30th August – Kris Commons

Kris Commons played over 500 games and scored over 100 goals during his professional career and proudced some magic moments.

Commons started his career at Stoke City, making his debut in a 3-2 defeat against Blackpool. Shortly afterwards he picked up an injury and was out of action for year before making his comeback in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and his first goal came 16 days later against Norwich City. After a promising start he was offered a new contract, however he rejected it and signed for Nottingham Forest.

Commons NF

Although his first season ended in relegation from the Championship, Commons stayed with the club to try and get them promoted. He had to wait until his final season to finally achieve this aim and following a 3-2 win over Yeovil Town they gained promotion with the midfielder being named in the PFA League One Team of the Year. At this point he had played 159 times for Forest but with his contract up he made the unthinkable move to Derby County.

He started his time at Derby on the wing under Paul Jewell but he didn’t really show his potential until he was moved into the centre and he would go on to score the only goal of the game in a victory over Manchester United in the League Cup. Later on in the season he would also score the winning goal against Forest in an FA Cup game.

Commons DC

Injuries caught up with him in the next season and he didn’t have much of an impact, however the 2010-11 season was probably his best in England as he went on a run of seven goals in nine games. This form caught the attention of Celtic who signed him on the 28th January 2011 and on the following day he scored against Aberdeen and would end the season winning the Scottish Cup. Celtic won the title in the following campaign but it was a difficult one for Commons as he only scored one goal.

But he did manage to bounce back and show his quality. During the 2013-14 season he finished as the top scorer, hitting the back of the net 32 times in all competitions. However, this wasn’t enough to convince new manager Ronny Deila to give him a starting place. He did manage to turn this round again but things got worse when Brendan Rodgers took charge as he told him he would not be part of the squad.

Commons Celtic

Commons would stay at the club until the end of his contract and after a back injury he decided it was time to retire. His last games in football came during a loan spell at Hibernian where he played five times, scoring twice.

The final word can go to Neil Lennon. “He’s intelligent, grounded and hungry. What he will do is improve us and influence the team and squad on and off the field. He will provide a goal threat from the wider areas or deeper lying areas.”

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25th August – Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling has been one of the best defenders in the Championship for a lot of his career and will be hoping he can make the step up to the Premier League soon.

The defender usually plays at right back but he can also fill in at centre half or play as one of the defenders when his manager decided to play three at the back. Under the stewardship of a manager like Marcelo Bielsa he will surely get better and will be hoping that this could be the manager that takes him to the top flight.

Ayling started his career at Arsenal and despite an impressive record at youth level in which he was part of their double winning team of the 2008-09 season, he failed to make a first team appearance for the club but was named on the substitute bench for a Champions League game against Greek side Olympiakos. Towards the end of his time at the club he signed for Yeovil Town on loan in March 2010. He played four times and did enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Ayling YT

In his first full season he was a key player, making 40 appearances, however his disciplinary record was quite poor as he picked up 13 yellow and two red cards. He played in 40 games every season he was at the club and helped them win the League One playoff final on the 19th May 2013 and therefore secured them a place in the Championship. The team found it very tough in the higher division but Ayling was certainly one of the bright spots.

After relegation, Ayling decided not to sign a new contract with the club and joined Bristol City on a free transfer. It turned out to be an impressive season as he played 58 times in all competitions and Bristol City went on to win the League One title and the Football League Trophy beating Walsall 2-0 at Wembley on the 22nd March 2015. He would continue to impress in the following season as they managed to avoid relegation in the following campaign, playing 33 times at either right back or centre back.

Ayling BC

On the 11th August 2016 the right back signed for Leeds United and would play 43 times in his first season. With many changes at the club throughout his time there so far, he has managed to convince every manager that has been in charge that he deserves his place in the team. During the 2017-18 season he was also named as the club’s vice captain and was also rewarded with a new four year contract. He had to wait until the 18th August 2018 to score his first goal for Leeds in a game against Rotherham United.

Ayling LU

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s a very versatile player and therefore offers us competition and cover in a variety of positions. He was instrumental in Yeovil’s promotion from League One and did very well in the Championship.”

17th July – Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom will be hoping his managerial career will go slightly further than his playing career but he needs to make sure he chooses the right career path.

Leaving Barnsley for Leeds United might be an easy decision to some but maybe he should have avoided taking the job when he did as the club don’t seem to keep their managers in charge for very long. It is good to see that he is ambitious but after just four wins in 16 games he was sacked. He still has a long way to go in his career.

