24th July – Martin Keown

Martin Keown might be known more as a commentator to younger football fans but he was an imposing centre back that was very solid and dependable.

The defender now works for the BBC and has commentated on some of the biggest games in world football and the main reason for this is because he has played in huge games throughout his playing career.

Keown started his career at Arsenal, but made his first team debut on loan at Brighton in 1984 and played 23 times for the club. After returning to his parent club he made his Arsenal debut on the 23rd November 1985 against West Brom. He would go on to play 22 games through the season but when new manager George Graham came in he was not seen as part of the future and left for Aston Villa on the 9th June 1986.

Keown AV

His first season was a little bit of a disaster as Villa finished bottom of Division One and were relegated but when Graham Taylor came in as manager there was an upturn in form for both club and player. Keown missed just two league games as they gained promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt and then helped them stay in the top flight in the following campaign.

On the 7th August 1989, the centre back signed for Everton and after an incredible start which saw Everton top of the table they faded in the second half of the season and Keown’s form dipped slightly. He recaptured his great form during the 1991-92 season and after 96 league games for the club he returned to first club Arsenal.

Keown Everton

In his first four seasons back at Arsenal he barely missed a game and was part of the double winning side of the 1997-98 campaign and would also be an integral part of the 2001-02 double winning side. He remained a key player until the end of the 2002-03 season, lifting the FA Cup at the end of it.

The following season Keown played a small role in the Invincible season, playing 10 games, just enough to earn a third Premier League winners medal. But this would be his final season as he was released at the end of his contract and he signed for Leicester City. He only stayed at the club for less than six months, playing 17 league games before joining Reading.

Keown Arsenal

His time at Reading was even shorter and after five games he announced his retirement. He did briefly come back to play for Wembley FC with a number of other ex professionals but this only lasted three FA Cup qualifying games.

Keown won 43 England caps and scored twice for his country before retiring in 2002.

The final word can go to former Leicester City manager Micky Adams. “In Martin Keown we’ve signed a born leader, not just on the field but off the field as well. I believe we’re two people who can learn things from each other.”

26th October – Steve Howey

Being born in Sunderland but going on to play for Newcastle United is what birthday boy Steve Howey did in his career and he will have been delighted that his former side got a win away to Tottenham Hotspur.

The central defender is 43 today and he went through a number of emotions during his time at Newcastle and will know exactly what the fans are going through at the moment as he endured some good times and bad times during his career. He will also be remembered as one of the defenders in Newcastle’s very attacking team under Kevin Keegan that reached the very top of the Premier League and should have won a title, however this didn’t quite happen but Howey still managed to earn himself four England caps because of his performances.

Howey started his career at Newcastle and signed his first professional contract on the 11th December 1989 and would go on to be one of the most popular players amongst the fans over the next 11 years. He was originally a striker when playing for the youth teams and reserves before the manager of the time Ossie Ardiles decided to use him as a defender. He did not become a first team regular until Kevin Keegan took charge and became an important member of the side during the club’s First Division title win in the 1992-93 season. Unfortunately Howey didn’t quite get to live up to his potential as injuries disrupted his time at the club but he still helped the club finish runners up in the Premier League during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and was involved in some dramatic games. He also helped the club reach the final of the FA Cup in 1998.
Howey NUFC
His time at Newcastle finally came to an end in August 2000 as newly promoted Manchester City paid £2 million for his services. It would be a very tough start to his career in Manchester and on his debut the team went on to lose 4-0 against Charlton Athletic. Things would not get better and the club were relegated from the top flight at the end of the season. However, Howey decided to stay at the club and helped them secure an immediate return to the Premier League as they won the First Division. Howey would stay at the club for one more season and this time it was a much better effort as they finished in the top half of the table. While at City, he had a decent goalscoring record and found the back of the net 11 times in 94 games, including a late equaliser against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, unfortunately for Howey though the game is more remembered more for the clash between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland.
Howey MCFC
In 2003 the defender moved to Leicester City for £200,000 however he only stayed at the club for six months and after just 13 games he joined Bolton Wanderers. After just three appearances for the club he was released and had a short spell in the MLS with New England Revolution before returning to England to play one game for Hartlepool United.
Howey LC
The final word can go to Micky Adams who signed him at Leicester City. “I’ve been looking for players with Premier League experience and Steve fits the bill. He can still do a very good job. It’s pleasing to get the first signing out the way and at such a good price. He is a former international and will be a good addition.”

