30th August – Kris Commons

Kris Commons played over 500 games and scored over 100 goals during his professional career and proudced some magic moments.

Commons started his career at Stoke City, making his debut in a 3-2 defeat against Blackpool. Shortly afterwards he picked up an injury and was out of action for year before making his comeback in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and his first goal came 16 days later against Norwich City. After a promising start he was offered a new contract, however he rejected it and signed for Nottingham Forest.

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Although his first season ended in relegation from the Championship, Commons stayed with the club to try and get them promoted. He had to wait until his final season to finally achieve this aim and following a 3-2 win over Yeovil Town they gained promotion with the midfielder being named in the PFA League One Team of the Year. At this point he had played 159 times for Forest but with his contract up he made the unthinkable move to Derby County.

He started his time at Derby on the wing under Paul Jewell but he didn’t really show his potential until he was moved into the centre and he would go on to score the only goal of the game in a victory over Manchester United in the League Cup. Later on in the season he would also score the winning goal against Forest in an FA Cup game.

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Injuries caught up with him in the next season and he didn’t have much of an impact, however the 2010-11 season was probably his best in England as he went on a run of seven goals in nine games. This form caught the attention of Celtic who signed him on the 28th January 2011 and on the following day he scored against Aberdeen and would end the season winning the Scottish Cup. Celtic won the title in the following campaign but it was a difficult one for Commons as he only scored one goal.

But he did manage to bounce back and show his quality. During the 2013-14 season he finished as the top scorer, hitting the back of the net 32 times in all competitions. However, this wasn’t enough to convince new manager Ronny Deila to give him a starting place. He did manage to turn this round again but things got worse when Brendan Rodgers took charge as he told him he would not be part of the squad.

Commons Celtic

Commons would stay at the club until the end of his contract and after a back injury he decided it was time to retire. His last games in football came during a loan spell at Hibernian where he played five times, scoring twice.

The final word can go to Neil Lennon. “He’s intelligent, grounded and hungry. What he will do is improve us and influence the team and squad on and off the field. He will provide a goal threat from the wider areas or deeper lying areas.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

25th August – Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling has been one of the best defenders in the Championship for a lot of his career and will be hoping he can make the step up to the Premier League soon.

The defender usually plays at right back but he can also fill in at centre half or play as one of the defenders when his manager decided to play three at the back. Under the stewardship of a manager like Marcelo Bielsa he will surely get better and will be hoping that this could be the manager that takes him to the top flight.

Ayling started his career at Arsenal and despite an impressive record at youth level in which he was part of their double winning team of the 2008-09 season, he failed to make a first team appearance for the club but was named on the substitute bench for a Champions League game against Greek side Olympiakos. Towards the end of his time at the club he signed for Yeovil Town on loan in March 2010. He played four times and did enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Ayling YT

In his first full season he was a key player, making 40 appearances, however his disciplinary record was quite poor as he picked up 13 yellow and two red cards. He played in 40 games every season he was at the club and helped them win the League One playoff final on the 19th May 2013 and therefore secured them a place in the Championship. The team found it very tough in the higher division but Ayling was certainly one of the bright spots.

After relegation, Ayling decided not to sign a new contract with the club and joined Bristol City on a free transfer. It turned out to be an impressive season as he played 58 times in all competitions and Bristol City went on to win the League One title and the Football League Trophy beating Walsall 2-0 at Wembley on the 22nd March 2015. He would continue to impress in the following season as they managed to avoid relegation in the following campaign, playing 33 times at either right back or centre back.

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On the 11th August 2016 the right back signed for Leeds United and would play 43 times in his first season. With many changes at the club throughout his time there so far, he has managed to convince every manager that has been in charge that he deserves his place in the team. During the 2017-18 season he was also named as the club’s vice captain and was also rewarded with a new four year contract. He had to wait until the 18th August 2018 to score his first goal for Leeds in a game against Rotherham United.

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The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s a very versatile player and therefore offers us competition and cover in a variety of positions. He was instrumental in Yeovil’s promotion from League One and did very well in the Championship.”

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.”

22nd June – Stephen Crainey

Stephen Crainey was part of Blackpool’s exciting Premier League campaign that saw them become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

Under Ian Holloway, Blackpool played an attacking brand of football that made many neutrals excited but it wasn’t always easy for Crainey in the top flight due to this style.

