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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27th February – Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey is a player with incredible talent and he is going to be a very important player for Swansea City until the end of the season and for the next few years.

The midfielder is only 23 but he seems to have been around for a very long time and some people have criticised his development as he could have been a regular in England’s midfield by this point. Shelvey has a lot of talent and will definitely add to his one England cap but he definitely needs to add more consistency to his game if he is going to be one of the best players in the country.

Shelvey started his career at Charlton Athletic and became the youngest player to ever play for the club in April 2008 after making his debut as a substitute against Barnsley at the age of 16 years and 59 days. He would also go on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer after finding the back of the net against Norwich City in January 2009. On his 17th birthday he signed his first professional contract and was quickly known as one of the most promising youngsters in England. After 49 games and eight goals, Shelvey joined Liverpool and made his debut in their shock defeat to Northampton Town in the League Cup.

Shelvey CA

In his first season he played 21 times for the club but on the 30th September 2011 he joined Blackpool on loan and scored the following day in a 5-0 win over Bristol City and a few weeks later he would score his first professional hatrick against Leeds United. Due to injuries at his parent club he was recalled after six goals in 10 games for Blackpool. Just before the end of the season he scored from 30 yards against Chelsea in a 4-1 win and was rewarded with a new long term contract for his performances over the season. However, he only lasted one more season at the club.

Shelvey Liverpool

On the 3rd July 2013 he signed for Swansea City and was involved in a very eventful game against former club Liverpool soon afterwards. He scored and assisted teammate Michu’s goal but was also responsible for both of Liverpool’s goals in a 2-2 draw. Since he has been quite consistent and an important member of the Swansea team but a regular criticism of him is his disciplinary which manager Garry Monk has tried to get out of his game. He was sent off against Everton on the 1st November 2014 and then should have seen red again on the 29th December in a game against Liverpool.

Swansea City's Jonjo Shelvey

A lot of people do forget how young Shelvey still is and he has a lot of time to develop and will be a fantastic player for Swansea for many years to come.

The final word can go to Garry Monk. “His quality is there for everyone to see – his passing, the way he moves with the ball, how he offers good angles and movements and fits into defensive shape. Performance-wise, he’s capable of running a game, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and really dictating it.”

17th February – Marvin Sordell

If Burnley want to stay in the Premier League they really need someone else other than Danny Ings to step up and score some goals, Marvin Sordell could well be that man.

He hasn’t been given that many opportunities this season with the form of Ings and also Ashley Barnes putting in a good shift for the team but the striker has proved in the past that he can find the back of the net. Confidence could be playing a big part and if the 24 year old can get his first goal for the club then he may just go on a run and be the difference between them getting relegated and staying in the top flight.

Sordell started his career at Watford but got his first taste of professional football on loan at Isthmian League club Wealdstone, hitting the back of the net twice in five games. In the following season he made his debut for his parent club after coming on as a substitute against Sheffield United on the 15th August and 10 days later he scored his first goal for the club in the League Cup defeat to Leeds United. However, after few chances in the team he was loaned out again, this time to Tranmere Rovers where he played eight times, scoring once. Before the end of the season he would score his first league goal for Watford in a 4-0 win over Coventry City.

Sordell WFC

At the start of the 2010-11 season he started eight of the first nine games and scored five times. He ended the season with 15 goals despite having to battle with Danny Graham and Troy Deeney for a starting spot. The goals kept coming for Sordell and he was linked with moves to the Premier League after getting to double figures again. On the 31st January he joined Bolton Wanderers and made his debut on the 4th February as a substitute. Unfortunately he didn’t get much game time and only made a further two substitute appearances before the end of the season.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Bolton Wanderers v Everton - Reebok Stadium

With Bolton now in the Championship he was expected to lead their attack and scored his first goal for the club on the 24th August 2012 in a 2-2 draw against Nottingham Forest. But he failed to establish himself in the first team and despite goals in the FA Cup he didn’t get much chance in the league. At the start of the 2012-13 season he joined Charlton Athletic on a season long loan and would score eight time while at the club, including a hatrick against Sheffield Wednesday.

Sordell CA

Sean Dyche has always liked Sordell and signed him for newly promoted Premier League side Burnley but he so far hasn’t managed to score his first Premier League goal. He hasn’t been given that many minutes on the pitch to show the fans he deserves a place in the side but did manage to grab a goal in the FA Cup defeat against Tottenham Hotspur.

The final word can go to Chris Powell. “Marvin’s goalscoring record is good. He can score all types of goals with both feet and he’s a lad who has got pace, and has got a real eye for goal. He’s definitely one who will sniff chances out and come alive in the box.”

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.”

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.”

31st October – Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin may not spring to mind when thinking of Manchester United greats but there is no denying that he is one of the club’s most dependable and consistent full backs ever.

The 49 year old had a very good career and has been called Alex Ferguson’s pound for pound greatest ever signing which is a huge honour and just shows how important he was to the side during the 1990s. Irwin also got the honour of being named in the first Premier League Overall Team of the Decade and represented his country, Republic of Ireland, 56 times and was part of the World Cup 1994 squad.

