28th February – Lee Carsley

Lee Carsley may not have been the flashest of footballers or made the most headlines but he was certainly a very consistent and reliable player for every team he played for.

The 41 year old is currently the development manager at Brentford and will be passing on his experience and knowledge to the younger players at the club. With everything going on at the club it will be good if he sticks around so there is some consistency there and not too many changes for the younger players. The midfielder will also have a lot of contacts in the game which will help him out if he ever wants to become a manager himself.

Carsley started his career at Derby County and spent seven years at the club, showing his talents and becoming a very reliable player even from a young age. He went on to play over 150 games for the club in all competitions and his form convinced Blackburn Rovers to spend £4.5 million on him in March 1999. He only spent one full season at the club but he was once again impressive and rather surprisingly he ended it as the club’s top scorer and ended his time there with 11 goals in 47 league games.

Carsley DC

In December 2000 he moved on to Coventry City but this once again was only a short stay as he only lasted 14 months at the club before moving on Everton for £1.4 million. His first two seasons at Goodison Park were not spectacular and he hadn’t quite fulfilled his potential there until the 2004-05 season when he became one of the most important members of the team. With Everton now playing with a holding midfielder, Carsley fit the system brilliantly. In December 2004 he then became an Everton legend by scoring the winning goal in the 200th Merseyside Derby against Liverpool and helped the club finish fourth in the Premier League.

Carsley Everton

Unfortunately injuries struck and Carsley missed a lot of football over the next few years. Despite getting offered a contract extension he decided to leave the club at the end of the 2007-08 season after playing 166 league games for Everton. Carsley then joined hometown club Birmingham City and was given the captain’s armband and it turned out to be a successful season as they won promotion back to the Premier League and he was named their Players’ Player of the Year.

Carsley BC

However, he could not show everyone that he was still good enough for the Premier League because of more injuries and he left the club in July 2010 signing for Coventry City. He was once again made club captain but after just 25 league appearances his contract ended and he became a coach at the club soon afterwards. Since he has worked at Sheffield United and Brentford.

The final word can go to Aidy Boothroyd who signed him for Coventry. “Lee has a track record as a winner. He is a leader and knows what is required to win on a regular basis. I want Lee to be the glue that binds the team together because he has talent, experience, physical presence, pace and, obviously footballing ability.”

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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.”

8th February – Carl Jenkinson

Carl Jenkinson celebrated his birthday today by helping West Ham to a 1-1 draw with Manchester United and despite a late goal it was still a very good point and performance.

It wasn’t such a good time for his parent club Arsenal this weekend who got beat by local rivals Tottenham Hotspur but the player is developing into a top quality right back who has been getting better as the season has gone on. It is good to see him now he is 23 getting first team football as he could easily challenge for the right back spot in the national team. His form this season has proved he is good enough for the top flight and with Mathieu Debuchy getting injured a few times this season he could have got plenty of opportunities at the Emirates.

Jenkinson started his career at Charlton Athletic but got his first taste of professional football at Welling United who he joined on loan in 2010 and went on to play 10 league games. He had to wait until November to get his next taste of football at Conference Premier Side Eastbourne Borough but after just four appearance he was recalled by Charlton. He made his first appearance for Charlton in the Football League Trophy Southern section semi final against Brentford. His performances for the rest of the season were impressive and this led to him being linked with moves away from the club.

Jenkinson CA

In June 2011 he joined Arsenal and made his debut in the Champions League qualifier against Udinese after coming on as a second half substitute. This was a meteoric rise for the defender but he seemed to be taking everything in his stride and put in decent performance. However, it wasn’t long before it was too much of a step up as he was part of the Arsenal side that were demolished 8-2 by Manchester United but he did set up Robin Van Persie’s goal, however his game was ended early after being sent off late in the game.

