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A look back – the arrival of squad numbers in the Premier League, 1993-94

A look back – the arrival of squad numbers in the Premier League, 1993-94

This season marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of squad numbering in the Premier League, the first major European league to do so, and we decided to look at the opening weekend of that 1993-94 season to see how the fledgling concept  was embraced.

We had planned for this to coincide with the opening weekend of the current season, but plans don’t always work out, sadly.

While a team’s mean number (all 11 added up and divided by 11) may often be the best way of seeing how close they are to 1-11, a team with ten low numbers and then one in the 20s will have an artificially high mean, so we have included the medians (sixth in numerical order) too. A team with 1-11 will have a mean and a median of 6.

Arsenal 0 Coventry City 3

1 David Seaman 4 Peter Atherton
2 Lee Dixon 6 David Rennie
3 Nigel Winterburn 7 John Williams
4 Paul Davis 10 Micky Quinn
5 Andy Linighan 11 Stewart Robson
6 Tony Adams 12 Peter Ndlovu
7 Kevin Campbell 17 Roy Wegerle
8 Ian Wright 18 Sean Flynn
10 Paul Merson 19 Tony Sheridan
15 Anders Limpar 20 Phil Babb
17 John Jensen 23 Jonathan Gould

Average: Arsenal 7.09, Coventry 13.36; Median: Arsenal 6 (joint lowest), Coventry 12

For Arsenal, Kevin Campbell had worn 9 in the final game of 1992-93, a win over Crystal Palace, but Alan Smith had had it for the two cup finals with Campbell 7. One interesting change was that Ray Parlour – 11 against Palace and in the cup finals – was given 23 with new signing Eddie McGoldrick wearing 11.

Coventry had the ‘highest lowest’ number as the first three names on their list – Steve Ogrizovic, Brian Borrows and Steve Morgan – were absent. Atherton and Rennie retained their numbers from the final game of 1992-93 as they drew 3-3 with Leeds, a game where Babb had worn 3, Quinn was 9 with Ndlovu 10 and John Williams 11.

Aston Villa 4 Queen Park Rangers 1

1 Nigel Spink 1 Tony Roberts
2 Earl Barrett 3 Clive Wilson
3 Steve Staunton 4 Ray Wilkins
4 Shaun Teale 5 Darren Peacock
5 Paul McGrath 7 Andy Impey
6 Kevin Richardson 8 Ian Holloway
7 Ray Houghton 9 Les Ferdinand
9 Dean Saunders 10 Bradley Allen
10 Dalian Atkinson 14 Simon Barker
11 Tony Daley 18 Karl Ready
14 Andy Townsend 21 Tony Witter

Average: Aston Villa 6.54, QPR 9.09; Median: Aston Villa 6 (joint lowest), QPR 8

These sides had also met in the last game of 1992-93, with QPR winning 2-1.

Of the players who started for Villa, nine played here – Mark Bosnich was in goal that day but was given number 13, while Garry Parker retained 8 but was supplanted by new signing Andy Townsend.

QPR had eight survivors, all keeping their low numbers. Missing defenders Clive Wilson (3) and Alan McDonald (6) were still first-choice when available but number 11 Andy Sinton was in the process of engineering a move away – at first it seemed he was heading to Arsenal but he ended up as Sheffield Wednesday’s number 15.

Chelsea 1 Blackburn Rovers 2

1 Dmitri Kharine 1 Bobby Mimms
5 Erland Johnsen 2 David May
6 Frank Sinclair 4 Tim Sherwood
7 John Spencer 6 Graeme Le Saux
9 Tony Cascarino 7 Stuart Ripley
10 Gavin Peacock 8 Kevin Gallagher
11 Dennis Wise 10 Mike Newell
12 Steve Clarke 11 Jason Wilcox
15 Mal Donaghy 12 Nicky Marker
20 Glenn Hoddle 21 Kevin Moran
26 Andy Dow 22 Mark Atkins

Average: Chelsea 11.09, Blackburn 9.45; Median: Chelsea 10, Blackburn 8

Chelsea’s Frank Sinclair was wearing 3 in their final league game of 1992-93 while John Spencer wore 8. Gavin Peacock was a new signing from Newcastle, for whom he had worn 8 in 1992-93, but new player-manager Glenn Hoddle gave him 10 and took 20 himself. Hoddle’s main rival for the sweeper role, David Lee, was allocated number 4.

Graeme Le Saux had worn both 9 and 11 for Chelsea in 1992-93 before joining Blackburn, for whom he wore 3 in the nine games he played in April and May, including the 1-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the season.

