18th March – Danny Murphy

Danny Murphy is now a pundit for the BBC and is doing a decent job but during his playing career he was slightly underrated and one that was usually a valuable member of any side.

Now at the age of 38 the former midfielder can look back on his career with pride after playing over 700 professional games but he will also be disappointed as he only got nine England caps even though he was one of the most consistent English midfielders during the 2000s. After being in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently but whenever he has been on Match of the Day he has been a lot better than some of the other new pundits that have been on this season.

Murphy started his career at Crewe and made his debut as a 16 year old against Preston after coming off the bench and would go on to score the winner. He spent the early years of his career as a deep lying striker rather than a midfielder and in his final season he would hit 10 goals as the club got promoted to the second tier of English football in 1997.

Murphy CA

He wouldn’t play for the club after promotion though as he joined Liverpool and made his debut on the opening day of the 1997-98 season against Wimbledon. After making 17 league appearances over the next two seasons, he rejoined Crewe on loan and played a vital role in the club avoiding relegation. On his return to Liverpool he found a new position as a wide midfielder and this proved to be a very successful change. Over the next few years he won the League Cup twice, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup and was a key member of the side but his best season unfortunately fell on Liverpool’s worst as he scored 12 goals and was voted the supporters’ player of the year at the end of the 2002-03 season. During his time at Liverpool he also became a fan favourite because he scored the only goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford three times.

Murphy Liverpool

But in August 2004, after playing 170 league games for Liverpool, Murphy joined Charlton Athletic. After a difficult first season, he found form in his second as he was named September Player of the Month and was linked with a call up to the England squad which arguably should have happened. This form meant that he was linked away from the club and on the 31st January 2006 he joined Tottenham Hotspur. It was not a very successful spell for him there though as he struggled to break into the first team and only played 22 Premier League games in a season and a half.

On the 31st August Murphy joined Fulham and he once again showed his ability and was part of the team that successfully avoided relegation when it looked like they would be going down for large periods of the season. On the 11th May he scored the only goal against Portsmouth which guaranteed their safety. In the following season he scored some important goals too, including his 100th club goal and yet another winner against Manchester United. The 2009-10 season started badly with the midfielder missing the first two months of the season with injury but ended with him captaining the club to the Europa League final which they unfortunately lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.

Murphy Fulham

Murphy stayed at Fulham for another two seasons, playing over 40 times in both campaigns, but was surprisingly not given a contract extension and signed for Blackburn Rovers. He would only stay one season before retiring but was named club captain and was praised by Gary Bowyer for his contributions during a time of uncertainty at the club, with many managerial changes.

The final word can go to Steve Kean. “His record is there for all to see. He is a model professional, who has a real hunger to keep playing football and we are thrilled. This is a pivotal signing for us. Being able to bring Danny on board is a massive boost for everyone.”

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4th October – Ryan Shawcross

Ryan Shawcross may have been disappointed in Stoke City’s 3-1 defeat away to Sunderland but he has quickly became one of the most consistent centre backs in the Premier League.

The 27 year old is Stoke’s captain and the one time England international could count himself unlucky that he doesn’t get into Roy Hodgson’s squad on a regular basis as he is at least the same standard than those that do play for the country. Shawcross has helped the club become a solid Premier League side and one that are usually very difficult to beat and although their form has been patchy this season, they should not battle against relegation and be aiming for the top half.

Shawcross started his career at Manchester United and made his first team debut as a substitute against Crewe in the third round of the League Cup on the 25th October 2006. To gain first team experience, the centre back was sent out on loan to Belgian side Antwerp in January 2007, where in his 22 appearances he scored three times and helped them reach the Second Division playoffs.
Shawcross MU
In the summer he returned to Old Trafford but he wouldn’t stay for long as he was loaned out once again, this time to Stoke City and made a fantastic start to his time at the club by scoring the only goal against Cardiff City on his debut. He continued to impress everyone and was named the Championship Player of the Month in October 2007.

With Stoke looking like one of the teams that would be challenging for promotion they moved quickly to sign Shawcross permanently and on the 18th January 2008, Stoke paid £1 million for the centre back with the fee eventually rising to £2 million after they were promoted. In his first season at the club he played 41 league games and scored seven goals.
Shawcross SC
After starting in Stoke’s first Premier League game he soon lost his place to new signing Ibrahima Sonko but would go onto regain his place in the side and help the team avoid relegation. He scored against Aston Villa, Everton and Middlesbrough and was soon being linked to other Premier League clubs but manager Tony Pulis laughed off the speculation that he would leave.

In the 2009-10 season he scored on the opening day against Burnley in a 2-0 win and he would continue to be very consistent. However, he had a very mixed day on the 27th February 2010 as he was called up to the England squad for the first time but unfortunately he had been involved in an incident against Arsenal that would see him being sent off and Aaron Ramsey suffering a broken leg after a tackle from the centre back. The defender was clearly upset by the incident as he was seen crying as he left the pitch.
Shawcross Eng
He recovered from this and was handed the captain’s armband at the start of the 2010-11 season and led his team to the FA Cup final which they lost 1-0 against Manchester City but qualified for the Europa League in the process. This meant he had a much busier season in the next campaign and played 49 out of the club’s 56 games.

Since being given the captaincy he has barely missed a game and on the 12th April 2014 he became the first Stoke player to ever play 200 games in the Premier League and last season he only missed one game as Stoke finished 9th and he was awarded the Player of the Year award.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “Ryan’s had an exceptional season. There are very few centre halves I’ve seen who are head and shoulders above him. I find it difficult to comprehend that he doesn’t get a mention for England. If he was picked, he wouldn’t let anyone down.”

