25th March – Mehmet Ekici

Mehmet Ekici might not be the biggest name in world football but he is proving that he is a fantastic footballer in Turkey and one that will probably be linked with a move to England in the near future.

The midfielder has always had very good ability but now he is back in Turkey he is proving that he can grab goals from the middle of the pitch. He obviously learnt a lot from his early years in Germany and has benefitted from that which is why it is not a surprise to see him performing so well at the moment in a league that is nowhere near as strong. Ekici is now 25 and will be hoping that he can get one more chance at least in the better leagues in Europe.

He started his career at Bayern Munich and featured regularly for the second team from 2007 and was one of their more impressive players during the 2009-10 season which saw him score 12 goals in 29 games and this caught the attention of the first team as he was promoted to the squad along with David Alaba. He was included in the Champions League squads for two seasons but unfortunately never got on the pitch and injuries stopped him from getting him on the pitch in other competitions.

Ekici BM

To guarantee more first team opportunities in July 2010 he joined Nurnberg on a season long loan to prove that he could cope with the top flight in Germany. He would go on to play 34 times in all competitions and score four goals and get eight assists which was a decent season and it led to him being linked with permanent moves away from Bayern Munich.

On the 18th May 2011 he did leave permanently and joined Werder Bremen for a fee believed to be around €5 million. He got off to a good start at his new club and scored his first goal on the 17th September 2011 against his former team Nurnberg. However, he struggled to keep his place in the team on a regular basis and over the next three seasons he only played 41 league games and he was slightly forgotten about.

1. FC Nürnberg - Eintracht Frankfurt 3:0

This meant he needed something new to kick start his career and so on 15th August 2014 he joined Turkish side Trabzonspor. Once again he has started to show his talents and so far this season so far scored nine goals in 21 league games which has brought him to the attention of other clubs. It will be interesting to see where his career can take him next but he will certainly want to be adding to his 10 international caps which is not as many as he should have gotten as he was very well liked by former manager Guus Hiddink.

Ekici WB

The final word can go to Werder Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs. “We are delighted to have found in Mehmet a player that fits perfectly into our plans. He is a young player with German roots, who has had a strong season.”

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.”

16th March – Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott burst onto the scene and went to the 2006 World Cup without playing a single minute in the Premier League and he continues to divide opinion.

At the age of 26 he still has a long career in front of him but he seems to have been around for a long time and maybe hasn’t developed as much as some Arsenal fans hoped. However, on his day his pace is frightening and he can be one of the deadliest finisher in Europe. Unfortunately after going to the World Cup so young a lot was expected.

Walcott England

Walcott started his career at Southampton and became the club’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days after coming off the bench against Wolves in a 0-0 draw. Just four days later he would make his full debut against Leeds United and would go on to score in the game. This began a remarkable rise for him as he would go on to score against Millwall and Stoke City.

Walcott Soton

This form alerted some of the biggest clubs in England and after just 23 professional games he joined Arsenal on the 20th January 2006. He would have to wait until the start of the following season to make his debut and made a good impression setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva against Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute. His first goal for the club would come in the League Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately they would go on to lose the game 2-1.

During the 2007-08 season he would score his first home and Champions League goals against Slavia Prague and his first Premier League goals against Birmingham City on the 23rd February 2008.The biggest compliment given to Walcott was that at the start of the following campaign he was given the number 14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry. But after a positive start a dislocated shoulder meant he missed a lot of the season and after recovering he was rewarded for his form by being given a new contract. Yet again the 2009-10 season was marred by injuries and restricted to just 15 league starts but in the Champions League he produced one of his best performances in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona. This must have given him confidence as he quickly became an important player for the club and started the next season very well with a hatrick against Blackpool in a 6-0 win.

Walcott Arsenal

But controversy was to follow after he admitted to diving to try and win a penalty in an FA Cup against Leeds on the 8th January 2011. He ended the season with a career high nine goals in the league and 13 in total which showed that he was getting better every season. Despite playing more games the next season he didn’t match his previous efforts and it was a little tougher for him.

Walcott was a striker at Southampton and many fans felt that is where he should be played and in the 2012-13 season he was given the opportunity and proved that he could play in that role. In his first game as a lone striker he scored a hatrick and provided two assists in a 7-3 win over Newcastle United and shortly after signed a new deal that put an end to any speculation he was about to leave. At the end of the season he finished 14 goals and 12 assists in 32 Premier League games and a further seven goals in other competitions. Two bad injuries in the next season limited his playing time but he still managed in five goals in 13 games. This season he has slowly been coming back from his injury but will be hoping he can make a difference towards the end of the campaign.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp who gave him his professional debut. “The kid can run through puddles and not make a splash. He’s lightning, he drifts over the ground and he’s a fantastic talent. I hope this kid can go on and be a top player. He’s got a long way to go but I’m sure he can.”

7th March – Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa will go down as one of the greatest players to never reach his full potential in England, being the most exciting player on the pitch to the most frustrating in a matter of seconds.

