22nd July – Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt will go down in history as one of those players that put his teams needs before his own as he played in many different positions and performed admirably.

Kuyt started his career at Dutch side Quick Boys and after some impressive performances he was signed by Utrecht at the age of 18. He started his time there on the wing but during the 2002-03 season he was used a striker and scored 20 league goals and also scored in the KNVB Cup final.

Kuyt Utrecht

This convinced Feyenoord to sign Kuyt and he was an instant success, scoring 20 goals in his first season and in the opening game of the 2004-05 season he scored his first hatrick against De Graafschap. He would continue his good form and 29 goals meant he finished as the Eredivisie top scorer. More goals followed but even more remarkably during his seven seasons at the club he only missed five games. But on 18th August 2006 he joined Liverpool.

Kuyt Feyenoord

The fans quickly took to him and would score his first goal for the club against Newcastle United. He played a key role in helping the team reach the Champions League final and scored in it but unfortunately they were defeated by Milan. The second season was a little more difficult but he did score twice against Everton. It was during this time that he was more often than not played on the right wing.

He had also started to become known as a big game player and would pop up with some very important goals. During the 2008-09 season he had his best return of 15 goals as the team finished second. By the end of the next season, Everton fans were getting sick of Kuyt as he scored in both fixtures and in the second game his goal was his 50th for the club.

Once again he showed why the Liverpool fans loved him by scoring a hatrick against Manchester United in a 3-1 win and would later become the first player since John Aldridge to score in five consecutive games. He would finish the season as the club’s top scorer but the following campaign saw him have less of an impact but he did become only the fifth player to score 50 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League.

Kuyt Liverpool

After 208 league games and 51 goals he joined Fenerbahce in 2012. He managed to score on his league debut and had three successful years at the club, scoring 37 times but it was time for him to return home and he rejoined Feyenoord. He continued to score goals but even more remarkably he led them to their first Eredivise title since 1999 and he scored a hatrick to clinch the title.

The final word can go to Kenny Dalglish. “Dirk is the Liverpool player of choice. He never gives up, fights with everything and he is simply a good footballer. He scores goals and often in major competitions or at crucial moments.”

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16th February – Ron Vlaar

Tim Sherwood has a big challenge in keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League but more importantly for them it looks like they will have their captain Ron Vlaar available for the run in.

Although it is scoring goals that has been the major problem for the team, having their captain back will still be a big boost and it will make Sherwood more confident in his back four. Vlaar had been having a great season before getting injured and that was coming off the back of a great World Cup with Holland and therefore has been linked with moves away, mostly to Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. He would not look out of place at Old Trafford but he doesn’t seem to be distracted by these reports and will surely be as consistent as ever from now until the end of the season.

The defender now 30 has plenty of experience and started his career at AZ making his debut at the age of 20 on the 32rd April 2005 against RKC Waalwijk and then played a few days later in the semi final of the UEFA Cup against Sporting Lisbon. It was expected he would become a first team regular in the following season but this didn’t happen and he only played 10 games in total for AZ before leaving for Feyenoord on the 28th December 2005.

Vlaar AZ

In his first half a season at the club he played 16 times but an injury in the following preseason meant that he had to sit out the first half of the following campaign. But after recovering he did become an important member of the side and scored his first goal against FC Utrecht. Once again though his development stalled after being ruled out for most of the 2007-08 season after surgery on a cruciate ligament injury. He returned to training but picked up yet another injury and missed another season.

After two years on the sidelines he came back and scored a great goal in the KNVB Cup against Harkemase Boys on the 24th September 2009. His performances began improving and was getting more praise from everyone and during the 2011-12 season he helped Feyenoord qualify for the Champions League after they finished second in the Eredivisie.

