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.”

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15th February – Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes might have been ridiculed for his time at Tottenham Hotspur after some high profile mistakes ruined his reputation but he is slowly starting to rebuild that now at Watford.

At the age of 34 it could be argued that his best years are in front of him and he will be doing his best to keep Watford in the promotion race and hopefully get promoted back to the Premier League. At the weekend he was involved in one of the best games in England with his side defeating Bolton Wanderers 4-3. Despite conceding three times he pulled off some fantastic saves and is quickly becoming a fan favourite at the club.

Gomes started his career in Brazil with Cruzeiro where he played 59 times between 2001 and 2004 before being scouted by teams in Europe and in July 2004 he joined Dutch side PSV. At first there were people who doubted his abilities but after a difficult debut in which he conceded twice against RBC he became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. In his first season PSV overachieved and reached the semi finals of the Champions League and they were very unlucky not to reach the final that year. Previously PSV hadn’t even qualified for the Second Round of the competition.

Gomes Cruz

He was definitely a fan favourite and was well known for his acrobatic saves and long throws which set off a lot of attacks for his side. He spent four seasons at the club and played 129 league games but on the 27th June 2008 he left for Tottenham Hotspur. Gomes’ early form was very patchy and he conceded very soft goals against Aston Villa and Fulham leaving Tottenham in the relegation zone. But he did improve and made some important saves in the win over West Ham and the 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

Gomes PSV

In the following campaign he was more solid and played a key role in helping Tottenham finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. But the competition wasn’t a happy one for Gomes as he was sent off in 10 minutes in the game against Inter Milan. Later in the competition he also made a mistake against Real Madrid which effectively ended their chances to progress.

Gomes TH

With more errors to follow, it seemed like the managers had lost patience with the goalkeeper and firstly they signed Brad Friedel which meant Gomes had to spend long periods on the bench. Then he slipped even further down the pecking order after Hugo Lloris was signed so in January 2013 he signed for Hoffenheim on loan. On his debut against Freiburg he made some crucial saves and helped his side to a 2-1 win. His season was ended prematurely by injury and he had to undergo hand surgery.For a full season he sat in Spurs’ reserves until his contract expired and he joined Watford on the 24th May 2014.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “He is a great character, a lovely man, a fantastic fella and a top goalkeeper. He has been fine in training. Gomes is top class, when he is on his game he is a great goalkeeper.”

7th November – Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand has been banned recently by the FA because of comments he made on Twitter and he has been judged harsher as he is seen as a role model.

Now at the age of 36 the central defender should probably know better and it is good to see that the FA have decided to take action against someone perceived as a role model, however they should probably be dealing with other things first rather than a comment on Twitter. But Ferdinand will be hoping that he can finish off this season on good form and be remembered as a great defender.

Ferdinand started his career at West Ham and made his debut on the final day of the 1995-96 season after coming on as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in 1-1 draw. Before breaking into the West Ham team on a regular basis he went out on loan to Bournemouth in November 1996 and made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Blackpool. He played 10 games during his spell at the club and returned to Upton Park in January 1997. He got more and more first team chances and was awarded the Hammer of the Year award at the end of the following season at the age of 19.
Ferdinand WH
He would barely miss a game for the club over the next few seasons but in November 2000 he made the move to Leeds United for a British transfer record of £18 million. Despite a tricky start, he recovered to prove that he was worth the money the club paid and helped the club reach the semi finals of the Champions League in his first season, scoring against Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter finals. In his second season at the club things got even better on a personal level as he was given the captain’s armband because of his fantastic performances but unfortunately the club began to suffer financial problems and their star players needed to be sold.
Ferdinand LU
On the 22nd July 2002 Ferdinand transferred to Manchester United and again broke the British transfer record. He got off to a good start and helped the club win the Premier League in his first season at the club but then he almost ruined his career in September 2003. After failing to attend a drugs test he was given an eight month ban and he may have never been given another chance. But he did return and on the 14th December 2005 he would go on to score his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic and then would later become a hero by scoring a last minute winner against Liverpool and then repeated it by scoring against them in a 2-0 win in the following season.

