24th September – John Arne Riise

John Arne Riise might be a left back but it wasn’t his defending he was best known for as he had a phenomenal left foot and scored some sublime goals.

He is now currently playing in Cyprus with APOEL and at the age of 34 he is coming towards the end of his career but he does have some good memories, particularly at Liverpool where he helped them win the Champions league in 2005 in that incredible match against AC Milan. Riise also has the honour of being Norway’s most capped player and is definitely seen as a hero in his home country.

The defender started his career at Norwegian club Aalesund and after a fantastic spell he was being linked with moves away from the club. His five goals in 25 league games convinced French club Monaco to sign the full back. During the 1998-99 season he only played eight times but in the following campaign he became a regular in the side and he helped them win the Ligue 1 title. However, soon after he fell out with manager Claude Puel after saying he wanted to leave the club. Riise had been frustrated because bids had been rejected for him as Monaco wanted a higher transfer fee.

Eventually in 2001 he joined Liverpool for £4 million and made his debut against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup and scored as Liverpool won the game 3-2. He quickly became a fan favourite because of his attacking play from left back and ended his first season in England with seven Premier League goals. The next few seasons were difficult for Riise but after the appointment of Rafael Benitez he rediscovered his form and helped the club win the Champions League. In the final he had a mixed game as he set up the all important first goal for Steven Gerrard but then went on to miss his spot kick in the shootout.
Riise LFC
In his time at Liverpool he also helped them win the FA Cup which also went to penalties and Riise was brave enough to step up once more and this time he managed to score. But after this he started getting less game time and although he made it into Liverpool’s top 50 appearance makers it seemed like his time at the club was coming to an end.

On the 18th June 2008 he signed for Italian side Roma and once again quickly became a fan favourite because of his wholehearted displays and his important goals for the club. He seemed to always pop up in the games that mattered to the fans, he scored a goal against Inter in a pivotal game of the season and then followed this up against Milan with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 victory and then also scored a last minute header to give his team a 2-1 win over Juventus.
Riise Roma
After 99 league games and three seasons at the club he was on the move, this time joining Fulham on the 13th July 2011 and joined his brother Bjorn Helge at the club. He was a very consistent player during his three years there but he did not manage to score which was the most surprising thing about his second spell in England. His final year at the club was a disaster for everyone as they ended up getting relegated to the Championship and Riise left when his contract expired.
Riise FFC
Now at APOEL, he made his debut against Ayia Napa and set up two goals in a 3-1 away victory.

The final word can go to Martin Jol. “John Arne Riise is an experienced international left back who will bring a number of qualities to our squad and provide more options for me. He is an accomplished player defensively, who can also contribute to our attacking play.”

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5th August – Marian Pahars

Not many people will care who the current Latvia manager is but it just happens to be former Southampton player Marian Pahars who turns 38 today.

While Southampton are busy selling off all of their players Pahars is concentrating on his role as the national team manager but he will surely be keeping an eye on developments at his old club as one day he may want to come back and manage the club. He is still highly regarded by the fans and they definitely enjoyed his performances and will go down as one of their greatest players.

Pahars started his career at Pardaugava Riga at the age of 18 where he scored three times in 17 games before moving onto Skonto in 1995. He started out as a midfielder but then was moved upfront where he scored eight times in just nine games and then followed this up in the next season with 12 goals in 28 games which led to him being dubbed the ‘Latvian Michael Owen’. He continued developing at Skonto and after another impressive season in which he scored 19 goals in just 26 games he was linked with moves to some of the bigger clubs in Europe.
Pahars Latvia
The Southampton manager at the time Dave Jones was told about his skills by the then Latvia manager Gary Johnson and he was given a trial in which he scored a perfect hatrick (left foot, right foot and header) in a 7-1 victory over Oxford United. The clubs then agreed a fee of £800,000 for the striker and after some initial work permit problems he became the first Latvian to play in the Premier League. He made his debut on the 5th April 1999 away to Coventry City and on his home debut against Blackburn Rovers he came off the bench to score the equaliser in a 3-3 draw.

The Saints were involved in a relegation battle which went to the last day and with Southampton needing a win on the last day of the season it was Pahars that held his nerve and scored twice against Everton in a 2-0 win to keep the club in the top flight.

The 1999-00 season was one of his best as he played 33 times and ended it as the club’s top scorer with 13 goals but by this point the manager that signed him Dave Jones had been replaced by Glenn Hoddle who moved him into a wide position to utilise his dribbling skills and pace. But he started the next season as a striker and he scored six times early on but after moving back to his deeper role his form became inconsistent.
Pahars Southamp
Pahars is also a fan favourite at Southampton because he was the first home player to score a winning goal at the new St Mary’s Stadium which was one of many highlights throughout the season as he ended the campaign with 16 goals in all competitions. Afterwards he stayed at the club for four more years and because of injury problems his appearances were limited and after 156 appearances and 45 goals he left the club.

His next club was Anorthosis Famagusta in Cyprus but his injury problems remained and he did not play much for them and then rejoined Skonto before finally finishing his playing career at FK Jurmala.
Pahars AF
The final word can go to former teammate Claus Lundekvam. “Marian is a similar player to Michael Owen. They’re both fast and very good finishers. It’s very difficult for a defender to mark him because he’s on the move all the time. As long as he scores goals for us we’re happy.”