29th June – Andy O’Brien

Andrew O’Brien like his namesake Liam will go down in Newcastle United history for scoring a goal in the Tyne-Wear Derby.

The centre back, might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of goalscorers in a derby but was a fan favourite for a while, not just at Newcastle but at many of his other teams.

O’Brien started his career at Bradford City and made his debut in 1996 against QPR and quickly became a first team regular. During the 1998-99 season he played 34 times, helping the club gain promotion to the Premier League. The team struggled in the Premier League and barely survived relegation in the first season but as the club were facing relegation and a lot of financial difficulties they had to sell their best assets. After 133 league appearances for Bradford, O’Brien joined Newcastle United for £2 million.

Francis Jeffers and Andy O''Brien

In one of his first games for the club he scored an equaliser against Sunderland and he followed this up by being a dependable defender in the next season as the club qualified for the Champions League. Despite the arrival of Titus Bramble and Jonathan Woodgate during the 2002-03 season, O’Brien managed to stay first choice.

O'Brien NU

His form was solid for Newcastle up until the end of the 2004-05 season when his performances took a dip and along with the club’s disappointing 14th place finish it was time for the defender to leave. Portsmouth signed him for £2 million and after a disappointing start under manager Alain Perrin, his form picked up throughout the season and was once again seen as a solid player.

In his second season he found opportunities limited and on the 13th August 2007 he signed for Bolton Wanderers. He quickly settled in at the club and impressed the fans so much that he was voted their Player of the Season. He captained the side on many occasions and on the 11th April 2009 he scored his first goal for over four years in a game against Chelsea. But after Owen Coyle took charge, O’Brien was left on the bench. Despite many clubs being interested the manager didn’t want to let him go as he still saw him as an asset.

O'Brien BW

The next move of his career was to Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently on the 1st January 2011. Just days after signing he put in one of the performances of his career in an FA Cup game against Arsenal. But things turned sour afterwards with a few mistakes in the opening few games of the following season and the defender wanted to leave after the fans gave him a tough time. The final move of his career was to the MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps where he played 50 league games.

The final word can go to former Portsmouth Chief Executive Peter Storrie. “We have signed a first-class player who has played at the top for both club and country and has a very prominent record.”

28th October – Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Martins is a player with a fantastic history, having been the number nine at Newcastle United and also scoring the winning goal for Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

The striker had electric pace and a brilliant shot on him that a lot of goalkeepers struggled to keep a hold of. He has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but has largely been a fan favourite at every club and is now currently scoring regularly for Seattle Sounders in the MLS and his goals have helped his side to the top of the table.

The 30 year old started his career in Nigeria before getting a trial at Serie C side Reggiana in Italy and signed a youth contract with the club in 2000. After just two appearanceshe joined Inter Milan and would go on to make his debut against Parma in December 2002. Martins began to make an impact during the 2002-03 season where he showed his quality in the Champions League, scoring against Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan. His best season for the club was in the 2004-05 season, where he scored 22 goals in 45 games, unfortunately for him, Inter decided to sign other strikers soon after.
Martins IM
In total he scored 49 goals for the Italian side before signing for Newcastle United on the 24th August 2006 and was handed the number nine shirt, taking over from Alan Shearer. After a difficult start, in which he suffered a few injuries, he would go on to score his first goal for the club on the 17th September against West Ham in a 2-0 win and he became a regular scorer hitting one of the goals of the season when he scored from 20 yards against Tottenham Hotspur at a speed of 84mph. Martins ended his first season with 17 goals in all competitions. His second season at the club was mixed as he had to settle for a place on the bench under Sam Allardyce, as he preferred Michael Owen and Mark Viduka upfront. But after Kevin Keegan became manager he found a system that allowed all three players to be on the field and combine well. He finished the season with 10 goals in 33 games.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park
Martins then started the 2008-09 season in fantastic form, scoring six goals in 12 games before tearing his hamstring and later in the season needing an operation on a hernia, meaning he could not continue this form. After being out since January he returned to the side in a relegation six pointer against Middlesbrough and scored twice. However, this would not be good enough to keep them in the Premier League.

On the 31st July 2009 Martins joined Wolfsburg for £9 million and went on to score on his debut against FC Koln. He only stayed at the club for one season but scored six times in 16 Bundesliga games. He then moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan and helped them win the Russian Cup but it was not the greatest time for the striker and on the 31st January 2011 he joined Birmingham City on loan. Although his time at the club was ruined by injuries, he still managed to write himself into their history books as he scored the winning goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.

