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.

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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.”

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18th July – Lee Barnard

Lee Barnard has been a good goalscorer in the Football League over the years and he will be hoping to rediscover that form next season to help Southend United get promoted.

It is his second spell at Southend and if it can be anywhere near as good as his first spell then the club will certainly go close to achieving their targets under Phil Brown. Barnard started his career at Tottenham Hotspur but made his first league appearances while out on loan at Exeter City but he had to wait until a loan spell at Stevenage Borough where he would score his first goal against Shrewsbury Town. Further loan spells at Leyton Orient and Northampton Town followed but he was still only young and making his way in the game.

He eventually made his debut for Spurs on the 17th April 2006 in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United after coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute and also came on the following week against Bolton Wanderers. At the start of the next season he joined Crewe Alexandra for five months and scored on his debut against Huddersfield Town. However, he suffered an injury in late October and returned to his parent club after 10 league games and three goals.

On the 25th January 2008 Barnard joined Southend on a permanent deal and he made his debut that night against Barnsley in the FA Cup after coming on as a substitute. He made his full debut a few days later against Leeds United and scored the only goal of the game after a free kick had hit the post. Before the end of the season he managed to score another nine goals, including an injury time winner against Carlisle United.
Barnard Southend
The 2008-09 season was not quite as good as the striker would have hoped, however he did still manage to get to double figures but he could have got a lot more had it not been for injuries. The next season started much better with him getting four goals in the first three games and this included his first professional hatrick against Leyton Orient. Over the next few months he scored last minute winners against Gillingham and MK Dons and also scored a brace against Hartlepool United which helped his team win 3-2 after they had been 2-0 down. He scored once more for the club in his first spell which took him to 37 goals in 85 games.

Barnard signed for Southampton in January 2010 and he scored his first two goals for the club in a 2-0 win over Norwich City and a week later he scored another two goals against Walsall and then three days later he scored in a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town. The 2010-11 was also successful as he scored 16 goals for the club but missed the last few weeks of the season through injury.
Barnard Soton
Unfortunately he didn’t get many more chances at Southampton but enjoyed loan spells at Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic and Southend. After his contract expired at Southampton he rejoined Southend on a permanent deal.
Barnard Bournemouth
The final word can go to Southend manager Phil Brown. “Hopefully we can get him back playing how he was during his first spell with the club. He’s an out and out striker who knows where the goal is, so I’m sure he can rediscover that sort of form.”

5th June – Junior Hoilett

Junior Hoilett helped QPR return to the Premier League after they beat Derby County in the playoff final and will be hoping to help the team avoid relegation next year.

Some people may argue that QPR will be aiming higher than just surviving and with quality players in their squad it is easy to see why people make this argument. However they did limp over the line and were not exactly the best team to watch in the Championship but they did still get the job done. Hoilett played a big part in Bobby Zamora’s last minute winner that got them promoted and this will surely give the 24 year old confidence to perform well in the Premier League.

It has not always been easy for the winger in England as he was unable to obtain a work permit and could not play for first club Blackburn Rovers until he got this sorted. He was loaned out by Blackburn to help the situation and to give him game time, he first joined Paderborn in Germany and made his debut at the age of 17. However, it would not be a great season as the club were relegated from the Bundesliga but the Canadian player did manage to score his first professional goal against Borussia Monchengladbach in his last game.

He was then loaned out once more to another German club, this time to St Pauli and he was definitely growing as a player and getting better. He finished the season with six goals in 21 games and then when the season was finished he was finally given a work permit that allowed him to play in England.
Hoilett SP
It did not take him long to make an impact as he scored on the 25th August 2009 in a League Cup game against Gillingham and he had a lot of success in the tournament. He won a penalty in a quarter final match against Chelsea and then after the game finished 3-3 he stepped up and scored the decisive spot kick sending his team through. Hoilett was now playing more minutes and in February 2010 he signed an extension to his contract ending speculation he was going to leave the club.