22nd May – Stuart Tomlinson

Stuart Tomlinson retired from football in July 2013 and then embarked on a very unique career change and one that surely has never been done before.

In July 2013 he retired from football because of scar tissue damage and a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament meaning that his left knee was in poor shape and he was advised to retire by surgeons. After injuries it can be tough for footballers and the man that was nicknamed ‘The Tank’ decided to go for something new and in December 2013 he travelled to America to sign a developmental contract with the WWE and become a wrestler.

This is something that he probably didn’t expect to happen when he graduated through Crewe Alexandra’s famous youth team. His football career was good and he was a talented keeper which began on the 25th January 2003 when he came on as a substitute for Danny Milosevic in a 3-1 win over Oldham Athletic. At the end of the season he signed his first professional contract and the club were promoted to the First Division so it was a very good start for him personally.
Tommo Crewe
After a few more substitute appearances it was in January 2006 when he finally made his first start against Preston North End in an FA Cup Third Round game which they went on to win 2-1. Tomlinson then got his first start in the league in a 4-2 win over Millwall in April. But it was not until the 2008-09 season that he finally got a decent run in the first team. On the 25th November he was given a start away to Leicester City which they won 2-1 and then played six games over the next month and kept four clean sheets. However his performances were not good enough to convince new manager Gudjon Thordarson to give him a new contract and he left the club.

He dropped out of the Football League to join Barrow even though there were clubs interested in him that were playing in higher divisions. But it gave him the opportunity to play first team football and also win a trophy at Wembley as they won the FA Trophy. In total he played 27 times in his one season at the club but he chose not extend his contract.

Tomlinson signed for Port Vale and manager Micky Adams was very pleased with his new signing. “Signing Stuart means we have real competition for the number one jersey. He is a good shot stopper and is a physically imposing keeper. He’s a good age too, and has time on his side.” Tomlinson started the season in fantastic form keeping five clean sheets in the first 10 games and was linked with moves away from the club because of his good form.
Tommo PV
After playing 81 times over two seasons he decided once again to not sign a new contract with Port Vale and joined Burton Albion. He kept a clean sheet on his debut in a 1-0 win over Rochdale. Unfortunately he suffered a knee injury that kept him out for several months and this was the start of his injury problems that would eventually lead to his retirement.
Tommo Burton
The final word can go to his last manager Gary Rowett who when saying this probably didn’t expect him to go on to be a wrestler. “His retirement is naturally sad news, however I have no doubt that he will succeed in whatever he decides to do next and we wish him all the very best.”

22nd April – Dion Dublin

As Manchester United dominated the news headlines today it was a former player that turned 45 and is someone that since his career has ended has had an interesting time.

Dion Dublin has done a lot of media work since his retirement but what sets him apart from most pundits and former players is that he has invented a percussion instrument called The Dube. It would have been hard to imagine the young player that started his career at Cambridge United would have invented an instrument.

He joined Cambridge in 1988 after being released by Norwich City and this was when he changed position from centre half to centre forward and it proved to be a very successful change as he was prolific in successive promotions for the club. In his final season at the club he helped the team finish in their highest ever position in the Football League and this led to many admirers and it wasn’t long before the big teams wanted to sign him.
On the 7th August 1992 he signed for Manchester United and Alex Ferguson could not have been happier. “He is a good finisher. The boy has made a decision which pleases me immensely.” Unfortunately he did not fulfil his potential at Old Trafford because of injuries. But it started promisingly as he scored the only goal of the game against Southampton to give the team their first win of the season. A broken leg against Crystal Palace meant he missed a lot of the season and for the rest of his time at the club he did not really get a chance.