The defender started his career at Celtic and would play a total of 58 times for the club and helped the team win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title. Although never a regular he earned a move to Premier League side Southampton on the 6th February 2004 and made his debut in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. However, after just five Premier League appearances he was on the move again.

Crainey Celtic

Crainey signed for Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently, and in doing so became the first player Leeds had paid for since 2004. Despite this, he still couldn’t hold down a regular place and after three seasons and the club being relegated to League One he was released from his contract.

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Blackpool signed the left back and he became a fan favourite and club hero. In his first season he would go on to score his first ever league goal in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United and helped the club to their highest finish in the Championship in 27 years. Due to his form he was linked with moves away but instead he signed a new contract. However, an injury at the start of the 2008-09 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but he would recover and become a key player once more.

Crainey then helped Blackpool to arguably one of their greatest ever achievements by appearing in 46 games during the 2009-10 season which saw them gain promotion to the Premier League. In the top flight their efforts were very enjoyable to watch and if it wasn’t for an injury to Crainey in January they may have been more solid at the back and came closer to escaping relegation. Everyone expected them to be one of the worst in the history of the league but they almost pulled off a shock.

Crainey Blackpool

Upon relegation Crainey again signed a new contract to ward off interest from Premier League clubs, such as Wigan Athletic, and he continued putting in solid performances in the Championship and scored his second goal for the club against Birmingham City on the 26th November 2011.

He would stay at Blackpool for one more season before deciding to move on and he did eventually sign for Wigan. This only lasted for one season and in 2014 he signed for Fleetwood Town, where he would play 28 league games before leaving for AFC Fylde, his final club.

The final word can go to former Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander. “He has played at the top level and is still hungry for success. We thought we needed to bring in more added quality and experience. Crainey certainly provides that.”

2nd June – Leigh Bromby

Leigh Bromby is one of the few players that has featured both for Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United and was well liked by both fans.

The central defender seemed to be Yorkshire through and through as he also turned out for Leeds United and is currently a coach at Huddersfield Town. Bromby came through the youth academy at Hillsborough but made his professional debut whilst on loan at Mansfield Town on the 12th December 1999 in a 0-0 draw with Barnet. During the loan spell he would also go on to score his first career goal in a 3-1 win over Southend United.

In the following season, Bromby made his debut for Wednesday as a substitute and would go on to make 20 appearances in the second half of the season. Over the next three seasons he became a regular for the team but he did also spend a five game spell on loan at Norwich City during the 2002-03 campaign.

Bromby SW

At the end of the 2003-04 season with Wednesday in Division Two, he made the surprising move to neighbours Sheffield United. He was an instant success at Bramall Lane, playing in every single league game and contributing five goals. In the following season he helped the team gain promotion to the top flight and would feature in 17 Premier League games but unfortunately he could not help them secure their place in the league.

Injuries then caught up with the defender and he could not get a good run in the side and this led to him leaving for Watford on the 31st January 2008. United manager at the time Bryan Robson did not want to sell Bromby but the player wanted regular football and reluctantly allowed him to leave. After just one year at Watford, he returned to Sheffield United, initially on loan and then permanently.

Bromby SU

This move didn’t last long as just a few weeks after signing permanently, and not making an appearance in the new season under manager Kevin Blackwell, he signed for boyhood club Leeds United. In his first season he played a key role in their promotion back to the Championship but he will have been disappointed that he was suspended for their historic FA Cup win over Manchester United. This turned out to be his last season as first choice and became a bit part player and a ruptured patella knee tendon effectively ended his career on the 3rd May 2012. He retired after playign 380 games.

Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal) Leigh Bromby (Leeds). Leeds United 1:3 Arsenal, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay

Since retiring, Bromby has took his coaching badges and was part of Leeds United’s academy until he was made redundant by controversial owner Massimo Cellino. Since August 2014, he has been a part of Huddersfield Town’s coaching setup.

The final word can go to Norwich City manager, Nigel Worthington who signed him on loan. “Leigh has made a very promising start to his career at Wednesday. This move is about him having a chance to get some games under his belt. He’s a very good defender.”

22nd March – Luke Freeman

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

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

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

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

Freeman YT

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

Freeman Stevenage

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

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

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