The 2010-11 season was when he really let everyone know that he was going to be a threat as he scored five times in 24 games and would have been involved more if he had not suffered a few injuries throughout the season. In the next season he followed this up with more goals and better performances and in January 2012 he was named as one of the players to watch by FIFA and at the end of the season he had the most dribbles per game in the Premier League but this would be his last at Blackburn.
Hoilett Blackburn
On the 27th July he joined QPR and scored his first goal in a 3-2 League cup defeat by Reading. He did not quite play as much as he would have liked but he did set up an important Loic Remy goal in a victory over Southampton. But this, and his two goals were not good enough to keep the club in the Premier League. In the Championship he only scored four times but he provided a lot more than just goals and was always a threat to the opposition.
Hoilett QPR
The final word can go to his manager at both Blackburn and QPR Mark Hughes. “He was just a young boy trying to make his way in the game when I had him at Blackburn. We knew then he was going to have a great future and he’s shown he’s a player that can make things happen, both on his own and as a team player.”

25th May – Demba Ba

Demba Ba became an unlikely hero for Chelsea towards the end of last season scoring important goals against PSG, Liverpool and Swansea.

His form towards the end of the season just made a lot of people wonder why Jose Mourinho hadn’t put him in the starting eleven a lot sooner. He has proven himself as a great goalscorer his whole career so it was strange to see him left out so often when Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o were not on form. But Ba is a player that bounces back after being left out and deemed not good enough as he proved early in his career when he first tried to join an English club. He was turned down by Watford, Barnsley, Swansea City and Gillingham before signing a one year deal with French club Rouen.

Ba was very successful at the club and in his one season he scored 22 goals in just 26 games before moving onto Belgian club Mouscron where he continued his good form and scored in his first three games. However Ba fractured his tibia and fibula and was ruled out for a long time but after eight months he eventually recovered and carried on where he left off by scoring another seven times in the next nine games.
Ba Hoff
In 2007 he moved onto Germany and signed for Hoffenheim, who were playing in the second tier at the time but his 12 league goals secured promotion to the Bundesliga in his first year. Both Ba and his club had a successful year after promotion the striker scored 14 times. Injuries once again began to catch up with him and he played fewer games over the next two seasons. But in his last half a season he scored 9 times in just 20 games before a dispute with the club meant he was wanting to leave.

They agreed a fee with Stoke City but unfortunately Ba failed a medical and Stoke pulled out of the deal. West Ham quickly signed him up and he did everything he could to keep them in the Premier League. He scored seven times in 12 games but a clause in his contract meant that when West Ham were relegated he could leave on a free transfer.

He signed for Newcastle United and proved once again that he was a great goalscorer and scored two hatricks in the first 11 games of the season with one of those coming against Stoke. Before leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations he was second top scorer in the Premier League with 15 goals and on his return from international duty he scored against Aston Villa. However, this proved to be his last goal of the season as he was moved out to the left wing to accommodate Papiss Cisse who ended up with 12 goals in just half a season.
Ba Newcastle
Ba was back on goalscoring form at the start of the new season by scoring a stunning volley against Tottenham Hotspur to win the game. By the time January came he around he was on 13 goals in 20 games but it was revealed he had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for just £7 million. Chelsea took advantage and on his debut for the club he scored twice in the FA Cup against Southampton and then scored on his home league debut against the same opposition. Ba only scored one more Premier League goal but did score a great goal against Manchester United in the FA Cup.
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Blackburn Rovers - Stamford Bridge
In the season just finished he didn’t get enough of a chance to make an impact but still managed eight goals in all competitions. He definitely did pop up with some important goals though and the Chelsea fans have not seen the best of him.

The final word can go to Alan Pardew. “Demba Ba has done very well since he came to England, and he’s a good player. He has pace, excellent technical ability, is good in the air and, it goes without saying, has the ability to consistently find the back of the net.”

12th May – Darren Randolph

Birmingham City stayed in the Championship with a last gasp equaliser against Bolton Wanderers and one of their players might not have expected to be a Championship player the next time his birthday rolled around.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph turns 27 today and has been one of the few consistent players Birmingham have had this season with him appearing in every single league game. It cannot have been easy for him as the club brought in a lot of loan players and the defenders in front of him kept changing. But Randolph knows what it is like being a young player and having to go out on loan to play first team football so he would have been able to give these players some good advice.

