Now you’ve probably all heard of the phrase ‘the streets won’t forget’. It’s around this time of year that it starts getting plastered all over social media. Even reading the dreaded four words, I am sure that you’ve immediately thought of a specific player. I know that I have.
But for those of you that have no idea what on earth I am going on about, I should probably explain what the streets won’t forget actually means. The expression is attributed to players that could be considered a mixed bag. As we all know, football can have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The streets won’t forget is used to recognise those that have had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing both.
The players that have gone from having the world at their feet during their prime, only to fall into oblivion shortly after. The one-season wonders, the lazy crowd-pleasers and the cult heroes of the Premier League. Ballers that didn’t quite reach legend status in their career but made a significant enough contribution to leave a lasting legacy.
They may not be remembered by the trophies they won or recognised by their career statistics, but at some point in their career, they made a difference because of their individual brilliance.
Having seen this phrase thrown around a lot more lately, I decided to dive headfirst into the Premier League archives to uncover some of those that the streets really won’t forget in a hurry. So, without further ado, grab a cuppa tea (or beer if you’re old enough) and relax as I take you on a trip down memory lane.
Whenever I see the expression ‘streets won’t forget’, my mind instantly transports me back to the days when Michu had Premier League defenders on strings. Having played for Oviedo and Celta Vigo in the Spanish second division for the early parts of his career, he made the step up to top-flight football when he signed for Rayo Vallecano in 2011.
In his only season for Rayo Vallecano, he scored an impressive 15 goals in 37 games, almost single-handedly carrying them to La Liga safety. Despite a good season in the Spanish first division, Michu was still very much an unknown identity in England. Michael Laudrup’s Swansea decided to take what can only be described as a hopeful punt, paying £3 million to acquire his services in South Wales. Michu had big shoes to fill, with fan favourite Gylfi Sigurdsson departing for Tottenham in the same window. There were high hopes that he could deliver, but not many would have predicted what followed next.
It took Swans fans just 8 minutes to see what he was all about, as he curled home his first Premier League goal from 25 yards against a helpless QPR goalkeeper. The game finished 5-0 to Swansea, with Michu helping himself to two goals and an assist. It was in this game that we saw his trademark celebration for the first time. A celebration that the whole of England quickly became accustomed to.
The number nine scored a total of 22 goals in 43 games, guiding the Swans to a 9th place finish in his first season with the club. Adding to that, Michu scored the second goal in their 5-0 League Cup final victory against Bradford City, the first League Cup win in Swansea’s history. A strong season in Wales resulted in his first international call up for Spain, shortly followed by his international debut. In just one season, Michu had become a cult hero at Swansea.
Sadly, the success experienced in his first year was not replicated the following season. Consistent injury problems hampered his form, restricting him to just 22 appearances and 6 goals. Following a difficult second season in Wales, Michu was loaned out to Italian giants Napoli, with the option of a permanent deal.
What looked like an excellent opportunity to get his career at the top level back on track, shortly turned into a disaster. Injury woes meant that Michu only made six appearances in Italy, and Napoli subsequently rejected the opportunity to sign him permanently. To add injury to insult, Swansea took the decision to release him in November 2015, leaving him clubless.
He joined amateur side UP Langreo in a brief spell before returning to boyhood club Oviedo ahead of the 2016-17 season. After being hindered by injury for the fourth year in a row, Michu made the difficult decision to retire from football at just 31 years of age.
A sad ending to a career that had so much potential, but an impact on the Premier League that will never be forgotten by fans.
I am sure we all think of the same thing when we read this man’s name. The sensational swerving strike against arguably the best Premier League goalkeeper at the time, Petr Cech. It is such a memorable goal, one of the best I have ever seen. It’s so good that people don’t even remember the other beauty he scored in the same game. Newcastle fans will have fond memories of his first season, tinged with sadness that this form was never reproduced.
Newcastle signed the Senegalese forward in the January transfer window of the 2011-2012 season, with Alan Pardew looking to bolster his forward options. He was given the iconic number nine shirt, worn by club legends Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole and Alan Shearer. No pressure lad.