Vlaar Feyenoord

But on the 15th July he joined Aston Villa, however the deal initially seemed like it wouldn’t be completed after he returned to Holland. After another turn of events he did eventually join the Premier League club on the 1st August. Shortly after he was named captain due to the continued absence of Stiliyan Petrov. He went on to score his first goal for the club in the 6-1 win over Sunderland with a 30 yard strike and his second goal was even more spectacular in the 2-2 draw with Wigan Athletic.

Vlaar AV

The club know how important he is to the team and how much he helps the younger players in the squad so they need to keep hold of him if they stay in the top flight and help them become more than a team that battles relegation.

The final word can go to teammate Andreas Weimann. “Ron is our captain so everyone knows he’s important. Ron was always our leader and captain. He’s always been vocal and the player we look up to in the changing room. There are definitely signs that he has grown in confidence even more since the World Cup in Brazil.”

20th September – Henrik Larsson

Henrik Larsson is loved by Celtic fans because of everything he did for the club but he will also be fondly remembered by fans of Barcelona, Manchester United and Helsignborg.

The striker is now 43 and is currently the manager of Swedish side Falkenberg. It will always be difficult for his managerial career to match up to his playing career as he won honours all throughout his career and scored goals at every level.

Larsson started his career at Hogaborg and after leaving school he combined a semi professional career at the club with work as a fruit packer. He was a regular goal scorer, hitting the back of the net 23 times in 74 games. This convinced Swedish second division side Helsingborg to sign him in 1992. In his first year he scored 34 goals which helped his side gain promotion to the top flight and his career continued to grow after scoring 16 in the following season to help them finish in a respectable mid table position. In November 1993 Larsson signed for Dutch side Feyenoord.
Larsson Feyenoord
He never really settled but he still managed to play over 100 times for the club and score 26 league goals. During his time at the club he also won two KNVB Cups and was also a consistent goal scorer in Europe, particularly the 1994-95 season where he scored seven times.

He left Feyenoord in 1997 but had to go through a legal battle with the club before signing for Celtic. On his debut he inadvertently set up the winner for Hibernian in a 2-1 loss and then scored an own goal on his European debut against Tirol Innsbruck. But he recovered from this and finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 18 in all competitions, including goals in the final of the League Cup and also on the final day of the season, clinching the title for Celtic.

His second season was better on a personal level as he hit 38 goals but Celtic could not retain their title. After a bright start in the 1999-00 season, he suffered a broken leg in two places and it was feared that his career was over, but after eight months out he returned as a substitute on the last day of the season. He then had his best season, scoring 35 goals in 38 games and winning the treble in Scotland. He would go on to win the Golden Boot in the next two seasons as well.
Larsson Celtic
After seven years at Celtic he left with four SPL titles, two Scottish League Cups and two Scottish Cups. In 2002 he was voted in Celtic’s greatest ever team, finishing with 242 goals in 315 matches. At the end of the 2003-04 season he joined Barcelona. He played his part in helping them win the title and earned a contract extension despite missing a lot of the season through injury. He announced he would be returning to Sweden at the end of the 2004-05 season and in his final game for the club he came on as a substitute in the Champions League final, setting up both goals in a 2-1 win over Arsenal.

Larsson then re-signed for Helsingborg and scored eight goals in 15 league games and helped them win the Swedish Cup. With it being the off season in Sweden, Larsson joined Manchester United on loan and scored on his debut against Aston Villa. Larsson went back to his parent club after 13 games and three goals. On the 20th October 2009 he announced his retirement from playing but was still scoring goals and ended his second spell at Helsingborg with 54 goals in just 104 games.
Larsson MUFC
The final word can go to Alex Ferguson speaking after his final game for the club. “The players took to him very well. That’s the thing I’ll remember. He was all over the place, tackling, running and sprinting forward. When we walked into the dressing room, all of the players stood up and applauded him because it was his last game. It was a really touching moment.”

26th August – Colin Kazim-Richards

Colin Kazim-Richards was once dubbed the ‘Coca Cola Kid’ after the company ran a competition for football fans to sign a player for their club.

