19th March – Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure may have been overshadowed by his younger brother Yaya in recent seasons but he has had an amazing career himself and is proving that on his day he can still be one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

At the age of 34 it is understandable that he is not a guaranteed first choice for Liverpool but as he proved away to Real Madrid earlier this season he can produce some immense performances. After winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this year he can finish his career knowing that he has accomplished almost everything in the game, as well as being a part of one of the best teams ever seen in England.

Toure started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before going on trial with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed by the club on the 14th February for £150,000. During his first season he didn’t play for the club but did start the Community Shield against Liverpool at the start of the following campaign. He was initially seen as a versatile player who could fit in either at right back or in the centre of midfield and he would go on to score his first goal in England in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Toure Arsenal

The 2003-04 season saw Toure become first choice at centre back alongside Sol Campbell and they were phenomenal as the club went unbeaten in the Premier League and gained the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. He was obviously a fan favourite because of his performances and he played 50 times in the 2004-05 season and pick up an FA Cup winners medal. By this point he was known as one of the best centre backs in England but in the following Champions League campaign he proved his ability in Europe as he helped Arsenal reach the final and keep 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition and would even get the honour of scoring the final European goal at Highbury.

He stayed at Arsenal for a further three seasons but they were not having the same success and on the 29th July 2009 he signed for Manchester City for £14 million. He was quickly named club captain by Mark Hughes and helped the club finish fifth place in the Premier League. But after Roberto Mancini took charge he lost the armband to Carlos Tevez but was still a regular in the squad and would help the club lift the FA Cup. However, he was banned on the 3rd March 2011 for six months after failing a drugs test.

Toure MCFC

After returning he couldn’t break into the first team regularly but did make enough appearances to pick up another Premier League winners medal. In his final season at the club he would play more league games but this didn’t guarantee him a new contract and he left the club on a free transfer in the summer. On the 2nd July 2013 he joined Liverpool and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City but he once again struggled to become a regular in the first team. Even with Liverpool opting to play with centre backs he still cannot get in the team for a prolonged period and that is why it looks likely that he will leave the club in the summer.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Preston North End v Liverpool - Deepdale

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo has been a central figure in a strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time.

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19th October – Clint Hill

QPR were very unlucky in their 3-2 defeat against Liverpool but one thing that was evident was that they need to improve defensively and Clint Hill may become a key player once again.

The 36 year old will have to battle with experienced players like Rio Ferdinand and Richard Dunne as well as Steven Caulker for a place in the starting lineup. But with the club experimenting with three centre backs there may be more opportunities to get in the side. If QPR continue to struggle then Hill is certainly a player that you want in your team as he will never shy away from a challenge.

Hill started his career at Tranmere Rovers where he made his debut against Nottingham Forest in a 2-2 draw during the 1997-98 season and quickly became a regular in the side in the next season. Hill played a key part in helping the club reach the final of the League in 2000, however he was sent off and his side lost 2-1 against Leicester City. He spent five years at the club and played 171 times for the club, scoring 20 times.
Hill TR
In 2002 he joined Oldham Athletic for £250,000 but he suffered a broken leg in December 2002 in a League Cup tie against Crystal Palace and would not play another game for the club. He only scored one goal for the club, coming against his former club Tranmere before he moved onto Stoke City.

His first season at the club was disrupted by injuries and he only made 12 appearances but he recovered from this slow start and impressed during his second season and won the club’s Player of the Year award at the end of the 2004-05 campaign. Towards the end of the season, unfortunately he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament and could not play again until late in the 2005-06 season. When he returned he rediscovered his form and formed a strong partnership with Michael Duberry.

More injuries followed in the next campaign and when he was fit he found it hard to get into the side and over the next season and a half he was seen as the second choice left back. Hill then joined Crystal Palace on loan in October 2007 and after impressing he moved to the club permanently in January. In his first half season he helped the club reach the playoffs but unfortunately they missed out on promotion and then the next two years were tough for the club as their finances worsened and despite a 10 point deduction, Hill helped the club avoid relegation during the 2009-10 season.
Hill CP
On the 1st July 2010 Hill was reunited with former Palace boss Neil Warnock at QPR and made his debut in a 4-0 win over Barnsley. Hill played in 44 Championship games that season and helped them win the title meaning that he would be playing Premier League football for the first time. However, he got off to a terrible start being sent off on the opening day in a 4-0 loss against Bolton Wanderers and it seemed like his time at the club was over when he joined Nottingham Forest on loan on the 20th September 2011. But after just five games he was recalled and after Mark Hughes became manager, he became a regular in the team and played a key role in keeping them in the Premier League, securing the fans and players Player of the Year awards.
Hill QPR
After signing a new one year contract he was in and out of the side at the start of the next season but after Harry Redknapp took over he once again returned to the team. They would not avoid relegation this time around and last season Hill captained the team back to the Premier League after winning the playoff final 1-0 against Derby County.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “Clint is a great character, a good lad and a fantastic professional. He leads by example and you know what you’re going to get from Clint. He puts his body on the line and that’s what we need.”

