20th July – Damien Delaney

Not many people expected Crystal Palace to avoid relegation last season but they defied the odds and a big part of that was because of the performances of Damien Delaney.

Delaney turns 33 today and only missed one Premier League games all season which just shows how vital he was to the team and three different managers over the course of the season decided that he was good enough for the side. Palace started the season with Ian Holloway in charge and then Keith Millen took over temporarily before Tony Pulis came in to guide the club to safety and Delaney was very consistent throughout.

The centre back started his career at Cork City before being signed by Leicester City who were in the Premier League at the time. In total he made eight appearances in the league for the club and also had loan spells at Stockport County, Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town. It was at Stockport where he scored his first career goal against Rotherham United.

Peter Taylor was the manager that brought him to England and it wasn’t long before he signed him again. On the 17th October 2002 Taylor made Delaney his first signing at Hull City for £50,000. His early career at Hull was not the best and he struggled to keep his place in the team but this was down to the fact he was used in a variety of positions, including left back and in midfield. When he was moved to centre back he found his feet and began to show his true potential and was voted the Player of the Year in the 2003-04 promotion winning season and although he didn’t score many goals, his against Rochdale that season was voted Goal of the Season.
Delaney Hull
Back in the Championship Delaney started to play in a number of positions once again but now he was much older and had more experience to cover these roles. He as a key asset all through his time at Hull and will go down in history as the last Hull City player to score at Boothferry Park before they moved to their new stadium.

He stayed until January 2008 and he played 224 times in the league for Hull before signing for QPR. After signing a three and a half year deal at the club a lot was expected of him and it was not long before he scored his first goal against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 away defeat. He however only stayed at the club until the summer of 2009 when he signed for Ipswich Town.
Delaney Ipswich
They paid an initial £750,000 for his services but after a freak injury in the next summer he almost lost his leg. He had a blood clot in his thigh which meant that he had had to have emergency surgery. After recovering from this he scored his first goal for the club against local rivals Norwich City but was sent off soon afterwards.

After making over 100 appearances for the club he left by mutual consent in 2012 and signed for Crystal Palace. He was a key player in their promotion winning season and then keeping them in the Premier League.
Delaney CP
The final word can go to Keith Millen. “I think he was thinking of quitting the game or moving abroad to America. For him to go there in his career to having two great years at Palace, he’s been so consistent. I think that has coincided with how the team has been set up as well this season.”

19th July – Drew Talbot

Drew Talbot will always be a legend at Sheffield Wednesday after scoring in their 4-2 victory over Hartlepool United in the League 1 Playoff final.

Talbot is now 28 and has had an interesting career with him changing position and becoming a very versatile member of the Chesterfield squad. He is now mostly known as a fullback but has played as a winger and a centre forward in his career and it was in this position where he made his name in football.

He started his career at Sheffield Wednesday and broke into the team on a regular basis in the 2004-05 season, where, although he was mostly used as a substitute, he still managed to score five times, including that goal at the Millennium Stadium. The game finished 2-2 and went to extra time before Glenn Whelan gave Wednesday a 3-2 lead and then in the very last minute Talbot scored to ensure the club’s promotion back to the Championship. Captain Lee Bullen remembers not only the goal, but the importance of it to the fans. “I was in prime position, right behind Drew as he picked the ball up on the halfway line. I was focussed on him but my peripheral vision could see a whole stadium of Owls slowly rising to their feet in anticipation of years of disappointment being laid to rest.”
Talbot SW
Big things were expected from the striker, however injuries took their toll on him and the next year proved to be very disappointing and would not play again until September 2006 where he made a substitute appearance against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. Despite his return he struggled to keep his place in the team and went out on loan to League 1 side Scunthorpe United. However, he only stayed for three games but did manage to score against Doncaster Rovers. His loan was cut short because he was transferred to Luton Town for £250,000, his time at Sheffield Wednesday ended with 4 league goals in 29 games.
Talbot Luton
At Luton Town he made his debut against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup and he didn’t have to wait long until he scored his first goal which came on his home debut against his former club. Despite some impressive performances he could not stop Luton getting relegated from the Championship and he was linked with a transfer away from the club and he turned down a move to Italy on transfer deadline day.

