12th February – Benik Afobe

Benik Afobe has been one of the highest rated youngsters in recent seasons and now he is getting his chance to show his potential in the Championship and is clearly showing everyone his talents.

Still only 22 he seems to have been around for quite a lot of time and played for many different clubs. This is to his credit as it seems like he just wants to play football and when he knew he wasn’t getting chances at Arsenal he went out on loan to try and play games in a lower level. A lot of young players are criticised these days for just sitting in the reserves and youth teams and because of this they don’t develop as well as they should have.

Afobe started his career at Arsenal when he was just six years old and after progressing very well through the youth teams and scoring a lot of goals, he was being linked with a move to Barcelona but he instead signed a professional contract with the Gunners in February 2010. To get his first taste of professional football he had to go out on loan and on the 2nd November he joined Huddersfield Town and made his debut that night in a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to score his first professional goals against Rotherham United in the Football League Trophy to help his new team to a 5-2 win. After an injury to Anthony Pilkington, Afobe got an extended run in the first team and was in brilliant form for the rest of the campaign. During the second half of the season he picked up four man of the match awards in a row. In total he made 32 appearances, scoring eight times and providing 10 assists.

Afobe HT

During the 2011-12 season he suffered a few injuries but did eventually get fit enough to join Reading on the 22nd March 2012. He only played three times for the club but he did still play a part in helping them secure the Championship title. At the beginning of the following season the striker joined Bolton Wanderers on a season long loan. He scored his first goal for the club on his first start in the League Cup against Crawley Town but he was largely used as a substitute and had to wait until the 23rd October to score his first league goal in a 2-2 draw with Wolves. In January his loan was cancelled and he subsequently joined Millwall, unfortunately an injury meant he only played five times for the club.

Afobe BW

He spent eight months on the sidelines and when he returned he went back out on loan, this time to Sheffield Wednesday, where he played 12 times and scored two goals. This season started with Afobe joining MK Dons on loan for the season and went on to score his first goal in a 1-0 win over Chesterfield on the 19th August. But the League Cup second round was probably the best moment of his career so far as he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Manchester United and carried on his superb form in the competition by scoring two more in the next round against Bradford City. On the 29th November he bagged a hatrick against Colchester United in a 6-0 win. After 19 goals in the first half of the season there were other clubs looking at the striker and he joined Wolves in the January transfer window and he scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over Blackpool. Afobe so far has three goals in five Championship games for his new club.

Afobe MK

The final word can go to Wolves head of football development Kevin Thelwell. “Benik seems like a really outstanding young man. He is very pacey and powerful, good technically, and has an outstanding goalscoring record. We are really excited about him signing.”

13th September – Francois Zoko

Blackpool picked up their first point of the season and were helped by birthday boy and one of their summer signings Francois Zoko to finally get their season started.

After coming on as a substitute in the 72 minute, Zoko ensured that the score remained 0-0, however he will be hoping to make more of a positive impact going forward in the coming weeks. Everyone knows about Blackpool’s problems during the summer and they did not even have a full squad with only a few days to go before the start of the season. But with their first point on the board they should gain more confidence.
Zoko Nancy
Zoko started his career at French club Nancy and spent four years with the club, scoring eight times in 70 league appearances before moving onto Stade Laval in the summer of 2004. He played fairly regularly for the club over the next two seasons but he did not hit the back of the net for his liking, with him only scoring nine times.
Zoko Laval
In 2006 he then moved to Belgium and signed for Mons where he started building his reputation and was starting to be linked with bigger clubs. After 55 games and 11 goals he decided he wanted to try a new challenge in a new country and joined Turkish club Hacetteppe Spor Kulubu. However, a lot of off field problems meant he never lived up to his potential and ended up moving back to Belgium with KV Oostende. He made an instant impact at the club and in the second half of the season he played 11 times, scoring four goals and assisting a further five.

Ahead of the 2010-11 season Zoko joined Carlisle United on trial and after impressing he signed a one year deal in July 2010. He made his debut in a 2-0 win over Brentford and after leaving the field he was given a standing ovation and was praised by the management and his teammates at the club. It did not take him long to be linked with other clubs which led to Carlisle giving him a new contract after less than 10 games.

He stayed at the club for two seasons and after scoring double figures in all competitions in both years he decided on the 6th June 2012 that he wanted to play at a higher level and did not sign a new contract. He was described as one of the most talented players to have ever played for the club in recent years.
Zoko CU
On the 3rd August 2012 he signed a two year deal with Notts County. He made his debut against Crewe and also scored in 2-1 win for his new club. He only had to wait three days for his next goal as he scored against Hartlepool United, he could not keep up this goal rate but he still managed seven goals in 39 appearances. At the end of the season his contract was cancelled by mutual consent and he joined Stevenage on the 4th October.

