When Daniel Sturridge was signed by West Brom in January, majority of pundits hailed the signing stating he was a quality addition “as long as he can stay fit”. Three minutes into the game against league champions Chelsea, Sturridge was substituted and looked clearly devastated at another setback in his never-ending fight to stay fit. I decided to have a look at three English players whose careers were curtailed by the injury curse.
As a Newcastle fan I am not sure if there is a player who is more frustrating than Kieron Dyer. He had so much pace and his direct running it was so frustrating to see his progress curtailed by multiple injuries. Dyer came through the Ipswich youth system and his performances at Portman Road were soon capturing the imagination of top sides. Ruud Gullit signed Dyer for Newcastle back in 1999 and many see that as Gullit’s only good signing during his time at St James’s Park. Dyer played his best football under the late Sir Bobby Robson and was seen as a key player in a very fresh youthful attacking outfit. Dyer helped Newcastle to qualify for Champions League and his ability to run with the ball made him an asset. Dyer was plagued with injuries and was never able to sustain a period of fitness. Sven Goran Eriksson, England manager at the time, saw Dyer as his solution to the famous left-wing problem in the lead up to World Cup 2002. However, injury again meant that he was not fit and limited him to substitute appearances at football’s premier competition. Dyer, was courted with a lot of off-field controversy, refusing to play on the wing for the legendary Sir Bobby and having an on-field fight with teammate Lee Bowyer. After Newcastle, he had a disastrous spell at West Ham where he broke his leg within a month of joining. That set the tone for his West Ham career and when he later retired he admitted it was a relief to be free of injuries affecting him.
When you consider that he won 2 Champions Leagues and titles in both Germany and England, it may surprise you that he is on this list. A Canadian citizen with an English father it was a breath of fresh air when Hargreaves played a part in Bayern’s 2001 Champions League win. This made him one of two English players to have won the Champions League with a non-English clubs. A dream move to Manchester United followed in 2007 as the Red Devils saw him as the perfect enforcer to enable Paul Scholes to get more of the play. Hargreaves was reaching his peak when he played a key role in Manchester United’s Champions League success in 2008. Injuries soon followed that year and a recurrent patellar tendinitis meant that he rarely played many more games and in truth ended his career at the young age of 27. With England, he earned 42 caps and was named the English player of the tournament at the World Cup 2006. Many feel Hargreaves would have been the perfect mould for Lampard and Gerrard to be able to attack. Instead due to Hargreaves injuries,numerous managers attempted and failed to create a team where Lampard/Gerrard/Beckham all fitted in.
Johnathan Woodgate is a player whose talents warranted a much greater return than 8 England caps. Woodgate broke through at Leeds and looked strong but also comfortable on the ball. He was widely regarded as the best Leeds youngster to come through the system and was given critical acclaim for his performances at Elland Road. He was involved in a high profile court case which he was charged with affray which proved to be a huge distraction from his football. Injuries soon began to follow and due to Leeds’s financial mismanagement Woodgate had to be sold to Newcastle. At Newcastle, Woodgate was fantastic when he played but it was too infrequent and spent much more time in the injury room then on the pitch. Real Madrd came calling in a shock transfer in August 2004 but as was the case with Woodgate his injury-hell continued only making his debut 13 months after signing. His debut is one of footballing legend for the wrong reasons unfortunately as he scored an own goal and sent off in the same game. He did manage to break back into Real Madrid side but injuries prevented him sustaining a place in the first team. Real Madrid lost patience with him and offloaded him to his homeclub Middlesborough. A spell at Spurs, saw his career highlight of scoring the winning goal in the League Cup Final in 2008.