12th February – Benik Afobe

Benik Afobe has been one of the highest rated youngsters in recent seasons and now he is getting his chance to show his potential in the Championship and is clearly showing everyone his talents.

Still only 22 he seems to have been around for quite a lot of time and played for many different clubs. This is to his credit as it seems like he just wants to play football and when he knew he wasn’t getting chances at Arsenal he went out on loan to try and play games in a lower level. A lot of young players are criticised these days for just sitting in the reserves and youth teams and because of this they don’t develop as well as they should have.

Afobe started his career at Arsenal when he was just six years old and after progressing very well through the youth teams and scoring a lot of goals, he was being linked with a move to Barcelona but he instead signed a professional contract with the Gunners in February 2010. To get his first taste of professional football he had to go out on loan and on the 2nd November he joined Huddersfield Town and made his debut that night in a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to score his first professional goals against Rotherham United in the Football League Trophy to help his new team to a 5-2 win. After an injury to Anthony Pilkington, Afobe got an extended run in the first team and was in brilliant form for the rest of the campaign. During the second half of the season he picked up four man of the match awards in a row. In total he made 32 appearances, scoring eight times and providing 10 assists.

Afobe HT

During the 2011-12 season he suffered a few injuries but did eventually get fit enough to join Reading on the 22nd March 2012. He only played three times for the club but he did still play a part in helping them secure the Championship title. At the beginning of the following season the striker joined Bolton Wanderers on a season long loan. He scored his first goal for the club on his first start in the League Cup against Crawley Town but he was largely used as a substitute and had to wait until the 23rd October to score his first league goal in a 2-2 draw with Wolves. In January his loan was cancelled and he subsequently joined Millwall, unfortunately an injury meant he only played five times for the club.

Afobe BW

He spent eight months on the sidelines and when he returned he went back out on loan, this time to Sheffield Wednesday, where he played 12 times and scored two goals. This season started with Afobe joining MK Dons on loan for the season and went on to score his first goal in a 1-0 win over Chesterfield on the 19th August. But the League Cup second round was probably the best moment of his career so far as he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Manchester United and carried on his superb form in the competition by scoring two more in the next round against Bradford City. On the 29th November he bagged a hatrick against Colchester United in a 6-0 win. After 19 goals in the first half of the season there were other clubs looking at the striker and he joined Wolves in the January transfer window and he scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over Blackpool. Afobe so far has three goals in five Championship games for his new club.

Afobe MK

The final word can go to Wolves head of football development Kevin Thelwell. “Benik seems like a really outstanding young man. He is very pacey and powerful, good technically, and has an outstanding goalscoring record. We are really excited about him signing.”


9th November – James Hanson

With it being the FA Cup first round weekend it is a chance for non league players to show their quality against those that get paid to do it full time and it is always good to see players coming from below the Football League to being very good professional players like James Hanson.

Although he didn’t make his mark in the FA Cup he did come from obscurity to become one of the most difficult to mark in League One and has done a fantastic job for Bradford City since he signed for the club. The striker has added a lot to the team and he will be thankful that he has been given the chance to play professionally which a lot of those in the top flight do not.

The 27 year old played youth football for both Huddersfield Town and Bradford but was never given the chance in the first team and had to drop to semi professional level, turning out for Eccleshill United and Guiseley. But to support his dreams of playing football he also had to work in a supermarket on a part time basis. During his two seasons at Guiseley he scored 46 goals and this attracted the interest of Football League clubs.
Hanson BC
In July 2009 Hanson signed his first professional contract with Bradford and would go on to make his debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season in a disappointing 5-0 defeat against Notts County. He would go on to score his first goal in a 5-4 win over Cheltenham Town on the 22nd August and had a very good first season which led to him being given a new contract by the club and being named the Player of the Year.

The following season was much tougher for the striker as he only scored six league goals but he was improving other areas of his game. But came back with his highest goalscoring league season in the 2011-12 season with 13 goals. The next campaign will be remembered for a long time by Bradford fans as they reached the League Cup final and also gained promotion from League Two, with Hanson and Nakhi Wells linking up well and scoring a lot of goals between them. Although Wells got most of the attention, Hanson chipped in with important goals in the big games, including one in the second leg of the League Cup semi final against Aston Villa, one in the semi final of the playoffs against Burton Albion and then another in the final against Northampton Town.
Hanson LC
Hanson was again rewarded with a new contract for his contributions and with his partnership being broken with Wells, some may have thought that he would struggle but he hit a good run of form after the turn of the year and scored six goals in nine games, meaning he finished his first season in League One with 12 goals in 35 games.
Hanson Wells
This season has been up and down for the striker as he started fantastically by scoring five goals early on and entering the club’s top ten all time top scorer list, however injuries have frustrated him since and he has not been able to recapture that form yet but he will be hoping as the season goes on he can continue his good goalscoring record.

