3rd November – Stevie May

Sheffield Wednesday have made a good start to the season but they have struggled to put the ball in net and they will be hoping that Stevie May can find his feet in the Championship soon.

They have the joint best defensive record in the division and if only they could have scored more goals then they would have been closer to the top of the league than they currently are. May will need time to adapt to the English game but if the chances fall his way then he will surely hit the back of the net on a regular basis.

The 22 year old started his career at St Johnstone and made his debut as a 16 year old on the 11th May 2009 against Airdrie United and even managed to score. This convinced the club to give him a new contract but did not make an appearance in the following season as he needed extra time to develop. He had to wait until a game against Hearts on the 13th November 2010 to make his next appearance and would then start his first game against Motherwell on the 26th January 2011. In total he played 22 games over the course of the season and scored twice in a 2-0 win over Hamilton.
May SJ
At the start of the 2011-12 season he could not break into the first team and joined Alloa Athletic on loan and was instrumental in the club winning the Scottish Third Division. He scored a hatrick against East Stirlingshire in January 2012 and was in fantastic form for the rest of the season. Later in the season he would score four times against Elgin City to secure the title for Alloa and was then named the SFL Third Division Player of the Season after 19 goals in 22 games. This also led to him being given an extended contract at his parent club.

But it did not secure him a first team place at St Johnstone and he once again went out on loan. This time to First Division side Hamilton. After a slightly slow start he found his feet in the higher division and began to score goals for fun, including hatricks in consecutive games in April 2013 against Airdrieonians and Livingston. At the end of the season he won more personal awards after scoring 26 goals in just 35 games. This form finally convinced his parent club to give him a chance in their first team.
May Hamilton
May started the season well with four goals in the first nine league games and a winner over Rosenborg in the Europa League. The following month, May won the October SPL Player of the Month after scoring five times in four games. His goalscoring did not slow as he hit two hatricks in the space of three weeks against Dundee United and then Hearts. May’s 19th and 20th goals of the season were arguably his most important as they were in the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen which secured the club’s place in their first ever final. They would go on to lift the trophy with May providing the assist for former Sheffield Wednesday favourite Steven MacLean. May finished the season with 27 goals in all competitions and he was linked with moves away from the club all summer, however he played in the early rounds of the Europa League, scoring against Luzern and Spartak Trnava.

On the 9th August 2014, the striker signed for Sheffield Wednesday and scored his first goal for the club against Middlesbrough on the 23rd August. He would go on to also score against Birmingham City and Reading in the following weeks but now he has to push on and grab more goals for the side.
May SW
The final word can go to Sheffield Wednesday manager Stuart Gray. “We’ve got to create chances for him. He’s got a calmness in the 18 yard box where he can pick out the corners. I’ve got every confidence he will convert them. He’s very keen to get into the full Scotland squad.”

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9th October – Mark Viduka

Mark Viduka was a very good striker that scored a lot of goals during his career and was well liked at most clubs he was at.

The striker also holds the record for being the highest scoring Australian in the Champions League, unfortunately the 39 year old didn’t get that many opportunities to play in the competition. He also captained his national side in the 2006 World Cup which must have been a great moment. His goal record was usually superb and his strike partners benefitted from playing alongside him.

Viduka started his career in Australia with Melbourne Knights in 1993 and in his two seasons at the club, he finished as the top scorer and was awarded the NSL Player of the Year. In his second season he helped the club win the title and after 40 goals in 48 appearances in his time at the club he was being linked with moves to Europe. In 1995 he moved to Croatia and joined Dinamo Zagreb and with the transfer money his former club rebuilt a new grandstand and named it the ‘Mark Viduka Stand’. He quickly settled into life in Croatia and in his three and a half years at the club he helped them win three doubles in between 1996 and 1998.
Viduka DZ
The next part of his career is interesting as he signed for Celtic in December 1998 for £3.5 million but this fee seemed to get to the striker as he quit playing the game without kicking a ball, citing stress as the reason. However, these issues were resolved and he eventually made his debut against Dundee United on the 27th February 1999. In his first full season he showed everyone his real quality and at the end of it he was named the Scottish Player of the Year after scoring 27 times.

Just before the start of the 1999-00 season he joined Leeds United for £6 million. Viduka formed good partnerships with the other strikers including Michael Bridges, Alan Smith and Robbie Keane. In his first season he scored 22 goals and will always be remembered for his performance against Liverpool when he scored all four goals in a 4-3 win.

After signing a new five year deal in the summer of 2001 much was expected of him and Leeds but after another two good seasons, things started to unravel. They slipped down the table and had to rely on Viduka’s goals to keep them in the Premier League. In the 2002-03 campaign he almost singlehandedly kept them up by scoring another 22 goals, including a hatrick in a 6-1 win over Charlton Athletic and the winner over Arsenal on the penultimate day of the season.
Viduka LUn
Eventually they suffered relegation at the end of the 2003-04 season and after 59 goals in the Premier League they had to sell him to Middlesbrough. His first season at his new club was impressive but also frustrating as he suffered a lot of injuries. He spent three seasons at Boro and was a constant threat, helping them to reach the UEFA Cup final in 2006. After a further 29 Premier League goals he joined Newcastle United.
Viduka Boro
He was Sam Allardyce’s first signing at the club but he did not show his true potential until Kevin Keegan became manager and played him alongside Obafemi Martins and Michael Owen. The goals did not come as easy for the Australian but he certainly helped his two strike partners find the net regularly. However an achilles injury at the end of his first season ruined the rest of his time at the club as Newcastle were relegated in the following campaign and Viduka didn’t score a single goal.

