The 25th anniversary of the last all-English Premier League XI

<span>George Boateng sticking it to the last Premier League all-English XI.</span><span>Photograph: Colorsport/Shutterstock</span>
George Boateng sticking it to the last Premier League all-English XI.Photograph: Colorsport/Shutterstock


It’s a decent quiz question. What is the significance of this band of players? Michael Oakes, Steve Watson, Riccardo Scimeca, Gareth Southgate, Alan Wright, Paul Merson, Ian Taylor, Simon Grayson, Lee Hendrie, Julian Joachim and Dion Dublin. Don’t read on for the answer … yet. Go on, have a guess. Some of you will know that these lot played for Aston Villa in the 1990s, others will spot that this is an entirely English XI. The brightest readers on the Football Daily mailing list might guess that this was the last time an all-English XI was put out in the Premier League. They would be right, and today marks the 25th anniversary of that match. But rather than being something to celebrate, some sort of post-Brexit ‘this-used-to-be-a-country’ love letter to the glories of yesteryear, it should be noted that Villa were absolutely hopeless on 27 February 1999, battered 4-1 at home to Coventry, who boasted such luminaries as John Aloisi (Australia, two goals that day), future Villa legend George Boateng (Netherlands, two goals that day), Magnus Hedman (Sweden), Roland Nilsson (Sweden) and Gary McAllister (Scotland).

The Premier League had already long been better for the introduction of foreign players, but John Gregory, Villa’s English managerial maverick, apparently hadn’t got the memo. Even Villa’s substitutes that day – Mark Draper, Gareth Barry and Stan Collymore – were all English. Not to say that this was a bad football team: Villa would lose the next three matches before rallying to finish sixth that season, above Gérard Houllier’s Liverpool side. Merson, Collymore, Southgate and Hendrie were all England internationals and a young Barry, controversially signed from Brighton a couple of years before, went on to be the Premier League’s all-time record appearance holder. Per Opta, there have been 52 all-English starting XIs named in Premier League history – 19 of those coming from Gregory’s Aston Villa side between October 1998 and February 1999, but Villa’s 4-1 defeat 25 years ago was the most recent.

There have been a few teams that have since come close to taking the title. Steve McClaren’s starting Middlesbrough XI on 7 May 2006 contained 11 players with an average age of 20 years and 181 days – the youngest starting line-up in Premier League history. Fifteen of the 16 players in their squad were born within 30 miles of the Riverside Stadium, but James Morrison was capped by Scotland two years later in May 2008. And of course Burnley, under Sean Dyche, fielded 10 starting English players alongside Czech striker Matej Vydra on four separate occasions between June 2020 and February 2021.

And so 27 February 1999 remains in the history books. Later that year, on Boxing Day, Chelsea would field the first foreign XI in the Premier League, away at Southampton, to much bristling on the terraces and in the media. Even Big Website joked that “Chelsea will soon be accepting euros at the club shop” and that skipper Dennis Wise, absent on the day, might change his name to “Dennis Raisonnable”. Mercifully these days, we can (mostly) get on with just enjoying the brilliant football in front of us, without worrying about that sort of thing. But for anyone that is upset that there aren’t so many Alans, Gareths, Ians, or Lees playing in the Premier League any more, please take heart that the best current player in the division is still just a bloke called Kevin.


Join John Brewin now for MBM coverage of the Lionesses 3-1 Italy in their international friendly, while Rob Smyth will be in situ for FA Cup clockwatch coverage of all the evening’s fifth-round action from 7.30pm.


“How can you not savour that at the end? I thought Coventry’s fans were magnificent. I don’t think they were just supporting Coventry but also Maidstone, deep down. Nobody can take this moment away from us. We have created so many beautiful moments and it is not just for our community but globally. We have inspired so many people all around the world with how we’ve gone about it. For me, football is the winner, because football brings communities together and inspires so many people around the world” – George Elokobi hails his players and supporters after their FA Cup adventure came to an end with a 5-0 shellacking by the Championship side.


While Nick Livesey is obviously being a bit tongue in cheek at suggesting the Etihad be the one national venue for Manchester and surroundings (yesterday’s Football Daily letters), I just want to take issue with the rich South Manchester characterisation, leaving aside the contentious issue of government funding redevelopment for a foreign/non-dom owned football club for the moment. While there are definitely leafy (and pricey) areas around Chorlton, Hale Barns, the Heatons and such, and much of Trafford is generally well off, plenty of the south of the city still needs serious investment and is definitely not among the richest areas of the country. Moss Side, Wythenshawe for two obvious examples, and the Old Trafford and Stretford area where the stadium is situated are demonstrably not that, quite the opposite, it only takes a glance at the Index of Multiple Deprivation map to see it” – Mark Read.

If Chris Wilder is correct that teammates squaring up to each other happens all the time throughout the league ‘pyramid’ (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition), doesn’t this fall very much into the category of things we don’t want to see in football but really love to see? A slot for ‘teammates’ tantrum of the month’ on Match of the Day would be be most welcome” – John Myles.

Send letters to Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … John Myles, who lands a copy of Pat Nevin: football and how to survive it, published by Octopus Books.