However, he was given 6 for 1993-94 with Alan Wright wearing 3 and Nicky Marker – 6 against Wednesday – in 12 while club captain Kevin Moran was 21. Kevin Gallacher had been 9 against Wednesday, as he was in all the games after he signed around the same time as Le Saux, but that digit was always going to go to Alan Shearer, recovering from injury, meaning the Scot was given 8.

Liverpool 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0

1 Bruce Grobbelaar 1 Chris Woods
2 Rob Jones 2 Roland Nilsson
4 Steve Nicol 3 Nigel Worthington
5 Mark Wright 4 Carlton Palmer
7 Nigel Clough 7 Paul Warhurst
9 Ian Rush 9 David Hurst
11 Mark Walters 11 John Sheridan
12 Ronnie Whelan 12 Andy Pearce
14 Jan Molby 14 Chris Bart-Williams
20 Stig Inge Bjornebye 17 Des Walker
25 Neil Ruddock 18 Phil King

Average: Liverpool 10, Sheffield Wednesday 8.9; Median: Liverpool 9, Sheffield Wednesday 9

Nigel Clough, signed from Nottingham Forest, was the new owner of the fabled number 7 Liverpool shirt and he scored both goals here. Incidentally, Steve Harkness was the last player to wear 7 for Liverpool in the 1-11 era.

While 5 had been a midfielder’s number at Anfield for more than a decade, during the 1992-93 season Mark Wright had snaffled it, much to Ronnie Whelan’s chagrin, leaving the Irishman with 12 now. While Jamie Redknapp had worn 6 in the 6-2 win over Tottenham at the end of 1992-93, he was assigned number 15 with Don Hutchison wearing 6. There is an substantiated rumour that Neil Ruddock – number 6 for Spurs in that 6-2 game – wore 25 because he had signed for £2.5m.

Like Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday had had a taster of squad numbering in the 1992-93 cup finals. Danny Wilson, who wore 7 in those games, was gone from the club, as was John Harkes, who had it for the final league game, so Paul Warhurst – the centre-back converted into a centre-forward, who had worn 9 in defence at Wembley – inherited the shirt.

Whether it was seen as a halfway between 5 and 9, we’re not sure, though he was up front here. However, he soon joined Blackburn, wearing 24 for them but often playing in midfield.

A new signing in defence for the Owls was Des Walker from Sampdoria for £2.7m – but he was given 17 and 6 was taken by Brian Linighan, who only played three games that season.

Manchester City 1 Leeds United 1

1 Tony Coton 1 John Lukic
2 Andy Hill 3 Tony Dorigo
3 Terry Phelan 4 David Batty
4 Steve McMahon 5 Chris Fairclough
5 Keith Curle 6 David O’Leary
6 Michel Vonk 7 Gordon Strachan
7 David White 9 Brian Deane
8 Mike Sheron 10 Gary McAllister
10 Garry Flitcroft 11 Gary Speed
11 Rick Holden 22 Gary Kelly
19 Fitzroy Simpson 25 Noel Whelan

Average: Manchester City 6.9, Leeds United 9.36; Median: Manchester City 6 (joint lowest), Leeds United 7

First off – marvel here at a wonderful goalkeeping performance by City’s Tony Coton.

Nearly a full house for City, who were without their number 9, Niall Quinn – a cruciate ligament injury that November would deny him a place at the 1994 World Cup.

The only change to Leeds’ accepted 1-11 from 1992-93 was David O’Leary, a free signing from Arsenal, taking 6 in the wake of Chris Whyte’s departure. Their number 2, Mel Sterland, hadn’t featured much in the previous campaign and wouldn’t play at all in 1993-94, allowing Gary Kelly to establish himself.

Newcastle United 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

1 Pavel Srnicek 1 Erik Thorstvedt
2 Barry Venison 2 Dean Austin
3 John Beresford 4 Vinny Samways
4 Paul Bracewell 5 Colin Calderwood
5 Kevin Scott 6 Gary Mabbutt
6 Steve Howey 8 Gordon Durie
7 Robert Lee 10 Teddy Sheringham
9 Andy Cole 12 Jason Dozzell
10 Lee Clark 14 Steve Sedgley
17 Nikki Papavasiliou 15 David Howells
21 Malcolm Allen 23 Sol Campbell

Average: Newcastle 7.72, Spurs 9.09; Median: Newcastle 6 (joint lowest), Spurs 8

Newcastle had beaten Leicester City 7-1 in the final game of their Division 1 title-winning campaign and the bulk of the team carried their numbers into the Premier League.

