25th August – Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling has been one of the best defenders in the Championship for a lot of his career and will be hoping he can make the step up to the Premier League soon.

The defender usually plays at right back but he can also fill in at centre half or play as one of the defenders when his manager decided to play three at the back. Under the stewardship of a manager like Marcelo Bielsa he will surely get better and will be hoping that this could be the manager that takes him to the top flight.

Ayling started his career at Arsenal and despite an impressive record at youth level in which he was part of their double winning team of the 2008-09 season, he failed to make a first team appearance for the club but was named on the substitute bench for a Champions League game against Greek side Olympiakos. Towards the end of his time at the club he signed for Yeovil Town on loan in March 2010. He played four times and did enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Ayling YT

In his first full season he was a key player, making 40 appearances, however his disciplinary record was quite poor as he picked up 13 yellow and two red cards. He played in 40 games every season he was at the club and helped them win the League One playoff final on the 19th May 2013 and therefore secured them a place in the Championship. The team found it very tough in the higher division but Ayling was certainly one of the bright spots.

After relegation, Ayling decided not to sign a new contract with the club and joined Bristol City on a free transfer. It turned out to be an impressive season as he played 58 times in all competitions and Bristol City went on to win the League One title and the Football League Trophy beating Walsall 2-0 at Wembley on the 22nd March 2015. He would continue to impress in the following season as they managed to avoid relegation in the following campaign, playing 33 times at either right back or centre back.

Ayling BC

On the 11th August 2016 the right back signed for Leeds United and would play 43 times in his first season. With many changes at the club throughout his time there so far, he has managed to convince every manager that has been in charge that he deserves his place in the team. During the 2017-18 season he was also named as the club’s vice captain and was also rewarded with a new four year contract. He had to wait until the 18th August 2018 to score his first goal for Leeds in a game against Rotherham United.

Ayling LU

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s a very versatile player and therefore offers us competition and cover in a variety of positions. He was instrumental in Yeovil’s promotion from League One and did very well in the Championship.”

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23rd August – Carlos Cuellar

Carlos Cuellar is looking to reach over 500 appearances in the next few months in a career that has took him to many different countries.

The defender, who played a lot in the centre of defence but could also operate in either full back position was a solid and dependable player, who was well liked at most of his clubs.

Cuellar started his career at Numancia, but got his first taste of first team football on loan at CD Calahorra in Spain, playing 27 times and scoring one goal. On his return to his parent club he made his debut against Xerez on the 23rd September 2001. Later in the campaign he scored his first goal against Racing.

He became first choice during the next season and afterwards signed for La Liga side Osasuna on the 29th August 2003. In his first two seasons he didn’t play as much as he would have liked but during the 2005-06 season he played 31 times as the club reached the Copa Del Rey final and finished fourth in the table, helping them qualify for the Champions League. After they dropped out of the competition into the UEFA Cup, Cuellar played seven times as they reached the semi final and during the tournament scored twice against Bayer Leverkusen.

Cuellar Osasuna

This turned out to be his last season at the club as he joined Rangers on the 5th July 2007. He was an instant success and was even named the Scottish Premier League Player of the Month in August and would score his first goal on the 1st September against Gretna. At the end of the season he was named the Scottish Premier League Player of the Year and played in a club record 65 games in a single season.

Cuellar Rangers

However, this would be his only one at Rangers as he signed for Aston Villa and had to wait until October to make his first start at right back, where he spent most of his time at the club. The 2009-10 season was his only campaign as a first choice player and in his four seasons he played 120 times. At the end of his contract he was released and signed for former Villa manager Martin O’Neill at Sunderland.

Cuellar AV

He made his debut in a 0-0 draw against Arsenal and would go on to play a further 27 times, scoring once against Fulham. After his contracte expired, he signed for Norwich City and helped them get promoted back to the Premier League, however he was released a few days later and returned to Spain signing for Almeria.

Since then he has not stayed anywhere for long turning out for Maccabi Petah Tikva, Ironi Kiyat Shmona and has just recently signed for Beitar Jerusalem.

The final word can go to Martin O’Neill. “Carlos is brave and he is aggressive. I like his qualities and I always have done. He has a big heart. Sometimes Carlos doesn’t mind playing out of position if it means he plays.”

