26th August – Nicky Summerbee

Nicky Summerbee comes from a long line of professional footballers and just like his dad, Mike, will be loving how Manchester City are getting on at the moment.

The midfielder now does a lot of radio work and is regularly a pundit for Manchester City games and will be forever liked by those at the club as his dad is a cult hero there.

Summerbee didn’t have the easiest starts to his career and had trials at clubs like Manchester United, Leicester City and Norwich City before finally convincing Swindon Town that he was good enough. After signing for them in 1989 he would go on to make 112 league appearances for the club, scoring six goals and being an important member of the squad that got promoted to the Premier League in 1993.

Summerbee ST

His form convinced Manchester City to pay £1.3 million for his services and he proudly followed in his father’s footsteps. In his first season at the club they were struggling and even with Alan Ball replacing Brian Horton as manager nothing could change their fortunes. Unfortunately this ended in the club getting relegated from the Premier League and led to rumours of Summerbee leaving the club. In the summer of 1997 it looked as though he would be moving on after a trial with French side Bordeaux, however a move never materialised.

Summerbee MC

After 131 games for City, Summerbee did leave for Sunderland in November 1997. He made an instant impact on his debut against Portsmouth by scoring the final goal in a 4-1 win after coming on as a substitute. He continued his good form and was a regular in the side as he once again helped his side gain promotion from Division One and into the Premier League.

However, injuries and some argue things in his personal life contributed to him not having as much of an impact as he would have liked in the next few seasons for Sunderland. Summerbee was left in the wilderness by manager Peter Reid as the club began to thrive and an incident in a reserve match against Newcastle United put an end to his career at Sunderland.

Summerbee Sunderland

Upon leaving Sunderland, he joined Bolton Wanderers, however this only lasted nine games, with him managing to score one goal against Crystal Palace. But he struggled to settle and more short term spells at Leicester City and Nottingham Forest followed. He finally found a place to call home again when he joined Bradford City in 2003.

He stayed with the club for two and a half years but towards the end his playing time was becoming limited and he had loan spells at Swindon Town and Tranmere Rovers. His final move was to Tamworth where he played four league games before retiring.

The final word can go to former Swindon Town manager Andy King. “I spoke about players performing well. Nicky Summerbee gave us much greater shape, and put some good balls into the box. The shape was the key thing.”

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17th July – Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom will be hoping his managerial career will go slightly further than his playing career but he needs to make sure he chooses the right career path.

Leaving Barnsley for Leeds United might be an easy decision to some but maybe he should have avoided taking the job when he did as the club don’t seem to keep their managers in charge for very long. It is good to see that he is ambitious but after just four wins in 16 games he was sacked. He still has a long way to go in his career.

Heckingbottom started his career at Sunderland but never made a professional league appearance for the club and was sent out on loan to Scarborough, Hartlepool United and Darlington, with the full back joining the latter permanently in 1999. After 126 appearances and six goals, the defender was showing his potential and joined Norwich City in 2002. However, he couldn’t break into the team regularly and after just 16 games his contract was cancelled.

Heckingbottom Darlington

Bradford City was his next destination and he quickly became a fan favourite with his wholehearted and committed performances. Despite the club getting relegated at the end of the season, Heckingbottom was named the Player of the Year, and this convinced Sheffield Wednesday to sign the defender.

In his first season at Wednesday, he played more games than any other player for the club and scored four goals as the club gained promotion to the Championship after winning the playoffs. Unfortunately an injury during pre-season meant he lost his place in the side and never regained the left back spot so on the 13th January 2006 he joined boyhood club Barnsley. Once again he helped the club gain promotion through the playoffs and scored in the penalty shootout victory over Swansea City.

Heckingbottom BC

After his move was made permanent he played a key role in helping the club avoid relegation comfortably but in the following summer he rejoined Bradford City. After a good start he would start to pick up injuries and after 53 league games he left the club again, this time he signed for Conference side Mansfield Town.

An injury ruined his pre-season and he didn’t make his debut until October 2009, 11 months after he had last played a professional game. After just 11 games he was loaned out to Gateshead who made the deal permanent in the next summer. He would only feature 22 times in the 2010-11 season and after a short spell at Harrogate Town he decided to retire.

Heckingbottom barnsley

Since retiring, Heckingbottom has already managed over 100 league games and won the League One playoffs with Barnsley as well as the Football League Trophy during the 2015-16 season which led to him being given the job on a permanent basis after two previous spells as caretaker.

The final word can go to former Mansfield Town manager David Holdsworth. “He is a class act and an accomplished player. I am delighted to have him on board.”

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.”

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.”

6th March – Garry Monk

Garry Monk will go down as a Swansea City legend for what he did as a player but he is also doing a fantastic job as their manager and leading them to another top half finish.