Despite only being 28 there have been some suggestions that he is contemplating retiring from the game after a terrible season that will see him end it as a free agent due to a FIFA ruling. The winger would be a great addition to any side if he could play to the best of his abilities and it is probably why he will be a wanted man in the summer.

Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon, signing his first professional contract in 2004 and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Nice. After more substitute appearance he would score his first goal on the 10th November against Lille. But he wouldn’t really become a regular until the 2007-08 season. He performed very well throughout the season and was named the National Union of Professional Footballers Young Player of the Year. It seemed like he would be an important member of the side for a long time to come after signing a contract extension in March 2008 but a training ground scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci meant his time at the club was up.

HBA Lyon

After a long transfer saga Ben Arfa eventually joined Marseille on the 1st July but it wasn’t long before he was in another bust up as on the 16th July he was involved in one with Djibril Cisse. On his debut however he showed his qualities by scoring against Rennes and in his first 11 matches he hit the back of the net six times. More controversy followed as he was involved in disputes with Modeste M’Bami and manager Eric Gerets. His performances when he was on the pitch were usually of the highest quality but trouble was never far away as in the next season he was fined for missing training and got in yet another argument with new manager Didier Deschamps. He would play 29 times for the club as they won the Ligue 1 title but this was not enough for him to stay at the club.

HBA Marseille

On the 27th August 2010 Ben Arfa joined Newcastle United on a season long loan after many weeks of trouble. But it seemed like it was worth it as on his full debut he scored a brilliant goal against Everton but on the 3rd October his season was over after he suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Despite this the two clubs agreed a permanent transfer. He would have to wait until the 24th September 2011 to make his Premier League return in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. In the second half of the season he scored two individual goals, firstly in the FA Cup against Blackburn and against Bolton Wanderers. During this time he was an important part of the team and combined brilliantly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

HBA NU

The next season also started very well as he scored on the opening day against Tottenham Hotspur and then two weeks later hit a great equaliser against Aston Villa. Injuries disrupted the second half of the season but he scored in the win over QPR to guarantee the club’s safety. Once again the 2013-14 season started well for him as he scored against Fulham and was also in great form against Aston Villa, scoring and making an assist. Unfortunately he didn’t perform for the rest of the season. On the 2nd September 2014 he joined Hull City on loan but this only last nine games and manager Steve Bruce admitted at one point he didn’t even know where he was. On the 4th January he was released by Newcastle and signed for Nice the next day. But FIFA ruled that he could not play for them and his contract was terminated.

The final word can go to former teammate Yohan Cabaye. “For me, he remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality. It is true that it was harder for him late in the season. He is going to bounce back. For me, this is one of the players I’ve played with who has the highest quality.”

4th March – Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is known as America’s greatest ever soccer player and to everyone else he is known as a very talented footballer that maybe should have made the permanent move to England.

Despite only being 33 he has decided to retire as a player and many feel he could have offered more to the game on the pitch but he has done a lot already for the sport in terms of building the reputation of football in his homeland. It would have been good to have seen him get more chances abroad but it never quite happened for him when he was younger and he has accomplished everything he wanted to in America so it seems like a wise decision to retire.

Donovan first came to attention in 1999 when he was at the IMG Academy in America and after impressing in a youth tournament in Europe he was given a six year contract by German side Bayer Leverkusen. However he struggled to adapt in Germany largely because of his young age and spent a lot of time back home training with the USA under 17 team. In 2001 he did eventually move away and joined San Jose Earthquakes on loan and was an instant success, leading them to the MLS Championship in 2001 and 2003 and become one of the first recognisable football players in America. In his four years at the club, he scored 32 goals and provided 29 assists.

EARTHQUAKES DONOVAN CELEBRATES MLS TITLE WIN OVER CHICAGO FIRE.

In 2005 he returned to Leverkusen to give it another try but after just seven appearances he made it clear he wanted to return to America and he signed for LA Galaxy. His first season at the club was exceptional as he scored 12 goals and got another 10 assists as he helped his club win the MLS Cup but the following year was not as successful for the club but Donovan still performed very well.

It was difficult for Donovan in 2007 after David Beckham joined the club because he had to give up the captain’s armband and this seemed to annoy the American international. He was still producing good football but when Beckham joined AC Milan, Donovan gave an interview which was equally praised and criticised by the media as he slated Beckham. However, on Beckham’s return they patched up their differences and he went from strength to strength as a player and the two were very effective going forward.

2010 LA Galaxy Headshot

Donovan also spent time away from LA Galaxy during the off season like Beckham, firstly having an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich in 2008 but becoming somewhat of a cult hero at Everton after joining them in January 2010. Straight away he showed his talents in the Premier League by being named the club’s Player of the Month in January but after 13 games and two goals he returned to America. On his return he would go on to score his 100th goal for Galaxy and become their all time leading scorer.

He wasn’t to stay away from Everton for long as in December 2011 it was announced he would be signing for them on loan again. Once again he was equally successful and in his nine games this time he managed to set up seven goals and produce some excellent performances and the Everton fans and players were once again sad to see him leave.