Kazim-Richards was the player that Brighton signed after a fan of their club won the competition and the £250,000 was given to the club to sign a player. This is an extraordinary start to a career that just kept on getting more incredible as it went on with the striker travelling over Europe to play football and also represent Turkey’s national team despite being brought up in England but qualified for Turkey through his mother.

The striker started his career at Bury and after progressing through their youth team he was already attracting attention from bigger clubs at the age of 15. He broke into the first team in the 2004-05 season and scored three times in 30 appearances but his performances were very impressive for someone so young. It was at the age of 18 he signed for Brighton but as expected he played a lot from the bench in his first season at the club, however his still managed six goals, including their 5000th league goal.
Kazim Richards Brighton
He only stayed at the club for one season and submitted a transfer request which Brighton accepted and then sold him to Sheffield United for £125,000 on the 31st August 2006. He once again only lasted one season at the club and in his 27 league games he only managed one goal in a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers.

On the 15th June 2007 he joined Turkish club Fenerbahce and in his first two seasons at the club he was in and out of the first team but he did manage to score in the Champions League quarter final against Chelsea on the 2nd April 2008. Despite his good performances when he was on the pitch he had a difficult relationship with the fans at times and was loaned out to French club Toulouse in January 2010 and scored on his debut in a 3-1 win over Le Mans.
Kazim Richards Fener
After 18 appearances and two goals he returned to Fenerbahce but after just another five games he was released on the 3rd January 2011 and joined local rivals Galatasaray and in his first half a season he scored five times including one against former club Fenerbahce. After a total of 35 games and seven goals and a short loan spell at Olympiakos, Kazim-Richards returned to England.
Kazim Richards Gala
Blackburn Rovers signed the striker on loan but his time at the club was blighted by a court appearance over an alleged homophobic gesture in a match away to former club Brighton. He managed to score five times in his 31 games but his loan was not made permanent and he signed for Bursaspor on the 4th September 2013 on a four year deal but after just one season he has joined Dutch side Feyenoord on loan.

The final word can go to former Blackburn manager Steve Kean. “He could be a real versatile player for us as he can play through the middle or he can play out wide. He’s got great power in his right foot and technically he has improved dramatically having played with some top players out in Turkey.”

6th June – David Connolly

David Connolly has had a remarkable career that has seen him be the highest paid player in Holland, score an international hatrick for the Republic of Ireland and score over 150 club goals.

At the age of 37 he is still playing in League Two and had a decent loan spell at Oxford United last season where he scored four times in 11 games and this just shows that he will always know where the back of the net is. Connolly began his career at Watford and he burst onto the scene in the 1995-96 season by scoring eight goals in just 11 appearances which led to him being linked with a move away from the club.

In 1997 he got a move to Dutch team Feyenoord and was the highest player in the country but after just 10 games he was loaned back to England to play for Wolves where he scored four goals in one match against Bristol City. He returned to Holland at the end of the season but was once again loaned out, this time to Excelsior and he really hit top form, scoring 29 times in just 32 matches and he followed this up the next season with 13 in 16 before returning to his parent club. He got more of a chance this time around and played 15 times and managed to get himself five goals.
Connolly AFC
But his adventure in Holland was over in 2001 as he moved to Wimbledon and became one of the most lethal strikers in the Football League. His first season was impressive enough (18 in 35) but he was even better in his second year and almost had a goal a game record as he scored 24 times in 28 games. This form convinced West Ham to pay £285,000 for his services in August 2003 and he scored on his debut against Preston North End in a 2-1 win. He only stayed for the one season as they failed to gain promotion to the Premier League after losing in the playoff final despite Connolly’s 14 goals.
Connolly Leicester
He signed for Leicester City for £500,000 and proved to be a success as he finished the season as their top scorer and then at the start of the next season he scored a hatrick against Stoke City which increased speculation he was going to be sold to a Premier League club. And on deadline day he signed for Wigan Athletic for an initial fee of £2 million and he once again scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over West Brom. However, it was a difficult season as he struggled with injuries and did not score another league goal for the club and in 2006 he left for Sunderland.

