Swansea City’s Nathan Dyer, who celebrates his 30th Birthday today, boasts an incredibly unique place in Premier League history as arguably the luckiest title winner of all time. That’s not to discredit the Englishman’s ability, but his involvement in Leicester City’s miraculous title win in 2015/16 was undoubtedly rather fortunate.
He moved to the King Power Stadium on a season-long loan at the start of the campaign as the Foxes anticipated another relegation battle, but Claudio Ranieri’s side soon found themselves chasing down the title instead with their temporary wide-man playing a bit-part role.
Dyer went on to make twelve top flight appearances for the Foxes, all from the bench, but nonetheless will be remembered by history as a member of their title-winning squad. So to celebrate Dyer’s 30th birthday, we at Football FanCast have taken a look back at the Premier League’s most fortuitous title winners of all time.
From youngsters in the right place at the right time to obscure journeymen and flopped signings, here’s the Premier League’s luckiest ever title-winning XI.
Richard Wright spent just a single season at Arsenal following a flurry of impressive campaigns at Ipswich Town and an injury to David Seaman saw him make just enough Premier League appearances, twelve, to qualify for a winner’s medal.
But ever-shaky between the sticks throughout his dozen outings, famously punching the ball into his own net in a 4-2 defeat to Charlton Athletic and finding himself behind Stuart Taylor (another dubious title winner) in the pecking order by the end of the campaign, Arsene Wenger wasted no time in offloading the goalkeeper to Everton the subsequent summer.
That wasn’t the end of Wright’s ability-defying title-winning, however; although he didn’t make a single appearance across any competition in four years at the Etihad Stadium, he was part of the Manchester City squads that lifted the English crown in 2011/12 and 2013/14.
David May made just 85 top flight appearances in nine years at Manchester United but still left Old Trafford with two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two Community Shields and a Champions League title to his name.
To give credit where its due, May completed 29 league appearances as the Red Devils claimed the top flight prise in 1996/97 and was unfortunate not to lift the crown at Blackburn Rovers, making the short trip to Manchester the summer before Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton fired them to glory.
But the versatile defender was issued just 16 outings the year prior to claim his first winner’s medal and was never seen as a key part of the Red Devils back line.
And May’s cemented his place on this list for winning a different accolade – famously getting to the front of the celebrations as United claimed the 1998/99 Champions League title, despite making just one substitute appearance in the competition that season.
Robert Huth was a key part of the Leicester City miracle and had a monumental impact on the club’s fortunes after arriving from Stoke City, initially on loan, in January 2015. He helped the Foxes stave off relegation before forging a near-impervious partnership with Wes Morgan that provided the basis for the Midlands outfit’s shock Premier League title.
But it’s often forgotten that wasn’t the first top-flight crown of the German giant’s career. Indeed, after arriving from Union Berlin as one of the most exciting defensive prospects in world football, in no small part due to his piledriving free kicks, Huth claimed two Premier League titles as Chelsea’s fourth-choice centre-back, behind the likes of John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas, making just 23 appearances as the Blues claimed consecutive honours.
A miracle maker, fair enough. But the most successful German in Premier League history with a triplet of titles? Huth can count himself a little fortunate.
Hap-hazard centre-back Igors Stepanovs is perhaps best famed for throwing away the Premier League title in 1999/2000, playing an instrumental, erroneous hand in Arsenal losing 6-1 to Manchester United during the second half of the season as both clubs honed in on the English crown.
However, the clumsy Latvian bumbled his way to the accolade a year later, making six Premier League appearances as Arsene Wenger claimed the second of his Gunners career. That wouldn’t usually be enough for a winner’s medal but Stepanovs qualified because injuries forced him onto the bench when Arsenal clinched the title, giving him a perfect view of Sylvain Wiltord’s famous strike at Old Trafford – ironically, the arena of the defender’s nightmare performance the year prior.
Stepanovs made just a handful more appearances for Arsenal before leaving for Grasshopper in 2004 and fading into obscurity.
Unlike many of the players in this XI, Asier Del Horno made 25 Premier League appearances, scoring once in the process, as Chelsea claimed their second title in 2005/06.