The 2006-07 season was arguably his best season as he helped the club win the title once more and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. The next season started brilliantly as the club kept six clean sheets in a row and Ferdinand chipped in with a goal against Aston Villa. During the season he had a ups and downs as he was involved with a steward in a defeat against Chelsea but on the pitch, he would lead his team to glory in the Champions League after beating the same opponents in the final.
Ferdinand MU
Afterwards most of his time at Manchester United was disrupted by injuries but during his spell at the club he won six Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one Champions League and one Club World Cup so he will go down as one of the best. After being released he signed for QPR on the 17th July 2014 but he has struggled for form and the club have performed better when he has not been in the team so this looks like it will be his last season, especially if the club get relegated.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “He’s a great role model. I signed him as 14-year-old, so I know him as well as anyone and I’m just so pleased to have him at the club. I spoke to Ryan Giggs to ask how much training he was doing and how fit he was and Ryan told me that, if he’d been manager at Old Trafford this season, he would’ve still been his No.1 centre-half.”

19th October – Clint Hill

QPR were very unlucky in their 3-2 defeat against Liverpool but one thing that was evident was that they need to improve defensively and Clint Hill may become a key player once again.

The 36 year old will have to battle with experienced players like Rio Ferdinand and Richard Dunne as well as Steven Caulker for a place in the starting lineup. But with the club experimenting with three centre backs there may be more opportunities to get in the side. If QPR continue to struggle then Hill is certainly a player that you want in your team as he will never shy away from a challenge.

Hill started his career at Tranmere Rovers where he made his debut against Nottingham Forest in a 2-2 draw during the 1997-98 season and quickly became a regular in the side in the next season. Hill played a key part in helping the club reach the final of the League in 2000, however he was sent off and his side lost 2-1 against Leicester City. He spent five years at the club and played 171 times for the club, scoring 20 times.
Hill TR
In 2002 he joined Oldham Athletic for £250,000 but he suffered a broken leg in December 2002 in a League Cup tie against Crystal Palace and would not play another game for the club. He only scored one goal for the club, coming against his former club Tranmere before he moved onto Stoke City.

His first season at the club was disrupted by injuries and he only made 12 appearances but he recovered from this slow start and impressed during his second season and won the club’s Player of the Year award at the end of the 2004-05 campaign. Towards the end of the season, unfortunately he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament and could not play again until late in the 2005-06 season. When he returned he rediscovered his form and formed a strong partnership with Michael Duberry.

More injuries followed in the next campaign and when he was fit he found it hard to get into the side and over the next season and a half he was seen as the second choice left back. Hill then joined Crystal Palace on loan in October 2007 and after impressing he moved to the club permanently in January. In his first half season he helped the club reach the playoffs but unfortunately they missed out on promotion and then the next two years were tough for the club as their finances worsened and despite a 10 point deduction, Hill helped the club avoid relegation during the 2009-10 season.
Hill CP
On the 1st July 2010 Hill was reunited with former Palace boss Neil Warnock at QPR and made his debut in a 4-0 win over Barnsley. Hill played in 44 Championship games that season and helped them win the title meaning that he would be playing Premier League football for the first time. However, he got off to a terrible start being sent off on the opening day in a 4-0 loss against Bolton Wanderers and it seemed like his time at the club was over when he joined Nottingham Forest on loan on the 20th September 2011. But after just five games he was recalled and after Mark Hughes became manager, he became a regular in the team and played a key role in keeping them in the Premier League, securing the fans and players Player of the Year awards.
Hill QPR
After signing a new one year contract he was in and out of the side at the start of the next season but after Harry Redknapp took over he once again returned to the team. They would not avoid relegation this time around and last season Hill captained the team back to the Premier League after winning the playoff final 1-0 against Derby County.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “Clint is a great character, a good lad and a fantastic professional. He leads by example and you know what you’re going to get from Clint. He puts his body on the line and that’s what we need.”

