The Premier League ‘Sicknote’ XI

The term ‘Sicknote’ may have been used to describe Spurs’ perennially-crocked former winger Darren Anderton, but it seems as though there are a host of current footballers who are all equally as deserving of this title. Whilst the intense and frenetic nature of the modern game means that the sport is more exciting to watch than ever before, the downside is that the game’s best footballers are increasingly susceptible to injury. The following eleven players seem to be better acquainted with the treatment room than the majority of their peers.

GK – Chris Kirkland – Wigan Athletic
The damning statistics:

213 career appearances since debut in 1999
Missed 15 Premier League games for Wigan Athletic over last two seasons

It has been said by many that Kirkland would’ve been England’s number one had he managed to remain free from injury for a prolonged period of time, but unfortunately the former Liverpool custodian has been dogged by injury for most of his career. Such problems meant that Kirkland was restricted to less than 50 outings in four years at Anfield, with his career marred by knee, finger, wrist and back ailments.

DF – Fabio Aurelio – Free Agent
The damning statistics:

50 Premier League starts for Liverpool in last four seasons (averaging 12.5 starts per season)

Defensively sound and in possession of an excellent left-foot, it is with great sadness that I learned of Fabio Aurelio’s recent exit from Anfield. The fact that manager Rafael Benitez offered him a (subsequently rejected) pay-as-you-play deal is indicative of the injury woes Aurelio has suffered on Merseyside, with Reds fans unaccustomed to seeing the Brazilian in the team for prolonged stretches. Aurelio’s early Anfield career was affected by a torn Achilles tendon, with his latter-day Liverpool absences caused by a torn adductor muscle and a knee injury sustained whilst playing beach football with his children last summer.

DF – Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United
The damning statistics:

36 Premier League starts for Manchester United in last two seasons (averaging 18 starts per season)

Rio Ferdinand’s well-documented back problems of the last two years have been of great concern to both Manchester United and England fans. The chronic nature of the injury suggests that the ailment may be degenerative, thus leading to genuine fears over the England skipper’s long-term future. Thankfully for the Old Trafford faithful, the likes of Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic and Gary Neville have managed to keep United’s rearguard impressively tight in his absence.

DF – Jonathan Woodgate – Tottenham Hotspur
The damning statistics:

Three Premier League starts last season
104 Premier League/La Liga appearances in last five seasons (averaging 20.8 starts per season)
12 appearances for Real Madrid in two seasons in Spain (no appearances in first season at Real Madrid)

The completion of just three Premier League games for Tottenham last season served to re-emphasise the injury-prone nature of Jonathan Woodgate. Regarded as one of England’s finest centre-backs when fit, Woodgate has constantly struggled to retain fitness for long periods of time. Back problems heartbreakingly prevented Woodgate from appearing at the 2006 World Cup, whilst his recent absence from the Spurs first-team has been attributed to a troublesome groin injury. Woodgate’s infamous injury problems whilst playing for Real Madrid even lead to him being voted the ‘worst signing of the 21st century’ by readers of Spain’s leading sports daily Diario Marca.

DF – Ledley King – Tottenham Hotspur
The damning statistics:

94 Premier League starts for Tottenham Hotspur in last five seasons (averaging 18.8 starts per season)

Considered by many to be the finest English defender of his generation, the curious condition suffered by Ledley King has served to hamper what could have been a glorious club and international career. Bereft of knee cartilage, King’s rare problem prevents the player from being able to play more than once a week. This problem has meant that only once in the last five seasons has King been able to feature in more than 25 Premier League games in a season.

Click here to see which midfielders feature in this most unique of XIs…

MF – Michael Essien – Chelsea
The damning statistics:

25 Premier League starts for Chelsea in last two seasons (averaging 12.5 starts per season)

An integral component of Chelsea’s midfield, Essien’s dynamic, all-action displays appear to have taken their toll upon his body. A regular during his first three seasons at Stamford Bridge, the man known as ‘The Bison’ has suffered a string of serious injuries over the last two seasons which have restricted his first-team involvement. Having sustained anterior ligament damage on international duty, Essien missed 6 months of the 2008/09 season. His 2009/10 season was also affected by injury; a hamstring injury sustained in December against Apoel Nicosia was followed by another knee injury sustained whilst competing in the African Cup of Nations, with this injury unfortunately set to rule him out of the forthcoming World Cup.

