31st October – Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin may not spring to mind when thinking of Manchester United greats but there is no denying that he is one of the club’s most dependable and consistent full backs ever.

The 49 year old had a very good career and has been called Alex Ferguson’s pound for pound greatest ever signing which is a huge honour and just shows how important he was to the side during the 1990s. Irwin also got the honour of being named in the first Premier League Overall Team of the Decade and represented his country, Republic of Ireland, 56 times and was part of the World Cup 1994 squad.

Irwin started his career at Leeds United in 1983 and went on to make 72 appearances in the Second Division for the club, including 41 games in the 1984-85 season. But in 1986 he moved to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer and barely missed a league match over the next four seasons, featuring in 167 games and scoring four goals.

In his final season at the club he helped the club reach the semi final of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup before moving to Manchester United in 1990 for a fee of £625,000. He would spend the next 12 years at Old Trafford and would win seven Premier League title along the way, which is an incredible achievement. He can also add three FA Cup, a League Cup, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a Champions League winners medal to his collection before he left the club.
Sport.Football. pic: 24th February 1990. Denis Irwin, Oldham Athletic defender, who won 56 Republic of Ireland international caps 1991-2000, while playing at Manchester United.
During his time at the club he also became a reliable goalscorer from the penalty spot and also was a real asset from free kicks, delivering great balls into the box. He would score 22 goals in the league all together for the club with his first coming on the 7th September 1991 in a 3-0 home win over Norwich City. Irwin’s best goalscoring season came in the 1992-93 season, as the team went on to lift the first ever Premier League trophy, hitting the back of the net five times.

He continued to be Manchester United’s first choice until his mid thirties and was rewarded with a testimonial against Manchester City on the 16th August 2000 but this was the beginning of the end of his time at the club as he was no longer an automatic first choice. Irwin made his last appearance for the club in a 0-0 draw against Charlton Athletic on the 12th May 2002 and was given the captain’s armband by Alex Ferguson on his 529th appearance for the club.
Irwin MU
After the 2001-02 season the Irishman joined Wolves and was a crucial part of their promotion to the Premier League, playing in 43 of the 46 league games and scoring goals against Burnley and Grimsby. Wolves then struggled in the top flight but on Irwin’s return to Old Trafford he received a warm reception but this was a personal high point in a poor season as the club were relegated. Irwin announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur
The final word can go to the former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson. “We called him the quiet assassin. He was a left back and he was taking penalties in a team full of Man United players. He’d take all of the free kicks – it just shows what a class player he was. He was tough and quick.”

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30th October – Iain Hume

The Indian Super League has only been set up recently and the teams involved have spent a lot of money in recruiting players and one of those that will be familiar to English fans is Iain Hume.

Hume will line up alongside Michael Chopra and David James for the Kerala Blasters and has already shown his goalscoring prowess by scoring two in his first three games and will be hoping that this good form can continue and lead his side to the title. Back in England he will be remembered as a good player but one that maybe could have done had it not been for a terrible injury.

The 31 year old started his career at Tranmere Rovers and quickly rose up through the ranks making his debut at the age of just 16. Under the guidance of Brian Little he began to get more and more first team action but he had to wait until the 2002-03 season to score his first goal. Afterwards he became a consistent goalscorer and had his best season during the 2004-05 season when he scored 16 goals. He was linked with moves during the summer but started the next season at Tranmere, however this would only last seven games as he joined Leicester City on deadline day in August.
Hume TR
During his three seasons at Leicester he was again a consistent goalscorer, hitting nine, 14 and 11 goals. But during his time at the club he developed into more of an all round player and was now not only seen as a goalscorer but someone that could set up goals. Unfortunately in his last season Leicester were relegated from the Championship and after 34 goals in 132 appearances he left.
Hume LC
Barnsley signed the striker for £1.2 million and he lived up to his price tag straightaway by scoring five minutes into his debut away to QPR. His home debut was not as successful as he was sent off against Coventry City but he bounced back and scored against Derby County, Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday in quick succession. But on the 8th November 2008 he suffered a fractured skull and internal bleeding after an elbow from Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan and due to this life threatening injury he needed surgery and it is credit to the player that he recovered.

He made his return nine months later in a friendly against Gainsborough on the 21st July 2009 and would go on to play 37 games during the season, scoring five goals. On the 14th September 2010 Hume joined Preston North End and made his debut against Norwich City. He would only have to wait a week for his first goal as he scored from 20 yards against Coventry and followed this up with a goal against Leeds United in a 6-4 win. On the 11th December Hume scored the 50th goal of his career in a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town. Despite his 12 league goals it was not enough to keep the club in the Championship but for his commitment to the team he was awarded the vice-captaincy.
Photo : Ian Robinson Preston North End photocall at Deepdale Iain Hume
Niggling injuries would keep him out of the team and he could not inspire his team to promotion in the following campaign. This led to him being loaned out to Doncaster Rovers on the 31st August 2012 for the season and his job was to help them get promoted to the Championship. His work rate and skill made him a fan favourite and he scored some crucial goals in the season as the club won the League One title but this did not secure him a permanent move. Last season was difficult for him as he was in and out of the Preston squad and also had a loan spell at Fleetwood Town but after being released by his parent club he has decided to make the move to India.