The final word can go to teammate Andrew Davies. “Hans is getting better and better and maturing as a person as well. He needs to be our main goal threat. Strikers are judged on goals and he’s scored a few this season. If we’re going to go up this year, and that’s what we all want, then he needs to be scoring the goals.”

16th October – David Unsworth

It is an unwritten rule in football that when a player goes back to their old club they either score or have a fantastic game but David Unsworth took this to a whole new level in 2007.

The defender is now 41 and had a good career and was always a very consistent player. Although he played left back or centre back he wasn’t afraid of going forward and did have a decent goalscoring record, scoring over 50 times in his career. In 1995 he got one England cap which must have been a great moment for him and he would have been disappointed that he didn’t add to this tally.

Unsworth started his career at the club he is probably best known for, Everton, and made his debut in the 1991-92 season. But he had to wait until the 1994-95 season to become a regular and he had instant success as a first choice player as he helped his side win the FA Cup. While at Everton he was impressive and was definitely a fan favourite which is why it was surprising that after 133 games for the club he was transferred to West Ham in the 1997-98 season.
Unsworth WH
On the 23rd August 1997 he made his debut against his former club Everton and received a warm welcome from the fans, however his new team were defeated 2-1. Although his performances were very good, after just one season and 41 games he decided to leave because he and his family failed to settle in London and wanted to move back to the North West.

This is why it was surprising that he joined Aston Villa for £3 million but he decided he could make the commute, however after just one month he realised that this was a bad decision and could not continue. Fortunately Everton came to his rescue and also signed him for £3 million. He was just as consistent as he was in his first spell and made the left back position his own for the next six seasons. This time around though he became more of a goalscorer and chipped in with some vital goals from set pieces, particularly from the penalty spot. After a further 216 games for the club he once again left at the end of the 2003-04 season.
Unsworth Everton
Portsmouth signed him on the 12th July 2004 and scored on his debut from the penalty spot in a draw with Birmingham City. Later in the season he scored a penalty against Manchester United in a famous 2-0 win but after Harry Redknapp resigned, he lost his place and spent the second half of the season on loan at Ipswich Town, where he played 16 times and scored against Sheffield United on his debut.

At the start of the next season he signed for Sheffield United and was part of the team that were promoted to the Premier League. But he fell out of favour in the Premier League and Neil Warnock placed him on the transfer list.On the 5th January 2007 Unsworth signed for Wigan Athletic to help them battle against relegation and on the last day of the season, in a twist of fate, Wigan faced Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and Unsworth would go onto score the penalty that sent his former employers back to the Championship. This would be one of his last kicks for Wigan as he was released at the end of the season.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Sheffield United v Wigan Athletic - Bramall Lane
He would sign for Burnley but after just one season he also left them and had a short spell at Huddersfield Town in the following campaign but this only lasted four games and he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Neil Warnock. “I’m delighted to have David as part of my squad. His experience will be invaluable to the squad, as will the fact that he can play in a number of different positions.”

17th September – Sean Scannell

Huddersfield Town have had a difficult start to the season but now they have Chris Powell in charge they will be hoping they can pull away from the relegation zone and birthday boy Sean Scannell could play a big role.

They drew 0-0 with Wigan Athletic in their last fixture and the 24 year old winger came on as a substitute in the 46th minute and although he could not produce a bit of magic to put his team in front, he did a very good job defensively and as always put in a decent shift for his side. A lot was expected of the wide man when he first broke through and although he hasn’t quite lived up to that potential, he certainly has time to put that right and play in the top flight.

