Irish footballers have had a very impressive history, not just in the Premier League – but in the top-flight leagues in the years previous, and have had a massive impact on the sport. While there have been too many talented Irish players to possibly mention, there are a few that stand out above and beyond… as some of the best to have ever graced the English top flight.
Here, we take a look at the best Irish players to ever play in English top-flight football:
Of course, it had to be Roy in the top spot. Love him or hate him, this Marmite character is arguably the most iconic Irish footballer in Premier League history. Famous for his temper and his strength, it was also his leadership skills and his tenacity that have made him a legendary figure at Manchester United, where he won numerous Premier League titles. When Premier League betting today, Man U usually sit around 4th, 5th, sometimes higher, sometimes lower – but in Keane’s day, they were always number one.
But his impact extended beyond his footballing skills and abilities; he really was the very heart and soul of Sir Alex Ferguson’s practically unbeatable United side. The opposition feared his relentless work ethic, his (at times too) tough tackling and his ability to control the midfield. However, with his team and his fans, it earned him a reputation as one of the best-ever midfielders in Premier League history. He is still very much a huge part of the sport… and he can often be found giving his strong opinions on action happening on the pitch as a commentator.
Going back a few years, we have Johnny Giles – who is widely regarded by many of the older generations as one of Ireland’s greatest-ever footballers. If you are too young to remember him, he had an incredible career playing with Leeds United during the 1960s and 1970s – when they were a dominant force in the league – and he even helped the club win two league titles.
Giles was a player who was known for his impressive passing ability and his overall game IQ – and it was this that made him one of the key players in Leeds’ success during that era.
Again, before the Premier League era, another top-performing Irish player was Liam Brady – a very talented player who graced English football during his career with the Gunners. His dribbling skills were pure artistry, his vision was unmatched, and his precision passing made him one of the most respected and impressive players in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
While he was at the club, Brady was a hugely important player for Arsenal, and he is still remembered by many older Gooners today.
Next on our list, we have Paul McGrath, a defensive giant of a player who was the beating heart of the defence for both Aston Villa and Manchester United. He simply had an uncanny ability to read the game, helping him make crucial tackles and interceptions – and keep full control over the backline. And it was this that made him one of the Premier League’s best-ever defenders. He had a calm presence and composure under pressure but that made him invaluable to his teams.
Another ‘Keane’ Irish player has to be Mr Robbie Keane who is, to this day, Ireland’s all-time leading goal scorer. However, he also had a hugely successful career in English top-flight football. During his time in the Premier League, he played for various clubs, including Spurs, Liverpool and Aston Villa. He was famed for his razor-sharp instincts in front of goal, almost magical ball control and versatility as a forward. However, it was simply his goal-scoring skills that made him a fan favourite across the Premier League.
A Few Honourable Men…tions
As we said, there are too many great Irish players to mention – but we feel it is worth noting a few others – Niall Quinn, Steve Heighway and Frank Stapleton who all made a massive impact in English football.
These Irish footballers will no doubt inspire future generations of Irish talent – and we’re sure that Ireland will continue to have a big impact on English top-tier football for many years to come.