28th August – Kevin McNaughton

Kevin McNaughton has played over 500 games in his professional career and despite retiring once he came back to play more and be as consistent as he always was.

The defender did initially retire in 2017 but has had to play further games due to an injury crisis at Scottish club Forfar Athletic where he had been a first team coach.

McNaughton started his career in Scotland with Aberdeen and made his debut at 18 in a 2-1 defeat to St Mirren and would eventually become a regular during the 2000-01 season. He was showing a lot of promise and was even named PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2001-02 season. However, an injury in the following season slowed down his development and at times he struggled to regain his previous form.

McNaughton Aberdeen

He did eventually show his qualities once more and this led to him being linked with moves to Scottish giants Celtic and other clubs in England. After 201 appearances for Aberdeen he did leave the club on a free transfer on the 26th May 2006 joining Cardiff City. Initially McNaughton was used a sa left back by Dave Jones in the Championship but in the following campaign he was moved to the more familiar right back position. During this season he played an important role in helping the club reach the final of the FA Cup and even scored his first goal for the club in the Fourth Round victory over Hereford United.

The 2009-10 season was much more difficult for the defender as he struggled with injuries however he bounced back by playing every game in the following season and his consistent performances earned him the Player of the Season vote. Over the next few seasons his popularity continued to grow among the Cardiff fans and he helped them reach the League Cup final which they unfortunately lost on penalties against Liverpool.

McNaughton CC

On the 21st August 2012, McNaughton played his 400th career game for Cardiff in a 0-0 draw with Brighton and played a role in helping the club gain promotion to the Premier League. He was given a new one year deal but unfortunately only played five times in the top flight and during the season he joined Bolton on loan and would play 22 times for the club over two spells.

McNaughton BW

After he was released by Cardiff he joined Wigan Athletic but only played twice for the club before joining Scottish side Inverness. However, an injury put an end to his season and he announced his retirement but in December 2017 he reversed this decision and is now a registered player for Forfar.

The final word can go to Malky Mackay. “Kevin has been a terrific servant. Good, experienced professionals like Kevin are essential for a squad’s success and I know this news will please City supporters, as much as it does my staff and I, who know and appreciate what a hard working and dedicated player Kevin is.”

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12th July – Stelios Giannakopoulos

Stelios Giannakopoulos is a player that helped his teams achieve much more than what was expected of them at both club and international level.

The midfielder helped Greece win the European Championships in 2004, playing in four of their six games, when nobody thought they would do anything in the tournament but it was largely down to how hard the team worked and their organisation and this is something Stelios has shown throughout his career.

Stelios Greece

In 1991, Stelios made his debut for Greek side Ethnikos Asteras and helped the club gain promotion to the Third Division and he was quickly impressing scouts from bigger clubs. He made the move to Paniliakos, where he continued developing and in three years scored 26 goals and was once again linked with moves to bigger clubs.

Olympiakos took a chance on him in 1996 and he would play a key role in helping them win the title every season he was there. But in his seven successful seasons, his most iconic contribution was in the Champions League as he scored the club’s first ever goal in the competition and it was even voted the goal of the tournament by fans.

Stelios Olypiakos

After his success in his homeland he wanted to test himself abroad with many suitors looking at him and English side Bolton Wanderers signed him on the 28th May 2003. In his first season he helped the club to their highest finish in the Premier League and also to the final of the League Cup. His performances were of the highest quality and other big clubs were trying to sign him. However, he stayed at Bolton and finished as their top scorer at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Injuries did start catching up with Stelios and he started playing less and less but he still managed to score some very important goals, including his last one for the club against Tottenham Hotspur which helped Bolton avoid relegation. With his contract coming to an end, he decided to join Hull City on a free transfer.

Stelios BW

He never really got the opportunity to show his quality at Hull and after just two league appearances he returned to Greece, joining AEL. He scored three times in his first four games and was influential until the end of the season as the club qualified for the Europa League which was seen as a miracle due to the size of them. A difficult second season followed and it ended with Stelios’ contract being cancelled and announcing his retirement.

Since retiring he has been the president of the Greek Professional Footballers Association as well as a spell as manager of former club Paniliakos from the 13th August 2012 to the 20th January 2013.

The final word can go to former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce. “He might be small but he’s very aggressive and very strong. He doesn’t mind the physical side of the game. He’s proved that. He’ll take it and just get up and get on with it.”

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.”

7th March – Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa will go down as one of the greatest players to never reach his full potential in England, being the most exciting player on the pitch to the most frustrating in a matter of seconds.

Despite only being 28 there have been some suggestions that he is contemplating retiring from the game after a terrible season that will see him end it as a free agent due to a FIFA ruling. The winger would be a great addition to any side if he could play to the best of his abilities and it is probably why he will be a wanted man in the summer.

Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon, signing his first professional contract in 2004 and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Nice. After more substitute appearance he would score his first goal on the 10th November against Lille. But he wouldn’t really become a regular until the 2007-08 season. He performed very well throughout the season and was named the National Union of Professional Footballers Young Player of the Year. It seemed like he would be an important member of the side for a long time to come after signing a contract extension in March 2008 but a training ground scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci meant his time at the club was up.

