31st May – Paddy McCarthy

Crystal Palace had a fantastic season but unfortunately for club captain Paddy McCarthy he missed most of the campaign and will be hoping to make a big impact next season.

Injuries have really ruined his time at Palace but he has always been one of the most consistent performers in the Championship and the way he conducts himself has always been exemplary and it is no wonder he is an influential member of the squad even when he is not playing. Frustratingly though shoulder injuries have really slowed his career and he may have gone further and got international caps for Republic of Ireland.

McCarthy started his career at Manchester City but could not break into their first team and had to get some playing time by going on loan to Boston United where he played 12 league games and performed well enough for them to try and sign him permanently. This move didn’t go through and before he left Manchester City, he had another loan spell away from the club, this time to Notts County.
Mccarthy Leicester
In March 2005, Leicester City paid £100,000 for his services and he signed a three year contract with the club. He quickly became a fan favourite because of his no nonsense style and after just one season at the club he was named as their captain for the 2006-07. After more impressive performances, his season was ended because he dislocated his shoulder in February 2007. Despite being offered an extended contract he decided he wanted to leave the club before the start of the new season.

Charlton Athletic signed the central defender for £650,000 in July 2007 meaning that Leicester got some good service from him and also a profit which is always a sign of a good signing. But they won’t have been happy with him when he scored his first goal for his new club against his former employers. Manager Alan Pardew said after the goal. “It was a good time for Paddy to score his first league goal for us. But football has these strange quirks. To be fair he has probably been our best player. He defended well and then topped it off with a goal.”
McCarthy Charlton
This would be his only season at the club as he moved across South London to Crystal Palace in a deal that saw Mark Hudson move in the other direction and Neil Warnock was happy with this deal. “I’ve chased Paddy for about five years and I’m delighted to get him.” In his first two seasons at the club he struggled with more shoulder problems and did not play as much as he would have liked. However, he was still showing that he was a reliable defender for any Championship team and proved that he could be a threat at the other end by scoring three goals in his first season.
McCarthy Palace
Despite his injuries he was named club captain before the 2010-11 season and this was the start of two fantastic seasons where he played almost every game and in the 2011-12 season he played 50 times in all competitions, however he has not played much at all since then.

The final word can go to former Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway. “He is a wonderful leader and wonderful servant and ambassador for this club. I can honestly say I have never seen anyone work as hard as him to get himself back.”

30th May – Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is going to be England’s captain at the World Cup and will be hoping that they finally produce at a big tournament despite low expectations from the fans.

The Liverpool captain who turns 34 will want to continue his fantastic club form in the tournament and as this may be his last major international tournament he will surely want to make a mark. Unfortunately Liverpool could not win the Premier League title last season and it is the closest the skipper has been to picking up the trophy but he has had an exceptional career and is surely one of the best to have never won the title, however he has picked up ever other trophy in club football.

He is a one man club and signed his first professional contract with Liverpool in 1997 and made his first team debut on the 29th November 1998 against Blackburn Rovers. He became a first team regular in the 1999-00 season in the centre of midfield, partnering Jamie Redknapp but it was a season of ups and downs with him receiving his first red card and he struggled with injuries that required operations, slowing down his progress but he did manage to score his first goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
Gerrard Liverpool
He recovered from his injuries and in the 2000-01 season he played 50 times and won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup and scored 10 times in all competitions. His next big moment came in October 2003 when he was named Liverpool captain by Gerard Houllier. Soon after he was linked with moves away but decided to stay with the club. The next season started slowly for Gerrard as he was injured in September and wouldn’t return until November. On his return he scored one of the best and most memorable goals of his career against Olympiakos securing Liverpool’s place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Liverpool reached two finals that season and Gerrard had a major impact in both. Firstly in the League Cup final he scored an own goal in a 3-2 loss to Chelsea but he had a much more positive impact in the Champions League final, scoring the first in Liverpool’s incredible comeback and then winning the penalty that levelled the scores. He was also given the man of the match award by UEFA after the game.
Gerrard Liverpool 2
In the next season he became more of an attacking midfielder and scored 23 times in 53 appearances and was named PFA Player of the Year. But more importantly he scored twice in the FA Cup final against West Ham which meant he is the only player to have scored in FA, League, Champions League and UEFA Cup finals.