Randolph first played for Ardmore Rovers before joining Charlton Athletic in 2003 and it wasn’t long before he was going out loan as he joined Welling United in 2004 and played four times for the club. At the beginning of the 2004-05 season he was back out on loan again, this time to Accrington Stanley who played him 14 times in the league and at the end of the season he had impressed enough to earn a contract extension at his parent club.
Randolph Charlton
In August 2006 he went out on loan again to Gillingham for a month and on his return he finally made his Charlton debut against Liverpool where he performed well. Manager Alan Pardew said of his performance. “The professionalism Darren shows in training as back up was evident. You can’t put a performance like that in without a lot of hard work that no one ever sees.”

After more loan spells away from the club (Bury and Hereford United) he eventually left permanently and joined Scottish side Motherwell. He proved what a fantastic goalkeeper he was straight away and broke John Ruddy’s club record of 15 clean sheets in a season in his first year and helped them reach the Scottish Cup Final. The next season he also performed well and made some crucial saves, and gained recognition by being named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. With Rangers unable to compete in European football it meant that Randolph got to taste Champions League football and although it ended in defeat it would still have been a great occasion for him.
Darren Randolph, Motherwell goalkeeper.
Motherwell continued their fine form into the next season and finished in second place behind Celtic and Randolph was once again named in the team of the year which meant that, with his contract expiring in the summer, a lot of clubs would be looking at him. His manager at the time Stuart McCall said: “Darren has been outstanding for us and if I was managing in the Championship now I would go for him straight away.”

Although McCall wouldn’t have wanted him to leave, he knew it would be difficult to keep hold of him and Birmingham City were the team to sign him. The club struggled in the season just finished but he will be hoping for better things next time around.
Randolph Brum
The final word can go to Stuart McCall. “He is not only an outstanding goalkeeper, he is a really good guy, he is composed, he gets about his job and he never lets us down.”

25th April – David Moyes

He may not have been able to celebrate a single birthday as manager of Manchester United but that doesn’t mean he has had a bad career and will surely be successful once again.

David Moyes turns 51 today and his dream of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world turned into a nightmare pretty quickly. But even getting this far is an achievement for someone that started his playing career at Icelandic club IBV Vestmannaeyjar. He spent half a season in their youth team before transferring to Celtic where he won the title after playing 24 games.
Moyes Celtic
Moyes made over 550 club appearances for many clubs including Cambridge United, Bristol City, Shrewsbury Town, Dunfermline Athletic, Hamilton Academical and finally Preston North End.

After retiring he became a coach at Preston but in January 1998 after Gary Peters was sacked and the club were struggling in Division Two, Moyes was given the task of keeping the club in the league. He completely turned the club around by keeping them in the league and then getting to the playoffs the next season. However they were defeated by Gillingham in the semi finals. But this did not stop Moyes as he won the title the next season but even more remarkably in their first season in Division One they reached the playoffs but lost to Bolton Wanderers 3-0 in the final. After the season ended he signed a new five year contract with their Chief Executive Tony Scholes saying: “We believe David is the best young manager in the game. He is the man to push Preston into the Premier League.” He had a phenomenal record at the club winning 113 of his 243 matches in charge, only losing 63.

Unfortunately for Preston Moyes left the club in March 2002 to take over at Everton. He could not have got off to a better start with David Unsworth scoring 30 seconds into his first match in charge, they went on to win the game 2-1. He guided them to safety and then the next season he won the LMA Manager of the Year after leading them to a 7th place finish. It looked as though the good times were coming back but the 2003-04 season was not so easy as they struggled and finished the season with their lowest points tally and finished just above the relegation zone in 17th.
Moyes Everton
After having a difficult summer in which Wayne Rooney was sold to Manchester United his side were expected to struggle but the signing of midfielder Tim Cahill proved a stroke of genius from Moyes as they finished the season in fourth place and qualified for the Champions League.

The rest of his time at Everton was largely successful although he could not win a trophy it will still be seen as one of the best times in recent history. He would not have left to take over at many other clubs but to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Old Trafford was just too good to turn down. Ferguson said: “When we discussed the candidates that we felt had the right attributes we unanimously agreed on David Moyes.”
Moyes Man United
Moyes broke a lot of records while in charge at Old Trafford unfortunately for him and everyone involved with the club they were all negative ones and the club will most likely not qualify for Europe. He was not given the chance to turn it around and was sacked. The last word can go to Gary Neville who was disappointed with the team’s performances this season but did not understand why Moyes was not given more time. “The idea of giving people three or four or six year contracts and then getting rid of them after 10 months is something that is foreign to me.”