5th September – George Boateng

George Boateng is 39 today and had a very good career in England but not a lot of people will know that he is currently the head coach of Malaysian side Kelantan FA.

The central midfielder took over as manager of Kelantan on the 6th May 2014 and couldn’t have got off to a more dramatic start, with his team trailing 3-0 at half time in the semi final of the Malaysian FA Cup, he inspired his players to come back and secure a 3-3 draw. It will be interesting to see if his managerial career takes him to England where he spent most of his playing days.

Boateng began his career at Dutch side Excelsior and after some impressive performances in the 1994-95 season, he was signed by Feyenoord. He spent three years at the club and featured in 68 league games, scoring just one goal before moving to England and signing for Coventry City.
Boateng Feyenoord
At Coventry he proved to be a very effective defensive midfielder and helped the club to a brilliant 11th place finish in the Premier League. But the performance he is most remembered for was away to Aston Villa. Coventry hadn’t won at Villa Park for 63 years but on the 27th February 1999 Boateng scored twice in a 4-1 win. His performances obviously impressed Villa as they signed him for £4.5 million at the start of the following season.
Boateng AV
He spent three seasons with the club and the midfielder was part of the team that reached the FA Cup final in 2000 and was seen as one of their most consistent players. After falling out with Graham Taylor in the 2001-02 season his time at the club was coming to an end and after 131 matches he joined Middlesbrough for £5 million.

On the first day of the 2002-03 season he made his debut in a 0-0 draw away to Southampton. He will always be remembered by the Boro fans for being part of the team that won the League Cup in 2004. In the next season he finally scored his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on the 16th Ocotber 2004. Boateng was one of the most influential player in the squads and they were not the same when he was out injured. This was evident when he broke his toe and in the eight weeks he was missing, Boro dropped from 4th in the table to 9th. After he returned he helped them qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Middlesbrough v Manchester United, FA Cup 6th round football match, The Riverside stadium, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Britain - 10 Mar 2007
They went on to reach the final of the UEFA Cup and in June 2006 he was not only rewarded with a new contract but also the captaincy. Some fans would argue that this affected his performances and he was not as good a player and manager Gareth Southgate responded by taking the captain’s armband off him. It turned out to be his last season at the club as he joined Hull City in July 2008.

He spent two seasons at Hull and played 56 times but could only manage one goal, against Manchester City in a 2-1 win and after their relegation he was released by the club and signed for Greek side Skoda Xanthi. After just 19 games he returned to England to sign for Nottingham Forest. But after limited appearances he was on the move again, however he did score a crucial last minute equaliser against Leicester City while at the club.

His last club before retirement was Malaysian side T-Team where he played 20 times and scored four goals before hanging up his boots.

The final word can go to former Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill. “George is as brave as a lion and that’s why he’s had the career he has had. He is a leader and he will put his head where there is danger. That’s why he is our captain.”

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6th August – Robin Van Persie

Robin Van Persie has been one of the best strikers in Premier League history and can potentially make the difference between winning the league and coming runner up.

Last season he only played 21 times in the league and scored 12 goals so if he had been available for all 38 games then he would have likely scored over 20 goals and Manchester United would have had a much better season. Now Louis Van Gaal is in charge the 31 year old could become an even better player and after seeing some of his goals at the World Cup it is clear to see that Van Persie fits into Van Gaal’s systems perfectly.

The striker started his career at Feyernoord and made his debut at the age of 17 and made 15 starts in the 2001-02 season and started in the final of the UEFA Cup final. Early in the next season he scored five times in a game against AGOVV Apeldoorn but he did not have as much of a breakthrough season as he hoped because of a falling out with manager Bert Van Marwijk. He stayed at the club for one more season but left after 15 league goals in 61 games.
RVP Fey
On the 17th May 2004 Van Persie joined Arsenal for £2.75 million but had to wait until the 27th October to make his competitive debut and against Manchester City in the League Cup he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win. He finished his debut season with 10 goals in 41 games. He started the next season well with eight goals in eight starts but his season was disrupted by a toe injury and he could not continue his great form.

Once again the 2006-07 was disrupted by injury but he still managed 13 goals and was ready to become Arsenal’s main striker after Thierry Henry left for Barcelona. He took to his new role well with seven goals in 10 games but yet another injury ruined his season and all the niggling injuries he picked up were holding him back.
RVP Arsenal
The 2008-09 season was a defining year for the striker because he proved that he could be the main man at a big club as he scored 20 goals in all competitions and also provided 11 assists. His form in January of the season was exceptional as he either scored or provided the assist for every goal scored that month. Over the next few seasons he scored 9 in 16, 18 in 25 and then finally 30 in 38 before leaving for Manchester United.

He was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson to make sure that they won their 20th league title and that is exactly what he did. On the 22nd April he scored a hatrick against Aston Villa which confirmed them as champions and after 30 goals in all competitions he was seen as one of the best signings Ferguson made during his time at Old Trafford. Unfortunately injuries in his second season stopped him having the same impact and may have been part of the reason David Moyes lost his job.
RVP MU
The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “He’s unbelievable. I think his goals tell you that, his performance levels told you that. In terms of impact he has made as big an impact as any player I can imagine. Arsene Wenger said he was better than I’d think and he was right. He has been unbelievable.”

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.”