Heckingbottom started his career at Sunderland but never made a professional league appearance for the club and was sent out on loan to Scarborough, Hartlepool United and Darlington, with the full back joining the latter permanently in 1999. After 126 appearances and six goals, the defender was showing his potential and joined Norwich City in 2002. However, he couldn’t break into the team regularly and after just 16 games his contract was cancelled.

Heckingbottom Darlington

Bradford City was his next destination and he quickly became a fan favourite with his wholehearted and committed performances. Despite the club getting relegated at the end of the season, Heckingbottom was named the Player of the Year, and this convinced Sheffield Wednesday to sign the defender.

In his first season at Wednesday, he played more games than any other player for the club and scored four goals as the club gained promotion to the Championship after winning the playoffs. Unfortunately an injury during pre-season meant he lost his place in the side and never regained the left back spot so on the 13th January 2006 he joined boyhood club Barnsley. Once again he helped the club gain promotion through the playoffs and scored in the penalty shootout victory over Swansea City.

Heckingbottom BC

After his move was made permanent he played a key role in helping the club avoid relegation comfortably but in the following summer he rejoined Bradford City. After a good start he would start to pick up injuries and after 53 league games he left the club again, this time he signed for Conference side Mansfield Town.

An injury ruined his pre-season and he didn’t make his debut until October 2009, 11 months after he had last played a professional game. After just 11 games he was loaned out to Gateshead who made the deal permanent in the next summer. He would only feature 22 times in the 2010-11 season and after a short spell at Harrogate Town he decided to retire.

Heckingbottom barnsley

Since retiring, Heckingbottom has already managed over 100 league games and won the League One playoffs with Barnsley as well as the Football League Trophy during the 2015-16 season which led to him being given the job on a permanent basis after two previous spells as caretaker.

The final word can go to former Mansfield Town manager David Holdsworth. “He is a class act and an accomplished player. I am delighted to have him on board.”

22nd June – Stephen Crainey

Stephen Crainey was part of Blackpool’s exciting Premier League campaign that saw them become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

Under Ian Holloway, Blackpool played an attacking brand of football that made many neutrals excited but it wasn’t always easy for Crainey in the top flight due to this style.

The defender started his career at Celtic and would play a total of 58 times for the club and helped the team win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title. Although never a regular he earned a move to Premier League side Southampton on the 6th February 2004 and made his debut in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. However, after just five Premier League appearances he was on the move again.

Crainey Celtic

Crainey signed for Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently, and in doing so became the first player Leeds had paid for since 2004. Despite this, he still couldn’t hold down a regular place and after three seasons and the club being relegated to League One he was released from his contract.

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Blackpool signed the left back and he became a fan favourite and club hero. In his first season he would go on to score his first ever league goal in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United and helped the club to their highest finish in the Championship in 27 years. Due to his form he was linked with moves away but instead he signed a new contract. However, an injury at the start of the 2008-09 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but he would recover and become a key player once more.

Crainey then helped Blackpool to arguably one of their greatest ever achievements by appearing in 46 games during the 2009-10 season which saw them gain promotion to the Premier League. In the top flight their efforts were very enjoyable to watch and if it wasn’t for an injury to Crainey in January they may have been more solid at the back and came closer to escaping relegation. Everyone expected them to be one of the worst in the history of the league but they almost pulled off a shock.

Crainey Blackpool

Upon relegation Crainey again signed a new contract to ward off interest from Premier League clubs, such as Wigan Athletic, and he continued putting in solid performances in the Championship and scored his second goal for the club against Birmingham City on the 26th November 2011.

He would stay at Blackpool for one more season before deciding to move on and he did eventually sign for Wigan. This only lasted for one season and in 2014 he signed for Fleetwood Town, where he would play 28 league games before leaving for AFC Fylde, his final club.

The final word can go to former Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander. “He has played at the top level and is still hungry for success. We thought we needed to bring in more added quality and experience. Crainey certainly provides that.”

5th June – Stephen McPhee

Stephen Mcphee is one of the few British players to have tried to have a successful career abroad which a lot of pundits believe would improve football in the UK.

The forward started his youth career in Holland with Vitesse Arnhem which is probably part of the reason why he didn’t fear going abroad and trying out different cultures and playing styles. He never played for the Dutch side and in 1998 he joined Premier League club Coventry City.

