20th October – Matt Jansen

Everyone knows that injuries play a huge part in football and some players get really unlucky and have their careers ruined by them, Matt Jansen definitely falls into this category.

In 2002 the striker was involved in a motorcycle accident and almost lost his life while on holiday and after six days in a coma it is understandable that he could never reach the level that he had previously been at. The saddest part of his story is the fact that he was on the fringes of the England team at the time and some people thought he was unfortunate to miss out on a place in the 2002 World Cup team.

The 37 year old started his career at Carlisle United and made his debut during the 1996-97 season and helped the club gain promotion from the Third Division. He also won his first piece of silverware at the club after they won the Football League Trophy against Colchester United after coming on as a substitute in extra time. Jansen made a quick start to the following season and found the back of the net nine times in 23 games before being linked with moves away from the club.
Jansen CU
He first rejected Manchester United as he wanted to be somewhere that could guarantee him games and signed for Crystal Palace in 1998 for £1 million. Although they were relegated from the Premier League Jansen proved his quality and scored three times in eight games before getting off to a positive start in Division One with seven goals in 18 games. This convinced Blackburn Rovers to sign him for £4.1 million and he would justify his transfer fee by scoring on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in January 1999.

Once again, his club failed in their attempt to avoid relegation and he had to prove his ability in Division One. After a slow 1999-00 season he found his feet and was a very important part of Blackburn’s promotion to the Premier League in the following season, scoring 23 goals. Jansen was then helped the club stay in the Premier League with 10 league goals and also scored six goals in five games in the League Cup, including the first in the 2-1 final win over Tottenham.
Jansen BR
However, in the summer he had his accident and struggled to get back into the Blackburn team and joined Coventry City on loan in 2003 where he scored twice in nine games. At the start of the 2004-05 season he did get back into the Blackburn team and after two goals in eight games it seemed like he was beginning to rediscover his form, however a lot of people felt that he hadn’t recovered mentally from his accident and was struggling with the pressure of Premier League football and therefore decided that he should take a break from the game.

In May 2005 he signed a new deal with Blackburn suggesting that he was going to be given another chance but this didn’t happen and he was released on 11th January 2006. Two days he later he signed for Bolton Wanderers but after just seven appearances he was released.

Jansen did not return to football until March 2009 when he signed for Wrexham and he scored once against Northwich Victoria before leaving the club. Since he has played for Leigh and Chorley as his former teammate Garry Flitcroft was manager at the clubs and persuaded his friend to play for him. Jansen is now player-coach at Chorley.
Jansen Chorley
The final word can go to Dean Saunders, who coached him at Blackburn and signed him for Wrexham. “He’s not doing it for the money; he’s not earning a lot. He wants to come and get back to enjoying playing football again. Matt has done it to help me. Matt is a class player but I am not expecting miracles. He will hopefully show the bits of quality I know he has got in him.”

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18th October – Robbie Savage

Robbie Savage has definitely spilt opinion throughout his career, some love his antics whereas others hate him but one thing that nobody can deny is that he put in a lot of effort while out on the pitch and didn’t let down the fans.

Now a pundit, the 40 year old likes to be controversial and say things that will upset people and he is not shy in giving his opinions. Recently he has put across the point that footballers don’t care how much fans pay to support their team but at least he came out and gave his honest opinion rather than one he doesn’t believe.

Savage started his career at Manchester United and was part of the 1992 FA Youth Cup winning team which has become known as the ‘Class of 92’ however unlike David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville he never made it at Old Trafford and failed to play a game for the club and joined Crewe Alexandra in 1994. The midfielder was an instant success at his new club and in his first two seasons he helped them reach the Division Two playoffs and then they finally made it third time lucky and were promoted via the playoffs in 1997. Shortly after promotion Savage handed in a transfer request and he ended his time at the club with 10 goals in 87 games.

