22nd March – Luke Freeman

Luke Freeman has had a double celebration today after turning 23 and also helping Bristol City defeat Walsall 2-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

The midfielder is looking to have a fantastic end to a season that has already been pretty special for Bristol City and their fans as they look like they are going to get promoted to the Championship as League One champions. Freeman has always been a very good player and one that definitely has the ability to prove it at a higher level so he will be hoping that the club can secure promotion as quickly as possible so he can prepare for the second tier of English football.

Freeman started his career at Gillingham where he made his debut against Barnet in the FA Cup on the 10th November 2007 at the age of just 15 years and 233 days, therefore becoming Gillingham’s youngest ever player and also the youngest player to appear in the FA Cup. Later in the month he would also make his league debut against Hartlepool United and his performances caught the eye of several Premier League clubs and joined Arsenal on trial in December 2007.

Arsenal signed Freeman on the 30th January 2008 and after impressing for the under 18s he was given a professional contract by the club just over a year later. After progressing through the youth teams and into the reserves he needed first team opportunities and joined Yeovil Town on loan at the start of the 2010-11 season. He got off to a great start scoring in a 2-1 win over Leyton Orient on his debut and would go on to play 12 more league games for the club before his loan was ended by injury.

Freeman YT

He recovered from his injury and would impress again for Arsenal’s reserves and was eager to go back out on loan, this time joining Stevenage on the 17th November 2011. In his second loan spell away he played nine games and scored one goal in a 6-1 win over Colchester United but his performances particularly off the bench were exciting and showed he had a lot of potential. This convinced Stevenage to sign Freeman permanently on the 10th January 2012. He would help the club reach the playoffs with seven goals in 32 games but unfortunately they would lose out in the semi finals.

Freeman Stevenage

The 2012-13 wasn’t as successful for the midfielder as he struggled for consistency and spent a lot of the season featuring as a substitute. However in the following season, despite Stevenage finishing bottom of League One, he put in some fantastic performances and ended the campaign with a career best eight goals. After 128 games and 17 goals for Stevenage, Freeman would leave for Bristol City on the 26th June 2014.

????????????????????????????????

So far for Bristol City he has played 48 times in all competitions, scored seven goals and provided 15 assists which just shows how important he is to the side and is a big reason why they are challenging at the top of the table.

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s someone we’ve been keeping tabs on for some time and I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring Luke on board. He’s a good, young, exciting player. He’s an excellent addition to the football club for the short term and long term. He can play on the left, on the right and cut in, or play in a midfield three.”

Advertisements

19th March – Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure may have been overshadowed by his younger brother Yaya in recent seasons but he has had an amazing career himself and is proving that on his day he can still be one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

At the age of 34 it is understandable that he is not a guaranteed first choice for Liverpool but as he proved away to Real Madrid earlier this season he can produce some immense performances. After winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this year he can finish his career knowing that he has accomplished almost everything in the game, as well as being a part of one of the best teams ever seen in England.

Toure started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before going on trial with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed by the club on the 14th February for £150,000. During his first season he didn’t play for the club but did start the Community Shield against Liverpool at the start of the following campaign. He was initially seen as a versatile player who could fit in either at right back or in the centre of midfield and he would go on to score his first goal in England in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Toure Arsenal

The 2003-04 season saw Toure become first choice at centre back alongside Sol Campbell and they were phenomenal as the club went unbeaten in the Premier League and gained the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. He was obviously a fan favourite because of his performances and he played 50 times in the 2004-05 season and pick up an FA Cup winners medal. By this point he was known as one of the best centre backs in England but in the following Champions League campaign he proved his ability in Europe as he helped Arsenal reach the final and keep 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition and would even get the honour of scoring the final European goal at Highbury.

He stayed at Arsenal for a further three seasons but they were not having the same success and on the 29th July 2009 he signed for Manchester City for £14 million. He was quickly named club captain by Mark Hughes and helped the club finish fifth place in the Premier League. But after Roberto Mancini took charge he lost the armband to Carlos Tevez but was still a regular in the squad and would help the club lift the FA Cup. However, he was banned on the 3rd March 2011 for six months after failing a drugs test.

Toure MCFC

After returning he couldn’t break into the first team regularly but did make enough appearances to pick up another Premier League winners medal. In his final season at the club he would play more league games but this didn’t guarantee him a new contract and he left the club on a free transfer in the summer. On the 2nd July 2013 he joined Liverpool and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City but he once again struggled to become a regular in the first team. Even with Liverpool opting to play with centre backs he still cannot get in the team for a prolonged period and that is why it looks likely that he will leave the club in the summer.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Preston North End v Liverpool - Deepdale

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo has been a central figure in a strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time.

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.”

11th March – Didier Drogba

Chelsea have been regulars in the knockout stages of the Champions League for a long time and owe a lot of this to striker Didier Drogba and he will forever go down as one of their greatest ever players.

Hitting over 100 Premier League goals and being the club’s fourth highest goalscorer of all time just shows his worth but now at the age of 37 he is still causing problems and will have a say on how Chelsea do. With the League Cup already in the bag, they are still looking for Premier League and European glory.

Drogba began his career in France with Le Mans but he didn’t get off to a great start, struggling with injuries. But in 1999 he was part of the first team and impressed with seven goals, however in the following season the injuries returned and he lost his place in the team. But in his final season he scored five times in 21 games and was signed by Ligue 1 side Guingamp halfway through the campaign. He made a vital contribution in keeping the team in the top division and would then lead the club to their highest ever finish by hitting 17 goals in 34 games.