HBA Lyon

After a long transfer saga Ben Arfa eventually joined Marseille on the 1st July but it wasn’t long before he was in another bust up as on the 16th July he was involved in one with Djibril Cisse. On his debut however he showed his qualities by scoring against Rennes and in his first 11 matches he hit the back of the net six times. More controversy followed as he was involved in disputes with Modeste M’Bami and manager Eric Gerets. His performances when he was on the pitch were usually of the highest quality but trouble was never far away as in the next season he was fined for missing training and got in yet another argument with new manager Didier Deschamps. He would play 29 times for the club as they won the Ligue 1 title but this was not enough for him to stay at the club.

HBA Marseille

On the 27th August 2010 Ben Arfa joined Newcastle United on a season long loan after many weeks of trouble. But it seemed like it was worth it as on his full debut he scored a brilliant goal against Everton but on the 3rd October his season was over after he suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Despite this the two clubs agreed a permanent transfer. He would have to wait until the 24th September 2011 to make his Premier League return in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. In the second half of the season he scored two individual goals, firstly in the FA Cup against Blackburn and against Bolton Wanderers. During this time he was an important part of the team and combined brilliantly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

HBA NU

The next season also started very well as he scored on the opening day against Tottenham Hotspur and then two weeks later hit a great equaliser against Aston Villa. Injuries disrupted the second half of the season but he scored in the win over QPR to guarantee the club’s safety. Once again the 2013-14 season started well for him as he scored against Fulham and was also in great form against Aston Villa, scoring and making an assist. Unfortunately he didn’t perform for the rest of the season. On the 2nd September 2014 he joined Hull City on loan but this only last nine games and manager Steve Bruce admitted at one point he didn’t even know where he was. On the 4th January he was released by Newcastle and signed for Nice the next day. But FIFA ruled that he could not play for them and his contract was terminated.

The final word can go to former teammate Yohan Cabaye. “For me, he remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality. It is true that it was harder for him late in the season. He is going to bounce back. For me, this is one of the players I’ve played with who has the highest quality.”

5th March – Matty Fryatt

Nottingham Forest are definitely outsiders to reach the playoffs this season and with Britt Assombalonga out injured they will be relying on Matty Fryatt to score the goals.

Fryatt is now 29 and has been a consistent goalscorer for a number of years and he has proven that when he’s given the chance he can find the back of the net. When he has started games in his career he has always been one of the most awake on the pitch and he has proven this by scoring Leicester City and Walsall’s quickest ever goals both after just nine seconds, surprisingly though in both games his side would go on to lose the games 2-1.

The striker started his career at Walsall and made his debut in the League Cup against Bolton Wanderers on the 24th September 2003. But he had to go out on loan to Carlisle United to get more experience in December and he played well during his 10 game spell. The following season he was a regular for Walsall and was awarded their Player of the Year after hitting 15 goals in 36 games. This led to speculation about his future but he stayed with Walsall until January when he signed for Leicester City after another good start to the season.

Fryatt Walsall

He made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat and a week later he scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 defeat against Cardiff City. Despite manager Craig Levein being sacked, Fryatt believed he made the right move and scored six goals to help the club avoid relegation from the Championship. The following two seasons were a struggle as he suffered from injury problems and only managed six goals and with the club getting relegated his future was in doubt.

However, he made a positive start to the 2008-09 season, scoring five goals in the first four games and was named the League One Player of the Month. The goals kept coming and he became the first player for 42 years to score 20 goals before Christmas for the club. During this fantastic run he also became the first player in 83 years to score consecutive hatricks. He ended the season with 32 goals and was named the League One Player of the Year after helping Leicester gain promotion.

Fryatt LC

Once again he started the next season in fantastic form, finding the back of the net three times in the opening five matches. A broken jaw towards the end of the season stopped him having as much of an impact as he would have hoped but with 13 goals he was still the top goalscorer. He only spent a further six months at Leicester as he joined Hull City on the 1st January 2011 and got off to a great start, scoring on his debut against Portsmouth and then another against Barnsley. On the 5th February he would score a hatrick against Scunthorpe United and on his 25th birthday he scored his 100th career goal in a win over Nottingham Forest. He ended the season with nine goals at Hull.

Fryatt HC

The 2011-12 season was the last time he was first choice at Hull as he played every league game and scored 16 times but in his first appearance in the 2012-13 season he picked up a serious achilles injury. So on the 27th September 2013 he joined Sheffield Wednesday on loan and made a good impact. He scored against Brighton, Barnsley and twice against Reading before returning to Hull and scored his first Premier League goal in a 6-0 win over Fulham and would later play an important role in getting the club to the FA Cup final by scoring in the semi final against Sheffield United. On the 9th June 2014 Fryatt signed for Nottingham Forest and so far has six goals for the club.

The final word can go to Nigel Pearson. “Matty’s goalscoring record is pretty good. He is a predator and he also has the ability to score goals out of nothing. He works phenomenally hard for the team and he makes himself chances because of his work rate as much as anything.”