Irwin started his career at Leeds United in 1983 and went on to make 72 appearances in the Second Division for the club, including 41 games in the 1984-85 season. But in 1986 he moved to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer and barely missed a league match over the next four seasons, featuring in 167 games and scoring four goals.

In his final season at the club he helped the club reach the semi final of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup before moving to Manchester United in 1990 for a fee of £625,000. He would spend the next 12 years at Old Trafford and would win seven Premier League title along the way, which is an incredible achievement. He can also add three FA Cup, a League Cup, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a Champions League winners medal to his collection before he left the club.
Sport.Football. pic: 24th February 1990. Denis Irwin, Oldham Athletic defender, who won 56 Republic of Ireland international caps 1991-2000, while playing at Manchester United.
During his time at the club he also became a reliable goalscorer from the penalty spot and also was a real asset from free kicks, delivering great balls into the box. He would score 22 goals in the league all together for the club with his first coming on the 7th September 1991 in a 3-0 home win over Norwich City. Irwin’s best goalscoring season came in the 1992-93 season, as the team went on to lift the first ever Premier League trophy, hitting the back of the net five times.

He continued to be Manchester United’s first choice until his mid thirties and was rewarded with a testimonial against Manchester City on the 16th August 2000 but this was the beginning of the end of his time at the club as he was no longer an automatic first choice. Irwin made his last appearance for the club in a 0-0 draw against Charlton Athletic on the 12th May 2002 and was given the captain’s armband by Alex Ferguson on his 529th appearance for the club.
Irwin MU
After the 2001-02 season the Irishman joined Wolves and was a crucial part of their promotion to the Premier League, playing in 43 of the 46 league games and scoring goals against Burnley and Grimsby. Wolves then struggled in the top flight but on Irwin’s return to Old Trafford he received a warm reception but this was a personal high point in a poor season as the club were relegated. Irwin announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur
The final word can go to the former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson. “We called him the quiet assassin. He was a left back and he was taking penalties in a team full of Man United players. He’d take all of the free kicks – it just shows what a class player he was. He was tough and quick.”

30th October – Iain Hume

The Indian Super League has only been set up recently and the teams involved have spent a lot of money in recruiting players and one of those that will be familiar to English fans is Iain Hume.

Hume will line up alongside Michael Chopra and David James for the Kerala Blasters and has already shown his goalscoring prowess by scoring two in his first three games and will be hoping that this good form can continue and lead his side to the title. Back in England he will be remembered as a good player but one that maybe could have done had it not been for a terrible injury.

The 31 year old started his career at Tranmere Rovers and quickly rose up through the ranks making his debut at the age of just 16. Under the guidance of Brian Little he began to get more and more first team action but he had to wait until the 2002-03 season to score his first goal. Afterwards he became a consistent goalscorer and had his best season during the 2004-05 season when he scored 16 goals. He was linked with moves during the summer but started the next season at Tranmere, however this would only last seven games as he joined Leicester City on deadline day in August.
Hume TR
During his three seasons at Leicester he was again a consistent goalscorer, hitting nine, 14 and 11 goals. But during his time at the club he developed into more of an all round player and was now not only seen as a goalscorer but someone that could set up goals. Unfortunately in his last season Leicester were relegated from the Championship and after 34 goals in 132 appearances he left.
Hume LC
Barnsley signed the striker for £1.2 million and he lived up to his price tag straightaway by scoring five minutes into his debut away to QPR. His home debut was not as successful as he was sent off against Coventry City but he bounced back and scored against Derby County, Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday in quick succession. But on the 8th November 2008 he suffered a fractured skull and internal bleeding after an elbow from Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan and due to this life threatening injury he needed surgery and it is credit to the player that he recovered.

He made his return nine months later in a friendly against Gainsborough on the 21st July 2009 and would go on to play 37 games during the season, scoring five goals. On the 14th September 2010 Hume joined Preston North End and made his debut against Norwich City. He would only have to wait a week for his first goal as he scored from 20 yards against Coventry and followed this up with a goal against Leeds United in a 6-4 win. On the 11th December Hume scored the 50th goal of his career in a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town. Despite his 12 league goals it was not enough to keep the club in the Championship but for his commitment to the team he was awarded the vice-captaincy.
Photo : Ian Robinson Preston North End photocall at Deepdale Iain Hume
Niggling injuries would keep him out of the team and he could not inspire his team to promotion in the following campaign. This led to him being loaned out to Doncaster Rovers on the 31st August 2012 for the season and his job was to help them get promoted to the Championship. His work rate and skill made him a fan favourite and he scored some crucial goals in the season as the club won the League One title but this did not secure him a permanent move. Last season was difficult for him as he was in and out of the Preston squad and also had a loan spell at Fleetwood Town but after being released by his parent club he has decided to make the move to India.

The final word can go to Darren Ferguson. “Iain made a big impact when he first came in. He has great energy and a great enthusiasm for the game. He’s made a big difference here. He and Jon Parkin do work well together. Iain gives us options, as well as playing up front he can play wide right.”