The next few years were tougher with a serious knee injury ruling him out for a few months and he only managed to play 11 games in the 2008-09 season. On the 27th January he joined Chesterfield on loan and he scored his first goal against Notts County and ended his loan spell with two goals in 17 games. At the end of the season he signed for the club permanently and ended his first full season with 10 goals in all competitions but the club narrowly missed out on a playoff position.
Talbot Chesterfield
Under John Sheridan, Talbot moved to right back and performed very well in that position so he has been used there for a lot of his 184 league appearances for the club.

The final word can go to Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee who tweeted after it was announced that Talbot had signed a new contract at the club. “Made up Drew has signed, proper player. He can play anywhere, but as a fullback there isn’t many better. Fantastic bit of business.”

18th July – Lee Barnard

Lee Barnard has been a good goalscorer in the Football League over the years and he will be hoping to rediscover that form next season to help Southend United get promoted.

It is his second spell at Southend and if it can be anywhere near as good as his first spell then the club will certainly go close to achieving their targets under Phil Brown. Barnard started his career at Tottenham Hotspur but made his first league appearances while out on loan at Exeter City but he had to wait until a loan spell at Stevenage Borough where he would score his first goal against Shrewsbury Town. Further loan spells at Leyton Orient and Northampton Town followed but he was still only young and making his way in the game.

He eventually made his debut for Spurs on the 17th April 2006 in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United after coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute and also came on the following week against Bolton Wanderers. At the start of the next season he joined Crewe Alexandra for five months and scored on his debut against Huddersfield Town. However, he suffered an injury in late October and returned to his parent club after 10 league games and three goals.

On the 25th January 2008 Barnard joined Southend on a permanent deal and he made his debut that night against Barnsley in the FA Cup after coming on as a substitute. He made his full debut a few days later against Leeds United and scored the only goal of the game after a free kick had hit the post. Before the end of the season he managed to score another nine goals, including an injury time winner against Carlisle United.
Barnard Southend
The 2008-09 season was not quite as good as the striker would have hoped, however he did still manage to get to double figures but he could have got a lot more had it not been for injuries. The next season started much better with him getting four goals in the first three games and this included his first professional hatrick against Leyton Orient. Over the next few months he scored last minute winners against Gillingham and MK Dons and also scored a brace against Hartlepool United which helped his team win 3-2 after they had been 2-0 down. He scored once more for the club in his first spell which took him to 37 goals in 85 games.

Barnard signed for Southampton in January 2010 and he scored his first two goals for the club in a 2-0 win over Norwich City and a week later he scored another two goals against Walsall and then three days later he scored in a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town. The 2010-11 was also successful as he scored 16 goals for the club but missed the last few weeks of the season through injury.
Barnard Soton
Unfortunately he didn’t get many more chances at Southampton but enjoyed loan spells at Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic and Southend. After his contract expired at Southampton he rejoined Southend on a permanent deal.
Barnard Bournemouth
The final word can go to Southend manager Phil Brown. “Hopefully we can get him back playing how he was during his first spell with the club. He’s an out and out striker who knows where the goal is, so I’m sure he can rediscover that sort of form.”

17th July – Jaap Stam

Jaap Stam was one of the best centre backs in Europe for most of his career and now at the age of 41 he is helping the young players at Ajax.

The defenders at Ajax will benefit from his experience and they will surely improve under his guidance and will learn a lot from the centre back who had everything in his game. Stam was not only a solid defender, who won a lot in the air and was a great tackler, but he was also a great ball playing centre back.

Stam started his career at FC Zwolle in his native Holland and made his debut on the 15th August 1992 against Heracles in the second division and he remained first choice for the majority of the season and scored one goal in 32 league appearances. At the end of the season he joined Cambuur Leeuwarden who were playing in the top flight, however they only stayed there for one season and Stam was once again back in the second division. After one more season at the club and some impressive performances he got another move to the Eredivisie and signed for Willem II.