The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He’ll be a massive asset. He’s very focused, and we’re working on his sharpness. His training has been excellent. When he’s fit, he’s a handful in any league in the world and in the Premier League. He’s certainly proved that.”

2nd October – Michael Ball

A lot of people say that more British players should go abroad and learn how football is played in different countries and that is exactly what birthday boy Michael Ball did.

He may not be the most famous to go play abroad but at least he took the risk and decided to give it a go, a lot of British players are criticised because they take the safe option and would rather stay in a league that they understand. So the 35 year old left back definitely deserves credit for deciding that his football would improve by leaving England and trying to adapt to a new culture.

The one time capped England defender started his career at Everton and made his debut in April 1997 as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur and then started the match against West Ham a week later. He developed into a very solid full back and could also fill in at centre back when it was required and in his five years at the club he played 121 Premier League games, scoring eight times. His form at club level impressed England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and was included in his squad for a friendly against Spain in February 2001. Ball would come on at half time for Chris Powell to get his one and only England cap.
Ball at Everton
In 2001 Everton had to sell some of their better players, including Ball who joined Rangers for £6.5 million. Ball had a difficult start at Rangers as he was fined £10,000 by the club for swearing at manager Dick Advocaat in the Old Firm Derby against Celtic after being substituted and then in only his 11th game he suffered medial ligament damage that would keep him out for 18 months.

After missing the entire 2002-03 season he regained his fitness and became a first team regular in the following season and in his first month back he scored his first goal against Dundee United and also won the Player of the Month award. In all competitions he played 43 times during the season but this caused problems as Rangers would have to pay more money to Everton after he played a certain amount of games so they were reluctant to use him at the start of the 2004-05 season.
Ball Rangers
This was eventually solved in December 2004 and Ball helped the club win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title but at the end of the season Rangers wanted to get rid of some of their highest earners and after 55 SPL games Ball joined Dutch side PSV. Unfortunately the manager Guus Hiddink and the PSV fans could not see the best of the defender because of injury problems that ruined his time at the club but he did still help them lift the Dutch title in his first season.

Injuries meant he did not even play a game in his second season at the club and joined Manchester City on the 31st January 2007 on a six month deal after impressing on a trial. He quickly regained his form and became a dependable defender for City and in his first season and a half at the club he captained the side on a number of occasions. But in January 2009 he needed an operation on his knee which would keep him out of action for nine months and on the 1st July he was released by the club.
Ball MCFC
To get back to match fitness he joined several clubs on trial but none of these led to contracts and he had to wait until the 8th August 2011 to get signed to another club. Leicester City signed him but he only made three appearances for the club in his only season at the club.

The final word can go to Sven Goran Eriksson who was also his manager at Manchester City. “Michael’s experienced, having played in Scotland and Holland as well as England and it’s good he is staying with us as he’s going to be very useful. We had to build on what was good here, so I’m happy that he’s signed.”

7th August – Paul Lambert

When asked which Premier League manager won the Champions League as a player quite a few people will not know the answer to this question but birthday boy Paul Lambert did just that.

Now 45, Lambert had a very good playing career and he is now hoping to have as much success as a manager although he has found it a lot tougher in recent seasons at Aston Villa. Next season will probably be about survival once again for Villa as it is for so many clubs in the Premier League but Lambert certainly has the quality to keep them in the top flight and if given the chance could build them back up to what they once were.

Lambert has never been a stranger to success and at the age of just 17 while playing for first club St Mirren he won the 1987 Scottish Cup final. He stayed at the club for eight years playing 227 league games and scoring 14 times but in September 1993 he moved onto Motherwell for a fee of £250,000. In his first season at the club they finished third but they went one better the year after and finished as runners up, the club’s highest finish since the 1933-34 season. He also played for the club in the UEFA Cup and they were drawn against Borussia Dortmund but they were knocked out by the Germans.
Lambert STM
However, Lambert must have impressed the manager Ottmar Hitzfeld because he signed him for the German side in 1996 and changed his position to a defensive midfielder. He helped the club reach the final of the Champions League that year against Juventus and Lambert set up the opening goal in a 3-1 win. Despite only staying at the club for a year he is fondly remembered by their fans.

In November 1997 he signed for Celtic and made his debut against Rangers and three weeks later he picked up his first winners medal after coming on as substitute in the final of the Scottish League Cup against Dundee United. Lambert spend seven years at Celtic and won four SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups before leaving to become manager of Livingston.
Lambert Celtic
He intended to just be manager but he then changed his mind and registered as a player however his spell at the club only lasted 32 games and resigned after only winning two league games in this time. His next attempt at management was at Wycombe Wanderers where he had more success and took the club to the semi final of the League Cup by beating Premier League sides Fulham and Charlton Athletic before being defeated by Chelsea. But after failing to get them promoted in 2008 he resigned.

On the 9th October 2008 he was appointed manager of Colchester United where he stayed for 43 games but it was the 7-1 victory over Norwich City that he will be most remembered for. This is mostly because he took over as manager of Norwich not long after and led them to the League One title. He followed this up with a second successive promotion and then kept them in the Premier League but then shocked everyone by offering his resignation and then joined Aston Villa shortly afterwards.
Lambert NC
He has had a few ups and downs at Aston Villa but he has brought in a lot of younger players so hopefully they can develop into an exciting Premier League side.

The final word can go to the Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett. “Paul has done a fantastic job for us and has played a full part in restoring some pride to Norwich City Football Club. He is an excellent young manager.”