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.”

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24th February – Kevin O’Connor

One club players don’t come around too often and Kevin O’Connor has progressed right from the youth team at Brentford to now being part of their coaching staff.

He is only 33 but it seems like he is focusing on the next stage of his career as he has had limited playing time this season but he will be happy to still be involved at Brentford. They are definitely a team on the up despite the uncertainties around the managerial position. Since signing for the club he has played in every position and is currently fourth on Brentford’s all time appearance list.

O’Connor first signed with Brentford as a striker and after a run of 23 goals in 30 reserve games he was given a professional contract in 1999. He went on to make his debut on the 15th February 2000 as a substitute in the Football League Trophy defeat to Exeter City and went on to make his first start in a draw with Wycombe Wanderers a few days later. An injury slowed his progress and he had to wait over a year to score his first goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol City.

OC Brent 1

After Steve Coppell became manager in 2001, O’Connor became a regular in the side and made 32 appearances helping his club reach the playoffs, unfortunately they were beaten in the final by Stoke City. New manager Wally Downes was impressed by his performances and he was an ever present in the side for the following campaign and was now seen as a winger and contributed nine goals.

During the 2004-05 season O’Connor was moved to right back and was given the captain’s armband on the 19th October against Hartlepool United. The season again ended in disappointment as they were defeated in the playoffs, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to suffer even more heartbreak in the playoffs in the 2005-06 season but he did manage to score eight times in 38 games. Even worse was to follow as the club were relegated in 2007 after finishing bottom.

OC Brent 3

Relegation meant another position change for O’Connor as he played predominantly in the centre of midfield in League Two. He started off well in his new position by scoring goals against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. But he only added one more goal over the course of the season as the club finished midtable. In the following season Brentford won the league and O’Connor was awarded a new contract. He was impressive once again in League One and made 49 appearances over the season and was given a testimonial at the end of the campaign.

The 2010-11 season was the last one that he featured regularly for the club as injuries stopped him from playing. But he was on the pitch for one of the most exciting endings to the season ever against Doncaster Rovers in the final game of the 2012-13 season. Brentford were awarded a penalty in the last minute and Marcello Trotta took the ball off O’Connor but missed the spot kick and Doncaster ran down the other end and scored, winning the game 1-0 meaning Brentford and O’Connor had to go through the playoffs. Once again they failed to get promoted after losing against Yeovil Town.

OC Brent 2

Finally in the next campaign they would get promoted to the Championship and on the final day of the season O’Connor made his 500th appearance for the club. Since promotion he has not played a league game but he has been an important member of the coaching staff, helping the team challenge for the playoffs and will be needed now more than ever with Mark Warburton expected to leave in the summer.

The final word can go to Mark Warburton. “Kevin has seen so much change at the club and yet has maintained his exceedingly high standards throughout and it is this outstanding quality that we need to keep at Brentford. I am delighted that Kevin O’Connor will be extending his stay at the club.”

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.”

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.”

5th November – Kasper Schmeichel

Kasper Schmeichel has a lot of pressure on his shoulders as he has to be on top form to help keep Leicester City in the Premier League and he also has to deal with the comparisons with his dad.

Peter Schmeichel will go down as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever and Kasper has a long way to go to even be in the same league as him but in his own right he has had a very good career and developed into a brilliant goalkeeper. It can’t be easy for him to stand in the goal while opposition fans behind the goals are shouting at him, you’ll never be as good as your dad.

The 28 year old started his career at Manchester City but got his first opportunity in a loan spell at Darlington in January 2006. He made his professional debut against Peterborough United, helping his side to a 2-1 win and then followed this up with a clean sheet against Grimsby Town. After two more games for the club he returned to his parent club but this only lasted a month as he was loaned out, this time to Bury. He would play 29 league games at Bury over two separate loan spells.

Schmeichel was desperate to play games and did not want to sit on the bench so in January 2007 he joined Scottish side Falkirk. After some impressive performances, including a man of the match against Rangers, he was linked with a permanent move but instead at the start of the 2007-08 season he found himself as first choice at Manchester City. He played the first seven games of the season, conceding just five goals and helped his side to a 1-0 win over rivals Manchester United.

In September 2007 Schmeichel signed a new four year deal with the club but was loaned out to Cardiff City where he played 14 times and despite both the player and the club wanting to extend his stay, Sven Goran Eriksson did not let this happen as he needed a substitute keeper. However, on the 13th March 2008 he joined Coventry City on loan for the rest of the season. Afterwards, both the goalkeeper and his father admitted that they regretted signing the new deal.

Despite being at the club for such a long time, he only played eight league games and on the 14th August 2009 he made the surprising move to League Two side Notts County. It was clear that he was too good for that level and was influential in winning the title for the club, only conceding 29 goals in 43 matches and keeping 24 clean sheets. At the end of the season he had to be released from his contract as his wages were too high. However, Schmeichel was praised as he agreed to forgo all his future wages which if he hadn’t would have put the club in even more financial problems.
Schmeichel NC
On the 1st July 2010 he joined Leeds United on a two year deal but despite putting in some impressive performances for the club and being highly praised he was sold after just 37 league appearances and one season because they felt his goals against ratio was poor. So on the 27th June 2011 Schmeichel joined Leicester City and in his first season he won the Club’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards after 17 clean sheets in 52 games and saving four penalties. In the following season his performances got even better and he was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
Schmeichel LU
Last season he helped the club win the Championship and so far has been solid in the Premier League, however after a good start the club are now starting to find it difficult which means the experienced players like Schmeichel need to make sure their heads don’t drop.
Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Cardiff City v Leicester City - Cardiff City Stadium
The final word can go to his dad, Peter. “He’s played exceptionally well for Leicester over a long, long period of time. He’s been very, very patient. He’s played every week and played to a high level and I think it is great that he gets his opportunity. As a dad I’m really, really proud I have to say.”