With the club getting relegated from the Premier League a permanent move was no longer on the cards and Martins joined Levante. On his league debut he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and was a decent goalscorer, hitting the back of the net in a third of his league games. But on the 15th March 2013 he joined MLS side Seattle Sounders and last season finished with 17 goals, as well as 13 assists for the club, a joint club record with Mauro Rosales.
Martins SS
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He excites me very much as a player. He is very, very different to not only anything we have got at this football club, but probably in the Premier League. It sends up all sorts of ideas in your mind what this player can bring to the football club.”

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.”

19th June – Brian McBride

Brian McBride is a Fulham legend and one that will always be remembered fondly by their fans and has a sports bar at Craven Cottage named after him.

The former striker is 42 today and is one of the greatest ever players to come from America and had a very good career that began Milwaukee Rampage where he played for a short time but was very successful. He only played 18 times for the club but he managed to score 17 goals and assisted another 18 which alerted the attention of clubs in Europe and in 1994 he got his move to Germany.

McBride joined Wolfsburg who were playing in the second division at the time and his move encouraged a number of American to take up the sport as they seen that a player could make it in Europe. However, it was not a great time for him personally as he did not play as much as he would have wanted and also struggled to find the back of the net when the opportunities came. He did score twice in the DFB-Pokal quarter finals as the club went on to reach the final of the competition. After just 18 games he was released and returned to the United States.

He was drafted to Columbus Crew in 1996 and played in the inaugural Major League Soccer season. He ended up staying at the club for eight years and scored 62 times in 161 league games as well as providing 45 assists. During his time at the club he did have a few loan spells away from the club to England. Firstly he joined Preston North End in 2000 and although he played well, he only managed one goal in nine games, however this was partly down to the fact that he needed to have a blood clot surgically removed from his arm, which consisted of having a rib removed.
Mcbride CC
Two years later he once again linked up with David Moyes but this time at Everton. He only spent three months at the club but scored on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in a 4-3 defeat and continued his good form in the country by scoring a further three times in seven games. Everton were interested in extending the loan but the MLS rejected it.

In January 2004 he eventually moved to England permanently by joining Fulham. In his first half a season he played 18 times and got five goals. Over the next few seasons he was a very good player for Fulham and even though he did not break any goalscoring records, he always contributed a lot to the team and they were certainly better when he was in the starting lineup.
Mcbride Fulham
After 140 Premier League games and 33 goals McBride returned to the MLS but many of his admirers, including Chris Coleman wished that the striker would stay and that he would have been brought over a lot earlier and had more years in England. But it wasn’t to be and in 2008 he joined Chicago Fire where he scored 18 times including one in the final game of his career.
McBride Chicago
He did return briefly to play for Wembley FC who had grouped together former internationals Ray Parlou, Martin Keown, Claudio Caniggia and Graeme Le Saux. However they did reach their target of making it into the FA Cup proper and he has not played competitively since.

The final word can got to former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. “Brian McBride has been a fine ambassador for Fulham Football Club. As my captain last season Brian was truly respected in the dressing room and led by example on the pitch. His attitude is second to none – Brian is a true pro in every sense of the word.”

21st May – Laurent Robert

Laurent Robert had one of the best left foots the Premier League has ever seen and a compilation of all his goals is a real joy to watch.

The Frenchman who divided opinions at times is 39 today and will always be remembered for his free kicks and his wonderful technique which is something that he had from a very young age. He began playing for Montpellier and after 124 games and 19 goals for the club he made the move to Paris Saint-Germain where he produced some outstanding performances and one that stands out the most is in a Champions League game against Rosenborg he set up six goals in a 7-2 victory.
Robert PSG
His record at PSG was attracting interest from all over Europe and he eventually signed for Newcastle United in 2001 for £9.5 million. At Newcastle he quickly became a fans favourite because he knew exactly how to find Alan Shearer and set up a lot of his goals from great crosses. In his first season at the club he scored eight times in the Premier League and helped the club to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League. The next season was even more successful as Newcastle qualified from their Champions League group and eventually finished third in the Premier League. Manager at the time Sir Bobby Robson clearly loved the player and his attacking talents and he acknowledged that he wouldn’t always be the best at the defensive side of the game. “In the first half he took a corner, a poor corner, which hit the first defender, and it took him 17 minutes to get back to the halfway line.”