In July 1997 he joined Leicester City for a fee of £400,000 and became known as a reliable and fiery midfielder and became a fans favourite but was largely hated by the opposition. In his five years at the club he reached two League Cup finals and in the first he was involved in an incident with Tottenham Hotspur player Justin Edinburgh that got the Spurs man sent off. Savage had to wait a year to pick up a winners medal as they saw off Tranmere Rovers in the 2000 final. After Leicester were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2001-02 season Savage joined Birmingham City for £1.25 million.
Savage Leicester
Savage was once again a key player for the club and he played a vital role in keeping the club in the Premier League for two seasons but he handed in a transfer request and on the 19th January he joined Blackburn Rovers. In his first half a season at Blackburn he also played a key part in keeping them in the top flight and in the 2005-06 season he was a very consistent performer and helped the club reach the UEFA Cup and in the following campaign he scored in the competition against Salzburg and Wisla Krakow. However, a broken leg in January meant that he would miss the rest of the season. During the 2007-08 season he suffered a few more injury problems and struggled to break into the starting eleven meaning that on the 9th January 2008 he left for Derby County.
Savage BC
He could not stop relegation from the Premier League and even though it was not his fault, his performances were poor. After an equally poor start to the following season he was dropped by manager Paul Jewell and was sent out on loan to Brighton in October 2008, where he played six times. After Jewell was sacked, Nigel Clough put him back in the team and would also become captain of the club in the following season.
Although it was another disappointing one for the club, on a personal not Savage must have been happy as he played 51 times and was named the club’s Player of the Year. He did not miss many games while Clough was in charge and went on to play 137 times for the club before retiring in 2011.
Savage Derby
The final word can go to Alex McLeish. “I Like Robbie. I think he brings colour to the game. He has had a good career, he is a good player, a guy who rallies his team. He annoys the life out of the opposition and he can instigate a fight in an empty barn.”

26th August – Colin Kazim-Richards

Colin Kazim-Richards was once dubbed the ‘Coca Cola Kid’ after the company ran a competition for football fans to sign a player for their club.

Kazim-Richards was the player that Brighton signed after a fan of their club won the competition and the £250,000 was given to the club to sign a player. This is an extraordinary start to a career that just kept on getting more incredible as it went on with the striker travelling over Europe to play football and also represent Turkey’s national team despite being brought up in England but qualified for Turkey through his mother.

The striker started his career at Bury and after progressing through their youth team he was already attracting attention from bigger clubs at the age of 15. He broke into the first team in the 2004-05 season and scored three times in 30 appearances but his performances were very impressive for someone so young. It was at the age of 18 he signed for Brighton but as expected he played a lot from the bench in his first season at the club, however his still managed six goals, including their 5000th league goal.
Kazim Richards Brighton
He only stayed at the club for one season and submitted a transfer request which Brighton accepted and then sold him to Sheffield United for £125,000 on the 31st August 2006. He once again only lasted one season at the club and in his 27 league games he only managed one goal in a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers.

On the 15th June 2007 he joined Turkish club Fenerbahce and in his first two seasons at the club he was in and out of the first team but he did manage to score in the Champions League quarter final against Chelsea on the 2nd April 2008. Despite his good performances when he was on the pitch he had a difficult relationship with the fans at times and was loaned out to French club Toulouse in January 2010 and scored on his debut in a 3-1 win over Le Mans.
Kazim Richards Fener
After 18 appearances and two goals he returned to Fenerbahce but after just another five games he was released on the 3rd January 2011 and joined local rivals Galatasaray and in his first half a season he scored five times including one against former club Fenerbahce. After a total of 35 games and seven goals and a short loan spell at Olympiakos, Kazim-Richards returned to England.
Kazim Richards Gala
Blackburn Rovers signed the striker on loan but his time at the club was blighted by a court appearance over an alleged homophobic gesture in a match away to former club Brighton. He managed to score five times in his 31 games but his loan was not made permanent and he signed for Bursaspor on the 4th September 2013 on a four year deal but after just one season he has joined Dutch side Feyenoord on loan.

The final word can go to former Blackburn manager Steve Kean. “He could be a real versatile player for us as he can play through the middle or he can play out wide. He’s got great power in his right foot and technically he has improved dramatically having played with some top players out in Turkey.”

13th August – Alan Shearer

Today is the birthday of one of the greatest ever strikers and the all time top goal scorer in the Premier League Alan Shearer.

Shearer scored goals for fun all through his career and all different types, from long rangers to poachers goals to bullet headers. There is no denying his goalscoring abilities and his longevity when it came to scoring goals. He was hero to many fans and every opposition must have had nightmares the night before facing the striker because he had everything in his game and given one chance would hit the back of the net.

Shearer started his professional career at Southampton and made his debut as a substitute against Chelsea in 1988 before making his full debut two weeks later and became an instant hero by scoring a hatrick against Arsenal in a 4-2 win. Despite his early success he wasn’t rushed into the starting 11 too early and only became the goal scorer that everyone now knows in the 1991-92 season when he scored 21 goals in all competitions.
Shearer Soton
In the summer of 1992 he moved to Blackburn Rovers for a record breaking fee of £3.6 million and although he struggled initially with injuries he still managed 22 goals in his 26 games before helping Blackburn to second place in the following season with 31 goals in 40 games. The 1994-95 season was one of the best of his career as him and strike partner Chris Sutton combined brilliantly to help Blackburn win the Premier League title with Shearer scoring 34 goals.
Shearer Blackburn
They could not retain their title but this did not stop Shearer from scoring 31 times but this turned out to be his last season at the club, finishing his time there with 130 goals. On the 30th July 1996 Shearer signed for his boyhood club Newcastle United for a world record transfer fee of £15 million.

