Story by Seng Ton
In this second part of Local Heroes, I take a look at players from clubs beginning with the letter ‘L’. I hope I have listed some of your favourites. One, definitely, won’t appeal to my fellow Villa fans but will to his hometown club contingent!
Leeds United – David Batty
David Batty is held in high regard by many Leeds fans, almost as much as club legend Billy Bremner. A naturally competitive holding midfielder who loves to win the ball back for the team, it is easy to see the comparison. And by being a Yorkshire lad, many more fans took Batty to their hearts, as you could clearly see his determination and drive in his play. With a combined 13 years spent at Elland Road, culminating a total of 301 appearances, it is clear to see that David spent most of his career at a club he loved and held dear to him. The English top flight division (before being called the Premier League in 1993) was won by Leeds with Batty in the side. He has also been a key man to Leeds qualification for the Champions League and their brilliant run to the semi finals.
Leicester City – Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey is the subject of many taunts nationwide but you won’t hear many of those in the city of Leicester. Arguably his best spell was at his hometown club, and The Foxes have certainly seen the best of the big guy. Heskey has scored 40 goals in 157 appearances, but it’s not his goalscoring ability that makes him so immensely popular amongst team mates, fans and managers. There aren’t many players that I can name that aren’t selfish, but Heskey is certainly one of those. His unselfish personality coupled with his presence and the way in which he holds up the play and brings the whole team together by winning most aerial battles. In his 6 years at Filbert Street, two League Cups in 1997 and 2000 as well as a Division One Play Off trophy were won.
Liverpool – Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard is another one of those special local talents still at the club. Residing from a village in Merseyside he has become a hero at all that follow The Reds. Gerrard has dominated the midfield for Liverpool for over a decade. To date, he has 405 appearances and has scored 89 goals for the club. Another one-club man, but also has been linked to all the big clubs in Europe because of his world class ability. The current club captain has lifted plenty of club silverware which includes the forever memorable 2005 Champions League, two FA Cups, three League Cups and a Europa League in 2001 (called the UEFA Cup back then).
Manchester United – Paul Scholes
Paul Scholes is one of Manchester United’s most glittered players of all-time. The golden nugget local lad coming from Salford, Greater Manchester has 488 appearances and has hit the back of the net on 106 different occasions. Scholes has a natural ability that can simply win a game out of nowhere and that’s what makes him special to the club and the fans of The Red Devils. Being part of some quite magical squads he has won bucket loads of trophies; two Champions Leagues, ten Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups. That collection could well rise in the coming seasons.
Newcastle United – Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer is certainly loved up on The Tyne. Moving from Blackburn Rovers for a then record fee of £15million, this secured his dream move back home to Newcastle. Shearer spent a decade up on Tyne that mostly pleased fans with him banging in plenty of memorable goals for The Magpies. In a total of 303 top flight appearances, a quite remarkable 148 goals were scored. That nearly equates to a goal every two games (outstanding). With Shearer’s goals, The Toon have come incredibly close to silverware becoming runners up to the FA Cup in two consecutive seasons as well as finishing 2nd in the Premier League.
Norwich City – Adam Drury
Adam Drury has been a tremendous servant to Norwich, turning out for The Canaries for 11 loyal years, amassing a dependable 326 appearances. By winning the NorwichCity player of the year in the 2002-2003 season, this lead to being handed the honour of the captain’s armband. Only special players can lose the skipper’s armband only to show truly magnificent form in order to regain it. Lesser players do not get the chance to wear it again once it has been taken away. Drury was inducted into NorwichCity’s hall of fame alongside other first team members. Additional achievements include the League One championship in 2009 and a First Division title in 2003.
Southampton – Matthew Le Tissier
Matthew Le Tissier is another one-club man, that anyone even remotely associated with Southampton will hold his name dear to their heart. Le Tissier was a hugely influential attacking minded midfielder who spent the best part of 16 seasons at St. Marys. He has 443 appearances and scored on 162 of those. Loyalty is one thing that many players today do not have, and despite severe interest from (no disrespect) bigger clubs, Le Tissier stuck with The Saints much to the fans pleasure. Although born in Guernsey, it is safe to say that Matthew has very much adopted Southampton as his footballing home where he is known to many south coast fans as “Le God”.
West Bromwich Albion – Lee Hughes
Lee Hughes is somewhat of a legend in the West Midlands, especially for Baggies fans. A true local lad that was born in Smethwick warmed to the fans as he comes from the same area as most of the people who support West Bromwich Albion. Spending two stints at The Hawthorns, they say “never go back” but Lee proved otherwise. Proving most effective in both spells by scoring 85 times in 174 appearances first time round. And second time round, scored 13 times in 60 appearances. Hughes is only 2 goals short of amassing a total of 100 goals for The Baggies. To date, there are only 6 people that have played for West Brom who have registered goals in excess of 100.
West Ham United – Mark Noble
Mark Noble is one the latest quality products to have come from the infamous West Ham youth academy. In contention with the first team for 8 years (despite being only 25 years old) and has been a key player for the last 5 years. Noble is a reliable performer in the heart of midfield, and has had time to settle there as he is the current longest serving player for The Hammers. Being with the West Ham set up since he was a schoolboy, Mark has strong links with his current club and his hometown which is in East London. Trophies come in the form of two Championship Play-Off Final wins in 2005 and 2012. A notable personal accolade was achieved when Noble was voted in the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season.
Well, that’s it. I hope I have given you all a flavour of some happy bygone eras and here’s to hoping that all of your clubs find more local talent, in the next few years!