Jenkinson Arsenal

After returning he did show some potential but unfortunately his development was stalled as he spent three months on the sidelines after a stress fracture in his lower back. At the start of the 2012-13 season Jenkinson started the first five matches and once again gained plaudits for his performances, particularly against Manchester City and was rewarded with a new long term contract by the club shortly after. He ended the season with 21 appearances and in the following campaign he once again was a part of the starting lineup. He featured 22 times throughout the season and got his first career goal on the final day of the season against Norwich City.

On the 31st July the right back joined West Ham on loan for the whole season but had to wait until a 2-2 draw with Hull City on the 15th September to make his debut due to injuries. But he quickly established himself in the first team and has put in some consistent performances.

Jenkinson WH

The final word can go to Theo Walcott. “Carl always wants to learn, which is great to see. He’s eager, he wants to perform and he is getting better every game. He’s got bags of confidence, all the lads are encouraging him and it’s showing in his performances.”

7th February – Clayton Donaldson

Clayton Donaldson has played a big part in Birmingham City’s revival this season under Gary Rowett and helped his side to a 1-1 draw with Fulham on his birthday but unfortunately could not add to his goal tally.

Now 31 it has been a long road for the 31 year old to reach the Championship but he has always scored goals at whatever club he has been at in England. It seemed like he made a bad decision leaving Brentford for Birmingham in the early months of the season but in recent weeks his new club have started playing much better.

The striker started his career at Hull City and scored on his debut on the 22nd October 2002 against Port Vale in the Football League Trophy. Shortly afterwards he joined Northern Premier League club Harrogate Town on loan and also scored on his debut for them against Gateshead. He spent three months at the club, scoring five times in 10 games. Back at his parent club he signed a new two year deal and made a further two appearances before the end of the season. After short loan spells at Scarborough and Halifax Town, he returned to Harrogate again on loan and had more success with the club, winning the Conference North Player of the Month in October 2004 and scored four times in 11 games before being released by his parent club.

In June 2005 Donaldson joined York City and had an impressive first season, finding the back of the net 18 times and being named Clubman of the Year. During his second season he was being linked with moves away from the club and this may have distracted for short periods and many clubs tabled bids for the striker but none were accepted. After 26 goals in the Conference he did leave York in the summer of 2007 and made the step up to the SPL and joined Hibernian. Donaldson got his first goal for the club after winning and scoring a penalty against Falkirk but was later sent off in the game. After serving his suspension he scored on his return against Motherwell and then later in the month got a hatrick against Kilmarnock.

Donaldson York

During the second half of the season he was frozen out of the team and didn’t play leading to a transfer to Crewe Alexandra in the summer. He first season wasn’t as prolific as he hoped but he improved in his second season despite injuries and eventually in his third season he showed his true potential. He ended the campaign as League Two’s top scorer with 28 goals.

Donaldson CA

Once again his talents were seen by teams in higher leagues and on the 1st July 2011 he joined League One side Brentford. In each of his three seasons he hit double figures and was a constant threat to the opposition, ending his time there with over 50 goals but even though he helped them to promotion at the end of the 2013-14 season he declined their new contract offer and joined Birmingham. He is already in double figures so he has proved he can make the step up to the level and it will be interesting to see how far he can go.

Donaldson Brentford

The final word can go to Birmingham manager Gary Rowett. “He deserves his purple patch because he works so hard for the team. His role is pivotal to the way we play and he plays it brilliantly. He occupies defenders and all the players appreciate the role he does. He’s picking up goals as well and for me they’re bonuses.”

1st November – Carl Cort

Newcastle United have a history of having great strikers and sometimes it is tough to live up to the expectations in the North East but unfortunately for Carl Cort he never got the chance to show his true potential.

The striker had a lot of potential and could have become an England international had it not been for the amount of time he spent on the sidelines. He was one of the many young players that Bobby Robson brought to St James’ Park but unlike the others he never got a run in the side.