In 2001, he joined Scottish side St Mirren on loan and was an instant success, winning the SPL Young Player of the Month. During his spell he played seven times but he did not convince parent club Coventry that he deserved a place in their team and on the 31st July 2001 signed for Port Vale.

His first season was good as he began it with a goal on his debut against Notts County and ended it as the club’s top scorer with 14 goals. This led to him being linked with moves away and Wigan Athletic had a £300,000 bid accepted, however, he could not agree personal terms. It seemed to be a poor decision as he struggled in the following campaign as he went 21 games without a goal until he scored against Oldham Athletic. He hoped this would kick start his season but only two goals followed.

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The 2003-04 season saw McPhee bounce back and Vale narrowly miss out on the League One playoffs with the striker scoring 27 times. With the club failing to gain promotion, it meant once again that other clubs were looking at him and Leeds United had a bid rejected. As he was out of contract he could join any foreign club for free.

Portuguese club Beira-Mar, managed by Mick Wadsworth, decided to take a chance on the Scotsman. Unfortunately the manager was sacked after just four games and many thought the striker would struggle for games. However, he proved to be a bright spot and despite relegation his consistent performances meant he was singled out for praise.

McPhee Hull

On the 19th May 2005 he returned to England, signing for Hull City. After just four games he suffered an injury and missed the rest of the season. He never fully recovered from his injuries while at the club and in his three seasons he only played 40 times. In January 2008, he signed for Blackpool, and scored three times in 19 games before the end of the season. He played his final game on the 4th April 2009 and for the next 18 months he could not get fit and announced his retirement less than a week after his club had been promoted to the top flight.

McPhee Blackpool

The final word can go to his agent David Manasseh. “Stephen thoroughly enjoyed his time at Vale, however, clubs playing at a higher level have come in for him. Stephen is an ambitious, young footballer and is keen for the chance to play at a higher level.”

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.”

6th March – Garry Monk

Garry Monk will go down as a Swansea City legend for what he did as a player but he is also doing a fantastic job as their manager and leading them to another top half finish.

When Monk first joined the club he wouldn’t have believed that they would be in the Premier League never mind being one of the best footballing sides in the top flight. Many people were surprised when the 36 year old was given the job because he didn’t have any experience and they felt that under Monk they would be battling relegation. However, he knows everything about the club and the way they want to play.

The former central defender started his career at Torquay United and was very highly rated, making five appearances for the club before he had even turned professional. This meant other clubs were looking at him and he signed for Southampton at the end of the 1995-96 season. In 1998 he would return to Torquay on loan and once again impressed so on his return he found himself in the Southampton first team and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against Derby County. He would go on to play a further four games over the season.

Monk Soton

In September 1999 he went out on loan to Stockport County but was recalled because of an injury crisis at his parent club and he played the first two matches in January 2000 for Southampton. A year later he went out on loan to Oxford United but once again he was recalled because of injuries and would go on to play the last two home games at The Dell against Manchester United and Arsenal which were both won by Southampton.

Monk struggled once more to become a first team regular so was sent out on loan again. This time it looked as though it would be turned into a permanent move but after playing 15 times for Sheffield Wednesday and not helping them avoid relegation to Division Two, the move didn’t materialise. He did eventually leave the club permanently and joined Barnsley in February 2004. However he only lasted half a season and left for Swansea City in June.

Monk SWFC

It was a great start for him at Swansea as he helped them get promoted from League Two in his first season and then reach the League One Playoffs in his second season. In August 2006 it was announced that he would be the club captain. Unfortunately after just two games in the 2006-07 season he picked up a cruciate ligament injury and was ruled out for the rest of the campaign. Monk returned to the team and captained the club to promotion.

In their first season back they were excellent and finished 8th place but the 2009-10 season was not the best for Monk as he struggled with injuries and only played 22 times. Also during this period Monk and the manager Paulo Sousa did not see eye to eye and after the Portuguese man left the club Monk was back in the starting 11. He would then lead the Swans to the Premier League after defeating Reading in the Playoff final and he was given a new three year contract by the club.

Monk SC

Over the next two seasons he began to play less but was still able to lift his first major trophy after Swansea won the League Cup in 2013 after defeating Bradford City 5-0 in the final. Just under a year later he would be given the manager’s job and currently has a 38% win percentage as manager.

The final word can go to someone that didn’t get on well with Monk but knew his quality, Paulo Sousa. “Garry is one of the players we think is very important to our project for his experience, quality and leadership. He is an important figure in the dressing room and on the pitch. He knows the club’s philosophy.”