At Sunderland he played a vital part in getting them promoted by finishing the season as their top scorer and scoring the final goal of the season which made them champions of the division. However, over the next two seasons he only played five times and was then released.

His next move was to Southampton and he scored on his debut against Oldham Athletic and then followed this up with another against MK Dons. He earned a contract extension and was vital in getting Southampton promoted as he scored in crucial wins over Brighton, Brentford and Walsall. Connolly started the Championship season in fantastic form scoring four goals in the first month of the season. After the club made a few signings in the January transfer window he was pushed down the pecking order and was released at the end of the season.
Connolly Soton
Connolly decided to stay on the South Coast and signed for Portsmouth and although he scored seven times in 17 games he was unable to stop them getting relegated to League Two. At the beginning of the next season he was a starter for Portsmouth but was loaned out in January to Oxford United where he scored on his debut against AFC Wimbledon.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for West Ham Glenn Roeder. “He is fiery and strong mentally – a tough boy and he lives for scoring goals. He is one of those lads that keeps a mental note of exactly where and how he scores.”

20th April – Shay Given

It might be getting towards the end of his career and him looking for the next step into coaching but nobody can deny he has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League era.

Shay Given is 38 today and has been one of the most respected players in the Premier League because of his wonderful performances and his consistency. Most recognisable for his time at Newcastle United some people may have been surprised that he in fact started his career at Blackburn Rovers and enjoyed a very successful loan spell at rivals Sunderland. He played 17 games for the club keeping 12 clean sheets and helped them to win promotion to the Premier League as champions.

Newly appointed Newcastle manager Kenny Dalglish knew Given from his time at Blackburn and spent £1.5 million to bring the Irish man back to the North East. It did not take him long to establish himself as first choice ahead of Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop and Steve Harper and helped the club reach the final of the FA Cup which they lost 2-0.

Arguably his best year was the 2001-02 season as Newcastle under Bobby Robson emerged as surprise title contenders and ended the season in fourth place. Personally it was a great year for himself as he was selected in the PFA team of the year and knew that he would be competing in the Champions League the next season. And during this season he was involved in one of the best comebacks ever as Newcastle lost their first three group games but still managed to qualify for the next round after beating Feyenoord 3-2 in a dramatic final match. He did not miss a single Premier League game either as the club went one better and finished third in the table.
Given Newcastle
The next few seasons he continued to be as consistent as ever and was constantly linked with moves away from the club to teams that were regularly competing in Europe. Unfortunately by the time Given left Newcastle they were a shadow of the team he played for under Bobby Robson and wanted to leave the club. He joined Manchester City in January 2009 just 34 games away from breaking Newcastle’s appearance record.
Given City
He quickly established himself as first choice at City and in his first full season at the club he performed very well and produced one of the best penalty saves ever against Chelsea’s Frank Lampard. During the season he was voted as the Premier League goalkeeper of the noughties and received a lot of praise from his then manager Roberto Mancini: “I have been impressed with Shay Given, who is one of the five best goalkeepers in the world.”

A dislocated shoulder meant he lost his place at City and could not win it back so he left the club for Aston Villa. He was Alex McLeish’s first signing and he was looking forward to working with the keeper. “Everybody who was watched him perform will know his pedigree. He’s a real competitor and a world class keeper.”
Given Villa
Everyone that has worked with him regards him as one of the best and in a recent loan spell at Middlesbrough he proved that he is still very capable when called upon, keeping 10 cleans sheets in 16 league games.

He is currently temporary assistant to Paul Lambert and is embarking on a new stage in his career. But the final word can go to Sir Bobby Robson: “I think Shay is in the top five Premier League goalkeepers. He really is top class. He’s got great agility, great courage and he anticipates well. He’s a terrific boy to work with.”