24th October – Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney will divide opinion as he had the potential to become one of the best in the world and some say he has reached that in his career whereas others say that he has failed to live up to expectations.

The striker is 29 and if he doesn’t pick up any serious injuries he will become Manchester United’s all time top scorer and also beat Bobby Charlton’s 49 goals at international level. With 43 goals for England in 99 games it is a good record but he has largely failed in the main competitions which has left England fans more frustrated with him than any other.

He started his career at Everton and made his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in 2002. His breakthrough moment was when he scored a last minute winner against Arsenal on the 19th October and followed this up by scoring the winner against Leeds United. In December he was named BBC’s Young Personality of the Year, scored another winning goal against Blackburn Rovers and then received his first red card against Birmingham City. He ended his first season with eight goals and in the following campaign and he remained very consistent, scoring nine times throughout the season.
Rooney Everton
Rooney signed for Manchester United in August 2004 but had to wait to make his debut and he scored a hatrick in a win over Fenerbahce in the Champions League. Despite scoring 17 goals and being named the PFA Young Player of the Year, the club did not win a trophy. Rooney would go on to win his first trophy in the following season as they beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 in the League Cup final, with him grabbing two. The 2006-07 season was an interesting one for Rooney as he went 10 games without scoring but managed 14 goals and picked up his first Premier League winners medal. In June 2007 he was given the number 10 shirt and despite missing game time in the opening half of the season he recovered to help the club retain the title and also win the Champions League.
England v Ireland - International Friendly
He was never prolific until the 2009-10 season. On the 22nd August 2009 he became the 20th player to score 100 goals for the club when he scored twice in a win over Wigan. During the season he was particularly good at scoring with his head and did this in the final of the League Cup against Aston Villa to help his side win the game. An injury against Bayern Munich slowed him down but he finished the season with 34 goals. After the season there were reports that Rooney wanted to leave but he made a U-turn and signed a new deal.
Despite not hitting the same standard as the previous season he still scored his 100th Premier League goal and helped the team win the title. He returned to his brilliant best in the 2011-12 season and started fantastically, scoring consecutive hatricks in the early weeks against Arsenal and Bolton. By the end of the season he had scored 34 goals.
Rooney MU7
After the signing of Robin Van Persie, many felt that Rooney was no longer the main man and despite them combining well and helping the club win another title, Alex Ferguson revealed that Rooney had handed in a transfer request. New manager David Moyes convinced the striker to stay and he did his best for the manager, scoring 17 goals and providing 10 assists but it was a disappointing season. Under Louis Van Gaal, he was named the club captain and scored on the opening day against Swansea City but a red card against West Ham has put doubt on whether he is the right man for the job.

The final word can go to former captain Peter Schmeichel. “What I really like about Rooney is his attitude towards playing for United. Wherever the manager tells him to play he will do that with a smile on his face. He realises his importance to the team. So I think he’s the obvious choice for the captaincy.”

Advertisements

27th September – Lloyd Sam

A lot of high profile players have gone over to America in recent years but there are others that have went over from England and made a big impression, like Lloyd Sam.

The 30 year old plays alongside world superstars such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill as well as others that have played in England such as Bobby Convey, Richard Eckersley and Bradley Wright-Phillips. So Sam will certainly feel at home at the New York Red Bulls and is known as someone that can use his pace and direct running to create chances for his teammates and it is no surprise to see him setting up a lot of goals.

Sam started his career at Charlton Athletic and became a professional in 2003 at the age of 18. He began to impress in the youth team and was called up to the first team squad for a game against Arsenal but unfortunately did not get on the pitch. He then went out on loan to get some more first team experience and joined Leyton Orient in 2004 and played 10 times for the club before returning to Charlton and making his debut for them on the final day of the 2004-05 season against Crystal Palace.
Sam CA
His opportunities were still limited and after playing just twice in the following season, he went out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Southend United during the 2006-07 season. Sam did also play seven times in the Premier League that season but unfortunately Charlton were relegated but this meant that the winger was now going to get a chance in the first team on a regular basis.

At the start of the season he was a bright spot for Charlton and scored his first professional goal against Stockport County in the League Cup. After this the club began to struggle and after missing out on promotion they started to fall down the table and were relegated once more at the end of the 2008-09 season. They narrowly missed out on a return to the Championship with Sam playing 43 league games as they lost in the playoff semi finals against Swindon Town.

After not being offered a new contract he joined Leeds United on a free transfer on the 9th July 2010 but he did not make a great start as he gave away a penalty on his debut against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. However, in the next league game he scored against Nottingham Forest and also received the man of the match for his performance. He then went on to score against Millwall on 21st August but this positive start did not last as Sam suffered several niggling injuries which kept him out of action for long periods.
LEEDS UNITED V LINCOLN CITY CARLING CUP  10/8/2010
He only featured in 18 league games for Leeds in his first season and did extra work in preseason to get himself fit for the new season and in the friendly matches he provided a lot of assists and topped it off by scoring in a 3-1 win over Newcastle United. This was still not good enough to get him a regular place in the side and on the 14th March 2012 joined Notts County on loan for the rest of the season and scored five goals in 10 games, including a hatrick against Yeovil Town in a 3-1 win.

When his contract came to an end at Leeds he signed for New York Red Bulls on the 16th August 2012 and impressed in his first five games before and injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has now recovered from this and helped the club win its first ever Supporters’ Shield in 2013, scoring the third goal in a 5-2 win over Chicago Fire.
Lloyd Sam
The final word can go to the Notts County manager that brought him in on loan Keith Curle. “I like Lloyd. It took him a bit of time to settle at first, but in the end he was enjoying it and was playing free flowing, entertaining, attacking football. Lloyd just keeps getting better and better.”

