled foreign talent arriving at Middlesbrough, with the title eventually secured by Manchester United for the fourth time in five seasons in what proved to be Eric Cantona’s final season before a shock retirement.
We’re continuing our look back through the archives at the Premier League’s greatest goalscorers, here are the five top scorers from the 1996/97 season:
Dwight Yorke – Aston Villa (17 goals)
Yorke’s change into a central attacking role at Aston Villa the previous season paid dividends and he was once again amongst the league’s leading scorers during the 1996/97 season, the forward scoring 17 Premier League goals as Brian Little’s side finished fifth and secured UEFA Cup qualification.
The Trinidad and Tobago international’s haul included a hat-trick in a thrilling 4-3 defeat at title-chasing Newcastle, whilst he also scored twice in a thumping victory over struggling Wimbledon at Villa Park.
Yorke one again starred alongside Savo Milošević in attack but Villa were unable to add silverware to their League Cup success from the previous season, suffering early exits from both domestic cup competitions and being eliminated from the UEFA Cup by Helsingborg in the first round.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United (18 goals)
An unheralded signing upon his arrival from Norwegian side Molde in the summer of 1996, Solskjaer’s reputation as a relative unknown quantity did not last for long following an immediate impact at Manchester United.
United had been in the race to sign Alan Shearer from Blackburn in a world-record deal but ultimately added only Solskjaer to their attacking options, though his £1.5m signing proved one of the bargains of the season and ranks amongst the shrewdest investments of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Solskjaer scored just six minutes into his debut as a substitute to rescue a draw against Blackburn in August, before establishing himself as a key member of the squad to fire 18 Premier League goals, finishing as United’s leading scorer despite competition for places from both Eric Cantona and Andy Cole.
Nicknamed the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ for his youthful looks and ruthless nature around goal, the Norwegian’s goals helped deliver the league title to Old Trafford during a memorable debut season in English football.
Robbie Fowler – Liverpool (18 goals)
Having burst onto the scene with back-to-back PFA Young Player of the Year awards in the previous two seasons, Fowler was once again amongst the division’s leading goal threats despite seeing his numbers drop during the 1996/97 season.
The academy graduate led the line alongside Stan Collymore for a Liverpool side emerged as title contenders over the first part of the campaign, establishing a five-point cushion at the top ahead of New Years’ Day before faltering during the run-in.
Fowler’s tally included a four-goal haul in a 5-1 thrashing of Middlesbrough at Anfield, whilst he also scored twice – including a last minute winner – during another 4-3 thriller with title rivals Newcastle.
The forward’s goals eventually helped Liverpool to a fourth-placed finish – level on points with both Newcastle and Arsenal – whilst he finished the campaign with 31 goals in all competitions after firing the club’s run to the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Ian Wright – Arsenal (23 goals)
The 1996/97 season saw the first beginnings of a new dawn at Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger arriving from Japanese football as the permanent successor to Bruce Rioch in late September.
The campaign also saw the arrivals of future stars Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka, but it was a member of the Gunners’ old guard who fired the club’s push towards the title.
Ian Wright had scored prolifically over the opening seasons of the Premier League era and bounced back from missing out on England’s Euro ’96 squad with another fine campaign in north London, scoring 23 league goals to finish as the runner-up for the Golden Boot.
Highlights of Wright’s season included a hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday in September and a winner at title rivals Newcastle, Arsenal finishing the season in third to miss out on qualification for the Champions League by virtue of goal difference.
Alan Shearer – Newcastle (25 goals)
Newcastle responded to the disappointment of finishing as runners-up with a huge statement of intent, signing England international Alan Shearer in a world-record £15m deal from Blackburn Rovers.
Shearer had scored 30+ league goals in each of the past three seasons and won the previous two Golden Boots, with over 15,000 supporters turning up to welcome the boyhood Newcastle fan upon his unveiling in the North East.
The marquee addition enjoyed a brilliant debut season and soon developed a strong understanding with strike partner Les Ferdinand, scoring 25 league goals to fire the club’s title challenge.
The duo both scored as Newcastle memorably thrashed reigning champions Manchester United 5-0 at St James’ Park, but a disappointing run of seven games without a win led to the resignation of fan favourite Kevin Keegan with Kenny Dalglish named as his successor.
Despite Shearer winning a third consecutive Golden Boot, Newcastle ultimately finished as runners-up for a second season in succession, though the forward’s performances saw him named as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the second time in his career.