25th September – Glenn Murray

Glenn Murray has to be one of the unluckiest players ever after working so hard to get to the Premier League and then miss pretty much the whole campaign must have been hard to take.

At the age of 31 he is at the stage of his career where it is unlikely that a Premier League team will take a chance on him and he will have to be at a club that gets promoted. He is still contracted to Crystal Palace but is currently on loan at Reading.

The striker started his career at non league side Workington Reds before going to America to sign for Wilmington Hammerheads, where he spent one season, scoring three goals in 14 games before returning to England. He joined Barrow and impressed with seven goals in seven games and earned a move to Conference side Carlisle United.
Murray CU
He did not have the greatest goal scoring record at Carlisle but played a part in two successive promotions as they won the Conference Playoffs in 2005 and then won League Two a season later. But he would only go on to play one League One game for the club and had to join Stockport County to get regular football and in two months he played 11 games and scored three goals. After initially joining Rochdale on loan he signed for them permanently in January 2007. During his loan spell he scored four goals in 12 games. He finished the 2006-07 season with 16 goals in 31 league games and was seen as the player that could lead the club to promotion.

The 2007-08 season started well for the striker and after nine goals in 23 games, Murray joined League One side Brighton in January. He made his debut in a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Northampton Town but on his home debut he scored twice in a 3-0 win over Crewe. He ended the season with eight goals in 21 games.
Murray BH
Injuries in the following campaign restricted his playing time but he did still manage 12 goals and had a similar record in the 2009-10 season. His final year at Brighton proved to be his most successful as he scored 22 goals in 42 league games. After he rejected Brighton’s new contract offer he left after hitting the back of the net 53 times in the league for the club.

This was forgotten by the Brighton fans after he signed for their rivals Crystal Palace in May 2011. But his first season wasn’t as successful as he hoped as he only scored six times but the 2012-13 season must have been like a dream for the striker. On the 22nd September he scored a 20 minute hatrick against Cardiff City and followed this up with more goals and another hatrick in November against Ipswich Town.

At times he was unstoppable and before Christmas he had scored 22 goals which is a record. However, his dream soon turned into a nightmare as he picked up a serious knee injury but his 30 goals in 42 games were good enough to help Palace get promoted. Murray eventually returned on the 8th February 2014 as a substitute against West Brom.
Murray CP
Since he has only played 15 Premier League games and on the 1st September 2014 he was loaned out to Reading. On his debut he scored twice against Fulham in a 3-0 win but he did miss a penalty against Sheffield Wednesday in the following game.

The final word can go to Ian Holloway. “There are not many strikers who have got 30 in one season. What he’s done is phenomenal. It’s not just that. It’s his work rate, he leads the line and how he brings other people into the game is as good as I’ve seen.”

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.”

4th September – Richard Garcia

Hull City have had a very good summer transfer window but it wasn’t long ago that they had to rely on free transfers and not big name players.

Richard Garcia is 33 today and is one of the players that helped get Hull back into the top divisions and get the fans excited about the club once again. Garcia may not have been the best player in the world but he definitely worked hard for the side. The fans may have a lot to look forward to now but it is only because of the hard work of the players that came before that allowed this to happen.

Garcia started his career at West Ham signing his first professional contract in 1998. He scored in every round of West Ham’s run to the Youth Cup final as they won the trophy. In August 2000 he was ready for first team football and was loaned out to Leyton Orient where he played 21 times and scored four goals. After an injury to his knee ligaments he returned to his parent club and made his debut for them in a League Cup match away to Reading in September 2001.

After West Ham were relegated from the Premier League, Garcia was expecting more game time but this didn’t happen and after just 22 games for the club he joined Colchester United in 2004. In his first season he scored six goals in 30 appearances but it was in the following campaign that he showed his true potential, helping Colchester gain promotion to the Championship and also reaching the fifth round of the FA Cup. A knee injury ended his season in March but he scored Colchester’s first goal in the 2006-07 season against Birmingham City on the opening day of the new Championship season.
Garcia CU
Colchester were the surprise package and pushed for a place in the playoffs but Garcia’s seven goals in 36 games was just not good enough to secure them a place in the top six. At the end of the season Garcia had played 96 games in all competitions and scored 21 goals and despite being offered a new contract decided to join Hull City.

He made his league debut for Hull against Plymouth Argyle and scored his first goal in the following game against Crewe. In his first season Garcia played a leading role in the club’s promotion push and they secured their place in the Premier League after defeating Bristol City in the Playoff final. He was also awarded the goal of the season award after hitting a 35 yard screamer against Burnley in March 2008.
Hull City v Stoke 08 November 2009
In the Premier League Garcia only took two games to score his first goal of the season, securing a point away to Blackburn Rovers, however this would turn out to be his only goal in the top flight in two seasons and had to wait until the 12th November to score again, when he scored against Preston in a 2-0 win back in the Championship. After injuries disrupted the rest of his time at the club he left after 128 games and returned to his homeland of Australia.
Garcia MH
On the 23rd August 2012 Garcia joined Melbourne Heart and stayed for one season, scoring six times in just 24 games but decided to move to Sydney FC in the next summer where he had a similar record, 6 goals in 23 games. But once again he only spent one season at the club and joined Minnesota United on the 5th May 2014 but after just two appearances he left and recently joined Perth Glory on a two year contract.

The final word can go to Melbourne Heart head coach John Aloisi. “Richard can play a number of roles. The experience he possesses isn’t something you encounter too often. He will assume a leadership role on the pitch and will be an important guide for our younger players.”