Even though Gerrard continued to play exceptionally and gain respect from everyone in the game the trophies dried up at Liverpool. His greatest week in recent years is in March 2009 when he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Real Madrid and then four days later he scored against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 4-1 win.

The 2011-12 season Liverpool seemed to be getting back on track and Gerrard was a big part of that, helping them win the League Cup against Cardiff City. During the season he also scored a hatrick against rivals Everton. Unfortunately they could not build on this and the 2012-13 season was more difficult.
Gerrard Liverpool 3
But onto the season just finished and Liverpool looked like the team that was going to win the title for a long time. Gerrard scored his 100th Premier League goal against Newcastle United and then the club went on a great run in the second half of the season that brought them to within touching distance of the title but all the momentum was lost when they were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea at Anfield with the first goal a result of a Gerrard slip. This maybe the most defining moment of the season but Gerrard had one of the best seasons of his career as he adapted to a new role in the team and was fantastic all through the campaign.

The final word can go to Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane. “He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives players around him confidence and belief. You can’t learn that – players like him are just born with that presence.”

29th May – Andrey Arshavin

Not many players have scored four goals at Anfield and even less have done it while playing for the away team but that is exactly what Andrey Arshavin did in 2009.

Now 33 he should be remembered fondly by Arsenal fans because he did pop up with important goals for the club and when he first signed there was a real excitement. His career has had some ups and downs but he is certainly someone that when he is on form, even now, can change a game in the blink of an eye and has always been a player that can produce a bit of magic.

He started his career at Russian club Zenit St Petersburg and made his debut in an Intertoto Cup match against Bradford City in 2000. Over the next few years he became an important player and he proved his versatility by playing in a number of different attacking positions. But he had to wait until the 2007-08 season that he became known all around Europe as he helped his team win the Russian title for the first time since 1984, scoring 11 goals and assisting another 11 in just 30 appearances. Zenit also won the UEFA Cup that season and Arshavin finished with the most assists in the tournament and was awarded the man of the match in the final.
Arshavin Zenit
After several failed attempts from clubs such as Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur, Arshavin joined Arsenal in 2009 January transfer window. He made his debut against Sunderland and shortly after scored his first goal against Blackburn Rovers. But it was on the 21st April he will mostly be remembered for as he scored four times against Liverpool in an incredible match that ended 4-4. He impressed the whole month of April and was named the Premier League Player of the Month and at end of the season came second in Arsenal’s Player of the Year vote even though he was only there for half the season and manager Arsene Wenger was hoping for even more the next season. “Andrey is an exciting impact player with a huge amount of ability. He has what you cannot give a player. He understands when there is danger, when there’s an opportunity.”
Arshavin Arsenal
Arshavin started the next season well scoring against Celtic in the Champions League and Manchester United in the Premier League but unfortunately they lost the game 2-1 despite his terrific goal. In December he proved his versatility at Arsenal by playing as a lone striker and performing well in a game against Stoke City, in the game he won a penalty (which was missed), scored and set up the second goal. He then returned to Anfield and once again put in a great performance with the team winning 2-1 and him scoring an important goal. In early January he then scored in a victory over Bolton Wanderers which put the team top of the league, however injuries hindered the rest of his season and the club could not hold onto top spot.

Despite an impressive start to the new season, he didn’t quite hit top form. However, he scored in some of the club’s most memorable games – a 4-1 victory over Tottenham and in a 2-1 victory over Barcelona. Unfortunately fans had started to worry about Arshavin because he was not tracking back and doing his defensive work and Wenger started to leave him out a lot more in the 2011-12 season and in January he rejoined Zenit on loan. He made 11 appearances for the club and scored three times before returning to Arsenal.
Arshavin Arsenal 2
He wasn’t given many chances when he came back but did make his 100th Premier League appearance against Norwich City before being told his contract would not be renewed. When his deal finished he rejoined Zenit for a third time. In the season just finished he played 34 times, scoring four goals and assisting eight more.

The final word can go to his former Arsenal teammate Johan Djourou. “Great players come back, they have down moments sometimes. I have never worried about Andrey because he has so many qualities and shows it again and again.”