His first club was Crystal Palace and after being a constant threat in the youth team and also in the reserves he made the step up to the first team during the 2007-08 season. He made his debut in December 2007 after coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 win over QPR and then in his home debut on the 15th December he scored a last minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday after once again coming on as a sub. He played 25 times in his first season and scored twice.
Sean Scannell, Crystal Palace
Before signing a professional contract with the club he was linked with Premier League teams but decided to stay with Palace and celebrated his new contract by scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win over Wolves. At the end of the 2008-09 season he was voted the Championship Apprentice of the Year after showing his potential and showing that he can add consistency to his game.
Scannell ROI
Unfortunately a knee injury at the start of the 2010-11 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but recovered to have arguably the best season of his career in the following year. Under new manager Dougie Freedman, Scannell once again began showing his potential and this was because of a slight change to his position, as he was now given more freedom to roam around the pitch. He finished the campaign with a career high of four goals but was involved in a lot more goals and caused defences a lot of problems with his pace and direct running.

On the 22nd June 2012 he finally left Palace and became Simon Grayson’s first permanent signing at Huddersfield Town. He made his debut on the 17th August in a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City and went on to score his first goal for the club against Bristol City on the 3rd November and it proved to be a vital one as it was the only goal of the game.
Scannell HT
For a 24 year old he has played a lot of games, already over 200, and this just shows that he has a lot of potential and with the majority of these appearances coming in the Championship he will be hoping that one day he can show his talents in the top flight.

The final word can go to Simon Grayson. “He is a brilliant addition. Despite his young age, he brings bags of experience. He is an exciting, young, talented footballer who is very adaptable. Hopefully he will be able to fulfil his potential with us.”

21st August – Scott McDonald

Scott McDonald was a prolifc scorer in Scotland but since coming to England he has modified his game slightly and became a different threat to the opposition.

The Australian international has been involved in every Millwall game so far this season and despite not scoring he has played a big part in helping them to third in the Championship table after two wins and a draw in the early weeks of the season. Many expected Millwall to struggle but under Ian Holloway anything is possible as has been proven in the past and if he can get the 31 year old to start scoring regularly they will be in with a chance of reaching the playoffs.

McDonald started his career in Australia and became the youngest ever player to play in the National Soccer after he made his debut at the age of just 15. He soon made the move to Europe and signed for Southampton and stayed for two years and had loan spells at Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth in 2002. After being released by Southampton he signed for Wimbledon on a rolling contract, however after just two league games he moved to Motherwell in January 2004.

Despite some impressive performances he only managed one goal in his first half a season at the club but he followed this up with 15 goals in the next campaign, including two late goals against Celtic which denied them the title. Over the next few seasons he continued to be a regular goalscorer for Motherwell, hitting 11 in 35 and then 15 in 32 and also went down as the man that scored the 5000th goal in SPL history when he scored against Falkirk on the 25th November 2006.
McDonald Motherwell
After 45 goals in 108 appearances, Celtic signed the striker for £700,000 and he moved to the club at the start of the 2007-08 season. He made his debut in the third round Champions League qualifier against Spartak Moscow and scored his first goal in the return leg and a few days later he scored his first league goal against St Mirren. In his first season he scored 25 goals in 36 league appearances but his best moment was when he scored the winner against AC Milan in the final minute.

After changing his number at Celtic he got off to a slow start the next season but did manage to score in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United and he also scored the only goal in a 1-0 win in the Old Firm Derby against Rangers. On the 2nd May he scored his 49th and 50th Celtic goals against Aberdeen to cap off two extraordinary seasons.
McDonald Celtic
After an impressive start to the 2009-10 season he was being linked with moves to England and eventually on the 1st February 2010 he joined Middlesbrough and scored his first goal against Newcastle United and finished the campaign with four goals in 13 games. The next season started better but tailed off slightly but towards the end of the season he did manage to score a hatrick against Hull City in a 4-2 win. For the rest of his time at Boro he had a decent goal return but he seemed to spend a lot of time on the bench. His time at the club ended with 40 goals in 124 appearances which is not a bad return and was the reason why Millwall signed the player.
McDonald Boro
He had a tough first season at the club only getting three goals in 30 games but his performances so far this season suggest that he will play a big part in helping the team reach their objectives.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him at Millwall Steve Lomas. “I’ve watched Scott throughout his career and he has a proven track record, scoring at better than one in three games over a long period. He works hard for the team, links play well and can operate in different formations.”

3rd August – Sam Hutchinson

Sam Hutchinson is 25 today and signed for Sheffield Wednesday this summer but things could have been a lot different as he has already retired from the game once.

At the age of 21 the defender retired from professional football because of a recurring knee injury in August 2010 that had plagued him over a number of years and restricted his first team opportunities. It must have been tough for him to make that decision as he was still seen as a fantastic prospect by first club Chelsea where he had been from the age of nine.

