Super subs
EPL hat tricks hit from the bench
Published: Jun 04, 2020 02:58 PM

Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Photo: VCG

The term "super sub" is one that football loves, at least when fans see a player that fits the bill. 

It always exclusively means strikers who can regularly be entrusted to come off the bench to score goals and sometimes there is nobody in the game that lives up to that.

Manchester United fans will remember when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did, though. The Norwegian, who now manages the club, set his stall out early with a debut goal from the bench to salvage a draw against Blackburn Rovers on opening day in 1996. 

A couple of seasons later it was arguably Solskjaer's most prolific from the bench, but certainly most important. Late goals against Liverpool in the FA Cup kept the dream of "The Treble" alive, long before there was a vital touch that changed everything in the Camp Nou, "late in May in 1999" as the song goes.

Later, the Mexican striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez filled Solskjear's role on the bench. He scored goals at a remarkable rate from outside of the starting side and questions were asked of Louis van Gaal when he sold him to Leverkusen, after first allowing him to leave on loan to Real Madrid. 

Long before either there was Liverpool's David Fairclough, a player who notched 20 goals from the bench in the 1980s. Fairclough was the original super sub and some with eyes for the Anfield side would still maintain he was the best. 

Admittedly, there could be no such thing before 1953 when substitutes were first allowed, but there is room for more nowadays after FIFA have allowed five subs to be used per game. That change, which has just come in ahead of most major leagues resuming from their coronavirus suspensions. 

Solskjaer himself will hope that Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who has now extended his loan from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua until the end of January next year, can be his new super sub. The chances are that strikers from the bench will be more important than ever when football resumes - the games we have seen so from South Korea's K League and the Germanb Bundesliga indicate that match fitness is a thing of the past. 

However, Ighalo or whoever is called on from the bench to change games in the coming months have a lot to live up to. Some super subs don't just win matches, they completely change them. Here are those players who came from the bench to score a hat trick (or more) in the English Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer v Nottingham Forest - February 6, 1999

Solskjaer only entered the game after 72 minutes to replace Dwight Yorke and with the score 4-1 he did not think he was going to come on at all. Once he was on he certainly made his mark, scoring four goals in the final 10 minutes, with the last coming in injury time. None were spectacular but Solskjaer ensured a record for the number of goals netted by a sub that still stands two decades on. 

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink v Wolves - March 27, 2004

It was top against bottom as Chelsea took on Wolves and it was the visitors that took the lead at Stamford Bridge through Jody Craddock after an opener from Chelsea's Mario Melchiot and a goal from Henri Camara. Chelsea answered emphatically, although it took some time and the introduction of Dutch striker Hasselbaink following Frank Lampard's equalizer. The former Middlesbrough man entered the fray at the hour mark just before Lampard drew the hosts level before putting them ahead through a rasping drive for his 100th Premier League goal, tapping home for a second and rounding keeper Paul Jones for a third. 

Robert Earnshaw v Charlton Athletic - March 19, 2005

It was what his former ­manager at Manchester United would have called "squeaky bum time" when Bryan Robson took his Baggies to The Valley in need of points. Earnshaw, a Wales international who has scored goals in each of England's four divisions and more besides was West Brom's record signing. He plundered three goals in 17 minutes against the 10-man hosts, who had lost Talal el Karkouri for a two-footed challenge. Earnshaw might have been a super sub but he was not happy with that.  

"I'm no sub," Earnshaw declared. "I don't want to be a sub. I want to be playing every week. For me I've got nothing to prove."

Emmanuel Adebayor v Derby County - April 28, 2008

The Togolese forward had already scored a hat trick against the struggling Rams earlier in the season and they would have been happy to have seen him on the bench as the season neared its end. Nevertheless, Adebayor scored three more - the second of which took him to 30 goals for the season for Arsene Wenger's side - while Derby, who had been relegated a month before hosting Arsenal, went down with just 11 points for the season.

Romelu Lukaku v Manchester United - May 19, 2013

The burly Belgian is the only player to have played in the last game Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Jose Mourinho managed for Manchester United - and only one was as a United player. The first of them, when Ferguson hung up his big manager coat for the last time, was an utterly unforgettable 5-5 thriller at the Hawthorns where Lukaku was on loan from Chelsea. Lukaku entered the fray at halftime with the score 3-1 to the visitors and pulled one back after five minutes but United quickly scored twice more. Lukaku set up a grandstand finish with a goal on 80 minutes before Youssuf Mulumbu's 81st-minute strike then shared the spoils with his 86th minute equalizer.

Steven Naismith v Chelsea - September 12, 2015

The first Everton player to score a hat trick against Chelsea since Dixie Dean in 1931, Naismith did it in style, netting the perfect treble - left foot, right foot and header. It was also the first ever scored against a Jose Mourinho Chelsea team. Naismith entered early on after Mohamed Besic was injured and had scored twice by the time the game was 21 minutes in before settling it late on.