The final word can go to Darren Ferguson. “Iain made a big impact when he first came in. He has great energy and a great enthusiasm for the game. He’s made a big difference here. He and Jon Parkin do work well together. Iain gives us options, as well as playing up front he can play wide right.”

29th October – Edwin Van Der Sar

It is difficult to list who Alex Ferguson’s greatest signings were in his time at Manchester United but one name that should never be missing is Edwin Van Der Sar because he came in at a time when they were desperate for a top quality keeper.

Having the quality to play in goal for Manchester United is only half the battle but to be successful they also has to have a presence about them and deal with the mental pressure of barely being in a match and then having to pull off a world class save. Van Der Sar is rightly considered one of the greatest of all time.

The 44 year old started his career at Ajax under current Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal and made his debut for the club in the 1990-91 season. He would have to wait until the 1993-94 season to become the number one at the club and he proved that he deserved the position as he was named Dutch Goalkeeper of the Year award and would hold on to the trophy for the next three seasons. Van Der Sar also helped the club win the Champions League in the 1994-95 season and was voted the Best European Goalkeeper. In total he played 226 games for the club and won four Eredivisie titles and three KNVB Cups and he even scored a goal from the penalty spot in a 9-1 win over De Graafschap.
VDS Ajax
In 1999 he left Ajax and joined Juventus. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Reggina and was the first non-Italian to play in goal for the club. He would be the first choice keeper for the next two seasons but on both occasions they missed out on the title. In the summer of 2001 the club bought Gianluigi Buffon and Van Der Sar was unwilling to sit on the bench.

He then made a surprising move joining newly promoted to the Premier League Fulham on the 1st August 2001. He made his league debut in a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. The goalkeeper stayed at Fulham for four seasons and was easily one of the best keepers in the Premier League meaning that every transfer window he was linked with moves away.
VDS Fulham
After 154 appearances for Fulham he left for Manchester United on the 10th June 2005 and was an instant success at the club. He didn’t miss a league game in his first season and in his second he would be a key player as they lifted the Premier League title with the goalkeeper being named in the PFA Team of the Year. The following season was even better as he helped the club retain the title and win the Champions League final against Chelsea after saving Nicolas Anelka’s penalty.

Van Der Sar signed a new contract at the club and was getting better the older he got and set a new club, Premier League and overall English league record by not conceding a goal for 1311 minutes before Newcastle United striker Peter Lovenkrands scored past him. At the end of the season he had kept 21 clean sheets, lifted another Premier League title and was named the Best European Goalkeeper for a second time, 14 years after he first received the award.
VDS MU
Injuries limited his playing time in the 2009-10 season but he bounced back in the following campaign and helped the club reach another Champions League final. In his last game, they would unfortunately lose against Barcelona and in May 2011 he retired after 820 career appearances.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “We had a bad period trying to replace Peter Schmeichel. It wasn’t until we brought in Edwin that we got back to the level we had with Peter. Edwin was a great buy for us, absolutely brilliant. There was a magnificence and calmness about him and he was great for our players.”

28th October – Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Martins is a player with a fantastic history, having been the number nine at Newcastle United and also scoring the winning goal for Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

The striker had electric pace and a brilliant shot on him that a lot of goalkeepers struggled to keep a hold of. He has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but has largely been a fan favourite at every club and is now currently scoring regularly for Seattle Sounders in the MLS and his goals have helped his side to the top of the table.

The 30 year old started his career in Nigeria before getting a trial at Serie C side Reggiana in Italy and signed a youth contract with the club in 2000. After just two appearanceshe joined Inter Milan and would go on to make his debut against Parma in December 2002. Martins began to make an impact during the 2002-03 season where he showed his quality in the Champions League, scoring against Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan. His best season for the club was in the 2004-05 season, where he scored 22 goals in 45 games, unfortunately for him, Inter decided to sign other strikers soon after.
Martins IM
In total he scored 49 goals for the Italian side before signing for Newcastle United on the 24th August 2006 and was handed the number nine shirt, taking over from Alan Shearer. After a difficult start, in which he suffered a few injuries, he would go on to score his first goal for the club on the 17th September against West Ham in a 2-0 win and he became a regular scorer hitting one of the goals of the season when he scored from 20 yards against Tottenham Hotspur at a speed of 84mph. Martins ended his first season with 17 goals in all competitions. His second season at the club was mixed as he had to settle for a place on the bench under Sam Allardyce, as he preferred Michael Owen and Mark Viduka upfront. But after Kevin Keegan became manager he found a system that allowed all three players to be on the field and combine well. He finished the season with 10 goals in 33 games.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park
Martins then started the 2008-09 season in fantastic form, scoring six goals in 12 games before tearing his hamstring and later in the season needing an operation on a hernia, meaning he could not continue this form. After being out since January he returned to the side in a relegation six pointer against Middlesbrough and scored twice. However, this would not be good enough to keep them in the Premier League.