28th May – Charles N’Zogbia

Charles N’Zogbia spent all of last season injured and will be hoping to hit the ground next season and with him turning 28 today he will be one of the more experienced players in the Aston Villa squad next year.

Paul Lambert will be hoping the winger can return to form that saw him called up to the French squad in 2010 by Laurent Blanc and transform his team into one that battles relegation to one that can challenge for the top half.

N’Zogbia has spent his whole professional career in England and it began at Newcastle United in 2004 and is the last player that Sir Bobby Robson signed as a manager and he labelled him ‘one of the most naturally gifted players of that age he’d ever seen.’ He made his debut soon after on the 11th September in a 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers and went on to play another 21 games in his first season at the club. In the 2005-06 season he became a first team regular and played 41 times and scored Newcastle’ first goal of the season with a brilliant free kick against Fulham. Throughout the season he was very impressive and added another five goals, including a solo effort against Sunderland in a memorable 4-1 victory. He was linked with moves away from the club but signed a new three year contract.
N'Zog Newcastle
Under new manager Glenn Roeder he fell out of favour and started appearing less regularly and injuries meant he missed a lot of games in the middle part of the season. But when Sam Allardyce was appointed as manager he got a new lease of life and scored the opening goal of his reign in a 3-1 win over Bolton Wanderers and on the 4th September he signed a new five year contract. However, this turned out to be his last full season at the club as he had a run in with Joe Kinnear who called him ‘Charles Insomnia’. The player issued a statement apologising to the fans but saying he will not be playing for the club under Kinnear and left for Wigan Athletic on the 30th January 2009 with Ryan Taylor going in the other direction.
Nzog Wigan
His first goal for Wigan was another impressive solo goal against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and in the following season he was vital in keeping the team in the Premier League. His best moment of the season was scoring the winning goal to complete a late comeback against Arsenal to win the match 3-2. He ended the season as Wigan’s Players’ Player of the Year and the Supporters’ Player of the Year. After almost leaving the club in the summer he decided to stay and was even better by finishing the season as the club’s top scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, which included five goals in the last six games that once again kept them in the Premier League. Chairman Dave Whelan knew N’Zogbia was going to leave and said. “We can’t keep him if a big club comes in for him and he does deserve a big club because he’s that kind of quality player. He’s such a great player and we are such a small club, sometimes we don’t go together.”

On the 15th July he joined Aston Villa for £9.5 million but he hasn’t quite reached his potential yet for the club and has only scored six times in 58 games but will be hoping after missing all the 2013-14 season, he is hoping better things are on the horizon.
Nzog AV
The final word can go to his teammate at both Newcastle and Aston Villa Shay Given. “We saw at Wigan how good a player Charles is with his goals and the way he causes problems for defences. I know the Villa fans haven’t seen it yet but if they give him time I am sure they will soon see the best of N’Zogbia”.

27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”

26th May – Scott Murray

Scott Murray will forever be a club legend for Bristol City not only has he played for the club over 300 times he has also been their kit man making him a club legend.

Murray, now 40, must have a lot of love for the club and will do any job just to see them succeed. It is also worth pointing out that in the modern day the kit man does a lot more than many expect them to, they usually help new players settle into the club and make sure all of the players are happy and can be a big influence in the dressing room.

The Scottish midfielder started his career in the Highland Football League and his performances for Fraserburgh FC caught the eye of giants Celtic and Liverpool who both offered him trials. However, he did not get a contract with either but did still get a move to the Premier League as Aston Villa decided to sign him for a Highland League record of £35,000. Murray impressed for the reserve team and scored the quickest ever hatrick in the reserve league, his three goals came in just 12 minutes. He found it difficult to break into the first team and only played four league games for the first team before moving onto Bristol City in December 1997.
Murray BC
His first spell at the club was very successful and the fans took to him straightaway as he put in very consistent performances. During his six years at the club he played 225 league games and scored 46 goals which is an impressive record for a midfielder and he was even the club’s top scorer in the 2002-03 season.
Murray Reading
In June 2003 he joined Reading for £650,000 and was a regular under manager Alan Pardew but his stay only lasted 34 games and he rejoined Bristol City in March 2004 and made a big impact. Their form improved when he came back in the side and they reached the playoff final. Unfortunately they lost out to Brighton. In his second spell at City he was made captain by Brian Tinnion and in the 2006-07 season he scored one of the goals of the season as he chipped Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in an FA Cup game.

