29th June – Andy O’Brien

Andrew O’Brien like his namesake Liam will go down in Newcastle United history for scoring a goal in the Tyne-Wear Derby.

The centre back, might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of goalscorers in a derby but was a fan favourite for a while, not just at Newcastle but at many of his other teams.

O’Brien started his career at Bradford City and made his debut in 1996 against QPR and quickly became a first team regular. During the 1998-99 season he played 34 times, helping the club gain promotion to the Premier League. The team struggled in the Premier League and barely survived relegation in the first season but as the club were facing relegation and a lot of financial difficulties they had to sell their best assets. After 133 league appearances for Bradford, O’Brien joined Newcastle United for £2 million.

Francis Jeffers and Andy O''Brien

In one of his first games for the club he scored an equaliser against Sunderland and he followed this up by being a dependable defender in the next season as the club qualified for the Champions League. Despite the arrival of Titus Bramble and Jonathan Woodgate during the 2002-03 season, O’Brien managed to stay first choice.

O'Brien NU

His form was solid for Newcastle up until the end of the 2004-05 season when his performances took a dip and along with the club’s disappointing 14th place finish it was time for the defender to leave. Portsmouth signed him for £2 million and after a disappointing start under manager Alain Perrin, his form picked up throughout the season and was once again seen as a solid player.

In his second season he found opportunities limited and on the 13th August 2007 he signed for Bolton Wanderers. He quickly settled in at the club and impressed the fans so much that he was voted their Player of the Season. He captained the side on many occasions and on the 11th April 2009 he scored his first goal for over four years in a game against Chelsea. But after Owen Coyle took charge, O’Brien was left on the bench. Despite many clubs being interested the manager didn’t want to let him go as he still saw him as an asset.

O'Brien BW

The next move of his career was to Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently on the 1st January 2011. Just days after signing he put in one of the performances of his career in an FA Cup game against Arsenal. But things turned sour afterwards with a few mistakes in the opening few games of the following season and the defender wanted to leave after the fans gave him a tough time. The final move of his career was to the MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps where he played 50 league games.

The final word can go to former Portsmouth Chief Executive Peter Storrie. “We have signed a first-class player who has played at the top for both club and country and has a very prominent record.”

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28th June – Fabien Barthez

Fabien Barthez is a World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Premier League winner yet his abilities as a goalkeeper were still questioned.

The Frenchman had a fantastic career and should be up there with the best goalkeepers ever and if some of his previous coaches are to be believed then he was actually a better outfield player than in goal.

Barthez began his career at Toulouse, making his debut in 1991 against Nancy. He established himself as the club’s number one, playing 26 times during the 1991-92 season. At the end of this season he joined Marseille and would go on to win the French Cup and Champions League in his first campaign and in doing so becoming the youngest keeper to win the competition.

Barthez Marseille

After this the club went through many controversies and would suffer relegation to the second division. Many expected Barthez to leave, however he stuck around and helped the club win the title. He stayed until 1995, when he joined Monaco and gained even more success by helping the club win Ligue 1 in 1997 and 2000. During this time he also helped France win the World Cup and European Championships.

Barthez Monaco

Manchester United signed Barthez for £7.8 million in 2000 and would quickly become a fan favourite for his remarkable reaction saves. He helped the club win the Premier League title but he did still show some problems in his game, most notably in an FA Cup tie with West Ham as he stood there with his hand in the air appealing for offside as Paolo Di Canio scored

The start of the 2001-02 season was a struggle for him as high profile mistakes against Deportivo and Arsenal led to some wanting him to be dropped from the team. However, manager Alex Ferguson backed Barthez to bounce back. The following season ended with another league title but once again he had some ups and downs and he was heavily criticised especially after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, which turned out to be his last game for the club as he was dropped for Roy Carroll.

Barthez MU

With the signing of Tim Howard, Barthez knew his time was up at Old Trafford and returned to Marseille on loan. His form returned but in February 2005 he allegedly spat on a referee and was given a six month ban. After his ban and 102 games for Marseille it looked as though his career was over as he announced his retirement from the game.

On the 17th December 2006, Barthez was convinced to sign for Nantes but after a decent start he was involved in more controversy, involving an altercation with a fan, that forced him to leave the club.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “Fabien is a World Cup winner and not only has the personality but the vast experience that is required at Manchester United. Apart from his obvious goalkeeping skills, he has the personality to play on the biggest stage.”

26th June – Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini is one of the greatest defenders to have ever played football and spent his full career at one club.

To play over 900 times for a team like AC Milan and over 100 times for Italy just shows how talented Maldini was. He was known for his positional sense and his reading of the game which led him to being labelled as the defender that doesn’t need to tackle.

Maldini Italy

Maldini made his debut on the 20th January 1985 against Udinese at the age of 16. In the following campaign he became a regular and was handed the number three shirt, which his father Cesare had also worn. With a promising start titles came soon after and the 1987-88 season marked his first Serie A title and this was down to Maldini and his fellow defenders as they conceded 14 goals Over the next two seasons, his form translated to European football as Milan won the European Cup back to back.

