Football has been around for a lot longer than a quarter of a century, of course, but the Premier League as we know it hasn’t. Yep, everyone’s favourite oversold, overhyped, probably overrated English product is 25 this summer , and despite all of its flaws we still love it anyway. After all, let’s face it, we’d be out of a job if it didn’t exist.
And to celebrate the division’s 25th birthday, we’ve decided to try and distill each of its 25 seasons into one image for each year, an image that sums up everything about that campaign and all that it meant to football fans.
1992/93: Fergie and Brian Kidd can’t contain their excitement
Manchester United have been the dominant force for much of the Premier League era, and that all started here when Steve Bruce’s two late goals – the latter coming in the 96th minute – which as good as sealed their first league title for 26 years, with their manager and assistant left jumping for joy.
1993/94: Everton stay up against all the odds
Everton, Premier League ever-presents, looked as good as relegated when they fell 2-0 down to Wimbledon on the final day of the 1993/94 campaign, but they fought back to win 3-2 and preserve their proud top-flight status.
Graham Stuart, the scorer of two goals, even got a kiss for his troubles.
1994/95: Eric Cantona introduces himself to a Crystal Palace fan
In what is still one of the more remarkable incidents of English football history, Eric Cantona was banned for eight months and given 120 hours of community service for this king-fu kick on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995.
Still, at least it gave his seagulls something to follow…
1995/96: “Collymore closing in…”
In what is usually referred to as the greatest game in Premier League history, Stan Collymore popped up to fire home Liverpool’s winner in a remarkable 4-3 victory over a Newcastle side who were throwing away their title chances.
Magpies boss Kevin Keegan could only respond in one way.
1996/97: Introducing… David Beckham
David Beckham had already racked up a handful of appearances for Manchester United’s first team by the opening game of the 1996/97 season away at Wimbledon, but this was when he really exploded onto the scene.
United would win the title by seven points that season.
1997/98: Bergkamp’s 1, 2 , 3
Dennis Bergkamp’s hat-trick at Leicester early on in the 1997/98 season has become the stuff of Arsenal legend, and incredibly his three goals featured as Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the BBC’s Goal of the Month competition for August 1997.
1998/99: Paolo Di Canio takes his place in Premier League infamy, as does Paul Alcock
Although not quite as severe as Cantona’s kick above, Paolo Di Canio’s shove on referee Paul Alcock which sent the official tumbling to the ground in Sheffield Wednesday’s clash with Arsenal in September 1998 still beggared belief.
He was banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000, but it was still pretty funny.
1999/2000: The Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira rivalry really begins
Manchester United’s Keane and Arsenal’s Vieira had played against each other before, of course, but it was this league clash at Highbury early on in the 1999/2000 campaign which really cemented the rivalry.
And gave us an image for the ages.
2000/01: Fergie completes his hat-trick
The 2000/01 campaign was one of Manchester United’s more convincing Premier League title triumphs, winning it by 10 points, and it also created history for Sir Alex Ferguson.
With this victory, he became the first manager in English football to win three successive league crowns.
2001/02: Sol Campbell doesn’t get welcomed home
It was one of the more controversial transfers in Premier League history, and upon Sol Campbell’s first return to White Hart Lane in an Arsenal shirt in November 2001 he was left in no doubt about how the Tottenham fans now felt about him.
2002/03: Remember the name
Everton fans had been aware of the prodigious talent of teenager Wayne Rooney for a while, but when he exploded onto the scene in October 2002 the whole football world suddenly got a glimpse of him.
Rooney’s stunning late winner against Arsenal was quite the introduction.
2003/04: The Invincibles
It is extremely doubtful that Arsenal’s achievement in going an entire season unbeaten will be beaten any time soon, and for that Arsene Wenger’s side will always be remembered.
Their 2-1 victory over Leicester on the final day of the 2003/04 campaign confirmed the achievement, and the run ended at 49 the following season.
2004/05: West Brom pull off the Great Escape
Bottom at Christmas, and bottom at various points throughout the final afternoon of the season, West Brom were repeatedly told they had no chance of staying up after what had at times been a nightmare season, but stay up they did.
Their victory over Portsmouth led to Southampton, Crystal Palace and Norwich going down.
2005/06: Jose Mourinho gives his medal to the fans
Having blazed a trail in his first campaign at Chelsea in the previous season, Jose Mourinho backed up that success with another Premier League title in 2005/06, and seemed more than a little blase about it.
Instead of keeping his medal he tossed it to the Blues fans, seemingly claiming that it was for them as much as it was him.
2006/07: Carlos Tevez keeps West Ham up and sends Sheffield United down
West Ham’s signings of Argentina World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano stunned everyone prior to the 2006/07 season, and people were left pretty stunned by the end of it too.
After Tevez’s goals kept West Ham up and sent Sheffield United down an almighty wrangle about his transfer followed, with the third-party ownership behind it found to be illegal.
The Blades, by the way, have never returned to the top-flight.
2007/08: Cristiano Ronaldo dominates as United shine
Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed his standout Premier League season as Manchester United clinched the title in 2007/08, with his 31 strikes – including this stunning free-kick against Portsmouth – earning him the Golden Boot.
2008/09: Steven Gerrard has one for the cameras at Old Trafford
United won the league again in 2008/09, but not before being given a scare by a Liverpool side who made a late run to overtake them.
That run included a 4-1 win over United at Old Trafford, with skipper Steven Gerrard giving the viewers at home something to remember.
2009/10: A Bridge too far for John Terry
As viewers settled down to watch the clash between Chelsea and Manchester City in February 2010 they would have been expecting a lively, entertaining game, and that in the end is what they got.
City won 4-2, but you probably don’t remember that bit about the afternoon, do you?
2010/11: Wayne Rooney takes to the skies
This wasn’t Wayne Rooney’s best season in a Manchester United shirt, with suggestions surfacing that he wanted to quit the club amid rows with Sir Alex Ferguson, but all of that forgotten when he scored this incredible bicycle kick winner in a February 2011 Manchester derby.
It had to be, didn’t it?
Manchester City’s thrilling Premier League title in in 2011/12 will surely never be bettered for the club’s supporters, who saw their side literally snatch the trophy out of rivals United’s hands with two goals in injury time against QPR.
2012/13: Fergie’s farewell
Having delayed his retirement following that Sergio Aguero goal, Sir Alex Ferguson was able to put things right the following season, as the signing of Robin van Persie powered United to their and his 13th Premier League title.
2013/14: The Slip
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool had been thrilling in 2013/14, and their small squad looked as though it was going to pull off a hugely unlikely Premier League title success until they came up against Chelsea in late April.
One slip by their captain later, that trophy had escaped their grasp.
2014/15: The Return of the King
Having come back to the club the previous season, this would prove to be Jose Mourinho’s crowning glory back at Chelsea.
Although not a team blessed for the way they played, his Blues were resolute and deserved their title success – his third and last one in west London.
2015/16: Claudio Ranieri performs a miracle
Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title success will be talked about for generations to come, with Claudio Ranieri leading his unheralded bunch of players to a stunning triumph.
His prize? Getting champagne dumped all over him by Christian Fuchs.
2016/17: “Wenger Out” becomes a phenomenon, but doesn’t work
With Arsenal stationed outside of the Premier League’s top four for a large period of the season, Gunners fans repeatedly turned on Arsene Wenger as a status they previously came to regard as a divine right was slipping away.
Their protests didn’t work though, and after lifting the FA Cup last month, Wenger signed a new two year contract.