Although the 2003-04 season was slightly disappointing with Newcastle finishing fifth, they did still manage to reach the semi final of the UEFA Cup. But Robert produced one of the best performances seen by a left winger against Tottenham Hotspur as he scored two fantastic long range efforts and was simply too good for the opposition to stop. His last season at the club was tough, like a lot of players he had a falling out with new manager Graeme Souness and his time at St James Park was up.
Robert Newcastl
Robert then moved to Portsmouth where he did have not much success under Alain Perrin but did come back into the team and perform better when Harry Redknapp took over. He scored his only goal in a 2-1 loss to West Brom. He only stayed at the club for one season and then joined Portuguese team Benfica where he scored his first goal against rivals Porto in an unsurprising way as he smashed in a free kick from 40 yards. However, this was as good as it got and he was once again looking for a new club after one season.

He ended up at Levante but was not a regular and only played 13 times and was then offered a trial at Derby County which was successful. But once again he could not get the game time and after only four games he left England once again. This time he went to the MLS and signed for Toronto FC and he looked like the player of old, delivering great crosses and creating chances for his teammates but he only stayed for one season and ended up joining his former Newcastle teammate Nikos Dabizas at Greek club Larissa. This lasted just six games and he retired from the game.
Robert Moose
Although the later years of his career were not spectacular he will always be fondly remembered by Newcastle fans for the performances he gave them and some of his goals will love long in the memory. The final word can go to Sir Bobby. “In the 03-04 season he scored 11 goals and made 29 last passes prior to other players scoring. When he’s doing that, you can put up with some of the play falling back on you because he is not doing his defensive job. That’s just what he is – talented and exasperating, and a great deliverer of the ball. When we had Jenas and Bellamy and Dyer and Robert we were just terrific.”

18th May – Brad Friedel

Brad Friedel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League era setting new records and even has one goal to his name.

Now 43 he still looks like he has the ability to continue for a few more years to come at the top level and even though he is no longer first choice at Tottenham Hotspur whenever he was called upon last season he put in some decent performances. The Premier League are lucky to have had such a talented and committed individual but early in his career it looked like he was not going to get the chance to play in England.

Firstly he tried to sign for Nottingham Forest but he was unable to secure a work permit and the transfer fell through. Then he tried joining Newcastle United but ran into further problems and ended up going on loan to Danish club Brondby. Friedel then attempted to join a third English club in Sunderland but once again he failed to get a work permit and joined Galatasaray. After playing in 30 league games for them he moved back to United States joining Columbus Crew and was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Finally on the 23rd December 1997 he gained a work permit and joined Liverpool. However, it was not as successful as he hoped because he only played 25 league games in three years. In 2000 he joined Blackburn Rovers and his talent began to shine through with them winning promotion to the Premier League in his first season and then producing some brilliant saves to keep them in the top flight. But his most memorable performance was in the 2002 League Cup final as he was named man of the match in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. He continued to get better and in the next season he kept 15 clean sheets and was named the club’s Player of the Year as well as being included in the Premier League Team of the Year. Blackburn manager Graeme Souness said of his keeper. “He would certainly get into the top 10 in the world. He’s one of the best keepers in England and I know there are other managers who think that too.”
Friedel Blackburn
On the 21st February 2004 he became the second goalkeeper to score in the Premier League when he scored the equaliser against Charlton Athletic. Remarkably though they still went onto lose the game.

In 2008 he joined Aston Villa and while at the club he broke the record for continuous games in the Premier League after his 167th finished in a 0-0 draw with Fulham. Friedel’s record was nearly broken when he was sent off against Liverpool, however the decision was overturned and he made it to 250 consecutive games on the 16th January 2011.
Freidel Villa
When his contract expired at the end of the season he joined Tottenham Hotspur which meant that he did not miss a Premier League game while at Villa Park. He made his debut for Spurs against Manchester United and his record continued for the rest of the season. After Hugo LLoris was signed everyone presumed he would be replaced but after an impressive display against Norwich City, the new signing had to wait for his chance. Norwich centre back Sebastien Bassong saifd of Friedel’s performance that day. “Uncle Brad was magic, I’ve never doubted his quality. He is one of the best in the Premier League. He’s a terrific player, they finished fourth last year and he played a big part in that.”
Friedel Spurs
Unfortunately his run of 310 consecutive games was ended when he was named on the bench on the 7th October.

The final word can go to his former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill. “Friedel has not played all those games not to be considered as good as anyone and I played with two unbelievable keepers – Pat Jennings and Peter Shilton.”

