7th February – Clayton Donaldson

Clayton Donaldson has played a big part in Birmingham City’s revival this season under Gary Rowett and helped his side to a 1-1 draw with Fulham on his birthday but unfortunately could not add to his goal tally.

Now 31 it has been a long road for the 31 year old to reach the Championship but he has always scored goals at whatever club he has been at in England. It seemed like he made a bad decision leaving Brentford for Birmingham in the early months of the season but in recent weeks his new club have started playing much better.

The striker started his career at Hull City and scored on his debut on the 22nd October 2002 against Port Vale in the Football League Trophy. Shortly afterwards he joined Northern Premier League club Harrogate Town on loan and also scored on his debut for them against Gateshead. He spent three months at the club, scoring five times in 10 games. Back at his parent club he signed a new two year deal and made a further two appearances before the end of the season. After short loan spells at Scarborough and Halifax Town, he returned to Harrogate again on loan and had more success with the club, winning the Conference North Player of the Month in October 2004 and scored four times in 11 games before being released by his parent club.

In June 2005 Donaldson joined York City and had an impressive first season, finding the back of the net 18 times and being named Clubman of the Year. During his second season he was being linked with moves away from the club and this may have distracted for short periods and many clubs tabled bids for the striker but none were accepted. After 26 goals in the Conference he did leave York in the summer of 2007 and made the step up to the SPL and joined Hibernian. Donaldson got his first goal for the club after winning and scoring a penalty against Falkirk but was later sent off in the game. After serving his suspension he scored on his return against Motherwell and then later in the month got a hatrick against Kilmarnock.

Donaldson York

During the second half of the season he was frozen out of the team and didn’t play leading to a transfer to Crewe Alexandra in the summer. He first season wasn’t as prolific as he hoped but he improved in his second season despite injuries and eventually in his third season he showed his true potential. He ended the campaign as League Two’s top scorer with 28 goals.

Donaldson CA

Once again his talents were seen by teams in higher leagues and on the 1st July 2011 he joined League One side Brentford. In each of his three seasons he hit double figures and was a constant threat to the opposition, ending his time there with over 50 goals but even though he helped them to promotion at the end of the 2013-14 season he declined their new contract offer and joined Birmingham. He is already in double figures so he has proved he can make the step up to the level and it will be interesting to see how far he can go.

Donaldson Brentford

The final word can go to Birmingham manager Gary Rowett. “He deserves his purple patch because he works so hard for the team. His role is pivotal to the way we play and he plays it brilliantly. He occupies defenders and all the players appreciate the role he does. He’s picking up goals as well and for me they’re bonuses.”

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14th September – Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith has been one of the surprising stars of the Premier League so far and now at the age of 27 he is getting towards the best years of his career.

Everton have had an indifferent start to the season but with their 2-0 victory over West Brom they will be hoping this is where things will get more consistent for them and they will battle for a place in the top four. Despite this being their only league win so far, they have also only lost one game and Naismith has been in excellent form, scoring in the first three games of the season against Leicester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The striker started his career at Kilmarnock and signed professionally in August 2002, then making his debut as a substitute against Hibernian on the 24th April 2004. He had to wait until February 2005 to score his first senior goal against Hearts in a 2-2 draw. It was in the 2005-06 season that he really began to make a name for himself as he won the SPL Young Player of the Month in August and January and then the SPL Player of the Month award in March.
Naismith Everton
He continued to be one of the best strikers in Scotland and was therefore linked with moves away from the club and after 115 games and 35 goals for Kilmarnock he moved onto Rangers on the 31st August 2007. His first season at the club started off well but a knee injury in April 2008 kept him out of action for eight months. After missing the majority of the following campaign he returned to help Rangers lift the Scottish Cup.

In the 2009-10 season he received his first SPL winners medal after the club won back to back titles but this time Naismith had played enough games to get one. He played 28 times in the league, scoring three times. While at Rangers he was used a lot as a wide player and this was part of the reason he did not score a lot of goals but the 2010-11 season he had his best goal return at the club, hitting the back of the net 15 times and winning the Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year.
Naismith Rangers
The 2011-12 season could have been so much better for Naismith if it wasn’t cut short by injury. He started the season by scoring on the opening day against Hearts, and followed this up by scoring eight times in the first eight league games, including two against Celtic in a 4-2 win. After nine goals in 11 games he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and did not play for the club again.

