Bench Warmers to Benchmarks: The EPL’s Unlikely Heroes in 2016/17


This seems to be the Chinese year of the underdog. No, not the team of underdogs, THAT title belonged to Leicester City last season. This is redemption hour for the previously isolated, regularly ridiculed individuals; Fringe players who seldom grab the headlines for the right reasons and often grabbed them for the wrong ones.  The tables have turned.
Yep, the unlikeliest of heroes are stepping up.

Maybe it’s just a case of managers using their star man as decoys to throw opposition managers off, but this is definitely a time for cult heroes.The bench warmer of previous seasons has now become the benchmark.

Raheem Sterling 

Struggled under the burden of the huge 50 Million price tag last season, Raheem Sterling is finally living up to the hype.  A new lease of life under Pep Guardiola, he is scoring regularly for City and assisting as frequently too.

(Basically he is doing now what he was bought for, just one year delayed )

Cristhian Stuani

Stuani has come out of nowhere, just like most of his goals this season.

The Uruguayan striker has scored 3 Premier league goals already and looks set to be the main reason Middlesborough  stay up this season.

For his national team he’s had limited chances, mainly because the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani happen to be part of the setup. At the Riverside (when fit) he starts and has forged a good understanding with Alvaro Negredo.

Michail Antonio

The Hammers star is second overall in the goal scoring charts with 5 goals already this season. His team might be struggling to find a win, but he finds the net with stunning regularity. Dimitri Payet can cross with his eyes closed (or at times cross legged) knowing Antonio will be at the end of it – his faith is not without tangible evidence.

James Milner

Jurgen Klopp’s utility man has put in a solid shift at left-back, and has done so without as much as even a shrug of shoulders or sigh of frustration. He didn’t sign for Liverpool to play in defence. In fact, he signed for the Reds after been given reassurances by (then Manager) Brendan Rodgers to play in central midfield. He has however, been rewarded for his patience. Current top scorer for Liverpool (surprising, but true) mainly due to Milner having taken over spot kick duties, he has finished his penalties with aplomb.

(UnderDog) Manager of the month : Mike Phelan

He is not going to be winning any titles with Hull but he has won the respect of football fans everywhere, taking the reins of a club in tumultuous times and steadying the ship somewhat against expectations. There is no doubt that his players play for him, and team spirit is high.  With losses now mounting up, it will be interesting to see how he keeps his thin squad going throughout the long season.

All in all, we are seeing the inspirational effects of Leicester’s monumental achievement last season having a galvanising effect on players previously written off or mocked. “If they could do it, so can I” seems to be the mantra.

All of the above mentioned are well on there way to writing their names in club folklore. Maybe they were previously, but the difference now is that it could be for the right reasons.


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