4th October – Ryan Shawcross

Ryan Shawcross may have been disappointed in Stoke City’s 3-1 defeat away to Sunderland but he has quickly became one of the most consistent centre backs in the Premier League.

The 27 year old is Stoke’s captain and the one time England international could count himself unlucky that he doesn’t get into Roy Hodgson’s squad on a regular basis as he is at least the same standard than those that do play for the country. Shawcross has helped the club become a solid Premier League side and one that are usually very difficult to beat and although their form has been patchy this season, they should not battle against relegation and be aiming for the top half.

Shawcross started his career at Manchester United and made his first team debut as a substitute against Crewe in the third round of the League Cup on the 25th October 2006. To gain first team experience, the centre back was sent out on loan to Belgian side Antwerp in January 2007, where in his 22 appearances he scored three times and helped them reach the Second Division playoffs.
Shawcross MU
In the summer he returned to Old Trafford but he wouldn’t stay for long as he was loaned out once again, this time to Stoke City and made a fantastic start to his time at the club by scoring the only goal against Cardiff City on his debut. He continued to impress everyone and was named the Championship Player of the Month in October 2007.

With Stoke looking like one of the teams that would be challenging for promotion they moved quickly to sign Shawcross permanently and on the 18th January 2008, Stoke paid £1 million for the centre back with the fee eventually rising to £2 million after they were promoted. In his first season at the club he played 41 league games and scored seven goals.
Shawcross SC
After starting in Stoke’s first Premier League game he soon lost his place to new signing Ibrahima Sonko but would go onto regain his place in the side and help the team avoid relegation. He scored against Aston Villa, Everton and Middlesbrough and was soon being linked to other Premier League clubs but manager Tony Pulis laughed off the speculation that he would leave.

In the 2009-10 season he scored on the opening day against Burnley in a 2-0 win and he would continue to be very consistent. However, he had a very mixed day on the 27th February 2010 as he was called up to the England squad for the first time but unfortunately he had been involved in an incident against Arsenal that would see him being sent off and Aaron Ramsey suffering a broken leg after a tackle from the centre back. The defender was clearly upset by the incident as he was seen crying as he left the pitch.
Shawcross Eng
He recovered from this and was handed the captain’s armband at the start of the 2010-11 season and led his team to the FA Cup final which they lost 1-0 against Manchester City but qualified for the Europa League in the process. This meant he had a much busier season in the next campaign and played 49 out of the club’s 56 games.

Since being given the captaincy he has barely missed a game and on the 12th April 2014 he became the first Stoke player to ever play 200 games in the Premier League and last season he only missed one game as Stoke finished 9th and he was awarded the Player of the Year award.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “Ryan’s had an exceptional season. There are very few centre halves I’ve seen who are head and shoulders above him. I find it difficult to comprehend that he doesn’t get a mention for England. If he was picked, he wouldn’t let anyone down.”

28th August – Bojan Krkic

A player going from Barcelona to Stoke City is not a transfer that many football fans expect to see especially when they have played over 100 times for the Spanish giants.

Bojan will take time to settle in the Premier League but with him signing a four year contract at Stoke he will definitely have the opportunity to adapt to the pace and power of the league. The 24 year old still has the best years in front of him and after a very impressive pre season much is expected of him over the season and if Mark Hughes’ side can perform like they did last year then they could push for Europe.

The striker, who can also play on the wing, started his career in Barcelona’s B team and impressed for them in the 2006-07 season by scoring 10 goals in 22 games and went on to become the youngest player to play for Barcelona on the 16th September 2007 against Osasuna after coming on as a substitute. Three days later he then made his debut in the Champions League against Lyon. On the 20th October 2007, aged just 17 years and 53 days he started his first game and scored in the 25th minute against Villarreal. He finished his first season as a professional with 10 goals, including one in the Champions League against Schalke.

