[First published March 2012 while RVP was at Arsenal]
With Robin van Persie enjoying one of the most prolific seasons in the history of the English top flight, we decided to take a look at some of the other strikers who have peppered the onion sack down through the years. Yes of course Dixie Dean is a notable omission, but unless you want to see a lot of newspaper clippings flash by on screen, he’s from an era that YouTube can’t accommodate. Despite offering more than your traditional tap-in merchant, the Dutchman has still managed 33 goals in all competitions this season and with 26 Premier League goals, enjoys a comfortable cushion over Wayne Rooney in the race to be the competition’s top scorer. Good goalscoring can take many different forms, but here’s a look at some players who managed to perfect the art.
1. Jimmy Greaves
To a generation, he’s the elderly cockney with slightly old-fashioned views on football from Saint & Greavsie, but to a slightly more mature generation he is the archetypal predator, pouncing on anything that fell his way in the penalty area. Strong off both feet and surprisingly effective with his head for a man reported to be all of 5′ 8″, he had that knack common to all top class strikers of being in the right place at the right time. Except of course when it came to handling Chilean dogs, in which case it was the wrong place at the ‘overly-full bladder time’. Apparently signed by Bill Nicholson for Tottenham for the precise fee of £99,999 to avoid placing the pressure of being the first £100,000 player in British football, it didn’t seem to bother him as he went on to score over 200 goals for Spurs in little over 300 appearances.
2. Gary Lineker
Interestingly for a player so renowned for his goalhanging goalscoring, Lineker never managed to notch up a century of goals for any one club. He managed to bag a good few at a healthy run rate wherever he went, but the sheer volume of his goals is perhaps smaller than you might expect. It was his performances on the international stage that earned him much of his acclaim, with the infamous end to his pursuit of Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record rivalling his infamous ‘watch it – Gazza’s about to have a nervous breakdown’ moment at Italia 90 for infamy. (Although it must be noted that ‘Gary Lineker shits himself’ comes up as a leading suggested search on YouTube when you type in his name, so maybe there is a third option, so to speak.)
With all the hubbub and rehashed Falklands War animosity of the ‘Hand Of God’ incident that helped knock England out, it’s easy to forget that Lineker was top goalscorer at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It’s even easier to forget when you see his smug face on Match Of The Day or he’s trying to sell you crisps. Perhaps his greatest act of scoring however comes from his post-playing days when, despite being a whole Theo Walcott older than her, he married lingerie model, Danielle Bux. In the cheesy words of Alan Partridge, “back of the net.”
3. Ian Rush
A right foot to strike terror in you from anywhere inside the penalty area and a moustache to strike terror in you from anywhere inside an 80s nightclub. Sure his legs looked a little bit like they belonged on an anorexic giraffe, but Ian Rush had a burst of speed that meant he got himself into the right positions and was nearly always there when the ball broke around the penalty area. He provided the goals that fired Liverpool to much of their 80s glory. His stint with Juventus was a disappointment on a couple of fronts. Firstly, he couldn’t transfer his goalscoring exploits to Serie A and secondly, he never actually made the brilliant observation that living in Italy was “like living in another country“. He probably hung around the Premier League slightly longer than is advisable, but considering the money suddenly on offer, it’s probably understandable. A couple of seasons with Leeds and Newcastle yielded just three goals, but on the plus side, he can now afford all the moustache wax he wants.
4. Alan Shearer
For a local lad, there was no greater thrill for Alan Shearer than scoring goals for Newcastle. That’s good, because he got very little silverware out of the bargain. With his physicality, aerial ability and shunning of the stepover and other such trickery, he’s probably what everyone thinks of when thinking of the quintessential British striker. He did more than just the goal-hanging, but not a lot more. He really started to hit the headlines at Blackburn and to this day, his greatest achievement in football may be making Chris Sutton look like a Premier League striker. Before hitting the Match of the Day sofa via the Top Shop shirts section, he amassed 379 career goals a figure made all the more remarkable on account of the injury troubles he had whilst at Rovers and the fact that he played in a Newcastle team that considered Temuri Ketsbaia to be a creative force in midfield.
5. Ruud van Nistelrooy
After his first attempt at a move collapsed due to a dodgy cruciate ligament, it looked like taking van Nistelrooy to Old Trafford was a major risk, but after 150 goals in five seasons with Man Utd, it looked like a very shrewd gamble on Fergie’s part. The Dutchman made his name as a poacher for in the Eredivisie, but then again so did Erik Meijer so clearly that’s no guarantee of success in the Premier League. Thanks in part to a glowing recommendation from his son Darren, Sir Alex agreed to give PSV Eindhoven £19 million in return for his services and immediately the deal reaped dividends with van Nistelrooy hitting the ground running in England.
He scored against Liverpool in the Charity Shield on his debut and followed that up in a game that actually mattered by bagging two against Fulham on his Premier League debut. Van Nistelrooy’s leading the line was the perfect complement to the hard-work and creativity of the United midfield, but strangely United only claimed one league title, one FA Cup and one league cup during his five seasons of deadly finishing. Yes he was very one-footed, but what an efficient one foot to have. He was eventually moved on after alleged run-ins with Ferguson and the then fresh-faced and not yet annoying Cristiano Ronaldo. He continued his goalscoring feats at Real Madrid for several seasons and is currently trying to claim as many whopping paycheques as he can before he retires with Malaga.