Newcastle already had some talented players at the time – Demba Ba up front, Hatem Ben Arfa on the wing and Yohan Cabaye pulling the strings in midfield. But Cisse took Pardew’s side to another level, announcing himself to the Premier League in spectacular fashion. The new number nine scored 13 goals in just 14 games, earning Newcastle a place in Europe.
Not only did he forge a deadly partnership with Senegalese counterpart Ba, but Cisse also scored some of the most aesthetically pleasing goals I have seen. It just seemed like everything he hit flew into the back of the net. I am not a Newcastle fan, nor do I have any sort of affiliation to Newcastle, but that season they were the most exciting team to watch in the country.
Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last. The following season Newcastle struggled to a 16th place finish, with Cisse unable to reproduce the goods in front of goal. An injury-stricken third year in Tyneside limited him to just 4 goals in the league.
The goalscoring touch returned to an extent in his fourth year at the club, scoring 11 goals in 22 games. Newcastle struggled in this season, flirting with relegation after Pardew departed for Crystal Palace. But hey, Newcastle replaced him with a man that claimed to be “the best coach in the Premier League”. John Carver was quickly found out in the Premier League and actually boasts the second-worst win percentage in Newcastle’s history. Excluding a six-month stint at Cypriot club Omonia, Carver has not been seen in the managerial hot seat since. I wonder if he still thinks he’s the best….
Anyway, back to Cisse. In his final season at the club in 2015, he severely struggled and was only able to contribute with three goals as Newcastle’s time in the top flight come to an end. Not fancying a season grafting in the Championship, Cisse did what all washed up footballers were doing at the time, move to China.
Shandong Luneng signed him for an undisclosed fee and again he had an immediate impact, scoring in his first start for the club. Two years in China have been followed by a further four years dotted around Turkey. A career that spiralled downhill after his first season with the Magpies, but an immediate impact that secures his place in Premier League folklore.
Funnily enough, Cisse finds himself at the same club as the next man on my list……
I mean if you have a skill move named after you, you have to be half-decent at football right? Yannick Bolasie’s story is an interesting one. These days, many players begin their career in state-of-the-art academy centres, but not Bolasie. The Congolese winger didn’t have the luxury of world-class training facilities and top-level coaches, instead beginning his career at semi-professional club Hillingdon Borough. He even had a short spell in the Maltese Premier League before being offered a trial at Championship side Plymouth Argyle.
He took his opportunity and was offered a two-year contract by the pilgrims, immediately shipped back out on loan to non-league side Rushden & Diamonds. Impressing at non-league level, Barnet gave Bolasie his first big break in the Football League. Two successful loan moves later, Argyle manager Paul Mariner decided to integrate him into the first-team setup.
Considered a late bloomer in English football, but by this point, Bolasie was just 21 years old. Two successful individual seasons at Plymouth resulted in a move to Bristol City. A steady season in Bristol earned him the young player of the year award. Despite impressing at Bristol, he outlined his desire to return to London and was subsequently sold to Crystal Palace. Let’s be honest, this is where we remember him from.
Flair, pace, creativity, and trickery are all words that come to mind when reminiscing on his spell at Palace. A real crowd-pleaser, Bolasie soon became a fan favourite with the eagles’ fans as they won promotion to the Premier League under Ian Holloway’s guidance. Adding goals and assists to his game, he played a large role in helping Crystal Palace establish themselves as a Premier League team. His improvements hadn’t gone unnoticed, with rumours circulating every transfer window.
He eventually got his big move away, signing for Everton in August 2016 for a reported £25 million. A transfer that had so much potential, onto bigger and better things right? Not quite. The transfer was a total disaster, and if it weren’t for Everton’s recent horrific spending then it could have gone down as one of their worst ever signings.