On the 31st July 2009 Martins joined Wolfsburg for £9 million and went on to score on his debut against FC Koln. He only stayed at the club for one season but scored six times in 16 Bundesliga games. He then moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan and helped them win the Russian Cup but it was not the greatest time for the striker and on the 31st January 2011 he joined Birmingham City on loan. Although his time at the club was ruined by injuries, he still managed to write himself into their history books as he scored the winning goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.

With the club getting relegated from the Premier League a permanent move was no longer on the cards and Martins joined Levante. On his league debut he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and was a decent goalscorer, hitting the back of the net in a third of his league games. But on the 15th March 2013 he joined MLS side Seattle Sounders and last season finished with 17 goals, as well as 13 assists for the club, a joint club record with Mauro Rosales.
Martins SS
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He excites me very much as a player. He is very, very different to not only anything we have got at this football club, but probably in the Premier League. It sends up all sorts of ideas in your mind what this player can bring to the football club.”

27th October – Rhys Weston

Rhys Weston may not be the most recognisable name but he has had a very interesting career and if it wasn’t for injuries he may have played at a higher level for a prolonged period of time.

The defender will be fondly remembered by Cardiff City fans as he helped them climb from the bottom division of the Football League to the Championship and even took a pay cut in 2005 to help the club. The 34 year old can also say that he played at the highest level as he featured seven times for Wales between the years of 2000 and 2005.

Now 34 he doesn’t have a club but has played in a few different countries and experienced some different cultures so he can at least take that from his career. Weston started his career at Arsenal and made his debut on the 30th November 1999 in a League Cup game against Middlesbrough after coming on as a substitute. Later in the season he would go on to make his only top flight appearance as he started the final game against Newcastle United on the 14th May 2000.

In total he played three times for Arsenal before joining Cardiff in November 2000 for £300,000. He made his debut in a 3-2 win over Lincoln City and would go on to play another 31 times as the club gained promotion to Division Two after finishing 2nd. In the following season Weston was a more important member of the team and showed his quality in the 43 games he played, unfortunately the club missed out on back to back promotions after being beaten in the playoffs by Stoke City. The 2002-03 season was successful for the player and the club as they managed to gain promotion after beating QPR 1-0 in the playoff final. During the season Weston also scored his first professional goal after scoring in a 4-0 win over Tranmere Rovers on the 26th October.
Weston CC
Despite adapting well to the First Division, Weston struggled with injuries and would only play 24 times after suffering a knee injury and then damaging cartilage in his other knee in March 2004. In the following campaign he returned to his consistent self but again his season was ended by injury. At the end of the season he accepted a substantial reduction in his wages and was placed on the transfer list by new manager Dave Jones but still managed to play 30 times during the 2005-06 season. However, he was left out of the club’s pre-season tour and was released.

Weston then joined Norwegian side Viking but his only match for the club lasted 12 minutes as he dislocated his shoulder. Four days later the manager was sacked and the incoming manager could not speak English so Weston returned to the UK. In February 2007 Weston signed for Port Vale. He would go onto play 15 games for the club before being released. On the 16th July 2007 Weston signed for Walsall and went on to play 50 games for the club during the 2007-08 season earning himself a new deal. He would continue to be a consistent player but at the end of the 2009-10 manager Chris Hutchings decided not to give him a contract and after 111 games he joined Dundee.
Weston Walsall
He spent two seasons at the Scottish side and in both seasons they finished 2nd in Division One but at the end of his contract he decided to join Icelandic side KR Reykjavik. Due to financial problems he left the club after just 16 appearances and made the move to Malaysia to sign for Sabah FA. He only played six times and joined AFC Wimbledon on the 7th August 2013. Once again he did not get much game time and after a loan spell at Sutton United he was not offered a new contract.
Weston Dundee
The final word can go to Richard Money. “Rhys has become an important member of the team. His performances have become more and more consistent as the season has progressed and we hope that he will continue to be an important player for Walsall.”

26th October – Steve Howey

Being born in Sunderland but going on to play for Newcastle United is what birthday boy Steve Howey did in his career and he will have been delighted that his former side got a win away to Tottenham Hotspur.

