22nd March – Luke Freeman

Luke Freeman has had a double celebration today after turning 23 and also helping Bristol City defeat Walsall 2-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

The midfielder is looking to have a fantastic end to a season that has already been pretty special for Bristol City and their fans as they look like they are going to get promoted to the Championship as League One champions. Freeman has always been a very good player and one that definitely has the ability to prove it at a higher level so he will be hoping that the club can secure promotion as quickly as possible so he can prepare for the second tier of English football.

Freeman started his career at Gillingham where he made his debut against Barnet in the FA Cup on the 10th November 2007 at the age of just 15 years and 233 days, therefore becoming Gillingham’s youngest ever player and also the youngest player to appear in the FA Cup. Later in the month he would also make his league debut against Hartlepool United and his performances caught the eye of several Premier League clubs and joined Arsenal on trial in December 2007.

Arsenal signed Freeman on the 30th January 2008 and after impressing for the under 18s he was given a professional contract by the club just over a year later. After progressing through the youth teams and into the reserves he needed first team opportunities and joined Yeovil Town on loan at the start of the 2010-11 season. He got off to a great start scoring in a 2-1 win over Leyton Orient on his debut and would go on to play 12 more league games for the club before his loan was ended by injury.

Freeman YT

He recovered from his injury and would impress again for Arsenal’s reserves and was eager to go back out on loan, this time joining Stevenage on the 17th November 2011. In his second loan spell away he played nine games and scored one goal in a 6-1 win over Colchester United but his performances particularly off the bench were exciting and showed he had a lot of potential. This convinced Stevenage to sign Freeman permanently on the 10th January 2012. He would help the club reach the playoffs with seven goals in 32 games but unfortunately they would lose out in the semi finals.

Freeman Stevenage

The 2012-13 wasn’t as successful for the midfielder as he struggled for consistency and spent a lot of the season featuring as a substitute. However in the following season, despite Stevenage finishing bottom of League One, he put in some fantastic performances and ended the campaign with a career best eight goals. After 128 games and 17 goals for Stevenage, Freeman would leave for Bristol City on the 26th June 2014.

????????????????????????????????

So far for Bristol City he has played 48 times in all competitions, scored seven goals and provided 15 assists which just shows how important he is to the side and is a big reason why they are challenging at the top of the table.

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s someone we’ve been keeping tabs on for some time and I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring Luke on board. He’s a good, young, exciting player. He’s an excellent addition to the football club for the short term and long term. He can play on the left, on the right and cut in, or play in a midfield three.”

Advertisements

13th March – Edgar Davids

Going from winning the Champions League, Eredivisie and Serie A title to managing Barnet just shows how crazy Edgar Davids career was but he was certainly a very good player and one that was instantly recognisable.

Due to glaucoma Davids had to wear protective glasses and this made him stand out on the field to anyone that watched him play but for people that loved football they could see that not only was he one of the most combative and energetic midfielders he also had a lot of creativity and could see passes that attacking midfielders would have been proud of.

Davids Ajax

Davids is now 41 and started his career at Ajax, making his debut on the 6th September 1991 in a 5-1 win over RKC Waalwijk. The midfielder spent five years at the club and helped them to three league titles as well as a UEFA Cup and the Champions League in 1995. In total he played 106 league games and scored 20 times before moving to Inter Milan at the start of the 1996-97 season. Unfortunately he wasn’t very successful at the club and after just 19 games he left for Juventus in December 1997 for £5.3 million.

He quickly became an important member of the side and was known as the driving force in the midfield and had six very successful years at the club. He picked up three Serie A titles as well as two Italian Supercups but sadly for him and the club during his time there he reached the Champions League final twice but would go on to lose both games. In January 2004 his time with Juventus was over and he joined Barcelona in loan. They were nowhere near the team they are now and were struggling in midtable but recently appointed Frank Rijkaard realised they needed more of a presence in the centre of the park and Davids was the perfect man. After he joined the club soon found form and they would rise up to second in the table by the end of the season and this was seen as the catalyst for their dominance of Spanish and European football.

Davids Juve

Surprisingly in the summer of 2004 he made the move back to Inter Milan, however he once again only lasted one season and was released from his contract in August 2005. Davids then joined Tottenham Hotspur and was an instant success and quickly became a favourite. In both years he would help the club finish fifth but he only managed one goal in a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.

Davids TH

Davids returned to Ajax on the 28th January 2007 and helped the club win the KNVB Cup by scoring the winning penalty against AZ. But a broken leg in the following pre season meant he couldn’t have the same impact in his second spell. On the 20th August 2010 he made another surprising move, this time joining Championship side Crystal Palace. He would only stay until the 8th November but he still described the experience as one of the best of his life.

After this spell he stayed in London and wanted to get back into the game so joined Barnet as player-manager on the 11th October 2012 and would be named as man of the match on his debut in a 4-0 win over Northampton Town. However, despite his early success he could not keep Barnet in the Football League and after failing to challenge for promotion he resigned from the club on the 18th January 2014 with a 36% win rate.

The final word can go to George Burley after he left Crystal Palace. “It was a privilege to work with him, everybody at the club enjoyed it, he’s been a world class player. It was a great experience for everyone at the club and if you asked me to do it again I would.”

24th February – Kevin O’Connor

One club players don’t come around too often and Kevin O’Connor has progressed right from the youth team at Brentford to now being part of their coaching staff.

He is only 33 but it seems like he is focusing on the next stage of his career as he has had limited playing time this season but he will be happy to still be involved at Brentford. They are definitely a team on the up despite the uncertainties around the managerial position. Since signing for the club he has played in every position and is currently fourth on Brentford’s all time appearance list.

