Along with away kit catastrophes and sensible squad numbering, potent striking partnerships are sorely missed in football. The death of the deadly duo may be premature but there are few regular, dependable partnerships in the Premier League today. Player mobility and a greater emphasis on tactical discipline mean those relationships of yesteryear are simply not given the time to flourish. Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent appeared to be forming a formidable partnership before the former’s move to Stoke this summer. Modern day forwards are expected to operate as lone front men but below are ten supreme partners, with each individual accepting they were stronger together.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke
Cole was behind Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the race to be Yorke’s striking partner. Sir Alex Ferguson was also tempted to recruit Patrick Kluivert. But Following some trademark Ferguson rotation, the two fused and formed an exciting chemistry. In the 1998/99 season they scored 53 goals between them, propelling United to an unprecedented treble. Of the 36 games the duo started together the team lost just one game. The dynamic twosome registered a combined 46 goals the following year but their most memorable moment together came at the Camp Nou.
Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley
Ferguson’s initial reservations about fielding Cole should have been allayed by his previous partnership with Beardsley at Newcastle. The unlikely duo must have had telepathic skills to net a combined 65 goals in the 1993/94 season, a record haul for striking partners. Beardsley’s creative tendencies complimented Cole’s clinical style. The two forwards scored 30 goals the next season.
Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn Guardian football writer David Lacey recently commented that Peter Crouch and Rafael van der Vaart were forming a relationship reminiscent of Quinn and Phillips’ at Sunderland. This was high praise indeed, as this combination featured the archetypal big man and his more skilful sidekick. Their understanding blossomed in the first division and was transported to the top flight, hitting 44 in the 1999/00 season and 46 the following year.
Michael Owen and Emile Heskey
Another little and large partnership which had longevity for club and country was that of Liverpool’s Owen and Heskey. For three successive seasons the two netted over 30 goals between them. Owen shouldered the bulk of the goal-scoring burden but Heskey’s importance cannot be underestimated. For good or ill that phase in his career continues to define Heskey, whose presence was deemed crucial to Wayne Rooney’s scoring chances in the lead up to the World Cup. Could Gerard Houllier be plotting to resurrect his partnership with Owen?
Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler
Prior to the aforementioned striking partners, Anfield had witnessed the more prolific duo of Collymore and Fowler. The former was signed from Nottingham Forest for £8.5 million, while Fowler was at the pinnacle of his considerable powers. In their first season together 53 goals were scored and 47 were notched up in the following campaign. Collymore’s move to Aston Villa in 1997 brought this exciting partnership to an abrupt end.
Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp
This was a partnership which did endure much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful. The two enjoyed six fruitful seasons together but wide players Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires deserve some of the credit too. Henry was the complete centre forward while the Dutchman had a vision and awareness that few could rival. The pair scored a combined 43 goals in the 2001/02 season in which the Gunners lifted the league title and the FA Cup.
Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane
This pairing were once joint winners of the Barclays Player of the Month Award, as they scored eight times in five matches in April 2007. They were inseparable at White Hart Lane and in their second season together over 40 goals were scored, helping the team to a Carling Cup win. Their partnership curtailed the impact of Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe. Some have argued that neither player was the same after their separation.
Eidur Gudjohnson and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
The two forwards combined to devastating effect in the 2001/02 season, scoring 52 times. The Icelandic international, now of Stoke City, had a knack of holding possession before releasing the Dutchman at just the right moment. However Gudjohnson did outscore his striking partner in the 2003/04 season.
Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton
These two were affectionately known as SAS (Shearer and Sutton). Their efforts were a vital ingredient in Blackburn’s title winning season of 1994/95. Shearer scored 37 to Sutton’s 21. The following season was to be their last together and whilst the Toon legend upheld his side of the bargain, Sutton’s influence waned.
Bobby Zamora and Carlos Tevez
Carlos Tevez is invariably credited with ensuring West Ham’s improbable great escape in 2007 but Zamora had a discernible impact too. Inclusion of this partnership may seem debateable as it only transpired towards the end of that turbulent campaign. However it was a successful partnership forged out of adversity. Two strikers with opposing skills mesmerised defences once more. As the Hammers won seven of their final nine games, these two were almost exclusively amongst the goals.