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Top ten big No.9s

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Skysports.com counts down ten physical centre-forwards in light of Andy Carroll's fine form this season

Andy Carroll has taken the Premier League by storm this season with a series of impressive performances for Newcastle, but his style of play is hardly new as powerful strikers have been terrorising defenders for years, battering them into submission with their physical prowess.

There are a number of other 'traditional' centre-forwards plying their trade in England, big target men who may not have the speed of some of their team-mates but contribute in their own special way.

Many legends of the past have also made their name in the same way, prompting skysports.com to count down ten of the best from recent years.

Andy Carroll

Let us start with man of the moment Carroll, who has shown this term that he is not just a flat-track bully who could do the business in the Championship but might struggle in the top flight. His goal against Blackburn in midweek took his tally for the campaign to seven and followed on from his winner at Arsenal last Sunday, which perfectly illustrated his main qualities as he beat much-maligned goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the air. Carroll made full use of his 6ft 3in frame but also showed the desire and strength to put himself in the right position. There are other strings to his bow of course and, at 21, there is plenty of time to improve and fulfil his England ambitions.

Didier Drogba

Carroll will have to prove over a period of several years that he can prosper in the Premier League if he is to justify comparisons to Drogba. Foreign players can sometimes find it difficult to adapt to the pace and hurly burly of English football but with Drogba it has been the other way around and defences are still trying to work out how best to combat him. The Ivory Coast star can be unstoppable at times, as Arsenal will testify, but there is more to his game than sheer brawn and he can also provide moments of magical invention.

Emile Heskey

Few players have divided opinion quite like Heskey, who has been more popular with England managers than supporters over the years. However, while fans may tear their hair out over his misfiring exploits in front of goal, the 32-year-old can be a real handful and tends to get the best out of his team-mates. New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier claimed earlier this season that Heskey had the qualities to do a similar job to Drogba and he has enjoyed a more prolific spell this term.

Kevin Davies

With Heskey now retired from international football there is a vacancy for a bustling centre-forward and Davies is certainly in contention along with Carroll. Bolton are beginning to win the neutrals over with a more attractive brand of football under Owen Coyle but one of their key weapons is still Davies. He is not afraid to put a boot in and regularly finds himself in the referee's notebook, but on the plus side he is one of the best in the league at holding up play and can finish with his feet as well as his head.

Alan Shearer

Moving away from the current crop of strikers to those of yesteryear, and the player Carroll will most hope to emulate is former Newcastle No.9 Shearer. Any opponent of his knew they were in for a battle even before the match had started due to his incredible goalscoring prowess. Shearer had a ferocious strike and great skill, but one of the major factors behind his success was that it was so hard for defenders to contain Shearer because of his physicality, while he always had the predatory instincts to get in the box and sniff out a chance.

Les Ferdinand

Shearer's partner in crime for Newcastle and England during the mid 1990s, Ferdinand possessed many of the same attributes. He was fantastic in the air despite only being of average height, thanks to his awareness and superb spring. The strapping Ferdinand could outmuscle just about anyone but was also quicker than most target men and, although he never really hit top form on the international stage, he was prolific at club level.

Mark Hughes

It would be unfair to label the current Fulham manager purely as a no-nonsense striker during his playing days because he had so much skill, scoring a number of sumptuous goals throughout his career. But the one-time Manchester United and Wales man was as hard as nails and relished a physical challenge, while he also netted his fair share of headed goals.

Duncan Ferguson

Opponents could be forgiven for feeling nervous about facing Ferguson after he once spent time in jail for butting an opponent during a game for Rangers. He proceeded to score more goals in the Premier League than any other Scot after coming south of the border to join Everton. A hulking, 6ft 4in giant, Ferguson preferred to keep it simple and was brutally effective with his fantastic heading, while long balls launched forward in hope usually stuck.

Dion Dublin

Starting out as a centre-back, Dublin had to do the ugly things in the game to keep clean sheets. He was later transformed into a towering attacker after it was spotted that he also had an eye for goal. Coventry and Aston Villa reaped the benefits as Dublin established himself as one of the Premier League's finest front men and even earned England recognition.

Niall Quinn

The current Sunderland chairman was a formidable striker in his day with an almost unrivalled ability in the air. He was not the most prolific goalscorer of all time but if a cross was delivered into the right area it was a fair bet Quinn would be on the end of it to nod the ball home. His link-up play was also exceptional and he forged an effective big-man, little-man partnership with Kevin Phillips for the Black Cats.

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