One change was that Andy Cole, 8 against Leicester, now wore 9 as David Kelly had left, with returning hero Peter Beardsley wearing 8.

While we would always associated Tottenham captain Gary Mabbutt with the number 6, he had in fact often worn 5 and did so at the end of 92-93, with Neil Ruddock in 6. Mabbutt was now 6 though with Colin Calderwood wearing 5 after his arrival from Swindon.

In the 1980s, the Tottenham number 9 shirt was often worn by a midfielder and this was the shirt that Darren Anderton inherited when he arrived from Potsmouth in 1992, keeping it as his squad number. It wouldn’t be until a re-arrangement of the numbers by George Graham in 1999 that Anderton switched to 7 with Les Ferdinand moving from 10 to 9.

During this season, Newcastle defender Kevin Scott joined Tottenham, where he was given the number 8, which had been freed up by Gordon Durie’s departure for Rangers. Into the vacant 5 at Newcastle came winger Ruel Fox when he joined from Noriwch.

Norwich 0 Manchester United 2

1 Bryan Gunn 1 Peter Schmeichel
2 Mark Bowen 2 Paul Parker
3 Rob Newman 3 Denis Irwin
4 Ian Crook 4 Steve Bruce
5 Ian Culverhouse 6 Gary Pallister
10 John Polston 8 Paul Ince
11 Jeremy Goss 10 Mark Hughes
12 Mark Robins 11 Ryan Giggs
14 Ruel Fox 12 Bryan Robson
17 Ian Butterworth 14 Andrei Kanchelskis
22 Chris Sutton 16 Roy Keane

Average: Norwich 9.18, Manchester United 7.9; Median: Norwich 10, Manchester United 8

The numbering of Norwich – third in the 1992-93 season – remains something of a mystery.

Seven of the team here played in the final game of that campaign, a 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough, and all seven had different numbers – Ian Culverhouse was 2, Mark Bowen 3, Rob Newman 4, John Polston 5, Ian Crook 7, Chris Sutton 8 and Ruel Fox 10. In addition, captain Ian Butterworth wore 4 in all of his games that season. Striker Efan Ekoku wore 9 against Boro was was given number 7, with midfielder Gary Megson wearing 9.

While the placing of Bowen, Crook and Culverhouse might suggest alphabetical numbering, Newman ruins that theory. One suggestion we have seen is that players were given their training numbers.

As a result of finishing third, Norwich got to compete in the Uefa Cup, where they beat Bayern Munich. With 1-11 still in operation in Europe, the numbers worn were closer to 1992-93 than to their squad numbers.

No bullshit from United, with their 1-11 given to the first team which had won the club’s first league title in 26 years. That meant that Bryan Robson, so often associated with the number 7, had to cede that to Eric Cantona, who was injured here.

The week before this game, United had played Arsenal in the Charity Shield and worn 1-11, with Roy Keane, a record £3.75m signing from Nottingham Forest, wearing 9 and Andrei Kanchelskis 5, but they were given 16 and 14 respectively.

Oldham Athletic 0 Ipswich Town 3

1 Paul Gerrard 2 Mick Stockwell
2 Craig Fleming 3 Neil Thompson
3 Neil Pointon 4 Paul Mason
4 Nick Henry 5 John Wark
5 Richard Jobson 6 David Linighan
6 Steve Redmond 7 Geraint Williams
7 Gunnar Halle 10 Ian Marshall
8 Andy Ritchie 11 Chris Kiwomya
9 Ian Olney 13 Clive Baker
10 Mike Milligan 15 Phil Whelan
11 Paul Bernard 18 Steve Palmer

Average: Oldham 6 (lowest), Ipswich 8.54; Median: Oldham 6 (joint lowest), Ipswich 7

Oldham were the only side to line up with the 11 players numbered from 1-11, but unfortunately it didn’t do them any good.

Funnily enough, while their team was the same as that which began the 4-3 win over Southampton in May, there was a small bit of shuffling – Gunnar Halle had worn 2, Craig Fleming 6 and Steve Redmond 7 – defender Redmond had come into the team for midfielder Neil Adams with three games to go, Halle moving forward from right-back and the squad numbers reflected this.

Former Oldham striker Ian Marshall scored for Ipswich here, having taken the number 10 shirt vacated by Tottenham-bound Jason Dozzell.  Number 11 Chris Kiwomya was the other striker – the 9 shirt was given to a new signing, Bulgarian attacking midfielder Bontcho Guentchev.