It did not take him long to settle as he ended the first campaign as the Premier League top scorer for the third season in a row with 25 goals in 31 games. The 1997-98 season was much tougher for the striker as he struggled with an ankle ligament injury and only managed two goals all season. He came back to form in the following season and was given the captain’s armband as he helped Newcastle to the final of the FA Cup for the second year running.

Shearer was somewhat struggling for the first time in his career and after being left on the bench for the Tyne Wear derby there were plenty of reports that he was going to leave the club. However Bobby Robson took over as manager shortly after and arguably saved his career and in Robson’s first home match in charge Shearer scored five goals in an 8-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday and he ended the season with 23 goals.
Shearer Newcastle
Newcastle under Robson were challenging at the top of the table and Shearer was huge part in that and he continued to score goal after goal. But his greatest moment came in the 2005-06 season when broke Jackie Milburn’s goalscoring record when he netted his 201st against Portsmouth. He played his final game on the 17th April 2006 against Sunderland and scored from the penalty spot in a 4-1 win before having to go off injured which stopped him playing in the final three games.

The final word can go to the man himself who lived the dream all football fans have had in their lives. “When I was a young boy I wanted to play for Newcastle United, I wanted to wear the number nine shirt and I wanted to score goals at St James’ Park. I’ve lived my dream and I realise how lucky I’ve been to have done that.”

18th May – Brad Friedel

Brad Friedel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League era setting new records and even has one goal to his name.

Now 43 he still looks like he has the ability to continue for a few more years to come at the top level and even though he is no longer first choice at Tottenham Hotspur whenever he was called upon last season he put in some decent performances. The Premier League are lucky to have had such a talented and committed individual but early in his career it looked like he was not going to get the chance to play in England.

Firstly he tried to sign for Nottingham Forest but he was unable to secure a work permit and the transfer fell through. Then he tried joining Newcastle United but ran into further problems and ended up going on loan to Danish club Brondby. Friedel then attempted to join a third English club in Sunderland but once again he failed to get a work permit and joined Galatasaray. After playing in 30 league games for them he moved back to United States joining Columbus Crew and was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Finally on the 23rd December 1997 he gained a work permit and joined Liverpool. However, it was not as successful as he hoped because he only played 25 league games in three years. In 2000 he joined Blackburn Rovers and his talent began to shine through with them winning promotion to the Premier League in his first season and then producing some brilliant saves to keep them in the top flight. But his most memorable performance was in the 2002 League Cup final as he was named man of the match in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. He continued to get better and in the next season he kept 15 clean sheets and was named the club’s Player of the Year as well as being included in the Premier League Team of the Year. Blackburn manager Graeme Souness said of his keeper. “He would certainly get into the top 10 in the world. He’s one of the best keepers in England and I know there are other managers who think that too.”
Friedel Blackburn
On the 21st February 2004 he became the second goalkeeper to score in the Premier League when he scored the equaliser against Charlton Athletic. Remarkably though they still went onto lose the game.

In 2008 he joined Aston Villa and while at the club he broke the record for continuous games in the Premier League after his 167th finished in a 0-0 draw with Fulham. Friedel’s record was nearly broken when he was sent off against Liverpool, however the decision was overturned and he made it to 250 consecutive games on the 16th January 2011.
Freidel Villa
When his contract expired at the end of the season he joined Tottenham Hotspur which meant that he did not miss a Premier League game while at Villa Park. He made his debut for Spurs against Manchester United and his record continued for the rest of the season. After Hugo LLoris was signed everyone presumed he would be replaced but after an impressive display against Norwich City, the new signing had to wait for his chance. Norwich centre back Sebastien Bassong saifd of Friedel’s performance that day. “Uncle Brad was magic, I’ve never doubted his quality. He is one of the best in the Premier League. He’s a terrific player, they finished fourth last year and he played a big part in that.”
Friedel Spurs
Unfortunately his run of 310 consecutive games was ended when he was named on the bench on the 7th October.

The final word can go to his former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill. “Friedel has not played all those games not to be considered as good as anyone and I played with two unbelievable keepers – Pat Jennings and Peter Shilton.”

20th April – Shay Given

It might be getting towards the end of his career and him looking for the next step into coaching but nobody can deny he has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League era.

Shay Given is 38 today and has been one of the most respected players in the Premier League because of his wonderful performances and his consistency. Most recognisable for his time at Newcastle United some people may have been surprised that he in fact started his career at Blackburn Rovers and enjoyed a very successful loan spell at rivals Sunderland. He played 17 games for the club keeping 12 clean sheets and helped them to win promotion to the Premier League as champions.