His time at Willem II was very short but he proved to be an effective player for them and after performing brilliantly in a 1-0 win over Ajax, PSV signed him and at the end of the season he picked up his first professional trophy after he helped them win the KNVB Cup. Stam was a key player during the 1996-97 season and played 33 times in the league and managed to get 7 goals which is impressive for a defender. At the end of the season PSV won the Eredivisie and was quickly establishing himself as one of the best centre backs in the world.
Stam PSV
In 1998, Stam became the most expensive Dutch player when he moved to Manchester United for £10.6 million. He spent three years at Old Trafford and his consistent performances made him very popular with the Manchester United fans. He won many trophies during his time there, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League. However, early in the 2001-02 season Stam was controversially sold to Lazio after 80 Premier League appearances and single goal which came in a 6-2 away victory against Leicester City.
Stam MU
Alex Ferguson said on selling Stam. “We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5 million for a centre back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” This could have been a terrible decision by Ferguson but Stam had an indifferent time at Lazio and he was found guilty of using a banned steroid, however he recovered from this and helped the club win the Coppa Italia in his last season and after Euro 2004 he signed for AC Milan.
Stam Lazio
He spent two seasons at Milan and helped them reach the Champions League final in 2005 which they lost against Liverpool. He played 42 games in Serie A before returning to Holland and signed for Ajax where he was named club captain on his arrival. In his first season he won the KNVB Cup once more but he ended his career abruptly on the 29th October 2007 after playing in a 0-0 draw against N.E.C.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there. In playing terms it (selling him) was a mistake.”

16th July – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale is one of the few players in the world that can be compared to Lionel Messi and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo but at the age of 25 he will only get better.

The Welsh international hasn’t always had the easiest career and has worked hard for his success and now playing for Real Madrid he will certainly get to pick up a lot of trophies and score a lot more goals before the end of his career. He will also be hoping to help Wales qualify for a major tournament in the near future and there will be a lot of pressure on him and Aaron Ramsey to deliver when the 2016 Euros qualifying starts.

Bale started his career at Southampton and became the second youngest player to ever play for the club when he came on the 17th April 2006 against Millwall at the age of 16 years and 275 days. It did not take him long to become a first team regular and when he broke into the side at the start of the next season he was known as a free kick specialist as he scored two in the opening two games of the season. He finished the year with five goals in 43 games and left for Tottenham Hotspur in May 2007.
Bale Soton
He started off brilliantly at his new club, scoring against Fulham, Arsenal and Middlesbrough in his first four starts, however an injury against Birmingham City meant he missed the rest of the season. Bale then struggled to break into the Spurs side and he was considered their second choice left back for the majority of the next two seasons. However, things changed in April 2010 as he scored the winner against Arsenal and then three days later once again got the winning goal against Chelsea. These results played a big part in the club qualifying for the Champions League.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan - White Hart Lane
It was in the Champions League where bale showed everyone how much potential he had, firstly he set up all four goals in a qualifying match against Young Boys, then scored against FC Twente in the second group match. But it was against Inter Milan and Maicon, who was known as one of the best defenders in the world at the time, where he announced himself to the world. Although they lost 4-3 away, Bale scored a hatrick and then in the return match he set up two goals. Some would argue that Maicon never fully recovered from these two matches.

He continued to play well in all competitions but it was in his final year at Spurs that he went to the next level and his 26 goals convinced Real Madrid to pay a world record fee for the winger and in September he joined the Spanish giants. His first half a season was tough though as he struggled with injuries but he did score on his debut against Villarreal. But he did justify his price tag by scoring a sublime goals in the final of the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona and then scored the important second goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
Bale RM
Bale finished his first season at Real with 22 goals and 16 assists and now that he has settled more into the league and learned more about his teammates, he will have even more success.

The final word can go to the former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got everything, there’s not a weakness in his make-up. He can head the ball, he’s as strong as an ox, he can dribble and shoot. Most important of all, he’s a smashing lad.”

15th July – Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie might have been involved in one of the funniest moments in a transfer window but he has bounced back from that and has found form once again.

While at West Brom he drove to QPR to hopefully sign for them, however the club’s could not agree a transfer fee so the striker who turns 33 today was not allowed to speak to QPR’s officials and had to wait in the parking lot. He ended up not getting the transfer he wanted but this is just a small blip on what has been a very good career.