Murray was a key player in the club’s promotion season even though he suffered a stress fracture in his fourth metatarsal bone which meant he was only able to play 37 times, despite this he signed a new one year contract extension which delighted manager Gary Johnson. “We want Scott around at the club. He is good enough to be a player in the squad and he is a big player for us on and off the field.”

On the 15th September he joined Cheltenham Town on loan and played 13 times, scoring twice before returning to his parent club. He was released at the end of the 2009 season after playing another 129 league games for the club, adding another 28 goals to his record. He joined Yeovil Town in the summer and he scored two goals for the club in his only season at the club but they were important as they helped secure a draw against Brighton and personally they were his 100th and 101st career goals.
Murray Bath
After being released he signed for Bath City on a part time basis so he could also be a part of Bristol City’s backroom staff. He stayed for two years, scoring 14 times in 68 games before retiring in the summer of 2012.

The final word can go to the fans of Bristol City who love having him at the club and feel he will be beneficial as the kit man. “You want someone to do that who has Bristol City running through his veins, who has a footballing brain and can make everyone in the dressing room laugh and enjoy being at training and matchdays. Step forward Mr Murray you are the perfect man for this job.”

25th May – Demba Ba

Demba Ba became an unlikely hero for Chelsea towards the end of last season scoring important goals against PSG, Liverpool and Swansea.

His form towards the end of the season just made a lot of people wonder why Jose Mourinho hadn’t put him in the starting eleven a lot sooner. He has proven himself as a great goalscorer his whole career so it was strange to see him left out so often when Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o were not on form. But Ba is a player that bounces back after being left out and deemed not good enough as he proved early in his career when he first tried to join an English club. He was turned down by Watford, Barnsley, Swansea City and Gillingham before signing a one year deal with French club Rouen.

Ba was very successful at the club and in his one season he scored 22 goals in just 26 games before moving onto Belgian club Mouscron where he continued his good form and scored in his first three games. However Ba fractured his tibia and fibula and was ruled out for a long time but after eight months he eventually recovered and carried on where he left off by scoring another seven times in the next nine games.
Ba Hoff
In 2007 he moved onto Germany and signed for Hoffenheim, who were playing in the second tier at the time but his 12 league goals secured promotion to the Bundesliga in his first year. Both Ba and his club had a successful year after promotion the striker scored 14 times. Injuries once again began to catch up with him and he played fewer games over the next two seasons. But in his last half a season he scored 9 times in just 20 games before a dispute with the club meant he was wanting to leave.

They agreed a fee with Stoke City but unfortunately Ba failed a medical and Stoke pulled out of the deal. West Ham quickly signed him up and he did everything he could to keep them in the Premier League. He scored seven times in 12 games but a clause in his contract meant that when West Ham were relegated he could leave on a free transfer.

He signed for Newcastle United and proved once again that he was a great goalscorer and scored two hatricks in the first 11 games of the season with one of those coming against Stoke. Before leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations he was second top scorer in the Premier League with 15 goals and on his return from international duty he scored against Aston Villa. However, this proved to be his last goal of the season as he was moved out to the left wing to accommodate Papiss Cisse who ended up with 12 goals in just half a season.
Ba Newcastle
Ba was back on goalscoring form at the start of the new season by scoring a stunning volley against Tottenham Hotspur to win the game. By the time January came he around he was on 13 goals in 20 games but it was revealed he had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for just £7 million. Chelsea took advantage and on his debut for the club he scored twice in the FA Cup against Southampton and then scored on his home league debut against the same opposition. Ba only scored one more Premier League goal but did score a great goal against Manchester United in the FA Cup.
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Blackburn Rovers - Stamford Bridge
In the season just finished he didn’t get enough of a chance to make an impact but still managed eight goals in all competitions. He definitely did pop up with some important goals though and the Chelsea fans have not seen the best of him.

The final word can go to Alan Pardew. “Demba Ba has done very well since he came to England, and he’s a good player. He has pace, excellent technical ability, is good in the air and, it goes without saying, has the ability to consistently find the back of the net.”