Naismith joined Everton on the 4th July 2012 after Rangers had been liquidated. He made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Manchester United. He did not have the best first season as he was largely used as a substitute but he has the record of scoring the final goal of David Moyes’ reign at the club in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Naismith Killie
Under new manager Roberto Martinez he made a rare start against Chelsea in September 2013 and scored the game’s only goal. As the season progressed he became a more important member of the team and his good run of form coincided with Everton winning seven games on the bounce and also helping them to fifth place and also their highest point tally ever in the Premier League.

The final word can go to David Moyes. “He is an established international who can play in a number of positions. He will be an excellent addition to the players we already have and will hopefully prove to be very useful for us.”

7th June – Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is 33 today and is the youngest manager in England and has been in charge of Oldham Athletic since the 18th March 2013.

It is remarkable that a club would give the manager’s job to a 31 year old but he has achieved all his expectations and has proved to be a very good appointment. His dad, Gary, is also a football manager so he has obviously had a lot of help and always has someone to call when he needs someone to talk to about tactics and other areas of management.

Johnson had an interesting start to his football career as he left Arsenal after a falling out with one of the coaches at the club and was then signed by Watford but he could not break into their team and ended up at Brighton. While at Brighton he only played once in the Football League Trophy but he did manage to score a goal in the game against Cardiff City. In 2001 he joined his father’s team Yeovil Town in the Conference and while at the club he helped them gain promotion twice as they rose to League One. The player also began to have a growing reputation as he was getting better and better as the club got higher up the leagues and he won their Player of the Year award three years in a row.

After 191 league appearances for Yeovil he left in January 2006 to join Scottish Premier League side Hearts for £50,000 and manager Graham Rix was delighted with his signing. “He will bring enthusiasm, ability, he wants to play and he wants to get better. He is dynamic. He wants to get on the ball and make passes. He is full of energy and he is competitive.” His debut was memorable as it came in a 4-1 victory over Edinburgh rivals Hibernian. However Graham Rix was sacked soon after and Johnson only made one substitute appearance after he left.
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League Championship - West Bromwich Albion v Bristol City - The Hawthorns
In August 2006 he was reunited with his dad as he joined Bristol City and had a very good first season by helping them win promotion to the Championship. Johnson was a key figure in Bristol City’s run to the playoff final in the Championship, unfortunately they lost the game against Hull City but the player’s reputation had grown and he was one of standout players in the division.

He remained a key member of the squad for many years but in 2010 he was loaned out to Derby County for a month and played four times for the club before returning to his parent club. He also had a brief loan spell at Chesterfield before leaving the club permanently in January 2012.
Johnson Kilmarnock
Johnson signed a two and half year deal with Kilmarnock in the SPL and he played a crucial part in the Scottish League Cup final as he set up the only goal of the game against Celtic and picked up a winners medal just a little over a month after signing for the club. Less than a year later though he decided to leave the club and was soon appointed the manager of Oldham.

His first game in charge was a 3-0 win over Hartlepool United which lifted the club out of the relegation zone and they successfully avoided relegation. His most important victory was over his dad as his team beat promotion chasing Yeovil Town towards the end of the season which must have been a great moment for the younger Johnson.
Johnson Yeovil
In the summer he had time to change the style of the club and the fans took to it warmly as they were playing fast attacking football and they received many plaudits for the way they played. However, a lot of the time they were seen as admirable losers after not getting the results they deserved but they did finish the season with a 10 match unbeaten run and finished the season in 15th place. Johnson was rewarded with a new three year contract by the board.

The final word can go to his dad Gary. “Over the years, he has been on all the courses. He’s gone out and met a lot of coaches, he’s been to Barcelona all off his own back and at his own expense. He just wants to learn, he’s like a sponge as far as wanting to take things in.”

27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”