Bolasie started regularly during his first three months at the club, with manager Ronald Koeman utilising him all across the front line. Despite the consistent game time, he struggled to adapt to Koeman’s system and wasn’t putting in the performances that Prem fans had come to expect from him. Unfortunately for Bolasie, things did not get better. He ruptured his cruciate ligament against Manchester United in December 2016, ruling him out of action for a whole year.
He returned in the 2017/18 season but was restricted to a bit-part role, making the majority of his 17 appearances that year from the bench. In search of first-team football, Bolasie requested to be loaned out. His wish was granted and in August 2018 he secured a season-long loan at Aston Villa. Do you remember his time at Villa? Me neither. The loan was cut short, and he was shipped to Belgian side Anderlecht for the remainder of the season.
Unsuccessful loan moves to Sporting Lisbon and Middlesbrough took him to the end of his Everton contract, where he was released on a free transfer. As mentioned above, he now plays for Çaykur Rizespor alongside Papiss Cisse.
I miss the days of Bolasie terrorising Premier League defenders, making them question their profession as he glides past in the blink of an eye. In terms of dribbling and flair, there is only one man I can think in a similar era that rivals him. Conveniently, it is the final player on my list.
The name you’ve probably all been waiting for when you read ‘the streets won’t forget’. Watching Adel Taarabt torment Championship and Premier League defenders will always be a highlight of mine. It was like he was playing power league, the ball just glued to his foot at all times. I honestly believe that with the correct attitude, Taarabt could have gone on to play for Barcelona or Real Madrid. Sadly, this was the vital ingredient he lacked.
The Moroccan began his career in France, but only made one first-team appearance for Lens, as he was loaned out to Tottenham in the January window. Spurs saw enough in his ability to make the deal permanent. This was short-lived. After only a handful of first-team appearances with the first team, Taarabt was stripped of his squad number and banned from the training ground by the manager at the time, Juande Ramos. After a successful loan spell, he moved to QPR permanently for the 2010-2011 season. It proved to be an absolute bargain for the hoops, as he had arguably the best season the Championship has ever seen.
Taarabt ended the season with 19 goals and 21 assists in just 44 games, carrying the team to promotion to the Premier League. It was the quality of the goals and assists that made that season so impressive. He scored at least five goals where he would just pick the ball up in his own half and dribble past the whole opposition team and put it top bins. He was voted in the Championship’s best XI and was also awarded the Championship Player of the Year.
Manager Neil Warnock clearly knew how to get a tune out of him. Not exactly a manager you’d expect a creative charismatic player to flourish under, but whatever the tactics were played to his strengths. Warnock later described Taarabt as a “luxury player”.
At the top level though, you can’t afford to carry a ‘luxury player’ and Warnock quickly discovered this. Both Warnock and club captain Joey Barton were highly critical of Taarabt’s attitude, something we have heard from pretty much every manager he has played under. The Tottenham game really summed up Adel Taarabt as a footballer. Scored a long-range free kick in the first half, only to be sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half. His attitude was beginning to become a serious problem.
Harry Redknapp was installed as QPR boss and immediately went to war with Taarabt. He was loaned out to Fulham for the 13/14 season, lasting just four months before being sent back to QPR. Then it was AC Milan’s turn to try and get a tune out of him. 14 appearances and four goals later and Milan rejected the opportunity to sign him permanently.
Returning to QPR, Harry Redknapp was highly critical of Taarabt, describing him as the “worst professional” he has ever managed. He was also quoted saying “He played a reserve game the other day and I could have run more than he did”. His days as a QPR player were over.
He made the move to Benfica, with the Portuguese club paying £4 million to sign him. After seven months in the reserve team, Taarabt became a first-team regular. He is now an established first-team player at Benfica, playing in defensive midfield. Taarabt and defensive midfield are certainly not words I ever expected to see in the same sentence.
He has turned his career around now, although you could argue it’s a little too late in the day. His poor attitude as a younger player robbed him of the opportunity to play regularly for the top European clubs.
Nevertheless, his 2010-2011 season in the Championship will never be topped in my opinion. He has earned his place in the streets won’t forget hall of fame.