27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”

8th May – Jack Charlton

English World Cup winners and one club men are few and far between but today marks the birthday of someone that fits into both categories.

Jack Charlton helped England win the World Cup in 1966 and spent all of his playing days at Leeds United where he also had a lot of success. But it could have been so different for the older Charlton brother as he had at first rejected the chance to play for Leeds and then another opportunity at the club clashed with an interview to become a policeman. Charlton decided to go to the trial and was given a contract.
Charlton England
He made his debut on 25th April 1953 against Doncaster Rovers in a 1-1 draw and he would have played more in the following years if he did not have to serve two years National Service but he returned to the team in 1955 and became a regular as the team gained promotion to the top flight. The next few years were tougher for the player and the club with a relegation and a number of managerial changes. Charlton almost left the club on several occasions but the 1962-63 season was the start of an almost decade long defensive line up which included Charlton and Don Revie was getting the club back to where they belonged, challenging for top honours. They were promoted to the First Division as champions in the 1963-64 season and made an immediate impact by going on a 25 match unbeaten run and almost winning the title.

After coming close in many different competitions in 1968 they finally won a major cup by beating Arsenal in the League Cup 1-0 and then followed this up with their first European trophy the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. A season later Charlton helped Leeds to their first ever Football League title with the team only losing two games all season. In his penultimate season as a player he finally clinched the one trophy that had been missing from his collection by beating Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup final
Charlton Leeds
After being limited to 25 appearances and the signing of Gordon McQueen, Charlton decided to retire but he wanted to become a manager. In 2006 he was voted into Leeds United’s greatest XI.

On his 38th birthday he was given the Middlesbrough job. Strangely he never signed a contract and accepted lower wage demands but he did have a gentleman’s agreement in place that he could not be sacked.

It did not take him long to be successful as he won promotion for Division Two with seven games left to play and became the first manager outside of the top flight to be named Manager of the Year. He managed to keep the team in the league for a number of seasons but there was unrest in the boardroom and the board voted to sack him, however the chairman stepped in and overruled the decision. He did eventually leave the club at the end of the 1976-77 season.

His next job was at bottom of the Third Division Sheffield Wednesday and he turned them round completely and won promotion in his third season at the club. In the 1982-83 season he took the club to the top of the table unfortunately injuries struck and they slid down the table, finally finishing sixth. His greatest moment as Wednesday manager is still sang by their fans to this day as he was in charge when they beat arch rivals Sheffield United 4-0 which is known as the Boxing Day Massacre.

Charlton then went back to his native North East and first managed Middlesbrough again as a favour to the chairman and kept them in the Second Division after it looked like they were going down and then in 1984 he became Newcastle United manager. He only lasted one season but he did have to use a lot of young players and it was a difficult situation.

On the international he was also successful as a player and a manager, winning the World Cup in 1966 and then managing Ireland to their first ever World Cup in 1990, where they reached the quarter finals.
Charlton Ireland
The last word can go to his former Leeds United teammate Johnny Giles. “Jack turned it round for himself once he got his attitude right, he was outstanding: always competing and getting his foot in when it mattered. His contribution in the promotion season was vital; it was the start of something good for both him and the club

15th April – Andres D’Alessandro

Foreign players need time to settle in England and are very rarely put in a position where if they fail their club could get relegated.

Andres D’Alessandro had to come into a new country and perform straight away after joining Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth who were in a very difficult situation and were looking certainties for relegation. When he joined the club it was a real surprise because he was considered one of the best attacking talents in Europe and earlier in his career he was seen as the next big thing to come out of Argentina.

This led to Wolfsburg splashing out a club record fee for the midfielder after helping his country win the 2001 Youth World Championships and outshining future stars like Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola. It was not long before he was in the headlines again after another very impressive showing at the Olympic Games where Argentina won the gold medal. His first season at Wolfsburg was ok after playing 34 times but over the next two seasons he was playing less and less. Eventually this led to him and the club coming to an agreement to allow him to leave on loan.
D'All Wolf
This was when he joined Portsmouth and Harry Redknapp said on his signing. “The boy is a really influential playmaker. This is a massive signing for the club and I am delighted.” A lot of other clubs fans were jealous of this signing and could not believe that he had joined a club that was battling relegation. His first goal for the club was one of the best of the season unfortunately it was in a losing effort against Charlton. Although he did not score again he was very influential and was one of the main reasons his side stayed up with his brilliant passing and accurate set pieces.
D'All Pompey
Portsmouth wanted to make the signing permanent but his form had made a lot of clubs sit up and take notice of him once again. D’Alessandro ended the speculation by signing for Real Zaragoza on loan. He wanted to try his hand in Spain and felt his game was suited to the Spanish style. After a good loan spell he joined the club permanently and his career stalled slightly but he was still seen as a threat every time he played.

As a lot of South American players do he decided to return there and he joined Brazilian side Internacional. Since being there he has proven to be an important player, in 2011 he played 48 times and scored 15 times but he is getting even better as he gets older and more experienced. In 2013 he scored the most goals in a season in his career when he scored 20 times.

The Argentinean is a fantastic player and he excited the fans every time he was on the pitch and it was great to see him play in the Premier League even if it was only for half a season.
Da'All Internacional
The last word can go to Harry Redknapp who knew how good he was going to be after only a few games. “He has already been superb for us. He is a bit of a throwback to Graham Rix as a player with his magical left foot.”