When Monk first joined the club he wouldn’t have believed that they would be in the Premier League never mind being one of the best footballing sides in the top flight. Many people were surprised when the 36 year old was given the job because he didn’t have any experience and they felt that under Monk they would be battling relegation. However, he knows everything about the club and the way they want to play.

The former central defender started his career at Torquay United and was very highly rated, making five appearances for the club before he had even turned professional. This meant other clubs were looking at him and he signed for Southampton at the end of the 1995-96 season. In 1998 he would return to Torquay on loan and once again impressed so on his return he found himself in the Southampton first team and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against Derby County. He would go on to play a further four games over the season.

Monk Soton

In September 1999 he went out on loan to Stockport County but was recalled because of an injury crisis at his parent club and he played the first two matches in January 2000 for Southampton. A year later he went out on loan to Oxford United but once again he was recalled because of injuries and would go on to play the last two home games at The Dell against Manchester United and Arsenal which were both won by Southampton.

Monk struggled once more to become a first team regular so was sent out on loan again. This time it looked as though it would be turned into a permanent move but after playing 15 times for Sheffield Wednesday and not helping them avoid relegation to Division Two, the move didn’t materialise. He did eventually leave the club permanently and joined Barnsley in February 2004. However he only lasted half a season and left for Swansea City in June.

Monk SWFC

It was a great start for him at Swansea as he helped them get promoted from League Two in his first season and then reach the League One Playoffs in his second season. In August 2006 it was announced that he would be the club captain. Unfortunately after just two games in the 2006-07 season he picked up a cruciate ligament injury and was ruled out for the rest of the campaign. Monk returned to the team and captained the club to promotion.

In their first season back they were excellent and finished 8th place but the 2009-10 season was not the best for Monk as he struggled with injuries and only played 22 times. Also during this period Monk and the manager Paulo Sousa did not see eye to eye and after the Portuguese man left the club Monk was back in the starting 11. He would then lead the Swans to the Premier League after defeating Reading in the Playoff final and he was given a new three year contract by the club.

Monk SC

Over the next two seasons he began to play less but was still able to lift his first major trophy after Swansea won the League Cup in 2013 after defeating Bradford City 5-0 in the final. Just under a year later he would be given the manager’s job and currently has a 38% win percentage as manager.

The final word can go to someone that didn’t get on well with Monk but knew his quality, Paulo Sousa. “Garry is one of the players we think is very important to our project for his experience, quality and leadership. He is an important figure in the dressing room and on the pitch. He knows the club’s philosophy.”

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.”

9th November – James Hanson

With it being the FA Cup first round weekend it is a chance for non league players to show their quality against those that get paid to do it full time and it is always good to see players coming from below the Football League to being very good professional players like James Hanson.

Although he didn’t make his mark in the FA Cup he did come from obscurity to become one of the most difficult to mark in League One and has done a fantastic job for Bradford City since he signed for the club. The striker has added a lot to the team and he will be thankful that he has been given the chance to play professionally which a lot of those in the top flight do not.

The 27 year old played youth football for both Huddersfield Town and Bradford but was never given the chance in the first team and had to drop to semi professional level, turning out for Eccleshill United and Guiseley. But to support his dreams of playing football he also had to work in a supermarket on a part time basis. During his two seasons at Guiseley he scored 46 goals and this attracted the interest of Football League clubs.
Hanson BC
In July 2009 Hanson signed his first professional contract with Bradford and would go on to make his debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season in a disappointing 5-0 defeat against Notts County. He would go on to score his first goal in a 5-4 win over Cheltenham Town on the 22nd August and had a very good first season which led to him being given a new contract by the club and being named the Player of the Year.

The following season was much tougher for the striker as he only scored six league goals but he was improving other areas of his game. But came back with his highest goalscoring league season in the 2011-12 season with 13 goals. The next campaign will be remembered for a long time by Bradford fans as they reached the League Cup final and also gained promotion from League Two, with Hanson and Nakhi Wells linking up well and scoring a lot of goals between them. Although Wells got most of the attention, Hanson chipped in with important goals in the big games, including one in the second leg of the League Cup semi final against Aston Villa, one in the semi final of the playoffs against Burton Albion and then another in the final against Northampton Town.
Hanson LC
Hanson was again rewarded with a new contract for his contributions and with his partnership being broken with Wells, some may have thought that he would struggle but he hit a good run of form after the turn of the year and scored six goals in nine games, meaning he finished his first season in League One with 12 goals in 35 games.
Hanson Wells
This season has been up and down for the striker as he started fantastically by scoring five goals early on and entering the club’s top ten all time top scorer list, however injuries have frustrated him since and he has not been able to recapture that form yet but he will be hoping as the season goes on he can continue his good goalscoring record.

The final word can go to teammate Andrew Davies. “Hans is getting better and better and maturing as a person as well. He needs to be our main goal threat. Strikers are judged on goals and he’s scored a few this season. If we’re going to go up this year, and that’s what we all want, then he needs to be scoring the goals.”