23rd October – Keiren Westwood

Keiren Westwood has arguably been the best signing of the season in the Championship as he has performed brilliantly for Sheffield Wednesday and has won them some valuable points in an encouraging start to the season.

The signing of Westwood was an interesting one as Wednesday already had Chris Kirkland, who in his own right is one of the best keepers in the Championship but it seems that Stuart Gray made a fantastic decision signing the goalkeeper. Now that he is once again first choice player he will be hoping that his form can convince the Republic of Ireland management that he deserves to be his country’s number one.

The 30 year old started his career at Manchester City but never played a first team game as he was understudy to David James and Nicky Weaver. In his final season at City he joined Oldham Athletic on loan, however he also didn’t play a game for them as he broke his hand and at the end of the season he was released by his parent club. In 2004 he had trials at Bradford City and Accrington Stanley but after being unsuccessful he contemplated retiring from the game and becoming a police officer.

But in 2004 he was given another chance at Conference club Carlisle United and was largely an understudy to Matt Glennon, finally making his debut in March 2005 after an injury to Glennon. In total he played four games in his first season. The following campaign Glennon left and the club brought in Anthony Williams who was expected to be the first choice. However, Westwood finally got his chance to be the club’s number one and proved his ability. He played 35 League Two games, helping the club win the title and continued to be an important member of the team.
Westwood CU
Over the next two seasons he remained first choice and at the end of the 2007-08 season he was named in the League One PFA Team of the Year and also won the club’s Player of the Year, this form led to interest from other clubs. On the 18th June 2008 Westwood joined Coventry City for an undisclosed fee and proved straightway that he could make the step up to the Championship as he was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year. In the 2009-10 season he then went on to win the club’s Player of the Year.
Westwood CC]
After 138 appearances he left the club on a free transfer and joined Sunderland on the 1st July 2011. His time at the club was less successful as he was never given a real run in the side as Simon Mignolet was usually in good form. But after the Belgian’s departure to Liverpool, it seemed as though Westwood would become first choice and at the start of the 2013-14 season he was given the opportunity to show his quality in the Premier League, however he would only play 10 Premier League games and because of the club’s poor results he was dropped for Vito Mannone.

Now at Wednesday he will be hoping that he can help the club challenge for the playoffs, although this may be out of reach this season, they have made a decent start and this has been down to some impressive performances from the goalkeeper, with the club only conceding 11 goals in the first 11 league games.
Westwood SW
The final word can go to Wednesday midfielder Chris Maguire. “He’s kept us in five or six games, making valuable saves at the right time. He’s up there with the best I’ve worked with, but Chris Kirkland is a great keeper as well, so it’s great for competition and it’s a hard one for the manager.”

25th September – Glenn Murray

Glenn Murray has to be one of the unluckiest players ever after working so hard to get to the Premier League and then miss pretty much the whole campaign must have been hard to take.

At the age of 31 he is at the stage of his career where it is unlikely that a Premier League team will take a chance on him and he will have to be at a club that gets promoted. He is still contracted to Crystal Palace but is currently on loan at Reading.

The striker started his career at non league side Workington Reds before going to America to sign for Wilmington Hammerheads, where he spent one season, scoring three goals in 14 games before returning to England. He joined Barrow and impressed with seven goals in seven games and earned a move to Conference side Carlisle United.
Murray CU
He did not have the greatest goal scoring record at Carlisle but played a part in two successive promotions as they won the Conference Playoffs in 2005 and then won League Two a season later. But he would only go on to play one League One game for the club and had to join Stockport County to get regular football and in two months he played 11 games and scored three goals. After initially joining Rochdale on loan he signed for them permanently in January 2007. During his loan spell he scored four goals in 12 games. He finished the 2006-07 season with 16 goals in 31 league games and was seen as the player that could lead the club to promotion.

The 2007-08 season started well for the striker and after nine goals in 23 games, Murray joined League One side Brighton in January. He made his debut in a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Northampton Town but on his home debut he scored twice in a 3-0 win over Crewe. He ended the season with eight goals in 21 games.
Murray BH
Injuries in the following campaign restricted his playing time but he did still manage 12 goals and had a similar record in the 2009-10 season. His final year at Brighton proved to be his most successful as he scored 22 goals in 42 league games. After he rejected Brighton’s new contract offer he left after hitting the back of the net 53 times in the league for the club.

This was forgotten by the Brighton fans after he signed for their rivals Crystal Palace in May 2011. But his first season wasn’t as successful as he hoped as he only scored six times but the 2012-13 season must have been like a dream for the striker. On the 22nd September he scored a 20 minute hatrick against Cardiff City and followed this up with more goals and another hatrick in November against Ipswich Town.

At times he was unstoppable and before Christmas he had scored 22 goals which is a record. However, his dream soon turned into a nightmare as he picked up a serious knee injury but his 30 goals in 42 games were good enough to help Palace get promoted. Murray eventually returned on the 8th February 2014 as a substitute against West Brom.
Murray CP
Since he has only played 15 Premier League games and on the 1st September 2014 he was loaned out to Reading. On his debut he scored twice against Fulham in a 3-0 win but he did miss a penalty against Sheffield Wednesday in the following game.

The final word can go to Ian Holloway. “There are not many strikers who have got 30 in one season. What he’s done is phenomenal. It’s not just that. It’s his work rate, he leads the line and how he brings other people into the game is as good as I’ve seen.”