They say loyalty in football is dead. And in truth, whoever ‘they’ is are probably right. Managers especially only seem to stay at one club for an average of three years, but players too move from club to club as they look to further their careers. In some cases this is understandable, but some players often move just because they will be earning more money and end up just sitting on the bench and help complete that club’s quota of English players.
So I thought I’d find the top five players in the Premier League who have been at one club all of their careers. Obviously younger players don’t count, so I made the rule that to qualify, players would have had to have made their debuts at least five years ago. Additionally, loan spells don’t matter – as long they have had the same permanent club for the entirety of their career. In fact, there’s actually very few English top flight players to choose from, and unfortunately in 10 years time I doubt there will be any at all…
5. Jeffrey Schlupp
At the age of 23, Jeffrey Schlupp is the youngest player on this list and only makes it onto it by the skin of his teeth having made his Leicester City debut in August 2011 against Rotherham in the League Cup, when he scored a hat-trick in the space of just 18 minutes. He was born in Germany, but moved to England when he was very young, being signed up by the Foxes as a 12 year old in 2005. Prior to that dream debut, the full-back/winger had spent a season on loan at Brentford.
Schlupp would not have made this list if a trial at none other than Manchester United had been successful in 2013, but a year later he was winning the Championship title with Leicester. The Foxes looked set to be relegated straight back down in their first season in the Premier League before an incredible turnaround in the last few weeks, and Schlupp won both the club’s Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards in 2014-15.
Then of course came the Foxes’ magnificent story in 2015-16. Starting the season at left-back, Schlupp moved onto the wing to accommodate Christian Fuchs and played a key role as Claudio Ranieri’s unlikely heroes lifted the Premier League trophy – once again winning the Young Player of the Year award.
In total. the Ghanaian international has played 146 games for Leicester, scoring 15 goals*. He did come close to leaving the King Power Stadium this summer though, with West Brom having multiple bids rejected for him.
4. Kieran Gibbs
Signed by Wimbledon as an 11 year old, Kieran Gibbs moved to Arsenal’s academy when the Dons disbanded in 2004. As a left winger, he went through the academy system in North London before making his debut aged 18 in October 2007 against Sheffield United in the League Cup. It was not until his loan spell at Norwich for the second half of the 2007-08 season that he became a left-back.
Nine years later, and Gibbs has made a total of 214 appearances for the Gunners, scoring six times*. Yet he has never been a regular feature in Arsene Wenger’s side, not making more than 28 Premier League appearances in a single campaign. This has been down to unfortunate luck with injuries, and players such as Gael Clichy and Nacho Monreal keeping him out of the side.
I was surprised to find out that Gibbs is 27 years old (I presumed he was much younger) and that only Theo Walcott has been at the Emirates Stadium longer. In his time at Arsenal, Gibbs has won two FA Cups and two Community Shields.
3. Andy King
We go back to Leicester for a player that very much goes under the radar, Andy King. Originally part of Chelsea’s academy from the age of 10, the midfielder was released at 15 before being picked up by Leicester in 2004. He made his first team debut for the Foxes aged 18 against Wolves in October 2007.
Since then, King as been part of the furniture at the club and been on their entire journey from the third tier of English football to the Champions League. By winning the title in League One (2009), Championship (2014) and Premier League (2016), the 27 year old is the first player to win the top three divisions with the same team in the Premier League era. He is also Leicester’s all-time highest scoring midfielder with 59 goals in a total of 341 appearances*. King has never even been out on loan.
Along the way, he has won the Leicester Player’s Player of the Season award in 2010 and 2011, the Young Player of the Season award in 2009 and was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Season in 2011.
This summer, the Welsh international signed a new four year contract at the King Power Stadium (aptly named), and if he lasts that duration he should make it into the club’s top five all time appearance makers (injury permitting). At the time of writing he has made 301 league appearances for Leicester, a figure that covers three divisions.
2. Mark Noble
You know you’re a one club man when you’re nicknamed ‘Mr West Ham’. Mark Noble has been with the Hammers since the age of 13, and made his debut for the Hammers aged 17 in a League Cup tie with Southend United in August 2004. After loan spells at Hull City and Ipswich Town, he became a first team regular at Upton Park in the 2007-08 season.
The central midfielder has gone on to make a total of 379 appearances for the club, scoring 44 goals* – most of which have come from the penalty spot, with Noble ever reliable from 12 yards. Of 30 career penalties in normal time, he has missed just three.* Only at the start of the 2015-16 season was he given the captain’s armband following the departure of Kevin Nolan.
Whilst at the club, Noble has won promotion from the Championship twice, both via the play-offs. He won the Hammers Player of the Year in 2011-12 and 2013-14, whilst he was also included in the PFA Championship Team of the Season in 2011-12. No other player has more Premier League appearances for West Ham than the 29 year old, who has 267.*
In March, Noble’s testimonial was held featuring a Hammers XI (players from years gone by) against the current side. The Hammers XI won a thrilling game 6-5, with Dean Ashton scoring an incredible bicycle kick. Noble said: “This is where I come from and this is my football club, so I can’t think of nothing better than having my Testimonial at the stadium where I have laughed, cheered and cried, both as a fan and as a player.”
1. John Terry
Just pipping Noble to top spot because he has been around for longer is John Terry, who has an incredible 708 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 66 goals. This puts him third in the club’s all-time appearances list, only behind Ron Harris and Peter Bonetti.
After signing for the Blues at the age of 14, he made his first team debut for the club aged 17 in October 1998 (two months before I was even born) in the League Cup against Aston Villa. The rest, they say, is history. Well, apart from a brief loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 2000.
Given the captain’s armband at Stamford Bridge by new manager Jose Mourinho in 2004, the centre-back has won everything there is to win at the West London club: Four Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, the Champions League and the Europa League. His individual accolades include being named Chelsea’s Player of the Year twice, being named in the PFA Team of the Season four times, the FIFA World XI five times and winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 2005.
No defender has more Premier League goals than Terry’s 40. Now 35, his time at Stamford Bridge looks to be coming to an end, and it nearly did this summer before he signed a one year contract extension. At the end of this season, who knows? The MLS seems the most likely destination, but he will always be a Chelsea and Premier League legend.
*statistics correct at the time of writing