2nd September – Frederic Kanoute

Yesterday a lot of Tottenham Hotspur fans were a little disappointed that they did not bring in another striker but today is the birthday of one of their former front men Frederic Kanoute.

The striker had a good time in England but didn’t always hit form while at White Hart Lane but he did offer them something different to what they already had at the club. After he left he really started to show his goalscoring prowess in Spain but it was not just his goals that made him an important member of the teams he played for and when he was confident defenders knew it would be tough to stop him.

Kanoute started his career at French club Lyon and made his debut in 1997 in the Intertoto Cup against Polish side Odra Wodzislaw. He had a very impressive start and in his first season he scored six times in 18 league games and although he had to spend more time on the bench over the next two seasons, he was still seen as a prospect around Europe and was being linked with big money moves away.

In 2000 West Ham signed the striker and he formed a very good partnership with Paolo Di Canio and hit double figures in his first two full seasons at the club. Kanoute was someone that half the crowd loved and the other half was constantly frustrated by him because he had a lot of ability and when he showed it, he was tough to stop but on other days he was labelled as lazy and criticised for his laid back attitude. In his final season at the club they ended up getting relegated and some argue it was because he only featured in 17 games.
Kanoute WH
He ended his time at West Ham with 29 Premier League goals in 84 games and on the 5th August 2003 he joined Tottenham for £3.5 million. He scored his first goal for the club on the 23rd August just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute against Leeds United in a 2-1 win. He started off well at Spurs but his season was disrupted as he went to represent Mali at the African Cup of Nations but after he returned he became a regular in the side and scored 12 goals in all competitions.
Kanoute TH
Although the goals were not flying in for him, his general play was still very good and he remained first choice for most of the next campaign but on the 17th August 2005 he was sold to Sevilla. In Spain he helped the club win the UEFA Cup in 2006 and 2007 and even scored in their 4-0 win over Middlesbrough in the final. In his seven seasons at the club he scored over 20 goals in four of those and despite only scoring four goals in his last season he remains the club’s highest scoring foreign player.
Kanoute Sevilla
At the end of his contract he decided to join Chinese club Beijing Guoan and stayed for a season and a half scoring 13 goals in 46 games before retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp while they were both at West Ham. “Kanoute is a frightening talent. He’s been fantastic, he cost us a club record fee and has proved to be worth every penny. As his confidence grows so does his ability to do the job.”

30th August – Svetoslav Todorov

Not many football fans will care about Bulgarian side Dobrudzha Dobrich but their manager is someone that a lot of English football fans will know, particularly Portsmouth.

Svetoslav Todorov is the manager and he turns 36 today and will most likely be remembered by those that visited Fratton Park in the early 2000s as he was a vital part of the team for a number of years and scored some very important goals. Unfortunately injuries played a big part in his career and he was not able to reach the heights he could have.

The striker started his career at the club he is now managing and scored twice in 12 appearances for them in the 1996-97 season. His performances started to attract attention from other clubs and in 1997 he joined Litex Lovech where he stayed for four seasons and scored 34 times in just 70 games. This led to him being offered a trial at West Ham.
Todorov Lovech
He made his debut in a 3-0 defeat against Liverpool and only had to wait until his third game to score his first goal for the club in a 3-2 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. He only scored one league goal for the club against Middlesbrough and after Harry Redknapp was replaced by Glenn Roeder he did not get much game time.

This prompted Redknapp to sign the player for a second time and he joined Portsmouth in March 2002. He did not have the best of starts at Portsmouth as he was sent off in his second game and only made one more appearance in the 2001-02 season. However, the following season Todorov showed his true potential and helped Portsmouth gain promotion to the Premier League by finishing as the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, including a hatrick on the final day against Bradford City. In the summer he signed a new three year deal with Portsmouth.