MF – Jimmy Bullard – Hull City
The damning statistics:
50 Premier League starts for Hull City and Fulham over last four seasons (averaging 12.5 starts per season)

Fulham’s decision to refuse Bullard a long-term contract is looking more and more like a wise decision now, given the inability of the former Wigan Athletic midfielder to remain fit. One of the most popular players in the modern game, the decorator-turned-professional-footballer has been very unfortunate with the nature of injuries that he has managed to sustain over the last few years. A knee injury sustained in 2006 kept Bullard out of first-team action for nearly 18 months, whilst a recurrence of this injury on his Hull City debut sidelined the tousle-haired midfielder for nearly 10 months. A month and a half after returning to Hull colours, Bullard suffered a knee injury against Aston Villa that kept him out of the game for nearly three months.

MF – Kieron Dyer – West Ham United
The damning statistics:
22 appearances for West Ham United in last three seasons (averaging 7.3 appearances per season)
52 Premier League starts in last five seasons (averaging 10.4 starts per season)

No list of crocked players would be complete without Kieron Dyer. If one were to label him as ‘injury-prone’ prior to his move to Upton Park, one would have to create an entirely new word to describe his level of fitness whilst at West Ham. Dyer’s injury problems at West Ham have been so bad that club-owner David Sullivan suggested that the former Ipswich man should do the decent thing and retire. In fairness to Dyer, he suffered a double fracture of his leg just ten days after making his West Ham debut. Since returning from that injury, Dyer has suffered from a string of hamstring-related niggles.

Click here to see which forwards complete this ‘sicknote’ side…

ST – Robin van Persie – Arsenal
The damning statistics:
81 Premier League appearances for Arsenal over last four seasons (averaging 20.25 appearances per season)
In 6 seasons at Arsenal, never managed more than 28 Premier League appearances in a season

The stop-start nature of van Persie’s Arsenal career inspired me to create this XI in the first place. Blessed with exceptional talent, the Dutchman’s inability to remain injury-free has been cited as one the main reasons behind Arsenal’s failure to win the league in recent seasons. The former Feyenoord man is a rare breed of forward, one equally as adept at creating chances as he is finishing them. Alas, several of van Persie’s seasons at Arsenal have been ended prematurely, having suffered from ankle ligament, hamstring and metatarsal problems.

ST – Louis Saha – Everton
The damning statistics:
120 appearances for Manchester United in four and a half seasons (averaging 26.6 starts per season)
Missed 19 Premier League games for Everton over last two seasons

Undoubtedly a fantastic finisher, Saha’s opportunity to establish himself as a truly world-class player at Manchester United was regrettably destroyed by a string of niggling injuries. Groin, hamstring and knee problems meant that Saha had a disruptive tenure at Old Trafford, with his goalscoring record of 1 in 3 hinting at what could’ve been had he managed to stay fit. Currently contracted to Everton on a pay-as-you-play deal, Saha appears to have put the worst of his injury woes behind, having managed to make 57 Premier League appearances for the Toffees over the last seasons.

ST – Fernando Torres – Liverpool
The damning statistics:
40 Premier League starts for Liverpool in last two seasons (averaging 20 starts per season)

Liverpool’s attacking impotency in the absence of Fernando Torres is testament to the ability of the Spaniard; indeed, in his 40 Premier League starts over the last two seasons, Torres managed to score a phenomenal 32 times. Regarded as one of the world’s finest centre-forwards, Torres has suffered from hamstring problems several times during his stay at Anfield, with staff and fans alike irritated by the injuries sustained by Liverpool’s number nine whilst on international duty. The latter half of last season saw Torres troubled by knee problems, problems which threatened to prevent his involvement in this summer’s upcoming World Cup.

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