He showed his ability early on and made his first team debut at the age of 18 in May 2007 and big things were expected of him which is why the club gave him a new four year contract in August of the same year. In total he played three Premier League games before announcing his retirement from the game but he was given the opportunity to work with Chelsea’s academy whilst also studying at university and it wasn’t long before the club wanted him to become a player for them once again.
Soccer - Carling Cup - Third Round - Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers - Stamford Bridge
In December 2011 he came out of retirement and signed a new one and a half year deal with the club after significant improvement in his knee and made his return as a substitute in a 6-1 win over QPR. To prove his fitness he signed for Nottingham Forest on a season long loan deal and made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town and then followed this up by scoring on his home debut in a 2-1 win over Charlton Athletic. However, injury was to strike once more soon afterwards and he returned to Chelsea for treatment and after another long break out of the game he returned to training with Forest at the beginning of March. Hutchinson ended the campaign with nine appearances and one goal for the Championship side.
Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Nottingham Forest v Charlton Athletic - City Ground
The 2013-14 season started with him going out on loan to Dutch side Vitesse however he only played one league game for the club and was recalled from his loan in January. This opened the door for Sheffield Wednesday to sign him on loan and he impressed the fans with his performances and also manager Stuart Gray who wanted to sign him permanently. “Sam is available on a free. An offer has gone in for him. I am keen to re-sign Sam. Any of the lads we have brought here, we’ve looked after them. We’ve done it right. I think they appreciate what we have done for them. Maybe the player will have some loyalty to the club.”
Hutchinson SW
Even though Hutchinson was linked with Premier League clubs, he did sign for Wednesday on a two year deal and will be hoping to remain injury free and help the club challenge for the playoffs.

The final word can go to the Nottingham Forest manager that signed him Sean O’Driscoll. “He’s a bit John Terry-esque – they see him like that. He’s been at Chelsea all his career and had an injury which forced his retirement but he seems to have got over it. I saw him last season and he was excellent.”

20th July – Damien Delaney

Not many people expected Crystal Palace to avoid relegation last season but they defied the odds and a big part of that was because of the performances of Damien Delaney.

Delaney turns 33 today and only missed one Premier League games all season which just shows how vital he was to the team and three different managers over the course of the season decided that he was good enough for the side. Palace started the season with Ian Holloway in charge and then Keith Millen took over temporarily before Tony Pulis came in to guide the club to safety and Delaney was very consistent throughout.

The centre back started his career at Cork City before being signed by Leicester City who were in the Premier League at the time. In total he made eight appearances in the league for the club and also had loan spells at Stockport County, Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town. It was at Stockport where he scored his first career goal against Rotherham United.

Peter Taylor was the manager that brought him to England and it wasn’t long before he signed him again. On the 17th October 2002 Taylor made Delaney his first signing at Hull City for £50,000. His early career at Hull was not the best and he struggled to keep his place in the team but this was down to the fact he was used in a variety of positions, including left back and in midfield. When he was moved to centre back he found his feet and began to show his true potential and was voted the Player of the Year in the 2003-04 promotion winning season and although he didn’t score many goals, his against Rochdale that season was voted Goal of the Season.
Delaney Hull
Back in the Championship Delaney started to play in a number of positions once again but now he was much older and had more experience to cover these roles. He as a key asset all through his time at Hull and will go down in history as the last Hull City player to score at Boothferry Park before they moved to their new stadium.

He stayed until January 2008 and he played 224 times in the league for Hull before signing for QPR. After signing a three and a half year deal at the club a lot was expected of him and it was not long before he scored his first goal against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 away defeat. He however only stayed at the club until the summer of 2009 when he signed for Ipswich Town.
Delaney Ipswich
They paid an initial £750,000 for his services but after a freak injury in the next summer he almost lost his leg. He had a blood clot in his thigh which meant that he had had to have emergency surgery. After recovering from this he scored his first goal for the club against local rivals Norwich City but was sent off soon afterwards.

After making over 100 appearances for the club he left by mutual consent in 2012 and signed for Crystal Palace. He was a key player in their promotion winning season and then keeping them in the Premier League.
Delaney CP
The final word can go to Keith Millen. “I think he was thinking of quitting the game or moving abroad to America. For him to go there in his career to having two great years at Palace, he’s been so consistent. I think that has coincided with how the team has been set up as well this season.”