Injuries stopped him becoming even more of a Portsmouth legend as he damaged a cruciate knee ligament just days before the start of the new season and he only played once in the 2003-04 campaign. Another surgery in May 2004 once again kept him out for the entire season but despite his injuries he was given a new contract in August 2005. He played 24 times in the 2004-05 season and scored four goals in the league which was an ok record seen as though most of these were from the substitutes bench. He was an important member of Portsmouth’s escape from relegation that season as he scored crucial goals against West Ham, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland.
Todorov Pompey
After scoring twice in the opening three games of the season for Portsmouth, he was surprisingly loaned out to Wigan Athletic where he only played five times and did not score before returning to his parent club. Having fallen down the pecking order he joined Charlton Athletic in the Championship but in his two seasons he only played 20 times and scored three goals.
Todorov Charlton
On the 16th July 2009 he rejoined Litex Lovech and scored on his debut after coming on as a substitute in a 5-0 win against Lokomotiv Mezdra. He spent three seasons at the club and in his final year he scored six times in just 11 games but left the club in the summer of 2012 and joined Ukrainian Premier League club Hoverla Uzhhorod and after not scoring in nine league games he announced his retirement on the 24th November.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “He is a very intelligent footballer and will bring good competition in the striking department. We wouldn’t bring in a second division striker for that mony these days so I think it’s a real sniff.”

16th July – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale is one of the few players in the world that can be compared to Lionel Messi and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo but at the age of 25 he will only get better.

The Welsh international hasn’t always had the easiest career and has worked hard for his success and now playing for Real Madrid he will certainly get to pick up a lot of trophies and score a lot more goals before the end of his career. He will also be hoping to help Wales qualify for a major tournament in the near future and there will be a lot of pressure on him and Aaron Ramsey to deliver when the 2016 Euros qualifying starts.

Bale started his career at Southampton and became the second youngest player to ever play for the club when he came on the 17th April 2006 against Millwall at the age of 16 years and 275 days. It did not take him long to become a first team regular and when he broke into the side at the start of the next season he was known as a free kick specialist as he scored two in the opening two games of the season. He finished the year with five goals in 43 games and left for Tottenham Hotspur in May 2007.
Bale Soton
He started off brilliantly at his new club, scoring against Fulham, Arsenal and Middlesbrough in his first four starts, however an injury against Birmingham City meant he missed the rest of the season. Bale then struggled to break into the Spurs side and he was considered their second choice left back for the majority of the next two seasons. However, things changed in April 2010 as he scored the winner against Arsenal and then three days later once again got the winning goal against Chelsea. These results played a big part in the club qualifying for the Champions League.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan - White Hart Lane
It was in the Champions League where bale showed everyone how much potential he had, firstly he set up all four goals in a qualifying match against Young Boys, then scored against FC Twente in the second group match. But it was against Inter Milan and Maicon, who was known as one of the best defenders in the world at the time, where he announced himself to the world. Although they lost 4-3 away, Bale scored a hatrick and then in the return match he set up two goals. Some would argue that Maicon never fully recovered from these two matches.

He continued to play well in all competitions but it was in his final year at Spurs that he went to the next level and his 26 goals convinced Real Madrid to pay a world record fee for the winger and in September he joined the Spanish giants. His first half a season was tough though as he struggled with injuries but he did score on his debut against Villarreal. But he did justify his price tag by scoring a sublime goals in the final of the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona and then scored the important second goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
Bale RM
Bale finished his first season at Real with 22 goals and 16 assists and now that he has settled more into the league and learned more about his teammates, he will have even more success.

The final word can go to the former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got everything, there’s not a weakness in his make-up. He can head the ball, he’s as strong as an ox, he can dribble and shoot. Most important of all, he’s a smashing lad.”