Once again he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over MK Dons and then scored twice in his next game in another 2-1 victory, this time over Brentford. He was a consistent goal scorer for the club and he ended his only season at the club with 16 goals in 40 games which convinced Blackpool that he could make it in the Championship and signed the attacker.

He has so far played five times but has been unable to find the back of the net.

The final word can go to the manager that brought him to England, Greg Abbott. “I know how big an impact he has made here. He is an important player for what we are doing and has been very impressive so far.”

12th September – David Prutton

With 25 England under 21 caps to his name a lot was expected of David Prutton unfortunately his career did not quite progress as well as he hoped but he has still had a decent career.

Now a free agent he has been looking for a club and started doing media work, suggesting that he may already have plans for when he does announce his retirement. Prutton has been a model professional for most of his career but he is arguably most famous for an incident while at Southampton.

The midfielder came through the youth system at Nottingham Forest and went on to make his debut in 1999 and stayed with the club until 2003, making 155 appearances for Forest and scoring seven goals. He moved to Southampton for £2.5 million which was seen as a great investment.
Prutton proved to be a versatile player for Southampton and impressed in his first four months at the club, playing in midfield and at right back. During the 2003-04 season he continued his progression by playing 30 times and scored his first goal for the club on the final day against Charlton Athletic.
Prutton Forest
The 2004-05 season however was one to forget as Southampton were relegated to the Championship and Prutton was banned for 10 games after being sent off in a game against Arsenal and then proceeding to push referee Alan Wiley on several occasions while shouting at the assistant referee. He tried to put it right by staying at the club and help them get promoted, however he broke his metatarsal in September against QPR and after he returned he could not break into the side.
Prutton Soton
In January 2007 he returned to Nottingham Forest on loan to try and help them secure promotion back to the Championship. He played 13 times but he was sent off in League One semi final second leg against Yeovil Town. After his loan spell he joined Leeds United on the 7th August 2007.

During the 2007-08 season he was one of their most consistent performers, however there would be playoff heartbreak for him as they lost in the final against Doncaster Rovers. Under both Dennis Wise and Gary McAllister he was an automatic first choice but this changed when Simon Grayson took over. Once again Leeds lost in the playoffs but Prutton usually had to settle for a place on the bench before joining Colchester United on the 26th January 2010.
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League One - Leeds United v Crewe Alexandra - Elland Road
He scored on his debut against MK Dons and ended the season in good form, despite being offered a new contract by the club he decided to sign for Swindon Town. He only stayed for one season as they were relegated to League Two and signed for Sheffield Wednesday. He also scored on his debut for Wednesday with a fantastic volley against Rochdale on the opening day of the 2011-12 season.

Wednesday got promoted at the end of the season and in the following campaign Prutton played his part in keeping them in the Championship but he was getting less game time. He had to go out on loan to play games, firstly to Scunthorpe United and then Coventry City before being released by his parent club.

The final word can go to Coventry City manager Steven Pressley. “He has played at the highest domestic level. He also has a detailed knowledge of this division and its demands. It was vitally important that we brought in a player with established quality, leadership skills and experience and David certainly fits that mould.”

27th August – Dietmar Hamann

Dietmar Hamann came on at halftime in the 2005 Champions League final for Liverpool and at that point they were 3-0 down and although he doesn’t get the headlines he played a crucial role in them lifting the trophy.

The holding midfielder coming on allowed Steven Gerrard to push further forward and get into the box. For his part in the final he will always be a legend in the Liverpool fans eyes but he was also a very consistent performer and he never let down any of the teams he played for.

Hamann started his career at little known German club FC Wacker Munchen and after impressing for them he joined Bayern Munich at the age of 16 in 1989 and eventually made his debut in 1993. In his first season he played in the unfamiliar position of right midfield and scored one goal in his six appearances. After several injuries to first team players Hamann became a regular as the holding midfielder and played 30 times in the Bundesliga. The 1995-96 season was difficult for the club and he was one of the few bright spots, however they did still end up winning the UEFA Cup.
Hamann BM
For the next two seasons he was a regular in the side and added a Bundesliga title to his medal collection but after 105 league games it was time for him to leave the club and joined Newcastle United in 1998 for £5.5 million. After a foot injury he recovered to become a fantastic signing and scored five goals in 31 matches. This turned out to be his only season at the club as he joined Liverpool in July 1999 for £8 million.