Drogba Guingamp

After just one full season he moved again joining Marseille. This would be a great move as he scored a lot of goals, with 19 in the league and 11 in Europe. But this would be his only season at the club as he joined Chelsea for £24 million. In his first season he did well, scoring 16 with his most important coming in the final of the League Cup but also adding 10 in the league as the club won the title. Chelsea would go on to retain the title with Drogba again scoring 16 in all competitions.

Drogba Marseille

In the 2006-07 season he scored 33 goals, including two in the League Cup final against Arsenal and also the winner in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. The League Cup became his favourite competition as he would go on to score in his third final, unfortunately they would lose this time to Tottenham Hotspur. Another final that year did not go so well for Drogba as he was sent off in the final of the Champions League against Manchester United who would go on to win on penalties.

The following season didn’t start great for him as he had to wait until late December for his first Premier League goal. Under Scolari he struggled for game time but when Guus Hiddink took charge he returned to great goalscoring form and would once again score in the FA Cup final, helping his side to a 2-1 win. He started the 2009-10 season with 14 goals in the first 16 games. Despite going to the Africa Cup of Nations he still finished with 29 goals in just 32 games and Chelsea would go on to win the Premier League again and then a week later he would score in his sixth final.

2010-11 started well for Chelsea and Drogba but it didn’t last and was quite a disappointing campaign. But the next season was arguably his favourite for the club as he scored his 100th Premier League goal, moved up to fourth in the all time goalscoring list, scoring in yet another FA Cup final and winning the Champions League after scoring the 88th minute equaliser and the winning penalty.

Drogba Chelsea

On the 19th June 2012 Drogba joined Shanghai Shenhua but he would only last 11 games at the club, scoring eight times before joining Turkish side Galatasaray. He would go on to score five minutes into his debut and would help them to the title with five goals in 13 games. He would only spend one full season at the club and after 20 goals in 53 games he would make the return to Chelsea.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho after his return. “It looks like he never left. He was an ever present even when he wasn’t here. Chelsea belonged to him even in the last two years when he was away. I think we need him. We need him as a player for our squad to be the way I like. So, as a player and person, Didier is someone we need to be strong.”

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.”

5th March – Matty Fryatt

Nottingham Forest are definitely outsiders to reach the playoffs this season and with Britt Assombalonga out injured they will be relying on Matty Fryatt to score the goals.

Fryatt is now 29 and has been a consistent goalscorer for a number of years and he has proven that when he’s given the chance he can find the back of the net. When he has started games in his career he has always been one of the most awake on the pitch and he has proven this by scoring Leicester City and Walsall’s quickest ever goals both after just nine seconds, surprisingly though in both games his side would go on to lose the games 2-1.

The striker started his career at Walsall and made his debut in the League Cup against Bolton Wanderers on the 24th September 2003. But he had to go out on loan to Carlisle United to get more experience in December and he played well during his 10 game spell. The following season he was a regular for Walsall and was awarded their Player of the Year after hitting 15 goals in 36 games. This led to speculation about his future but he stayed with Walsall until January when he signed for Leicester City after another good start to the season.

Fryatt Walsall

He made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat and a week later he scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 defeat against Cardiff City. Despite manager Craig Levein being sacked, Fryatt believed he made the right move and scored six goals to help the club avoid relegation from the Championship. The following two seasons were a struggle as he suffered from injury problems and only managed six goals and with the club getting relegated his future was in doubt.

However, he made a positive start to the 2008-09 season, scoring five goals in the first four games and was named the League One Player of the Month. The goals kept coming and he became the first player for 42 years to score 20 goals before Christmas for the club. During this fantastic run he also became the first player in 83 years to score consecutive hatricks. He ended the season with 32 goals and was named the League One Player of the Year after helping Leicester gain promotion.

Fryatt LC

Once again he started the next season in fantastic form, finding the back of the net three times in the opening five matches. A broken jaw towards the end of the season stopped him having as much of an impact as he would have hoped but with 13 goals he was still the top goalscorer. He only spent a further six months at Leicester as he joined Hull City on the 1st January 2011 and got off to a great start, scoring on his debut against Portsmouth and then another against Barnsley. On the 5th February he would score a hatrick against Scunthorpe United and on his 25th birthday he scored his 100th career goal in a win over Nottingham Forest. He ended the season with nine goals at Hull.

Fryatt HC

The 2011-12 season was the last time he was first choice at Hull as he played every league game and scored 16 times but in his first appearance in the 2012-13 season he picked up a serious achilles injury. So on the 27th September 2013 he joined Sheffield Wednesday on loan and made a good impact. He scored against Brighton, Barnsley and twice against Reading before returning to Hull and scored his first Premier League goal in a 6-0 win over Fulham and would later play an important role in getting the club to the FA Cup final by scoring in the semi final against Sheffield United. On the 9th June 2014 Fryatt signed for Nottingham Forest and so far has six goals for the club.

The final word can go to Nigel Pearson. “Matty’s goalscoring record is pretty good. He is a predator and he also has the ability to score goals out of nothing. He works phenomenally hard for the team and he makes himself chances because of his work rate as much as anything.”