Now 37, Cort started his career at Wimbledon but had his first taste of professional football on loan at Lincoln City in February 1997, where scored once in six games before returning to his parent club and making his debut on the 9th April against Aston Villa. Cort would have to wait until the 13th September to make another appearance and he showed his potential by scoring in the first minute against Newcastle in a 3-1 win. He followed this up three days later with a double against Millwall in the League Cup. His greatest moment in a Wimbledon shirt was also in the League Cup as he scored a hatrick against Sunderland in October 1999.
Cort Wimbledon
After 16 league goals in 73 games and an impressive goal record for the England under 21s, he joined Newcastle in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. He made his debut against Manchester United and then scored on his home debut against Derby County. However, this would be one of the few high points at the club as he began to struggle with hamstring problems kept him out for a long time. He eventually returned in March 2001 and scored five times in the final 10 games.

But during the 2001-02 season he suffered more injuries and barely played. With seven goals in 22 games it shows that when he was on the pitch he was a fantastic option and one that could have made a big difference to the side. But the problem was that he only made 22 league appearances in three and a half seasons.
Cort NUFC
In January 2004 he joined Wolves for £2 million and scored five times before the end of the season but this was not good enough to keep the club in the Premier League. During the 2004-05 season he had a relatively injury free season and he was a regular goalscorer, hitting the back of the net 16 times and causing a lot of problems for opposition defences. Cort began the following campaign in phenomenal form, scoring nine goals in the first 11 games but unfortunately his old injury problems returned and he only managed another 13 appearances and two goals over the rest of the season. After another season of injuries he was released by Wolves in May 2007.
Cort WW
On the 8th June 2007 he signed for Leicester City but this was a largely unsuccessful time as he only scored once in the League Cup and was released on the 11th January, allowing him to join Spanish side Marbella. After seven appearances and one goal he returned to England and signed for Norwich City. He scored once for the club against former team Wolves but this was not enough to stop Norwich getting relegated to League One.

After leaving Norwich, Cort spent the next two seasons at Brentford and scored six times in his 31 league games for the club. But on the 10th August 2012 he joined American side Tampa Bay Rowdies and has been there since.

The final word can go to Bobby Robson. “I still have a lot of faith in his ability. When he first came to the club he looked superb alongside Alan Shearer and he did very well for us. We did our research and we knew what a good player he was. It’s not his fault he has been injured the whole time.”

13th September – Francois Zoko

Blackpool picked up their first point of the season and were helped by birthday boy and one of their summer signings Francois Zoko to finally get their season started.

After coming on as a substitute in the 72 minute, Zoko ensured that the score remained 0-0, however he will be hoping to make more of a positive impact going forward in the coming weeks. Everyone knows about Blackpool’s problems during the summer and they did not even have a full squad with only a few days to go before the start of the season. But with their first point on the board they should gain more confidence.
Zoko Nancy
Zoko started his career at French club Nancy and spent four years with the club, scoring eight times in 70 league appearances before moving onto Stade Laval in the summer of 2004. He played fairly regularly for the club over the next two seasons but he did not hit the back of the net for his liking, with him only scoring nine times.
Zoko Laval
In 2006 he then moved to Belgium and signed for Mons where he started building his reputation and was starting to be linked with bigger clubs. After 55 games and 11 goals he decided he wanted to try a new challenge in a new country and joined Turkish club Hacetteppe Spor Kulubu. However, a lot of off field problems meant he never lived up to his potential and ended up moving back to Belgium with KV Oostende. He made an instant impact at the club and in the second half of the season he played 11 times, scoring four goals and assisting a further five.

Ahead of the 2010-11 season Zoko joined Carlisle United on trial and after impressing he signed a one year deal in July 2010. He made his debut in a 2-0 win over Brentford and after leaving the field he was given a standing ovation and was praised by the management and his teammates at the club. It did not take him long to be linked with other clubs which led to Carlisle giving him a new contract after less than 10 games.