For the 2008-09 season Bojan was handed the number 11 shirt but he had to settle for a place on the bench for the majority of the season. But he played a role in helping the club win La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey. He was particularly effective in the Copa Del Rey by scoring five goals in the competition, including one in the final against Athletic Bilbao.
Bojan Barcelona
The 2009-10 season followed a similar pattern with him being used mainly off the bench but he had a fantastic end to the season which saw him score seven times in the final 12 games. In the following season he changed number once again and was given the number nine shirt. However he found himself behind David Villa, Pedro and Lionel Messi in the pecking order and didn’t quite hit the standards of the season before but he did play his 100th game for Barcelona and marked it with a goal against Getafe.

On the 22nd July he signed for Roma with a buyback clause giving Barcelona the option to re-sign him. He had to wait until the 1st October to score his first goal for the club against Atalanta and ended the season with seven goals in 33 appearances. After just one season he joined AC Milan on loan and after just three goals in 27 games he returned to former club Barcelona who took up the buyback option.
Bojan Roma
Without playing again for Barcelona he was sent out on loan, this time to Ajax. He had a tough start at the club by picking up a hamstring injury that would keep him out for a part of the first half of the season. But when he returned he helped Ajax win the league with four goals in 24 games.
Bojan Ajax
Stoke City signed him on the 22nd July 2014 for an undisclosed fee and he made his debut in a 1-0 loss against Aston Villa but put in a good performance.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player. He’s desperate to prove himself in the Premier League and we’re pleased to be able to offer him that platform.”

15th July – Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie might have been involved in one of the funniest moments in a transfer window but he has bounced back from that and has found form once again.

While at West Brom he drove to QPR to hopefully sign for them, however the club’s could not agree a transfer fee so the striker who turns 33 today was not allowed to speak to QPR’s officials and had to wait in the parking lot. He ended up not getting the transfer he wanted but this is just a small blip on what has been a very good career.

He started his career at Nigerian side Bendel Insurance and was an instant success scoring 19 goals in 53 league appearances. This was good enough to convince La Louviere in Belgium to sign him and in his first season he helped the club win the Belgian Cup and earned them a place in Europe and Odemwingie scored in a 1-1 draw with Portuguese giants Benfica.
Odemwingie Lille
In 2004 he joined French club Lille and was quickly becoming one of the most sought after players in Europe and he proved his worth by helping Lille qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League after scoring twice at the San Siro against AC Milan. He spent three season in total in France and scored 26 goals in 100 games which led to Lokomotiv Moscow spending a lot of money to bring the striker to Russia.
Odemwingie LM
Although he impressed for the club and was a goal threat every time he went on the pitch, he had to deal with a lot of racial abuse from the fans and he understandably wanted to leave the country and on the 20th August 2010 he signed for West Brom. Shortly after signing the Lokomotiv Moscow fans were seen showing a banner that read ‘Thanks West Brom’ and had a picture of a banana.

A day after he joined West Brom he scored the winning goal against Sunderland in a 1-0 win. His first season was very successful and he broke a lot of records, including being West Brom’s highest ever goal scorer in a Premier League season and became the first player to score in four consecutive games. He ended the season with 15 league goals and was rewarded with a new contract.

Odemwingie didn’t quite match the previous seasons efforts but he still put in some memorable performances, particularly in their derby match against Wolves, where he scored a hatrick in a 5-1 win and then followed it up with another two goals against Sunderland. This form meant he was named as the Player of the Month. The following season was obviously more difficult for him and the club after the confusion of his move to QPR meant the fans no longer accepted him.
Odemwingie WB
At the start of the 2013-14 season he joined Cardiff City, however after Malky Mackay was sacked he barely got a look in and in January he signed for Stoke City and ended the season with five goals in 15 appearances for Stoke in the second half of the season and then got the opportunity to represent his country at the World Cup, where he scored the winner against Bosnia which helped the team get through their group.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes, who has been very happy with his signing. “We’re delighted to have signed Peter. He has a good goal scoring record in the Premier League and will bring a different dimension to our attacking options. I’ve no doubts he will prove to be an excellent addition to our squad.”

