The Premiership has been blessed with appearances by some of the world’s greatest goalkeepers. Goalkeepers are certainly a different breed and are perhaps the most misunderstood position on the pitch. Villains when they let a goal in, they are ‘just doing their job’ when they save a shot. Often with little to do for much of the game, they can suddenly be called into action at a moment’s notice, and championships, relegations and entire careers can rest on goalkeepers making saves. Here’s our guide to the top 10 goalkeepers ever to grace the Premiership.
It’s inevitable that David James was going to be in the top 10 Premiership goalkeepers of all time simply because of his sheer longevity. Holder of the Premiership record for the greatest number of clean sheets, oddly James also holds the record for the most goals conceded too.
Starting out his career at Watford, he has played for a huge number of clubs, including Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Bristol City, and despite his age, he is still playing today for Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League. A regular pundit on TV, he also played 53 times for his country. Although often remembered for the blunders he tended to be prone to, the sheer longevity of his career marks him out as one of the best goalkeepers to play in the Premiership.
Shrewsbury born Joe Hart began his career at his hometown club in 2003, but was soon snapped up by top-flight Manchester City in 2006, having been on the radar of a number of Premiership clubs. He spent the early part of his City career out on loan at both Blackpool and Tranmere Rovers, before going to Birmingham City for a season, where he was nominated as the PFA Young Player of the Year and was also voted the best Premier League Goalkeeper of the 2009-10 season. City’s number one choice goalkeeper from the 2010 season onwards, his performances for both Manchester City and England have been outstanding, and he is one of the best shot-stoppers in the world. Still relatively young for a goalkeeper, he has the potential to become one of, if not the best goalkeeper, the Premiership has ever seen.
Nigel Martyn is perhaps the most underrated of the goalkeepers we feature here. Winning just 23 England caps, he would have won a lot more if his career wouldn’t have run parallel to the great David Seaman’s. Starting his career at Bristol Rovers, the 6 ft 2 in Martyn soon transferred to Crystal Palace where he played for over six years. He followed this by a spell at Leeds United, where he is still hailed as their best ever goalkeeper – a true testament to his abilities when you consider that John Lukic and Gary Sprake both played there. Ending his career at Everton where he was known as ‘Big Nige’, Martyn remains one of the most underrated and consistent goalkeepers in Premiership history.
It’s easy to overlook Jussi Jaaskelainen because he spent most of his career at Bolton fighting relegation battles and we tend to look for the better players at the other end of the league. Bolton’s longest serving foreign player played there for fifteen years, and being at that end of the Premiership means that you get a lot of practice in! One of the best-shot stoppers the Premiership has ever seen, Colin Todd bought Jussi for just £100,000 in 1997. He quickly became a favourite with the fans and in total made a staggering 530 appearances for the club, putting him third in the club’s all-time appearances list.
Edwin Van der Saar
Edwin Van der Sar would almost certainly be near the top of the list had he played in the Premiership longer than he did. Starting his career at Ajax, the giant Dutchman moved to Juventus after nine years, and had two successful seasons there. In 2001, he was picked up by Fulham where his fantastic performances soon caught the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson who had struggled to fill the giant void left by the great Peter Schmeichel. Arriving at Old Trafford in 2005, he played there until his retirement in 2011 and was a huge hit with the fans with Ferguson himself hailing Van der Sar as the best keeper they’d had since Peter Schmeichel. A commanding presence in his box, he was true all rounder who won four titles and a Champions League winning medal.
Like Nigel Martyn, Mark Schwarzer is another goalkeeper that is tremendously underrated as one of the Premiership greats. The Australian started out his career at the Marconi Stallions but it was in 1996 that he first moved to the UK, and his performances at Bradford City soon alerted Middlesbrough to his considerable talents. His sheer presence between the sticks was breath-taking and he went on to become a firm fan favourite. He went on to play for both Fulham and Chelsea and now plays for Leicester City, where despite his age, he is still able to win matches for his side with his goalkeeping heroics. As well as his successful Premiership career, Schwarzer was also the number one choice for Australia, playing in a total of 109 matches for them.
Shay Given is a true great of the Premiership era. The Irishman started his career in England at Blackburn Rovers, but unable to oust Tim Flowers as first choice, he went out on loan to both Swindon and Sunderland. In 1997, Newcastle United bought him and he went on to play for them over 350 times and is a legend in Tyneside. Small compared to many other goalkeepers, Shay Given was a dominant figure between the sticks and as an out-and-out shot stopper, the Premiership has seen no-one better. Following his departure from Newcastle, Shay Given went on to play for Manchester City, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough where he is currently on loan.
Cutting a distinctive figure in his head protector, following his life threatening injury, Petr Cech can rightly be called a Premiership great. A complete unknown when he was signed by Chelsea from Rennes, it was expected that he would remain an understudy to Carlo Cudicini. However, an injury to Cudicini meant that Cech had to prove himself early and that was exactly what he did. An instant success and hit with the fans, many thought his career to be over following his head injury sustained in a collision with Reading midfielder, Stephen Hunt. Remarkably, however, it did not and Cech returned braver than ever and went on for even more success with Chelsea. A great goalkeeper and a great man, Petr Cech is a true Premiership legend.
Is David Seaman the greatest ever English goalkeeper? He’s certainly up there for consideration with the likes of Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. Certainly the best English keeper of his generation, situated behind the best back four in Premiership history, he was a dominant figure between the posts. As both Arsenal and England’s number one, he will be remembered for his heroics as he helped Arsenal win two league and cup doubles in 1998 and 2002. Famed for his ‘tache and flowing locks, David Seaman played for England 75 times and ended his career at Manchester City. A firm favourite with all football fans, he has been a regular on TV since, appearing on shows, such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice.
There was only ever going to be one person in this list in contention for the best ever Premiership goalkeeper. A true titan of the game, the giant Dane was unmatched for his sheer presence between the sticks. Tactically aware, he was constantly organising his defence, and it is no surprise that his goalkeeping heroics helped Manchester United win 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and the Champions League. Capable of goalkeeping feats that no other player could ever match, he eventually left Old Trafford to play for Sporting Lisbon, ending his career at Manchester City. However, it will be as a Manchester United player that he will be best remembered. Undoubtedly, Peter Schmeichel was the best goalkeeper the Premiership, and indeed the world, has ever seen.