O’Connor first signed with Brentford as a striker and after a run of 23 goals in 30 reserve games he was given a professional contract in 1999. He went on to make his debut on the 15th February 2000 as a substitute in the Football League Trophy defeat to Exeter City and went on to make his first start in a draw with Wycombe Wanderers a few days later. An injury slowed his progress and he had to wait over a year to score his first goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol City.

OC Brent 1

After Steve Coppell became manager in 2001, O’Connor became a regular in the side and made 32 appearances helping his club reach the playoffs, unfortunately they were beaten in the final by Stoke City. New manager Wally Downes was impressed by his performances and he was an ever present in the side for the following campaign and was now seen as a winger and contributed nine goals.

During the 2004-05 season O’Connor was moved to right back and was given the captain’s armband on the 19th October against Hartlepool United. The season again ended in disappointment as they were defeated in the playoffs, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to suffer even more heartbreak in the playoffs in the 2005-06 season but he did manage to score eight times in 38 games. Even worse was to follow as the club were relegated in 2007 after finishing bottom.

OC Brent 3

Relegation meant another position change for O’Connor as he played predominantly in the centre of midfield in League Two. He started off well in his new position by scoring goals against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. But he only added one more goal over the course of the season as the club finished midtable. In the following season Brentford won the league and O’Connor was awarded a new contract. He was impressive once again in League One and made 49 appearances over the season and was given a testimonial at the end of the campaign.

The 2010-11 season was the last one that he featured regularly for the club as injuries stopped him from playing. But he was on the pitch for one of the most exciting endings to the season ever against Doncaster Rovers in the final game of the 2012-13 season. Brentford were awarded a penalty in the last minute and Marcello Trotta took the ball off O’Connor but missed the spot kick and Doncaster ran down the other end and scored, winning the game 1-0 meaning Brentford and O’Connor had to go through the playoffs. Once again they failed to get promoted after losing against Yeovil Town.

OC Brent 2

Finally in the next campaign they would get promoted to the Championship and on the final day of the season O’Connor made his 500th appearance for the club. Since promotion he has not played a league game but he has been an important member of the coaching staff, helping the team challenge for the playoffs and will be needed now more than ever with Mark Warburton expected to leave in the summer.

The final word can go to Mark Warburton. “Kevin has seen so much change at the club and yet has maintained his exceedingly high standards throughout and it is this outstanding quality that we need to keep at Brentford. I am delighted that Kevin O’Connor will be extending his stay at the club.”

13th May – Yaya Toure

He might have just won the Premier League for the second time but this time it is more special because he beat his older brother to the title.

Yaya Toure’s Manchester City were behind Kolo’s Liverpool until the last few weeks of the season but Liverpool let it slip and City were there to take advantage. The younger Toure brother has had a very interesting career which has seen him play in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France, Spain and England.

After joining the ASEC Mimosas youth team in 1996 in his home country of Ivory Coast he showed a lot of potential and was one of a number of Ivorian players to join Belgian club Beveren in 2001. In his time at the Belgian club he played 70 times and scored three goals and he thought his big moment was coming when he had a trial at Arsenal in 2003. He played in a pre-season friendly against Barnet and missed a good chance and then had his performance described as ‘completely average’ by manager Arsene Wenger. However, Arsenal did try and sign him but were unable to get a work permit and Toure decided to join Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk where he stayed for a year and a half before being watched by bigger clubs.
Toure Beveren
Greek side Olympiakos took a chance on him and he was quickly dubbed ‘the new Patrick Vieira’. The club won the double and Toure was one of their best players which meant he was linked with a move away from the club and after a good 2006 World Cup he did get a move to French side Monaco. It was not until new manager Laurent Banide came in that the fans got to see the best of him and in the second half of the season he scored five times and was crucial in pulling the club away from the relegation zone. Banide said of him: “Yaya has got terrific technique and uses his body strength to effect. He can do just about anything.”

Once again he only stayed for a season and moved onto bigger things. This time to Spanish giants Barcelona for £6.7 million. He played in the defensive midfield role for the team and his attacking runs were limited and after being forced out of the team by Sergio Busquets he started playing as a centre back and this is where he played in the 2009 Champions League final. After staying for three seasons he was on his way to England.
Toure Barca
It cost Manchester City £24 million to sign him but nobody can argue that he isn’t worth every penny. In his first season he saved his best performances for the FA Cup as he ran the midfield and scored the only goal of the game in the semi final against Manchester United and then repeating it in the final against Stoke City securing the club’s first major trophy for 35 years.

The Premier League title would follow the next season and in the match that was billed as the title decider Toure’s performance against rivals Manchester United was dominant and magnificent. As for much of the season they could not handle his power and he ran the midfield in the 1-0 victory. But he then went on and performed even better when the pressure was higher against Newcastle United by scoring twice in a game that would mean they only needed to win their last game to clinch the title.

Although the 2012-13 season did not go as well for the team, Toure kept his performances as consistent as ever. But in the 2013-14 season he went on to a whole new level, he scored 20 Premier League goals including his first professional hatrick, as well as scoring the equaliser in the League Cup final against Sunderland which they went on to win 3-1. Manuel Pellegrini knw how important he was to the side. “If the team did a good performance it was because of the individual high level from players like Yaya.”
Toure City
The final word can go the manager that brought him to England Roberto Mancini. “It is clear he has class – if he didn’t we wouldn’t have bought him. When you are a top player you can play in every position, and for me Yaya is one of the best players in Europe. But he is also a good guy, which is another important asset.”