15th February – Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes might have been ridiculed for his time at Tottenham Hotspur after some high profile mistakes ruined his reputation but he is slowly starting to rebuild that now at Watford.

At the age of 34 it could be argued that his best years are in front of him and he will be doing his best to keep Watford in the promotion race and hopefully get promoted back to the Premier League. At the weekend he was involved in one of the best games in England with his side defeating Bolton Wanderers 4-3. Despite conceding three times he pulled off some fantastic saves and is quickly becoming a fan favourite at the club.

Gomes started his career in Brazil with Cruzeiro where he played 59 times between 2001 and 2004 before being scouted by teams in Europe and in July 2004 he joined Dutch side PSV. At first there were people who doubted his abilities but after a difficult debut in which he conceded twice against RBC he became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. In his first season PSV overachieved and reached the semi finals of the Champions League and they were very unlucky not to reach the final that year. Previously PSV hadn’t even qualified for the Second Round of the competition.

Gomes Cruz

He was definitely a fan favourite and was well known for his acrobatic saves and long throws which set off a lot of attacks for his side. He spent four seasons at the club and played 129 league games but on the 27th June 2008 he left for Tottenham Hotspur. Gomes’ early form was very patchy and he conceded very soft goals against Aston Villa and Fulham leaving Tottenham in the relegation zone. But he did improve and made some important saves in the win over West Ham and the 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

Gomes PSV

In the following campaign he was more solid and played a key role in helping Tottenham finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. But the competition wasn’t a happy one for Gomes as he was sent off in 10 minutes in the game against Inter Milan. Later in the competition he also made a mistake against Real Madrid which effectively ended their chances to progress.

Gomes TH

With more errors to follow, it seemed like the managers had lost patience with the goalkeeper and firstly they signed Brad Friedel which meant Gomes had to spend long periods on the bench. Then he slipped even further down the pecking order after Hugo Lloris was signed so in January 2013 he signed for Hoffenheim on loan. On his debut against Freiburg he made some crucial saves and helped his side to a 2-1 win. His season was ended prematurely by injury and he had to undergo hand surgery.For a full season he sat in Spurs’ reserves until his contract expired and he joined Watford on the 24th May 2014.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “He is a great character, a lovely man, a fantastic fella and a top goalkeeper. He has been fine in training. Gomes is top class, when he is on his game he is a great goalkeeper.”

12th February – Benik Afobe

Benik Afobe has been one of the highest rated youngsters in recent seasons and now he is getting his chance to show his potential in the Championship and is clearly showing everyone his talents.

Still only 22 he seems to have been around for quite a lot of time and played for many different clubs. This is to his credit as it seems like he just wants to play football and when he knew he wasn’t getting chances at Arsenal he went out on loan to try and play games in a lower level. A lot of young players are criticised these days for just sitting in the reserves and youth teams and because of this they don’t develop as well as they should have.

Afobe started his career at Arsenal when he was just six years old and after progressing very well through the youth teams and scoring a lot of goals, he was being linked with a move to Barcelona but he instead signed a professional contract with the Gunners in February 2010. To get his first taste of professional football he had to go out on loan and on the 2nd November he joined Huddersfield Town and made his debut that night in a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to score his first professional goals against Rotherham United in the Football League Trophy to help his new team to a 5-2 win. After an injury to Anthony Pilkington, Afobe got an extended run in the first team and was in brilliant form for the rest of the campaign. During the second half of the season he picked up four man of the match awards in a row. In total he made 32 appearances, scoring eight times and providing 10 assists.

Afobe HT

During the 2011-12 season he suffered a few injuries but did eventually get fit enough to join Reading on the 22nd March 2012. He only played three times for the club but he did still play a part in helping them secure the Championship title. At the beginning of the following season the striker joined Bolton Wanderers on a season long loan. He scored his first goal for the club on his first start in the League Cup against Crawley Town but he was largely used as a substitute and had to wait until the 23rd October to score his first league goal in a 2-2 draw with Wolves. In January his loan was cancelled and he subsequently joined Millwall, unfortunately an injury meant he only played five times for the club.

Afobe BW

He spent eight months on the sidelines and when he returned he went back out on loan, this time to Sheffield Wednesday, where he played 12 times and scored two goals. This season started with Afobe joining MK Dons on loan for the season and went on to score his first goal in a 1-0 win over Chesterfield on the 19th August. But the League Cup second round was probably the best moment of his career so far as he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Manchester United and carried on his superb form in the competition by scoring two more in the next round against Bradford City. On the 29th November he bagged a hatrick against Colchester United in a 6-0 win. After 19 goals in the first half of the season there were other clubs looking at the striker and he joined Wolves in the January transfer window and he scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over Blackpool. Afobe so far has three goals in five Championship games for his new club.

Afobe MK

The final word can go to Wolves head of football development Kevin Thelwell. “Benik seems like a really outstanding young man. He is very pacey and powerful, good technically, and has an outstanding goalscoring record. We are really excited about him signing.”