Substitutes haven’t always been a part of the beautiful game having only been introduced to the English Football league in 1965. The first ever substitute appearance came on 21st August 1965 when Charlton Athletic goalkeeper Mike Rose was injured in a match against Bolton Wanderers and was replaced by Keith Peacock. On the same day we witnessed the first ever goal by a substitute when Bobby Knox of Barrow scored against Wrexham.
Since then substitutes have become an ever more important weapon in a Premier League manager’s arsenal. Managers are often berated by the fans for making a ‘wrong choice’ by the fans celebrating being invited to corporate events so we decided to list the players well known for their exploits as a top Premier League substitute:
Ole Gunnar Solskjær
It’s no surprise to say that Ole Gunnar Solskjær was a great weapon to have coming off the bench. During the course of his Manchester United career he became known as a prolific goal scoring substitute and even turned the tide in the UEFA Champions league final against Bayern Munich for Manchester United, scoring a last minute goal to cap a fantastic win.
He was just as deadly coming off the bench in the Premier League where on one occasion in 1999 whilst playing against Nottingham Forest he came off the bench for United and scored 4 goals in 12 second half minutes to round off an 8-1 win for the Red Devils. His return in this game made him the highest scoring substitute in the history of the Premier League and the fastest to ever score 4 goals. Both records both stand to this day for the player affectionately known as the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’.
Peter Crouch, standing at 6 foot 7 inches, is an imposing presence on the pitch. He began his career as a youngster at Tottenham Hotspur and despite never kicking a ball for the first team during this first spell Tottenham would come back in for the rangy striker later in his career. Something of a goal scoring journeyman Crouch has been transferred a staggering 11 times during his footballing career taking in spells at Liverpool, two spells at Tottenham, two spells at Portsmouth and his current team Stoke City.
It’s at the Potters where Peter has become known as a super substitute. He’s made 121 appearances in total for Stoke City but just 43 have come as a starter meaning nearly 65% of his appearances have been from the bench.
After beginning his career in the lower leagues of his native France, Olivier Giroud found his feet and made his name at Montpellier HSC. He was an integral part of their 2011-12 Ligue 1 title winning team scoring 21 league goals and off the back of that Arsenal paid a reported £13million for his services in the summer of 2012.
His career at Arsenal began brightly scoring 19 goals in all competitions in his debut season but since then he has been a player who has divided opinion amongst fans of the Gunners. Inconsistent displays and mini goal droughts have him relegated to the bench for much of his time at Arsenal. It’s from the bench that the striker is now seen as a dangerous option, with his height and athleticism a perfect weapon for the reds to bring on late in a match. He’s also seen as a brilliant header of the ball.
Tore Andre Flo
Tore Andre Flo began his career in his native Norway with Sogndal, Tromso and SK Brann before a £300,000 bid from Chelsea prized him away from the latter in the summer transfer window of 1997.
His Premier League career began well as he scored 15 goals in his debut season for the blues including a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The manager in charge during his time at Chelsea, Gianluca Vialli, had a notorious reputation for squad rotation so Flo saw his starting opportunities limited but still managed to find the back of the net. In total he made 163 appearances for Chelsea, 70 of which were from the bench and scored 50 goals.
Jermain Defoe has been an excellent goal scorer throughout his career and you may think that his inclusion on this list is slightly unfair due to his current run of form scoring goals for Sunderland as a starter and his well-deserved recall to the England National Team.
It’s not always been so great for Jermain though, during both spells playing for Tottenham Hotspur he was relegated to the bench more often than his stats suggest he should have been with around half of his 182 appearances for Spurs coming from the bench. He still managed to score 91 goals for Tottenham with 5 goals coming in a single match against Wigan Athletic in 2009, the match eventually finished 9-1.
Another player whose inclusion on this list might be questioned is Didier Drogba. Drogba is one of the finest striker in the history of the Premier League with his bull-like strength, deadly finishing and brilliant free-kicks netting him 104 goals for the blues. He was an opponent’s worst nightmare but it didn’t stop him from the occasional relegation to the bench and coming on as a brilliant substitute.
In Didier’s two spells at Chelsea he made 67 appearances from the bench scoring 18 goals.