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Ten years and counting

In 1991, the 22 teams of the old First Division handed in their resignation to the 104-year-old Football League and on February 20, 1992, the breakaway Premier League was formed.

The newly established collective's mission statement was to improve and evolve the state of English football, whose image had become tarnished by events on and off the pitch, and since the Premiership kicked off in August 1992 it has done just that.

Picture of the Decade: Liverpool miss a late chance and crash to defeat against Man Utd. Photo by Phil Noble (PA)

The top-flight of English football is now considered to be one of the best leagues in the world, overtaking the likes of Italy's Serie A, and while it may be behind Spain's Primera Liga in terms of quality its pacy, physical style has been branded as the most exciting.

Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore boasts: 'We can now sit back and reflect on a decade that has seen over 113 million fans pass through the turnstiles to watch players from 82 different countries in 34 different teams score over 10,000 goals.'

So it is with some justification that the Premier League are celebrating their ten year anniversary this season with much back slapping and lavish distinction.

To mark the decade, the Premier League have created the 10 Seasons Awards, chosen by a combination of public votes and a panel of selected football experts, the most coveted of which, the Overall Player of the Decade accolade, is to be revealed on April 27.

As an hors d'oeuvre to the big announcement, the Premier League have issued a number of teaser awards and topping the list of the decade's outstanding performers are Newcastle Untied captain Alan Shearer and former Manchester United favourite Eric Cantona.

Shearer, who began his career with Southampton before the conception of the Premiership, bagged the Domestic Player of the Decade accolade while Cantona, who began his career in English football with Leeds United in 1991, scooped the Overseas Player of the Decade award.

Shearer, who also landed the Outstanding Contribution to the FA Premier League award, has continually set the benchmark with his robust style and, following his £3.3million move to Blackburn for the inaugural 1992/93 Premiership season, the Wallsend Boys Club graduate became the first man to score 100 goals in the fledgling league.

His strike power helped fire Rovers to the Championship title in 1994/95, with 34 goals, and earned the former England international, with 63 caps and 30 goals, a £15million move to his native north east with Newcastle United - rejecting an approach from Manchester United.

Ironically, his rocket free-kick for Newcastle against United at Old Trafford this season made the 32-year-old the only player in the history of the Premiership to score 100 goals for two different clubs and also landed him the Top Goalscorer award to complete a prize hat-trick.

The Tyneside hero also makes it into the Premier League's Domestic Team of the Decade.

Overseas star Cantona was a household name in France before joining Leeds to win the old Football League championship for the final time in 1992. However, the unpredictable Frenchman fell out of favour at the Yorkshire club and began his Premier League career with Manchester United following a cut-price £1.2million move in November 1992.

I would love it if we beat them. Love it!
Quote of the Decade: Kevin Keegan vents his anger.

The former France international, who had also fallen out of favour with the national side, came with high praise from United centre-backs Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, who had the misfortune to play against him, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson saw the Frenchman as the final piece of his jigsaw.

It proved to be the case and the inspirational forward helped United to the Premiership title in 1993 and a League and FA Cup double the season after.

The following year, however, the volatile striker famously kung-fu kicked an abusive fan, resulting in a court case and a six-month ban that ruined United's title defence.

On his return in October 1995, he made an immediate impact and scored the equaliser against United's arch-rivals Liverpool and went on to score the winner in the FA Cup final as the Red Devils scooped another double.

In 1997, Cantona retired from United, and football, with yet another Premiership crown and departed Old Trafford having inspired the Red Devils dominance of domestic football and a batch of young players including Paul Scholes and David Beckham.

Unsurprisingly the Stretford End hero makes it into the Premier League Overseas Team of the Decade along with fellow Reds Roy Keane, Dennis Irwin and Dutch defender Jaap Stam.

Stam, now playing his football for Lazio in Italy, also became a United legend following his record-breaking £10.5million move from PSV Eindhoven in 1998 and helped United continue their winning ways following Cantona's departure.

The 6'3" centre-back hastily left Old Trafford for Rome following the publication of his controversial autobiography but is happy to see he is remembered fondly in the Premiership.

'It's always nice to be appreciated by fans and people who love football,' The Dutch international said. 'Every time you win an award, it's great.

'It's a good thing to hear that a lot people think I'm still a good player.'

Asked who he would have in his select team Stam remained loyal to his former United colleagues.

'I'd have my old teammates Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke,' said Stam. 'They scored a lot of goals together and they played against great teams playing very well. They're quality players.

'I think I would have Roy Keane, and Ronny Johnsen. I'm probably forgetting a lot of players, but being alongside the likes of talented players like Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt was great.'

Stam may be understandably biased but Manchester United's dominance of the Premiership during its short history is also reflected in the Premier League awards.

The Goal of the Decade honour also goes to a United player. England captain David Beckham scoops the award for his 60-yard goal against Wimbledon, beating Dennis Bergkamp's strike at St James Park last season into second place and Matt Le Tissier's effort for Southampton against Blackburn in 1994 into third.

At the other extreme Save of the Decade goes to Peter Schmeichel, yet another United legend who also makes Overall Team of the Decade.

The great Dane was famed for his sprawling, match winning saves during his time at Old Trafford and while his reflex stop from a John Barnes header in December 1997 won him the award, he also grabbed second place with his save from Don Hutchison at Anfield during the 1992/93 season.

Presiding over the above award winners during his 16-year tenure at United is manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the 61-year-old Scot scoops the Most Coaching Appearances honour and the Manager of the Decade bestowal to add to United's impressive haul.

But the Fergie factor does not end there and the Red Devils' influence is also a factor in the destination of the Quote of the Decade gong, awarded to Kevin Keegan for THAT rant.

With the 1995/96 Premiership season coming to ahead and Newcastle, top of the table under Keegan's charge, under pressure from Manchester United, Ferguson upped the ante by suggesting that teams tried harder against his side than Keegan's.

The comments prompted the Newcastle manager to completely lose his cool live on Sky TV and blurted: 'I think you have to send a tape of the game to Alex Ferguson - isn't that what he wants? You just don't say that about Leeds.

'I would love it if we could beat them. He's gone down a lot in my estimation. Football in this country is honest. You sometimes wonder about abroad but not in this country.

'I would love it if we beat them. Love it!'

They didn't.

Keegan's Newcastle continued to battle for the title and with seven games of the 1995/96 season remaining Newcastle travelled to Anfield, three-points behind United with Liverpool not out of the reckoning in third place.

The Magpies fought out an exhilarating 4-3 defeat, with Stan Collymore scoring a 92nd minute winner, which ended Newcastle's title hopes but has now won them the Match of the Decade distinction - beating Manchester United's 5-3 figthback victory over Tottenham into second place despite 49 per cent of the public's vote.

Other landmark awards go to former Newcastle and Tottenham striker Les Ferdinand, as Scorer of the 10,000th Premier League Goal, and Newcastle midfielder Gary Speed, who bagged the award for Most Premier League Appearances.

England and Arsenal veteran David Seaman picks up the Goalkeeper with Most Clean Sheets accolade but it isn't enough to get the pony tailed one into the prestigious....

  • Overall Team of the Decade:

    Goalkeeper - Peter Schmeichel
    Defenders - Gary Neville, Tony Adams, Marcel Desailly, Denis Irwin
    Midfielders - David Beckham, Patrick Vieira, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs
    Strikers - Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer.

  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.