Sheffield United 3 Swindon Town 1

1 Alan Kelly 1 Fraser Digby
8 Paul Rogers 2 Nicky Summerbee
11 Mitch Ward 5 Luc Nijholt
14 David Tuttle 6 Shaun Taylor
16 Paul Beesley 7 John Moncur
17 Carl Bradshaw 8 Ross MacLaren
18 Dane Whitehouse 9 Jan Aage Fjortoft
19 Willie Falconer 10 Martin Ling
20 John Pemberton 11 Craig Maskell
21 Alan Cork 12 Steve White
22 Andy Scott 14 Adrian Whitbread

Average: Sheffield United 15.18 (highest), Swindon 7.72; Median: Sheffield United 17 (highest), Swindon 8

United were another real oddity – their tally of only three 1-11 players was two fewer than the next lowest, Coventry. And it wasn’t as if Dave Bassett had undertaken a huge overhaul, either – eight of the team started in the 4-2 win over Chelsea in May (Ward wearing number 2).

The Blades’ players numbered from 1-11 made 191 Premier League appearances (starts and subs) in 1993-94, with the players from 12-22 playing 252 times – again, it wasn’t done alphabetically, but perhaps there was some kind of seniority employed in deciding the order of who chose their numbers, like Spain?

Swindon had come up via the play-offs, beating Leicester 4-3 after ceding a 3-0 lead. Numbers 4 and 5 that day, Glenn Hoddle and Colin Calderwood respectively, had left the club – Micky Hazard was given 4 but he too would depart – while number 3 Paul Bodin was injured.

Luc Nijholt’s inclusion in midfield saw Ross MacLaren wear 8 in defence – presumably this inspired Marcel Desailly to do likewise for France.

Southampton 0 Everton 2

2 Jeff Kenna 1 Neville Southall
3 Micky Adams 2 Matt Jackson
5 Richard Hall 4 Ian Snodin
6 Ken Monkou 5 Dave Watson
7 Matt Le Tissier 6 Gary Ablett
8 Glenn Cockerill 7 Mark Ward
9 Iain Dowie 9 Tony Cottee
10 Neil Maddison 11 Peter Beagrie
13 Ian Andrews 12 Paul Holmes
14 Simon Charlton 14 John Ebbrell
16 Nicky Banger 15 Paul Rideout

Average: Southampton 8.81, Everton 7.81; Median: Southampton 8, Everton 7

The missing number 11 for Southampton was worn by Francis Benali, a left-back – he would change to 3 in 1996. Striker Nicky Banger had played in the last game of 92-93, wearing 11, but was given 16.

Paul Holmes had worn 2 in Everton’s 5-2 final-day win over Man City with Matt Jackson wearing 5  but that was always likely to revert to captain Dave Watson.

West Ham United 0 Wimbledon 2

1 Ludek Miklosko 1 Han Segers
2 Tim Breacker 6 Scott Fizgerald
3 Julian Dicks 7 Andy Clarke
4 Steve Potts 8 Robbie Earle
6 Martin Allen 9 John Fashanu
8 Peter Butler 10 Dean Holdsworth
9 Trevor Morley 15 John Scales
10 Clive Allen 17 Roger Joseph
11 Dale Gordon 20 Lawrie Sanchez
12 Tony Gale 24 Peter Fear
16 Matt Holmes 35 Alan Kimble

Average: West Ham 7.45, Wimbledon 13.81; Median: West Ham 8, Wimbledon 10

West Ham had come up from Division 1, coming second to Newcastle United. In their final game, Trevor Morley had worn 10 with David Speedie 9, but the latter was no longer with the club.

Otherwise, the low numbers were the same apart from Tony Gale, who had worn 5 for the final 21 games of the campaign. Presumably, seniority was the reason that 5 was given to former England defender Alvin Martin, who was 33 by this stage and would only play 11 games this season,

Wimbledon’s Alan Kimble was the only starter on the opening weekend to have a number in the 30s – the following season, he would switch to number 16 and then on to 3 for 1995-96.

The Dons had finished off  1992-93 with a home defeat against new champions Manchester United – John Scales was number 5 and Andy Clarke 11 that day but now they were 15 and 7 respectively.

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  1. […] With squad numbers having been introduced in the Premier League, it was decided to go with black-outlined red names for Rovers. […]

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A look back – the arrival of squad numbers in the Premier League, 1993-94