The midfielder was very influential throughout his time at Liverpool and by the time he left £8 million was a bargain. The 2000-01 season was very successful for both him personally and Liverpool as they won the League Cup, FA Cup and the UEFA Cup with Hamann playing 53 times in all competitions and scoring three goals. Over the next few seasons he was a regular side and although he is mostly remembered for his contribution in the final of the 2005 Champions League final, he also had a major impact earlier on in the competition. In the first leg of the round of 16 against Bayer Leverkusen he put in a fantastic display and finished it off by scoring the final goal in a 3-1 win. He also took the first penalty in the shootout win over AC Milan.
Hamann Liverpool
In the following season Liverpool won the FA Cup on penalties and once again Hamann had the bravery to take the first spot kick and scored with what would be his last kick for the club. In the summer he joined Manchester City after being at Bolton Wanderers for one day and then having a change of heart. City had to play £400,000 for the midfielder. He spent three seasons at City and played 54 times in the Premier League but was then released in 2009 and spent a year out of the game before becoming player-coach at MK Dons on a one year contract.
Hamann MC
He played 12 times for the club before joining Leicester City as a coach on the 3rd February 2011. After this he had a short spell in charge of Stockport County where he only won three games in his 20 matches in charge.

Hamann also gets the honour of scoring the last goal at the old Wembley Stadium for Germany in a 1-0 win over England.

The final word can go to Stuart Pearce. “I am delighted he is here as he brings experience and leadership qualities to the team. He has everything. If you get more winners like him in your squad, you are going in the right direction.”

18th July – Lee Barnard

Lee Barnard has been a good goalscorer in the Football League over the years and he will be hoping to rediscover that form next season to help Southend United get promoted.

It is his second spell at Southend and if it can be anywhere near as good as his first spell then the club will certainly go close to achieving their targets under Phil Brown. Barnard started his career at Tottenham Hotspur but made his first league appearances while out on loan at Exeter City but he had to wait until a loan spell at Stevenage Borough where he would score his first goal against Shrewsbury Town. Further loan spells at Leyton Orient and Northampton Town followed but he was still only young and making his way in the game.

He eventually made his debut for Spurs on the 17th April 2006 in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United after coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute and also came on the following week against Bolton Wanderers. At the start of the next season he joined Crewe Alexandra for five months and scored on his debut against Huddersfield Town. However, he suffered an injury in late October and returned to his parent club after 10 league games and three goals.

On the 25th January 2008 Barnard joined Southend on a permanent deal and he made his debut that night against Barnsley in the FA Cup after coming on as a substitute. He made his full debut a few days later against Leeds United and scored the only goal of the game after a free kick had hit the post. Before the end of the season he managed to score another nine goals, including an injury time winner against Carlisle United.
Barnard Southend
The 2008-09 season was not quite as good as the striker would have hoped, however he did still manage to get to double figures but he could have got a lot more had it not been for injuries. The next season started much better with him getting four goals in the first three games and this included his first professional hatrick against Leyton Orient. Over the next few months he scored last minute winners against Gillingham and MK Dons and also scored a brace against Hartlepool United which helped his team win 3-2 after they had been 2-0 down. He scored once more for the club in his first spell which took him to 37 goals in 85 games.

Barnard signed for Southampton in January 2010 and he scored his first two goals for the club in a 2-0 win over Norwich City and a week later he scored another two goals against Walsall and then three days later he scored in a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town. The 2010-11 was also successful as he scored 16 goals for the club but missed the last few weeks of the season through injury.
Barnard Soton
Unfortunately he didn’t get many more chances at Southampton but enjoyed loan spells at Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic and Southend. After his contract expired at Southampton he rejoined Southend on a permanent deal.
Barnard Bournemouth
The final word can go to Southend manager Phil Brown. “Hopefully we can get him back playing how he was during his first spell with the club. He’s an out and out striker who knows where the goal is, so I’m sure he can rediscover that sort of form.”

6th June – David Connolly

David Connolly has had a remarkable career that has seen him be the highest paid player in Holland, score an international hatrick for the Republic of Ireland and score over 150 club goals.

At the age of 37 he is still playing in League Two and had a decent loan spell at Oxford United last season where he scored four times in 11 games and this just shows that he will always know where the back of the net is. Connolly began his career at Watford and he burst onto the scene in the 1995-96 season by scoring eight goals in just 11 appearances which led to him being linked with a move away from the club.

In 1997 he got a move to Dutch team Feyenoord and was the highest player in the country but after just 10 games he was loaned back to England to play for Wolves where he scored four goals in one match against Bristol City. He returned to Holland at the end of the season but was once again loaned out, this time to Excelsior and he really hit top form, scoring 29 times in just 32 matches and he followed this up the next season with 13 in 16 before returning to his parent club. He got more of a chance this time around and played 15 times and managed to get himself five goals.
Connolly AFC
But his adventure in Holland was over in 2001 as he moved to Wimbledon and became one of the most lethal strikers in the Football League. His first season was impressive enough (18 in 35) but he was even better in his second year and almost had a goal a game record as he scored 24 times in 28 games. This form convinced West Ham to pay £285,000 for his services in August 2003 and he scored on his debut against Preston North End in a 2-1 win. He only stayed for the one season as they failed to gain promotion to the Premier League after losing in the playoff final despite Connolly’s 14 goals.
Connolly Leicester
He signed for Leicester City for £500,000 and proved to be a success as he finished the season as their top scorer and then at the start of the next season he scored a hatrick against Stoke City which increased speculation he was going to be sold to a Premier League club. And on deadline day he signed for Wigan Athletic for an initial fee of £2 million and he once again scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over West Brom. However, it was a difficult season as he struggled with injuries and did not score another league goal for the club and in 2006 he left for Sunderland.