Coventry City were the club that were willing to give him a chance and he proved to be one of the best strikers ever in the Premier League. At the end of the 1997 season he almost single handedly kept the club in the top flight with Dublin scoring away to Liverpool in the last seconds and then in a home win against Chelsea giving the club a chance to stay up on the last day of the season. He scored the first goal in a memorable 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur.
Dublin Coventry
After continuing to score plenty of goals for the club including 23 in his last full season he made the move to Aston Villa. Once again he started phenomenally and scored seven goals in his first four games. Dublin suffered a horrible injury against Sheffield Wednesday that could have ended his career however he made a miraculous recovery and continued scoring goals for fun.
Dublin Villa
After a loan spell at Millwall, he joined Championship side Leicester City. Manager Micky Adams knew he could be a very important player, not just as a striker. “Dion brings a wealth of experience and will be a big help. He is a model professional and provides opportunities for us both in attack and defence.” He only scored six goals for the club before his contract was terminated in January 2006 but he did play a lot of games in defence.

Half a season at Celtic gave him the opportunity to win a lot of trophies. Which he did as he picked up a Premier League winners medal and a Scottish League Cup in which he came on as a sub and scored the final goal.

His time in Scotland only lasted six months and he rejoined first club Norwich City. In his final season as a professional he won the club’s Player of the Year award and his final game ever was at Hillsborough where his career almost ended. Dublin said of the occasion: “It was incredible at Hillsborough. If you think of the stadia I could’ve retired at, away from Norwich of course, with the history and the feeling, then Sheffield Wednesday was the perfect place.” Both sets of fans gave him a standing ovation as he was subbed in the 66th minute and to make it even better the 36,208 fans in Hillsborough was the highest Championship attendance that season.
Dublin Hills
The final word can go to his Aston Villa manager who makes a great point after his horrific neck injury and one that everyone surely agrees with as we may not have had ‘The Dube’. “Dion’s football career will last until 35 or so but he’s got 50 years after that – and we don’t want them blighted by injury.”

17th April – Michael Mifsud

Not many players from Malta have played in England and even less have scored two goals at Old Trafford to knock Manchester United out of a cup.

The Maltese Sports Person of the Year in 2001 and 2003 Michael Mifsud is 33 today and he managed to do this in 2007 in the third round of the League Cup. This would have been a great moment for him as in 1999 he had a trial at Manchester United while a player at Sliema Wanderers but he was not offered a permanent deal and continued to be one of the hottest properties ever in Maltese football. He scored 60 goals in 80 league games for his first club which led to German club Kaiserslautern taking a chance on him.

He was a regular for their ‘B’ side and continued his good goal scoring record which meant he was given a few opportunities in the first team however after only two goals in 21 games, the player felt he needed to be playing more football and left the club to rejoin Sliema. In just 12 games he scored eight times and helped the club win the league title.
Mifsud Malta
Once again he was on the move and this time it was to Norwegian side Lillestrom. He proved his quality at the club in a higher quality league and was voted as the best foreigner in the league after 11 goals in 19 games. Although they did not want him to leave he would not extend his contract and joined Coventry City.

Unfortunately for him the manager that signed him, Micky Adams, was sacked two days later. This could have stopped him fulfilling his potential but he proved he was good enough for a place in the side and scored his first goal after coming on as a substitute against Plymouth Argyle. Before the end of the season he scored another three goals including the goal of the season against Sheffield Wednesday.
Mifsud Coventry
It was in the next season that he produced his best football including his performance at Old Trafford. Manager at the time Iain Dowie said: “He buzzes around and he can be a real pest, but he is so quick, that he can be too quick for himself. That can be a problem but we have worked on his finishing and this will have done him good.”

He continued to excel and had 15 goals by the time he was about to face Premier League opposition again. This time it was Blackburn Rovers and he repeated what he did against Alex Ferguson’s men. Them two goals made him the Player of the Round. In the following months and season his goals slowed because he was now playing as a winger but was still a threat.

Before leaving Coventry he had a loan spell at Barnsley where he scored two goals in 15 games. This is when his career hit a wall and he was looking for clubs, eventually ending up back in Malta with Valletta where he continued where he left off in the country, scoring goals for fun.
Mifsud Heart
Although he clearly loves it in Malta he is too good for that league and wanted to move back abroad. His next career move was to Australian club Melbourne Heart but he has just been released by the club. But the last word can go to his head coach there John Aloisi: “Michael has scored goals at whatever level he has played at. He is an exciting footballer and will be a dynamic influence in our attack. He has played against the very best teams and held his own.”