The Premier League’s first ever non-British XI: Chelsea v Southampton

Josh Challies

Foreign players are everywhere in the Premier League these days but that didn’t used to be the case, as things were a lot different prior to the millennium.

England’s top-tier celebrates his 25th birthday this season and it’s almost unrecognisable to the landscape that Sky helped to create in 1994, a time where Wimbledon were in the Premier League and yet to become the nation’s most hated club.

The first weekend in Premier League history saw just 11 players feature that were not from Britain or Ireland and things have changed dramatically ever since, with 113 nations now boasting players who have played at least once in the top-flight.

After five years in the new set-up, Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli made history by naming the first non-British starting XI for a Boxing Day trip to Southampton in 1999- something that would have the Brexit believers up in arms if that piece of history was to occur today.

Chelsea’s side featured eight different nations, including two from South America and one from Africa, and the experiment went well as this side secured a 2-1 victory at The Dell.

Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo was the hero for Chelsea in their trip to the South Coast, scoring both goals, and the team went on to win the FA Cup that season, finishing fifth in the Premier League and exiting the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.

The first non-British XI paved the way for the rise of foreign players in the Premier League, with the number rising significantly over the years and non-Brits standing as 112 of the 220 players that played on the final day of last season.

Many criticise the influx of players from abroad within English football but it’s clear that the issue isn’t with the imports and is instead down to the coaching within our game, as British players simply aren’t good enough compared to their rivals from abroad.

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