At Sunderland he played a vital part in getting them promoted by finishing the season as their top scorer and scoring the final goal of the season which made them champions of the division. However, over the next two seasons he only played five times and was then released.

His next move was to Southampton and he scored on his debut against Oldham Athletic and then followed this up with another against MK Dons. He earned a contract extension and was vital in getting Southampton promoted as he scored in crucial wins over Brighton, Brentford and Walsall. Connolly started the Championship season in fantastic form scoring four goals in the first month of the season. After the club made a few signings in the January transfer window he was pushed down the pecking order and was released at the end of the season.
Connolly Soton
Connolly decided to stay on the South Coast and signed for Portsmouth and although he scored seven times in 17 games he was unable to stop them getting relegated to League Two. At the beginning of the next season he was a starter for Portsmouth but was loaned out in January to Oxford United where he scored on his debut against AFC Wimbledon.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for West Ham Glenn Roeder. “He is fiery and strong mentally – a tough boy and he lives for scoring goals. He is one of those lads that keeps a mental note of exactly where and how he scores.”

14th May- Clinton Morrison

He has always been a player that can grab a goal when the team needs it most and is someone that usually becomes a fan favourite.

Clinton Morrison, now 35, has scored goals all through his career and began it at local club Crystal Palace. On his debut against Sheffield Wednesday he came on as a sub in the 82nd minute and scored an injury time winner in what was his only game of the season. But this propelled him into the first team and he was a regular in the First Division, scoring 12 league goals and another in the cup. The club were struggling off the pitch financially and so Morrison was a bright spot in a difficult season for them and while they were in administration he agreed to play for the club for free.
Morrison Palace
In the 1999-2000 season he repeated his 12 goals in the league but this time in less appearances and was getting linked with moves away. However he stayed for another two seasons and in the first scored 19 in all competitions and then hit a career best 24. It was growing difficult for Morrison at Palace and he joined Premier League club Birmingham City for £4.25 million.

Morrison did not quite hit the heights at the club but managed six goals in his first season in the top flight and he was still showing a lot of potential. After only eight goals in the next two seasons, he returned to Palace for £2 million. Birmingham manager Steve Bruce did not want the striker to leave. “Make no mistake Clinton has been a big part for us and we will miss him if he goes because of his bubbly character – there is never a dull moment and I have enjoyed working with the lad.”
Morrison Birmingham
Morrison had a good first season back at Palace with 13 goals and started the next season with two goals in three games meaning he was on 99 goals for the club. Peter Taylor was very happy with his performances and attitude. “His behaviour has been absolutely first class. I have said to Clinton if he can get as fit he can be, I couldn’t afford a player like that because he is that good.” However, getting the 100th goal proved to be a struggle but he did eventually become the eighth player to reach the milestone with an 88th minute equaliser against QPR on the 10th November 2007.

Afterwards he went on a good goalscoring run and finished the season with 16 goals including one on the final day which meant he scored on his first and last games for Crystal Palace after he did not extend his contract at the club. In July 2008 he joined Coventry City and even though he hit double figures in both his seasons at the club they decided not to renew his contract and he was once again a free transfer.

His next club was Sheffield Wednesday and he scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge. However, after Gary Megson was appointed the new manager he spent a lot of time on the bench but he did still score some important goals, particularly away to Charlton Athletic in a 1-1 draw in which Megson said: “Clinton got the opportunity and that’s what he does. You can’t teach that.” During his time at Wednesday he also had loan spells at MK Dons and Brentford.
Sheffield Wednesday v Northampton Town - FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 2nd Round
After leaving Wednesday he signed for Colchester United where he has helped them stay in League One for the last few seasons. His greatest moment for the club was when he scored against Sheffield United and celebrated by running the length of the pitch. Morrison has announced that he is leaving the club in the summer and it would be good to see him score a few more goals in the Football League before he retires.

The final word can go to MK Dons manager Karl Robinson who had him on loan and summed his career very well and echoes a lot of other people’s thoughts. “Clinton is someone I respect and have liked for a long time. I love his character, his desire and the fact that he is a winner.”