He stayed at the club for two seasons and after scoring double figures in all competitions in both years he decided on the 6th June 2012 that he wanted to play at a higher level and did not sign a new contract. He was described as one of the most talented players to have ever played for the club in recent years.
Zoko CU
On the 3rd August 2012 he signed a two year deal with Notts County. He made his debut against Crewe and also scored in 2-1 win for his new club. He only had to wait three days for his next goal as he scored against Hartlepool United, he could not keep up this goal rate but he still managed seven goals in 39 appearances. At the end of the season his contract was cancelled by mutual consent and he joined Stevenage on the 4th October.

Once again he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over MK Dons and then scored twice in his next game in another 2-1 victory, this time over Brentford. He was a consistent goal scorer for the club and he ended his only season at the club with 16 goals in 40 games which convinced Blackpool that he could make it in the Championship and signed the attacker.

He has so far played five times but has been unable to find the back of the net.

The final word can go to the manager that brought him to England, Greg Abbott. “I know how big an impact he has made here. He is an important player for what we are doing and has been very impressive so far.”

6th June – David Connolly

David Connolly has had a remarkable career that has seen him be the highest paid player in Holland, score an international hatrick for the Republic of Ireland and score over 150 club goals.

At the age of 37 he is still playing in League Two and had a decent loan spell at Oxford United last season where he scored four times in 11 games and this just shows that he will always know where the back of the net is. Connolly began his career at Watford and he burst onto the scene in the 1995-96 season by scoring eight goals in just 11 appearances which led to him being linked with a move away from the club.

In 1997 he got a move to Dutch team Feyenoord and was the highest player in the country but after just 10 games he was loaned back to England to play for Wolves where he scored four goals in one match against Bristol City. He returned to Holland at the end of the season but was once again loaned out, this time to Excelsior and he really hit top form, scoring 29 times in just 32 matches and he followed this up the next season with 13 in 16 before returning to his parent club. He got more of a chance this time around and played 15 times and managed to get himself five goals.
Connolly AFC
But his adventure in Holland was over in 2001 as he moved to Wimbledon and became one of the most lethal strikers in the Football League. His first season was impressive enough (18 in 35) but he was even better in his second year and almost had a goal a game record as he scored 24 times in 28 games. This form convinced West Ham to pay £285,000 for his services in August 2003 and he scored on his debut against Preston North End in a 2-1 win. He only stayed for the one season as they failed to gain promotion to the Premier League after losing in the playoff final despite Connolly’s 14 goals.
Connolly Leicester
He signed for Leicester City for £500,000 and proved to be a success as he finished the season as their top scorer and then at the start of the next season he scored a hatrick against Stoke City which increased speculation he was going to be sold to a Premier League club. And on deadline day he signed for Wigan Athletic for an initial fee of £2 million and he once again scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over West Brom. However, it was a difficult season as he struggled with injuries and did not score another league goal for the club and in 2006 he left for Sunderland.

At Sunderland he played a vital part in getting them promoted by finishing the season as their top scorer and scoring the final goal of the season which made them champions of the division. However, over the next two seasons he only played five times and was then released.

His next move was to Southampton and he scored on his debut against Oldham Athletic and then followed this up with another against MK Dons. He earned a contract extension and was vital in getting Southampton promoted as he scored in crucial wins over Brighton, Brentford and Walsall. Connolly started the Championship season in fantastic form scoring four goals in the first month of the season. After the club made a few signings in the January transfer window he was pushed down the pecking order and was released at the end of the season.
Connolly Soton
Connolly decided to stay on the South Coast and signed for Portsmouth and although he scored seven times in 17 games he was unable to stop them getting relegated to League Two. At the beginning of the next season he was a starter for Portsmouth but was loaned out in January to Oxford United where he scored on his debut against AFC Wimbledon.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for West Ham Glenn Roeder. “He is fiery and strong mentally – a tough boy and he lives for scoring goals. He is one of those lads that keeps a mental note of exactly where and how he scores.”