Newly appointed Newcastle manager Kenny Dalglish knew Given from his time at Blackburn and spent £1.5 million to bring the Irish man back to the North East. It did not take him long to establish himself as first choice ahead of Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop and Steve Harper and helped the club reach the final of the FA Cup which they lost 2-0.

Arguably his best year was the 2001-02 season as Newcastle under Bobby Robson emerged as surprise title contenders and ended the season in fourth place. Personally it was a great year for himself as he was selected in the PFA team of the year and knew that he would be competing in the Champions League the next season. And during this season he was involved in one of the best comebacks ever as Newcastle lost their first three group games but still managed to qualify for the next round after beating Feyenoord 3-2 in a dramatic final match. He did not miss a single Premier League game either as the club went one better and finished third in the table.
Given Newcastle
The next few seasons he continued to be as consistent as ever and was constantly linked with moves away from the club to teams that were regularly competing in Europe. Unfortunately by the time Given left Newcastle they were a shadow of the team he played for under Bobby Robson and wanted to leave the club. He joined Manchester City in January 2009 just 34 games away from breaking Newcastle’s appearance record.
Given City
He quickly established himself as first choice at City and in his first full season at the club he performed very well and produced one of the best penalty saves ever against Chelsea’s Frank Lampard. During the season he was voted as the Premier League goalkeeper of the noughties and received a lot of praise from his then manager Roberto Mancini: “I have been impressed with Shay Given, who is one of the five best goalkeepers in the world.”

A dislocated shoulder meant he lost his place at City and could not win it back so he left the club for Aston Villa. He was Alex McLeish’s first signing and he was looking forward to working with the keeper. “Everybody who was watched him perform will know his pedigree. He’s a real competitor and a world class keeper.”
Given Villa
Everyone that has worked with him regards him as one of the best and in a recent loan spell at Middlesbrough he proved that he is still very capable when called upon, keeping 10 cleans sheets in 16 league games.

He is currently temporary assistant to Paul Lambert and is embarking on a new stage in his career. But the final word can go to Sir Bobby Robson: “I think Shay is in the top five Premier League goalkeepers. He really is top class. He’s got great agility, great courage and he anticipates well. He’s a terrific boy to work with.”

14th April – Matt Derbyshire

From Great Harwood Town to Olympiakos to scoring against QPR last weekend this player has had an interesting career.

Matt Derbyshire is 28 today and his career started at Great Harwood Town where he was showing a lot of potential and was scouted by a few clubs including Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers. As a Rovers fan it must have been a dream and when they paid £20,000 (unsurprisingly Great Harwood’s record fee received) it must have been an easy decision to join the club. He knew he was not going to get a place in the team straight away and after a loan spell at Plymouth Argyle, he showed what he could do at Wrexham by scoring 10 goals in 16 games.
Derbyshire Blackburn
When he came back to Blackburn he was in and around the first team squad and January 2007 was a great month for him, scoring his first goal for the club against Wigan Athletic and then the opener in the 4-1 victory over Everton. The next week he started his first game against Arsenal and a week later he was on the score sheet again, this time against Manchester City. He finished this season with 9 goals in all competitions in just 14 starts and 16 substitute appearances.

The next season and a half were quieter for him but he did prove to be someone that was good at coming off the bench becoming known as a super sub. He scored winners against Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and Fulham. Although he was successful at this role he wanted to start more games and he joined Greek side Olympiakos on loan. Ironically his first goal for the club was after coming off the bench and it was not long before he became a club hero for his performances from the bench.
Derbyshire Olympiakos
It was in the Greek Cup final against rivals AEK Athens that he will never be forgotten. With his team 2-0 at half time Derbyshire was brought on and within three minutes he had reduced the score line but this was only the start. Olympiakos made it 2-2 however AEK scored in stoppage time to put them in the lead once again and surely won them the cup. But with the very last touch of the game Derbyshire still nursing a concussion scored a header in the sixth minute of stoppage time. His team went on to win 15-14 on penalties and Derbyshire was awarded the man of the match award.

Unfortunately a change in manager meant Derbyshire was no longer in their plans and made the move to Birmingham City on loan. However he never really settled at the club and could not establish himself in the first team.

Sam Allardyce said about him on his return to England. “He’s a very good goalscorer, we all know that, and that is why we (Blackburn) got an unbelievably good fee. We let him got there on loan and he became a hero at Olympiakos.”

After leaving Birmingham he moved to Nottingham Forest where he struggled initially and went on loan to Oldham Athletic to resurrect his career and he did just that scoring six times for the club. But this season he has returned to form for his parent club and scored a great header against QPR recently.
Derbyshire Forest
The last word can go to the man that brought him back to England Alex McLeish. “Matt has had his journey in Greece and, from speaking to him, he’s keen to get on that Premier League pitch once more. He’s shown he can score a goal and he’s learned new tricks abroad.”