In the early 90s Milan became known as The Invincibles as they went the whole 1991-92 season unbeaten and a record 58 games without losing. They not only won three consecutive titles but they also reached three consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them against Barcelona.

Maldini AC

The club went through a transitional period after Fabio Capello left and several of the more experienced members of the squad moved on. But Maldini was still showing his ability and he was rewarded by being made Milan captain . After he galvanised the squad, he led them to another Serie A title in the 1998-99 season.

It wasn’t until Carlo Ancelotti was named manager that they finally began to dominate in Europe again with Maldini lifting the Champions League trophy as captain for the first time after defeating Juventus on penalties in 2003 and was named man of the match. In the space of six years Milan got to the final three times. Maldini opened the scoring in 2005 against Liverpool and played in the 2007 final which they won against the same opposition becoming the oldest captain to lift the trophy.

Maldini

Maldini during this period would also go on to break Dino Zoff’s Serie A appearance record after playing his 571st league game. He did announce his plans to retire at the end of the 2007-08 season however his performances were still of the highest quality and he was convinced to stay on.

On the 16th February 2008, Maldini played in his 1000th professional game after coming on as a substitute against Parma. One season later he decided it was time to hang up the boots and played his 902nd and last game for Milan against Fiorentina on the 31st May 2009. Milan then decided to retire his number three shirt to honour their captain.

The final word can go to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”

23rd June – Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane was a fantastic footballer that amazed fans all over the world and is now proving that he is equally adept at being a manager.

It will be interesting to see what he does after leading Real Madrid to three Champions League trophies. He has surprised a lot of pundits by showing tactical knowledge but it shouldn’t be a surprise after everything that happened to him during his playing days.

The midfielder started his career at French side Cannes and made his professional debut on the 18th May 1989 against Nantes and in his first full season he helped the club to a fantastic 4th place in Ligue 1.He showed a lot of talent in his early years and this earned him a move to Bordeaux in 1992.

While at Bordeaux it seemed like he was consistently linked with moves away from the club due to his form but for whatever reason it seemed like clubs were not willing to take a chance on him. But in 1996, and his finally year at the club, he won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year. During his time there he played 139 league games and scored 28 goals.

Zidane Bordeaux

Juventus signed Zidane and he was an instant success in Italy and even though they had just won the Champions League many believed that he would improve the squad. In his first season they reached the final again but were beaten by Dortmund, however they did win the Serie A title. In the following season he scored seven times in 32 games as they retained the title and once again they reached the Champions League final but were beaten, this time to Real Madrid. In 1998 he was named World Player of the Year.

Zidane Juve

He stayed with Juventus until Real Madrid paid a world record fee for the playmaker in 2001. In his first season he got his hands on the Champions League trophy and scored one of the greatest goals ever seen against Bayer Leverkusen. At Real Madrid the trophies didn’t flow as often as he would have hoped but he did help them win the La Liga title at the end of the 2002-03 season. His ability was never questioned but occasionally he did show a different side and his disciplinary record was not the greatest and he received more red cards than people realise.

Zidane RM

On the international stage he also showed these two sides of his game by scoring two goals in the final of the 1998 World Cup final and being named the best player of Euro 2000. However, he might always be more remembered for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 World Cup. This would be his last moment as a footballer.

The final word can go to Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. “He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium.”

22nd June – Stephen Crainey

Stephen Crainey was part of Blackpool’s exciting Premier League campaign that saw them become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

Under Ian Holloway, Blackpool played an attacking brand of football that made many neutrals excited but it wasn’t always easy for Crainey in the top flight due to this style.

The defender started his career at Celtic and would play a total of 58 times for the club and helped the team win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title. Although never a regular he earned a move to Premier League side Southampton on the 6th February 2004 and made his debut in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. However, after just five Premier League appearances he was on the move again.

Crainey Celtic

Crainey signed for Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently, and in doing so became the first player Leeds had paid for since 2004. Despite this, he still couldn’t hold down a regular place and after three seasons and the club being relegated to League One he was released from his contract.

Crainey LU

Blackpool signed the left back and he became a fan favourite and club hero. In his first season he would go on to score his first ever league goal in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United and helped the club to their highest finish in the Championship in 27 years. Due to his form he was linked with moves away but instead he signed a new contract. However, an injury at the start of the 2008-09 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but he would recover and become a key player once more.

Crainey then helped Blackpool to arguably one of their greatest ever achievements by appearing in 46 games during the 2009-10 season which saw them gain promotion to the Premier League. In the top flight their efforts were very enjoyable to watch and if it wasn’t for an injury to Crainey in January they may have been more solid at the back and came closer to escaping relegation. Everyone expected them to be one of the worst in the history of the league but they almost pulled off a shock.

Crainey Blackpool

Upon relegation Crainey again signed a new contract to ward off interest from Premier League clubs, such as Wigan Athletic, and he continued putting in solid performances in the Championship and scored his second goal for the club against Birmingham City on the 26th November 2011.