The central defender is 43 today and he went through a number of emotions during his time at Newcastle and will know exactly what the fans are going through at the moment as he endured some good times and bad times during his career. He will also be remembered as one of the defenders in Newcastle’s very attacking team under Kevin Keegan that reached the very top of the Premier League and should have won a title, however this didn’t quite happen but Howey still managed to earn himself four England caps because of his performances.

Howey started his career at Newcastle and signed his first professional contract on the 11th December 1989 and would go on to be one of the most popular players amongst the fans over the next 11 years. He was originally a striker when playing for the youth teams and reserves before the manager of the time Ossie Ardiles decided to use him as a defender. He did not become a first team regular until Kevin Keegan took charge and became an important member of the side during the club’s First Division title win in the 1992-93 season. Unfortunately Howey didn’t quite get to live up to his potential as injuries disrupted his time at the club but he still helped the club finish runners up in the Premier League during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and was involved in some dramatic games. He also helped the club reach the final of the FA Cup in 1998.
Howey NUFC
His time at Newcastle finally came to an end in August 2000 as newly promoted Manchester City paid £2 million for his services. It would be a very tough start to his career in Manchester and on his debut the team went on to lose 4-0 against Charlton Athletic. Things would not get better and the club were relegated from the top flight at the end of the season. However, Howey decided to stay at the club and helped them secure an immediate return to the Premier League as they won the First Division. Howey would stay at the club for one more season and this time it was a much better effort as they finished in the top half of the table. While at City, he had a decent goalscoring record and found the back of the net 11 times in 94 games, including a late equaliser against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, unfortunately for Howey though the game is more remembered more for the clash between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland.
Howey MCFC
In 2003 the defender moved to Leicester City for £200,000 however he only stayed at the club for six months and after just 13 games he joined Bolton Wanderers. After just three appearances for the club he was released and had a short spell in the MLS with New England Revolution before returning to England to play one game for Hartlepool United.
Howey LC
The final word can go to Micky Adams who signed him at Leicester City. “I’ve been looking for players with Premier League experience and Steve fits the bill. He can still do a very good job. It’s pleasing to get the first signing out the way and at such a good price. He is a former international and will be a good addition.”

25th October – Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shaun Wright-Phillips was a player that was very highly rated as a youngster but as the years have gone by he has become less effective and is now in the footballing wilderness, however if given the chance he could still help QPR avoid relegation.

The club are really struggling to create chances and if they could get the winger back on form they would have a real player on their hands. The 33 year old has made some big money moves in his career but he has largely failed to live up to his potential, despite six goals in 36 games for England and some fantastic performances for club and country. With him being on such a high wage it is difficult for QPR to get rid of him so they have will have to try and work something out.

Wright-Phillips started his career at Manchester City and made his debut in 1999 as a substitute in a League Cup match against Burnley. He made his league debut against Port Vale a few months later and helped his side turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, with the winger having the shot that resulted in his team’s first goal, unfortunately it was given as an own goal. City were promoted to the Premier League at the end of the season but their stay only lasted one season with Wright-Phillips, playing in a number of positions in his 19 appearances.
SWP MC
After Kevin Keegan replaced Joe Royle as manager and the winger benefitted hugely from this as he became an automatic first choice in Keegan’s more attacking team. He was used as a right wing back and helped the club gain promotion once more, scoring eight times in 35 league games. From 2000-2003 Wright-Phillips won the club’s Young Player of the Year award and was quickly developing into one of the best young players in the country. In his final season at the club he scored 10 Premier League goals in 34 games and was being linked with moves away.

On the 18th July 2005 the winger completed a £21 million move to Chelsea. In his first season he struggled to make his mark on the team and only started 15 games all season. Wright-Phillips would have to wait 52 games and 17 months before scoring his first goal for the club on the 5th December 2006 in a 2-0 win over Levski Sofia in the Champions League. Afterwards he gained confidence and got a lot more game time, including the FA Cup final which Chelsea went on to win.
SWP Chelsea
At the beginning of the 2006-07 season it seemed as though he was going to be a regular but this did not last and after 65 starts and 60 substitute appearances he returned to Manchester City on the 28th August 2008. On his second debut he scored twice in a 3-0 win over Sunderland and then just over a month after joining the club he equalled the same amount of goals in his entire time at Chelsea but his form slowed towards the end of the season.

The 2009-10 season started well and he scored in three consecutive games against Burnley, Hull City and Arsenal but after Roberto Mancini became the new manager, he did spent the rest of his time on the bench and in the following season he only played seven times. On the 31st August 2011 Wright-Phillips signed for QPR and made his full debut against Newcastle United on the 12th September. His time at QPR has been disappointing and failed to score for almost a year before scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over former club Chelsea. QPR were relegated at the end of the season and last season the winger only featured 13 times in their promotion campaign.
SWP MCFC
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He’s a very special player. I haven’t seen a player like him in all my time in the game. He’s got terrific balance and courage. He may be small but he can win the ball in the air and he never stops running.”