29th July – Andy Reid

Andy Reid was a midfielder that wanted to play for clubs that could guarantee him games rather than playing for big clubs.

This was evident at the start of his career when he turned down Arsenal and Manchester United as he believed that they did not spend enough time with their youngsters during the early 2000s and waited for a different opportunity to move from his native Ireland.

So Reid started his career at Nottingham Forest and made his debut on the 29th November 2000 against Sheffield United and from then started to play regular football. He spent five years at Forest and finished as their top scorer at the end of the 2003-04 season with 13 goals and was named in the PFA Division One Team of the Year. This would be his final full season at the club as he handed a transfer request in August 2005.

Reid NF

On the last day of the January transfer window Reid and Michael Dawson joined Tottenham Hotspur. He made his debut shortly after in a 3-1 win over Portsmouth and started off brightly but unfortunately this wouldn’t last and he only played 27 times for the club, scoring once in a 5-1 win over Aston Villa.

Due to lack of game time Reid joined Charlton Athletic in August 2006. Once again he started off well and gained a lot of praise, however the club were on a downward spiral at the time and were relegated from the Premier League. Reid stayed at the club to help them get promoted but after seven goals in 23 games he was linked with moves away and joined Premier League side Sunderland in January 2008.

Reid CA

He was a regular in the side for his first three seasons at the club but during the 2010-11 season he had lost his place in the side and joined Sheffield United on a two month loan, playing nine times and scoring twice. After struggling to get his place back in the Sunderland side he joined Blackpool but he only played five times and after their relegation he didn’t do enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Reid Sunderland

Reid rejoined Nottingham Forest on a two year deal. His form returned and his quality was there for all to see. During the 2013-14 season he surpassed all expectations and rolled back the years by scoring 10 goals in 36 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and was also named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year. An injury in the following campaign pretty much put his career to an end but did manage to play a few more games to take his number of appearances to over 450.

The final word can go to former Tottenham sporting director Frank Arnesen. “Andy can play as a left winger, down the right side or just behind the striker so his arrival compliments the squad. He’s a technical footballer with a nice left foot, who can read the game well.”

24th July – Martin Keown

Martin Keown might be known more as a commentator to younger football fans but he was an imposing centre back that was very solid and dependable.

The defender now works for the BBC and has commentated on some of the biggest games in world football and the main reason for this is because he has played in huge games throughout his playing career.

Keown started his career at Arsenal, but made his first team debut on loan at Brighton in 1984 and played 23 times for the club. After returning to his parent club he made his Arsenal debut on the 23rd November 1985 against West Brom. He would go on to play 22 games through the season but when new manager George Graham came in he was not seen as part of the future and left for Aston Villa on the 9th June 1986.

Keown AV

His first season was a little bit of a disaster as Villa finished bottom of Division One and were relegated but when Graham Taylor came in as manager there was an upturn in form for both club and player. Keown missed just two league games as they gained promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt and then helped them stay in the top flight in the following campaign.

On the 7th August 1989, the centre back signed for Everton and after an incredible start which saw Everton top of the table they faded in the second half of the season and Keown’s form dipped slightly. He recaptured his great form during the 1991-92 season and after 96 league games for the club he returned to first club Arsenal.

Keown Everton

In his first four seasons back at Arsenal he barely missed a game and was part of the double winning side of the 1997-98 campaign and would also be an integral part of the 2001-02 double winning side. He remained a key player until the end of the 2002-03 season, lifting the FA Cup at the end of it.

The following season Keown played a small role in the Invincible season, playing 10 games, just enough to earn a third Premier League winners medal. But this would be his final season as he was released at the end of his contract and he signed for Leicester City. He only stayed at the club for less than six months, playing 17 league games before joining Reading.

Keown Arsenal

His time at Reading was even shorter and after five games he announced his retirement. He did briefly come back to play for Wembley FC with a number of other ex professionals but this only lasted three FA Cup qualifying games.

Keown won 43 England caps and scored twice for his country before retiring in 2002.

The final word can go to former Leicester City manager Micky Adams. “In Martin Keown we’ve signed a born leader, not just on the field but off the field as well. I believe we’re two people who can learn things from each other.”

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.”

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.”

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.”