He would stay at Blackpool for one more season before deciding to move on and he did eventually sign for Wigan. This only lasted for one season and in 2014 he signed for Fleetwood Town, where he would play 28 league games before leaving for AFC Fylde, his final club.

The final word can go to former Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander. “He has played at the top level and is still hungry for success. We thought we needed to bring in more added quality and experience. Crainey certainly provides that.”

21st June – Peter Thorne

Peter Thorne was a striker that was feared in the lower leagues of English football for many years and scored just short of 200 goals in his career.

The forward was successful almost everywhere he went but his career began slowly at Blackburn Rovers, where he is only first team appearance came in the 1994 Charity Shield against Manchester United. To get some playing time Thorne went out on loan to Wigan Athletic during the season but unfortunately couldn’t score in his 11 games. Swindon Town then took a chance on him and despite his impressive 11 goals in 23 games he could not stop them from getting relegated from Division One. Thorne stayed at the club and helped them gain promotion with another 11 goals.

Thorne SC

In his final season he scored 10 goals before moving to Stoke City in July 1997. Once again he was successful with 16 goals but his team were disappointing and another relegation followed. The next few years were heartbreaking for the club and the fans as they failed to gain promotion and were unfortunately defeated in several playoff attempts. But Thorne did score 30 goals in the 1999-00 season and also became a club hero by scoring the winning goal in the 2000 Football League Trophy final.

After 80 goals for Stoke, Cardiff City signed the striker for a club record £1.7 million in September 2001. The first season wasn’t ideal as he struggled with injuries but the following campaign he combined brilliantly with striker partner Robert Earnshaw and the pair scored a total of 52 goals. Over the next two seasons injuries haunted him however he still scored a decent amount of goals.

Thorne CC

With Cardiff struggling financially this meant Thorne was allowed to leave for Norwich City. In his two seasons at the club he only managed two goals and the striker did contemplate retirement. Bradford City convinced Thorne to sign for them on a one year deal and he would become a popular player.

Thorne BC

A hip injury stopped him from starting the league season but he quickly got up to the pace of League Two and would score regularly, including a hatrick in a 3-0 win over Notts County. Due to his form he was given a contract extension and once again rewarded his manager straight away by scoring two goals in each of the first two games and then adding a fifth of the season in the third game. By the start of November he already had 11 goals, however a shoulder injury slowed his progress and he ended the season with 17 goals. These would be his last career goals.

The final word can go to former Bradford manager Stuart McCall. “We know we’ve got a good goalscorer. Obviously with the little niggles that Thorney has had there is no guarantee he will play ‘X’ amount of games but if he does get 30 to 35 games, there is a good chance he will end with 15 to 20 goals.”

20th June – Juliano Belletti

Juliano Belletti was a World Cup winner in 2002 and will be hoping that Brazil improve this time around after a disappointing opening draw against Switzerland.

The right back was unfortunate that he played at the same time as Cafu as he would have gained a lot more than 23 caps. But he should still be proud of his international career and how influential he was for the clubs he played for.

Belletti started his career at Cruzeiro in Brazil and was given his debut in 1994 but after failing to break into the team, he was involved in a swap deal, joining Sao Paulo. Once again, he wasn’t first choice and was loaned out to Atletico Mineiro and this is where his career started. The club finished second in the table with Belletti scoring five times.

Soccer - FIFA Confederations Cup 2003 - Group B - Brazil v USA

On his return to Sao Paulo he was finally seen as their first choice right back and stayed at the club until 2002 when his performances had been spotted by clubs in Europe. It was Spanish side Villarreal that took a chance on him. He stayed with them for two years, playing 59 La Liga games, scoring six times before moving to Barcelona.

In his first season he helped the club win the league title but his second was slightly harder as he was in and out of the side. However, he did manage to score his one and only goal for Barcelona in this season. After coming on as a substitute in the Champions League final against Arsenal, Belletti scored the winning goal. This would be his greatest moment but he didn’t get much luck with injuries in the following campaign.

Belletti Barca

With limited opportunities the right back joined English side Chelsea on the 23rd August 2007 and made his debut two days later in a 4-0 win over Portsmouth. In his first season he made the right back position his own and scored against Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea would reach the Champions League final and despite Belletti scoring in the penalty shootout, the team would go on to lose against Manchester United. With the arrival of Jose Bosingwa at the start of the next season, the defender struggled to keep hold of his place and was seen as more of a utility player.

Belletti Chelsea

After three seasons, 94 appearances, five goals, a Premier League title and two FA Cup medals, Belletti had gained cult hero status but his time was up and he returned to Brazil to join Fluminense. Just one year into his new contract he was released due to injuries but he did give it one more try signing for Ceara. However, 12 days later he decided to retire.

The final word can go to former Chelsea and Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. “I know him very well. I know Belletti from when he started to play at Sao Paulo. I know his potential. He helps us in whatever position we put him in; midfield, right back, any position.”