5th June – Junior Hoilett

Junior Hoilett helped QPR return to the Premier League after they beat Derby County in the playoff final and will be hoping to help the team avoid relegation next year.

Some people may argue that QPR will be aiming higher than just surviving and with quality players in their squad it is easy to see why people make this argument. However they did limp over the line and were not exactly the best team to watch in the Championship but they did still get the job done. Hoilett played a big part in Bobby Zamora’s last minute winner that got them promoted and this will surely give the 24 year old confidence to perform well in the Premier League.

It has not always been easy for the winger in England as he was unable to obtain a work permit and could not play for first club Blackburn Rovers until he got this sorted. He was loaned out by Blackburn to help the situation and to give him game time, he first joined Paderborn in Germany and made his debut at the age of 17. However, it would not be a great season as the club were relegated from the Bundesliga but the Canadian player did manage to score his first professional goal against Borussia Monchengladbach in his last game.

He was then loaned out once more to another German club, this time to St Pauli and he was definitely growing as a player and getting better. He finished the season with six goals in 21 games and then when the season was finished he was finally given a work permit that allowed him to play in England.
Hoilett SP
It did not take him long to make an impact as he scored on the 25th August 2009 in a League Cup game against Gillingham and he had a lot of success in the tournament. He won a penalty in a quarter final match against Chelsea and then after the game finished 3-3 he stepped up and scored the decisive spot kick sending his team through. Hoilett was now playing more minutes and in February 2010 he signed an extension to his contract ending speculation he was going to leave the club.

The 2010-11 season was when he really let everyone know that he was going to be a threat as he scored five times in 24 games and would have been involved more if he had not suffered a few injuries throughout the season. In the next season he followed this up with more goals and better performances and in January 2012 he was named as one of the players to watch by FIFA and at the end of the season he had the most dribbles per game in the Premier League but this would be his last at Blackburn.
Hoilett Blackburn
On the 27th July he joined QPR and scored his first goal in a 3-2 League cup defeat by Reading. He did not quite play as much as he would have liked but he did set up an important Loic Remy goal in a victory over Southampton. But this, and his two goals were not good enough to keep the club in the Premier League. In the Championship he only scored four times but he provided a lot more than just goals and was always a threat to the opposition.
Hoilett QPR
The final word can go to his manager at both Blackburn and QPR Mark Hughes. “He was just a young boy trying to make his way in the game when I had him at Blackburn. We knew then he was going to have a great future and he’s shown he’s a player that can make things happen, both on his own and as a team player.”

10th April – Vincent Kompany

£6 million in the modern transfer market does not get you a lot in the Premier League but that is what Manchester City paid for arguably the best ever signing in the 2000s.

Vincent Kompany is 28 today and there are not many players that make such a difference when they are in the starting 11. When he is missing opposition teams immediately get a lift and think they have more of a chance of scoring and getting a result. Former manager Mark Hughes said: “He wants to improve, he is ambitious and he is desperate for success.” Now he is getting that success that his talents deserve and it is hard to argue against him winning trophies and personal awards as any team in the world would be improved with him in their side.
Kompany City
Hughes had an indifferent time at City but one thing he did right was sign the Belgian centre back and also make him captain. Since then he has improved further and it is down to his own hard work and determination. It did not take him long to settle in the Premier League and when Roberto Mancini took over from Hughes the club started competing for trophies and Kompany was a vital part of the team that won the FA Cup against Stoke City.

But it was the next season when nobody could argue against his talents as he won the Supporters Player of the Year, Manchester City’s Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Year. As the season was coming to a close it looked as though it would be a trophyless one for the club but Kompany scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Manchester United which put them top of the table with only two games to play and the rest is a well known story that ended with the centre back lifting the Premier League trophy.
Kompany captain
The next season was slightly tougher with him picking up niggling injuries and City failing to defend their title, manager Roberto Mancini knew that Kompany would keep improving. He said: “Vincent can become number one in the world. He has improved a lot and is now one of the top defenders in Europe.”

It has been a remarkable rise for the former Anderlecht and Hamburg man but it is one that has been enjoyed by many because he seems like one of the good guys in football and is someone that puts himself across very well in interviews and when doing media work.
Kompany Belgium
The last word can go to Manchester City legend Francis Lee who has seen a lot of players play for the club. “Kompany is sensational. He’s one of the best I’ve seen, he’s certainly the best Manchester City centre half I’ve seen.”