He started his career at Nigerian side Bendel Insurance and was an instant success scoring 19 goals in 53 league appearances. This was good enough to convince La Louviere in Belgium to sign him and in his first season he helped the club win the Belgian Cup and earned them a place in Europe and Odemwingie scored in a 1-1 draw with Portuguese giants Benfica.
Odemwingie Lille
In 2004 he joined French club Lille and was quickly becoming one of the most sought after players in Europe and he proved his worth by helping Lille qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League after scoring twice at the San Siro against AC Milan. He spent three season in total in France and scored 26 goals in 100 games which led to Lokomotiv Moscow spending a lot of money to bring the striker to Russia.
Odemwingie LM
Although he impressed for the club and was a goal threat every time he went on the pitch, he had to deal with a lot of racial abuse from the fans and he understandably wanted to leave the country and on the 20th August 2010 he signed for West Brom. Shortly after signing the Lokomotiv Moscow fans were seen showing a banner that read ‘Thanks West Brom’ and had a picture of a banana.

A day after he joined West Brom he scored the winning goal against Sunderland in a 1-0 win. His first season was very successful and he broke a lot of records, including being West Brom’s highest ever goal scorer in a Premier League season and became the first player to score in four consecutive games. He ended the season with 15 league goals and was rewarded with a new contract.

Odemwingie didn’t quite match the previous seasons efforts but he still put in some memorable performances, particularly in their derby match against Wolves, where he scored a hatrick in a 5-1 win and then followed it up with another two goals against Sunderland. This form meant he was named as the Player of the Month. The following season was obviously more difficult for him and the club after the confusion of his move to QPR meant the fans no longer accepted him.
Odemwingie WB
At the start of the 2013-14 season he joined Cardiff City, however after Malky Mackay was sacked he barely got a look in and in January he signed for Stoke City and ended the season with five goals in 15 appearances for Stoke in the second half of the season and then got the opportunity to represent his country at the World Cup, where he scored the winner against Bosnia which helped the team get through their group.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes, who has been very happy with his signing. “We’re delighted to have signed Peter. He has a good goal scoring record in the Premier League and will bring a different dimension to our attacking options. I’ve no doubts he will prove to be an excellent addition to our squad.”

14th July – James Vaughan

James Vaughan is finally fulfilling his potential after several injuries at Huddersfield Town but he still holds the record of being the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history.

Now 26, the striker is starting to deliver on his early promise and will be an important part of Huddersfield’s promotion push that they will be aiming for in the upcoming season. His career started quickly and while he was playing for Everton’s under 16s he was voted by his teammates as the player of the year and in the 2004-05 season he scored a number of goals for the reserves and went on to make his debut in the first team.

On the 10th April 2005 he came on as a substitute against Crystal Palace in the 73rd minute and went on to score and become the youngest Premier League score at the age of 16 years and 271 days. In the summer he signed his first professional contract, however his first serious injury came shortly after while playing for the England under 18s and it forced him to miss the rest of the campaign. His next Premier League goal came in the 93rd minute against West Ham United.
Vaughan Everton
More injuries followed and he ended up playing only 49 times for Everton, with eight of these being as a starter but he did manage to score nine goals in his limited appearances. During his time at Everton, he joined a few teams on loan, firstly Derby County where he only played two league games in a three month spell. His next move was to Leicester City which was slightly more successful as he managed to score against Watford. In 2010 he joined Crystal Palace and scored nine league goals in 30 appearances.
James Vaughan of Crystal Palace celebrates after scoring to make the score 2-1.
In 2011 he eventually left Everton permanently for newly promoted Norwich City and made his debut against West Brom. However, he once again suffered injuries and he was limited to just five league games and at the start of the next season he joined Huddersfield on loan for the whole of the season. He made his debut in a 2-0 win over Burnley and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw away to Ipswich Town, unfortunately later in the game he missed the chance to win the game from the penalty spot.
Vaughan Huddersfield
After scoring another 13 goals he joined Huddersfield permanently on a three year deal for an undisclosed fee. He started off the next season in fantastic form and scored nine goals in the first 12 league games, including a hatrick against Bournemouth in a 5-1 win. Unfortunately he picked up a few more injuries and he could not keep up his early season form and ended the season with 12 goals in 26 games in all competitions. Vaughan also captained the side on several occasions which shows his importance to the side and will be hoping to lead them onto better things next season.

The final word can go to his former teammate David Weir. “He has certainly got all the attributes – strength, honesty, work-rate and commitment. He has still got a few rough edges and has a lot to learn. As long as he does that it could be a big future for him. He’d only been on for five minutes and the ref was having a little word, telling him to calm down a bit, so he’s got a great chance.”