19 years ago this week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer etched his name into Premier League folklore with the greatest substitute appearance seen in the English top flight since its reincarnation in 1992.
Manchester United had already put Nottingham Forest to the sword through Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, each bagging a brace to make it 4-1 after 67 minutes.
But then the Norwegian entered the fray from the bench and unleashed pure havoc at the City Ground, netting four times in the last ten minutes to secure one of United’s largest winning margins under Sir Alex Ferguson.
That fabled performance only cemented Solskjaer’s reputation as English football’s greatest supersub of the Premier League era. But with a quarter-century of Premier League action to now look back on, United’s iconic striker now faces some serious rivals for that unofficial title.
In fact, there are Premier League stars who have scored more goals, bagged more assists and produced a better per-minutes ratio than Solskjaer when entering the fray from the bench. So, here’s a rundown of the candidates in with a shout of being the greatest supersub in Premier League history…
No player has scored more goals from the bench in the Premier League than Jermain Defoe, who is still going strong today at the age of 35 – although he’s yet to net in the top flight as substitute since moving to Bournemouth last summer.
However, the former England front-man has undoubtedly benefited from the sheer longevity of his Premier League career; only two players to have scored from the bench in the Premier League have made more substitute appearances than Defoe, Peter Crouch and Shola Ameobi, and he’s represented five clubs in the top flight.
In actuality, Defoe averages more than five sub appearances per sub goal, and he ranks a lowly twelfth for minutes per goals or assist from the bench (from players to have claimed at least 15 goals or assists as a substitute).
Theo Walcott’s goal return from the bench may be on the modest side for a forward with 67 Premier League strikes under his belt and has expressed desires to be deployed as a centre-forward for much of his career.
But Walcott gets an honourable mention because he’s provided the most substitute assists in Premier League history, and that eleven remains an impressive tally simply because assists are harder to come by – not every goal has one.
He’s averaged one goal or assist per 120 minutes from the bench though, which only puts him slightly ahead of Defoe (122 minutes), and doesn’t see the now-Everton man make the top ten. However, due to his electric pace and netting prowess, most would argue Walcott is still one of the best impact players around in the Premier League.
With one goal or assist per 100 minutes as a substitute, Nwankwo Kanu just sneaks into the Premier League’s top ten in that regard. But in truth, the former Arsenal, West Brom and Portsmouth man makes it onto this list for a more pertinent reason; he ranks second throughout Premier League history for both goals and assists from the bench.
That includes a goal and an assist from the bench in a 4-0 win over Leicester City for Arsenal in 2001, and a run of four goals in six substitute outings – most notably a strike against Spurs in the north London derby – a year prior. However, the Nigerian international did also endure a run of just two goals in 43 substitute outings for the Gunners before moving to West Brom.
Olivier Giroud lays a pretty strong claim for being the most effective supersub working in the English top flight today, if not to ever grace the Premier League, which is perhaps why Chelsea were so quick to snap him up in the wake of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Arsenal last month. Often finding himself behind such glamorous names in the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium, the France international has often been forced to take his chances from the bench – something he’s done so to an emphatic standard thus far in his Premier League career.
Indeed, it’s taken him just 63 appearances to match Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nwankwo Kanu’s goal tallies from the bench, and one more goal will see him move from joint-second to undisputed second in the substitute scoring charts. Throw in two assists as well though, and Giroud boasts the best minutes per goal or assist ratio of any Premier League supersub, either scoring or supplying every 67 minutes – a slight improvement on Solskjaer’s rate of every 72 minutes.
Equally impressive is how some of those goals have been – since the start of last season, he’s come off the bench to score an equaliser at Old Trafford and net the winner in a hectic 4-3 victory over Leicester City.
So, who do you think is the greatest supersub in Premier League history? Let us know by voting below…