Britain Soccer Premier League

On the 25th May 2014 he became the highest ever goal scorer in MLS history, hitting his 136th goal against Philadelphia Union but on the 7th August he announced he would be retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Everton teammate Phil Neville. “He’s a hero at Goodison Park, and he’s played less than 20 games for us. I’ve played with some world class right sided players in my time, and he’s up there with them. I’m telling the truth here when I say the last two times he’s been over he’s totally transformed our season.”

2nd March – Trevor Sinclair

England have had a problem on the left hand side of their midfield for a long time and during the 2002 World Cup the position was given to Trevor Sinclair.

Now 42 it will surely be one of the highlights of his career but perhaps more surprisingly was the fact that he did a good job on the left wing and possibly deserved more chances in the position on the international stage. Since retiring he has been doing some coaching and will be hoping that he can get some experience in the higher divisions but for now he is currently the assistant manager at Lancaster City.

Sinclair began his career at Blackpool where he became the club’s youngest ever player after making his debut on the 19th August 1989 at the age of 16 years and five months and has since been voted into the club’s Hall of Fame by their fans. He only spent four years at the club but he was definitely a fans favourite and well remembered by the supporters. In total he made 112 league appearances for Blackpool and scored 15 times.

Sinclair Blackpool

In 1993 he would break another record at Blackpool by becoming their record transfer sale when he joined QPR for £600,000. He spent five years at the London club and in 1995 he won the October Player of the Month for his performances and was consistent during his time there. But what he is mostly remembered for is his 1997 Goal of the Season. In an FA Cup match against Barnsley he scored a bicycle kick from outside the box and is regarded as one of the best ever in the competition.

Sinclair QPR

After 168 league appearances and 16 goals, Sinclair moved to West Ham in January 1998. He got off to a fantastic start at his new club scoring seven goals in his first 14 games, including two on his debut against Everton, helping them to finish eighth in the Premier League. Over the next two seasons he was an important member of the team but an injury kept him out of the end of the 2000-01 season and West Ham suffered. When he returned he was putting in some impressive performances which led to him being picked for the 2002 World Cup.

Sinclair WH

His final season at the club was difficult as they were relegated and due to cost cutting measures he was one of the players they had to get off the wage bill. So in 2003 he signed for Manchester City and would score the first goal at the new City of Manchester Stadium against Welsh side TNS in the UEFA Cup. But it could be argued that he didn’t produce his best football in Manchester and at the end of the 2006-07 season he was released.

On the 10th July 2007 he joined Cardiff City but he started to struggle with injuries and couldn’t help the team as much as he would have hoped and after just one season he left the club and didn’t play again until the 14th August 2014 when he came on as a substitute for Lancaster City against Clitheroe in a 3-1 defeat.

The final word can go to Kevin Keegan who signed him for Manchester City. “In Trevor Sinclair we will have an England international at the peak of his career. He can play left side, right side and up front, so he will strengthen us and give us options. I tried to sign Trevor when I was at Newcastle. It didn’t come off and now, ten years later, I am still thrilled to have him.”

27th February – Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey is a player with incredible talent and he is going to be a very important player for Swansea City until the end of the season and for the next few years.

The midfielder is only 23 but he seems to have been around for a very long time and some people have criticised his development as he could have been a regular in England’s midfield by this point. Shelvey has a lot of talent and will definitely add to his one England cap but he definitely needs to add more consistency to his game if he is going to be one of the best players in the country.

Shelvey started his career at Charlton Athletic and became the youngest player to ever play for the club in April 2008 after making his debut as a substitute against Barnsley at the age of 16 years and 59 days. He would also go on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer after finding the back of the net against Norwich City in January 2009. On his 17th birthday he signed his first professional contract and was quickly known as one of the most promising youngsters in England. After 49 games and eight goals, Shelvey joined Liverpool and made his debut in their shock defeat to Northampton Town in the League Cup.

Shelvey CA

In his first season he played 21 times for the club but on the 30th September 2011 he joined Blackpool on loan and scored the following day in a 5-0 win over Bristol City and a few weeks later he would score his first professional hatrick against Leeds United. Due to injuries at his parent club he was recalled after six goals in 10 games for Blackpool. Just before the end of the season he scored from 30 yards against Chelsea in a 4-1 win and was rewarded with a new long term contract for his performances over the season. However, he only lasted one more season at the club.

Shelvey Liverpool

On the 3rd July 2013 he signed for Swansea City and was involved in a very eventful game against former club Liverpool soon afterwards. He scored and assisted teammate Michu’s goal but was also responsible for both of Liverpool’s goals in a 2-2 draw. Since he has been quite consistent and an important member of the Swansea team but a regular criticism of him is his disciplinary which manager Garry Monk has tried to get out of his game. He was sent off against Everton on the 1st November 2014 and then should have seen red again on the 29th December in a game against Liverpool.

Swansea City's Jonjo Shelvey

A lot of people do forget how young Shelvey still is and he has a lot of time to develop and will be a fantastic player for Swansea for many years to come.

The final word can go to Garry Monk. “His quality is there for everyone to see – his passing, the way he moves with the ball, how he offers good angles and movements and fits into defensive shape. Performance-wise, he’s capable of running a game, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and really dictating it.”