2nd May – David Beckham

One of the most recognisable footballers ever has not only had a good career on the pitch but off it too with his name known all round the world.

David Beckham turns 39 today and to some people he is more known for what he has done off the pitch due to him becoming a fashion icon and being married to Victoria Adams a member of the girl band Spice Girls. But his playing career has sometimes been overlooked and a lot of people have missed how good he was on the pitch.

Beckham started his career at Manchester United and after playing a few games for the club he was ready to play more first team football and had an impressive five game spell at Preston North End where he scored two goals including one directly from a corner. But he had to wait until the opening day of the 1996-97 season to become centre stage as he scored from the halfway line in a victory over Wimbledon and from there his season just got better as the club won the title and he won the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Soccer - David Beckham Retires
The following season after Eric Cantona retired, Beckham was given the famous number 7 shirt and in 1998-99 he had arguably his greatest season ever in terms of trophies as he won the treble and sent in both the corners in which they scored from in the Champions League final. He went on to win another three Premier League titles before the famous boot kicking incident with Sir Alex Ferguson led to speculation that he was going to leave the club.

In the summer of 2003 he was transferred to Real Madrid in a move that seemed to fit all parties involved. It wasn’t as easy as the player had hoped at Madrid with the club unable to win any trophies until his final season at the club when he had already announced that he was leaving for America. They ended up piping Barcelona to the title on the final game of the season but it was Beckham being taken off that changed the game, they were losing 1-0 and his replacement Jose Antonio Reyes scored twice to win them the game and La Liga.
Beckham madrid
Beckham signed a huge contract for LA Galaxy and some would argue that he was too good to go there and should have continued to play at a higher level but others argue that he was trying to grow the name of ‘soccer’ in America and surely this was a good thing. With the MLS running at different times to European competitions it did allow him to join other teams on loan. He decided to join Italian side AC Milan and he fit into their team pretty well with them having a slower pace and he played 20 games scoring 2 goals for the club in his first spell there.

Upon returning to LA Galaxy he was disliked by a section of the supporters telling him to go home and that he was only a part time player. However he played a key role in helping the club win the Western Conference final. This did not stop him signing for AC Milan for a second time, this time however it ended badly as he suffered an injury which would keep him out for around six months.
Beckham LA
When he did return playing for Galaxy he scored in 2-1 win over Dallas which secured them their second successive Western Conference title. At the end of his contract he signed for PSG on a five month deal and decided to donate all his wages during this period to a local children’s charity. At the end of the season he became the first English player to win titles in four different countries as he helped them clinch the Ligue 1 championship. On the 16th May he announced that he was retiring from football.

The final word can go to his manager at Real Madrid and England Fabio Capello. “At Madrid I left him out of the squad because he had signed a contract with Los Angeles but he continued to come on the field and train and I put him back in the team. He is a very serious lad, very sensible, a professional. People think he is a playboy off the field, it’s not true at all.”

25th March – Alvaro Saborio

Costa Ricans have rarely came over to play in England and the most well known are Paolo Wanchope (Derby County, West Ham and Manchester City), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham) and Bryan Oviedo (Everton).

But today marks the birthday of Alvaro Saborio who is one of the most famous Costa Ricans but not many fans will remember his spell in England. He joined Championship side Bristol City on loan in the 2009-10 season. The fans were looking forward to seeing him play because of his international goalscoring record which he is still adding to today with 32 goals in 93 games and recently grabbed the winner in a 2-1 victory of Paraguay.
He repaid the fans faith and optimism by setting up Nicky Maynard on his debut against Coventry City. However, the good times did not follow and he only managed two goals in 20 Championship appearances against Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United. Unfortunately he could not settle in England and his loan agreement was cancelled allowing him to join Real Salt Lake City in America.
Saborio MLS
This is where his career got back on track and has scored 52 times in 87 games including 12 in 15 in what was an injury hit season last year which shows his real quality. Some will argue that the MLS is not the strongest league but it is improving and it is good to see another international star is playing in their league.
Saborio Costa Rica
It is disappointing that he never managed to hit the heights in England but he did leave a mark on the Bristol City fans and a story from a Robins fan in America shows this. “I know he did not exactly pull up trees while at City but he is doing very well in the MLS. However it is not his footballing abilities I want to discuss, I just want to say he is a class act. During a warm up for his current club he was surprised to see me and my son wearing Bristol City shirts and came over and signed it for my son which made his day.”