But that was the Spaniard’s only season at Stamford Bridge and with good reason; a hopeless defender who never lived up to his reputation as a left-footed free kick specialist, Chelsea lifted the Premier League prize in spite of Del Horno making so many appearances for them.
The retired defender was sent packing back to Spain in summer 2006 and signed for Valencia, where he managed just 15 appearances in five years – instead spending his time out on loan with Athletic Bilbao, Valladolid and Levante.
Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt on Jordi Cruyff, son of the legendary Johan, following a decent start to his Barcelona career. But unable to escape the imposing shadow of his Ballon d’Or winning father, the attacking midfielder made just 34 Premier League appearances in four years at Old Trafford – albeit producing a somewhat respectable return of eight goals.
Regardless, the Dutchman – whose only appearances for the Netherlands came during the same year he signed for United, 1996 – is credited with three Premier League titles and was part of the Red Devils’ iconic treble-winning squad in 1998/99.
After leaving the club in 2000, Cruyff struggled to produce the goods at Deportivo Alaves and Espanyol before bizarrely plying his trade in Ukraine and Malta.
Born with a face not even his mother could love, Luke Chadwick was the acne-infested gargoyle trying to provide the legs in Manchester United’s midfield as they won the title in 2000/01, making 16 Premier League appearances and 22 across all competitions.
But just nine outings later, the midfielder’s top-flight career was over; he dropped down into the Championship with West Ham, Stoke and Norwich, then League One with MK Dons and finally the Conference division with his boyhood club Cambridge United.
A mixture of unrealised potential and simply being in the right place at the right time, Chadwick’s career echoes many of the youngsters who’ve failed to make the grade at Old Trafford.
A team-mate of Nathan Dyer’s, Gokhan Inler was billed as Leicester City’s star signing of summer 2015 when he arrived from Napoli and was seen by many as a direct replacement for Esteban Cambiasso, who had famously helped steer the Foxes clear of relegation during his only season at the King Power Stadium.
The defensive midfielder had built a solid reputation in Serie A and with the Switzerland national team but found himself quickly overtaken in the pecking order by fellow summer signing N’Golo Kante and managed just five Premier League outings across the whole campaign, none coming after January, which was just enough to qualify for a winner’s medal.
After missing out on a place in Switzerland’s Euro 2016 squad, Inler left the King Power Stadium for Besiktas.
A decent player on his day but one that never came close to reaching the world-class levels heralded in his younger years. Indeed, Luis Boa Morte was one of Arsene Wenger’s first Arsenal signings as the Frenchman attempted to bring a more cultured style of play to north London, issuing the winger 15 Premier League appearances as the Gunners claimed the title during his debut campaign in the dugout.
However, the former Portugal international’s Arsenal career went downhill from there, managing just ten more league outings before departing for Southampton and subsequently Fulham and West Ham, encapsulating a career of mid-table mediocrity.
After shock spells with AEL, Orlando Pirates and Chesterfield, the veteran attacker hung up his boots in 2013.
Mike Newell was a talented player and a decent servant to Blackburn Rovers but nonetheless a journeyman goalscorer who proved incredibly fortunate as the Ewood Park outfit lifted their only Premier League title in 1994/95.
Indeed, whilst Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton famously fired Rovers to the top flight accolade with a combined 49 goals, understudy striker Newell didn’t get on the scoresheet once and made a paltry 12 appearances.
After leaving Blackburn a year later, the former England B man endured difficult spells with Birmingham City, West Ham, Bradford, Aberdeen, Crewe, Doncaster and Blackpool, before retiring in 2001.
Perhaps the luckiest member of this XI, Jeremie Aliadiere was part of Arsenal’s legendary Invincibles squad that lifted the 2003/04 Premier League title undefeated.
Arsene Wenger often declared the world would eventually see the top-class ability the Frenchman continually demonstrated in training. But now aged 34 and a free agent after being released by Lorient, the beautiful game is still waiting for such a Ballon d’Or worthy display.
During the Invincibles season, a then youthful Aliadiere made ten Premier League appearances without scoring, instead leaving the net-finding to Denis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg.
That was the second-most top flight outings Aliadiere registered in a single season for the Gunners, his largest haul being eleven in the campaign before he left for Middlesbrough in a modest £2million deal.