The all-time Welsh XI in Premier League history
Despite being classed as a separate entity in footballing terms, Wales plays a big role in English football – given that several of their biggest clubs play in the English league. With that in mind, it’s no real surprise to discover that hundreds of Welsh footballers have appeared in the English top flight over the last few decades. Many of these names have enjoyed many forms of success securing winners medals as well as their own personal awards. But which of these stars would be able to make the all-time Premier League Welsh XI?
GK: Neville Southall
One of Everton’s favourite sons, Neville Southall provided a key lifeline for The Toffees in the early years of the Premier League. Hard to beat from distance or up close, Southall’s excellent shot-stopping ability helped Everton keep their place in the Premier League – even when others fell around them. Southall failed to miss a game in the first four seasons of the Premier League and this form led him to being voted Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 1995. His efforts are still looked back on today with Everton naming Southall their greatest ever player in 2004 and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
RB: Danny Gabbidon
What many people forget about Danny Gabbidon was his all-round versatility. Quick for his size yet strong off the ball., Gabbidon could perform almost anywhere within a back four. It was why he was a sought-after player for any side looking to bolster their backline in the top flight. It saw Gabbidon feature for West Ham, QPR and Crystal Palace over a 10-year period where he often made a telling impact. His best from came in the 2005-06 season for West Ham where his efforts saw him named 2005 Welsh Footballer of the Year and help The Hammers reach the FA Cup that season. A true professional who always delivered when it mattered.
LB: Ben Davies
An always reliable presence on the left flank, Ben Davies is someone who thrives in the full-back position. His endless energy mixed with pace and excellent passing skills have seen him become a regular for Tottenham for nearly a decade. His understanding of the game has helped him regularly torments defenders as well as attacks and notch up over 170 appearances for Spurs. It’s a reason why the North London faithful have adopted him as one of their own and seen Davies become a mainstay in the squad for the best part of a decade.
CB: Ashley Williams
A natural leader on and off the pitch, Ashley Williams was always someone who took command of the penalty area. His powerful presence in the air as well as his strong tackling eliminated threats no matter where they came from on the pitch. It was a reason why he was a captain with both Swansea and Everton in the top flight. His crowning moment came in the 2012-13 season where he led Swansea to the League Cup trophy as well as secure a top ten spot in the league. It’s why Williams was often highly regarded by many top teams even if he never did appear for any of the traditional powerhouses of the English game.
CB: James Collins
A true workhorse in all forms, James Collins never quit no matter who he played for in the English top flight. Collins was a colossus in the air and would always win his aerial duels – no matter what end of the pitch they were in. It was why he notched 3 goals for Aston Villa in the 2010-11 season – a career best for the Welsh international. His physical style often intimidated players who were low in confidence and helped Aston Villa and West Ham enjoy fruitful runs in the top flight. A throwback style that worked in the modern game.
CM: Gary Speed
For the best part of two decades, Gary Speed all-round abilities on the ball helped sides press and force opponents into making critical errors. Able to carry the ball with precise and quick dribbles as well as pick out pinpoint passes, Speed was indispensable to the likes of Newcastle, Everton and Bolton. Speed could also find the net with ease too as his 9 goal tally for Newcastle in the 1999/2000 season showed too. It was these skills that saw Speed included in the 1992-93 Premier League Team of the Year as proof of his value. His untimely death in 2011 saw tributes pour from every part of the footballing world proving how universally loved he was by fans and players alike.
CM: Mark Hughes
A tireless player who had endless amounts of energy, Mark Hughes could turn a game on its head without much effort. His driving runs into the box caused endless anguish for opponents as did his ability to convert from anywhere inside the box. It was with Manchester United that Hughes shone brightest with and his 15 goals in the 1992-93 season played a big role in United claiming the inaugural Premier League title. Hughes carried this form with him to Chelsea too and helped The Blues become a consistent top flight side. It was these reasons that Hughes was named 2x Welsh Footballer of the Year in 1993 and 1994 as well as Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 1997. These efforts – alongside a successful managerial career- saw Hughes earn a spot in the English Football Hall of Fame.
CM: Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey caught many off-guard when he moved from Cardiff to Arsenal in 2008 but it proved to be a masterstroke from The Gunners. Ramsey developed into a player who command the midfield with ease and turn the game on its head with ease. What set Ramsey apart from others was his pressing nature and the ability to make crucial runs into the box. This ability to get forward saw Ramsey become a top playmaker for much of the 2010s. This was evident in the 2013-14 season where Ramsey scored 10 goals and claimed Arsenal’s Player of the Year award. His efforts saw him also claim Premier League Player of the Month and Goal of the Month on two separate occasions and become a fan favourite at The Emirates. A real gem of a player for both club and country.
FW: Ryan Giggs
One of the everlasting players of the Premier League, there was very little Ryan Giggs couldn’t do when on the pitch. His quick runs and dribbles easily bamboozled the best defenders of multiple eras and he was a confident finisher from any angle of the pitch. It was why Giggs notched 114 goals in the Premier League and is the only player to score in three different decades of the Premier League. That’s on top of winning 13 league titles with Manchester United as well as being included in 6 Premier League Team of the Year. On top of that, Giggs was included in the League’s all-time XI in 2012 as well as being inducted into the English Hall of Fame in 2005. An all-time legend in British football.
FW: Craig Bellamy
There have been very few strikers who could lead the line quite like Craig Bellamy. Alongside excellent footwork on the ball, the combination of explosive pace and a powerful shot made Bellamy a handful for any defence to deal with. These skills made Bellamy a top striker for many teams such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Blackburn and Man City in his long and storied career. His best form arguably came with Blackburn in the 2005-06 season where he netted 13 times in 27 games as well as the club’s Player of the Season. His penchant for the spectacular was also noted thanks to winning 2 Premier League Goal of the Month prizes adding to the reason why fans and colleagues valued his efforts. With 75 goals in the top flight, the 2007 Welsh Footballer of the Year remains a beloved figure to many fans in English football to this day.
FW: Gareth Bale
It’s hard to imagine that Gareth Bale started his career as a defender. Yet his move from Southampton to Spurs set forth a transformation. One that turned Bale into one of the premier attackers in European football. Bale’s explosive pace mixed with a menacing left foot dismantled teams with ease. Bale’s ability to strike in open play or any form of set-pieces turned him into one of Spurs’ best weapons on the pitch. This was proven by his 21-goal haul in the 2012-13 season that paved the way for his move to Real Madrid. Before then though, Bale would net a ton of awards including 3 of his eventual 6 Welsh Footballer of the Year awards, 2 PFA Player of the Year awards and 3 nominations for the Premier League Team of the Year. All of these accolades has been the key reason why Bale has been the driving force behind the resurgence of Welsh football and why he is regarded as one of the best players to ever emerge from The Valleys