Alan Shearer (centre) won the golden boot award for three consecutive seasons
Squad numbers can often tell a story. In this case, they tell the story of the greatest goalscorers in the Premier League. The golden boot award is given annually to the player who scores the most league goals. It’s a personal accolade that is high up on a striker’s list of achievements.
This year, the golden boot is expected to be a close race between greats like Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Sergio Aguero. That’s what the experts think, but so far Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham is up there, while Salah and Kane in particular have struggled to get going. Perhaps surprisingly, none of the marquee three wear the centre-forward’s number 9 – Kane wears 9 for Spurs, Aguero is also number 10 and Salah is number 11.
The golden boot has been given out since the first Premier League season in 1992-93, and has continued to be a favourite talking point for fans ever since. Let’s take a look through the lens of their squad numbers to see if any patterns are revealed.
The Early Days
It was Teddy Sheringham who was top goalscorer in the first season, with 22 goals to his name; one for Nottingham Forest and the other 21 for Tottenham following an early transfer. He wore number 10 for Spurs that season, as he had done at Forest before that and would later do Manchester United.
The following year in 1993-94 Andy Cole won the golden boot at Newcastle with an unprecedented total of 34 goals, becoming the first player ever to score over 30 goals in the Premier League. He was number 9 for Newcastle.
The next three years were all about Alan Shearer. He was the unstoppable force in the Premier League, and no keeper wanted to stand before his strike. In 1994-95, Shearer scored 24 goals for Blackburn Rovers, helping them to win the league in the number 9 shirt. Those were the days, eh?
The next season he did it again with 31 goals, with Robbie Fowler a close second on both occasions. Shearer then transferred to Newcastle for a then-record deal of £15 million and won the golden boot for a third consecutive year with 25 goals, still wearing the number 9 for his new team. He is still the top total goalscorer of all time.
Teddy Sheringham was the first player to win the Premier League golden boot
The Low-Scoring Years
The next few years in the Premier League didn’t really see any single prolific striker take up the golden boot with dozens of goals. The years between 1997 and 1999 were low scoring in terms of the top goalscorers’ totals, especially after Alan Shearer had smashed out a few 30-goal seasons.
Although it wasn’t a superstitious number like number three or seven, still, 97-98 saw number 9 Chris Sutton, number 9 Dion Dublin and number 10 Michael Owen share the golden boot between the three with just 18 goals each and a collective average 0.5 goal-to-game ratio.
The 1998-99 season told a similar story, only with different players stepping up to score a relatively low 18 goals each. It was Owen who again stepped up to the plate, along with Manchester United’s Dwight Yorke, rocking the out-there number 19, and Leeds’ player Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wearing number 9. This was the iconic season when Manchester United won the treble, and goalscoring duties were split near enough evenly between Yorke, Cole and Solskjaer.
To finish the decade with a bang, it was Kevin Phillips who once again took the golden boot award to the 30-mark with an excellent season for Sunderland. He wore the number 10 shirt.
What Do The Squad Numbers Reveal?
The perceptive reader will have noticed that there are a lot of high squad numbers in this article, and in particular a lot of number 9s. This is not a coincidence. Traditionally, the higher numbers are reserved for the centre forwards and strikers of the team. Odds for golden boot winners are therefore generally skewed towards 9-11. Better value is available by utilizing Oddschecker bonuses.
The number 9 is usually the team’s main striker, with number 10 going to playmakers or other attacking players, and number 11 going to wingers. Of course, there are always blips, such as when Paul Ince wore number 9 as a defensive midfielder for Middlesbrough, Dwight Yorke wearing number 19 for Manchester United, or Harry Kane taking number 10 for Tottenham, despite being considered a ‘number 9’ in world football.
As this article was looking at the first eight or so seasons from the Premier League, teams were more likely to be traditional in their numbering, given that squad numbers were only introduced in 1993-94. As far as golden boot winners go, number 9 rules, but high numbers are all more likely than low numbers. How will it go this year?