5th June – Stephen McPhee

Stephen Mcphee is one of the few British players to have tried to have a successful career abroad which a lot of pundits believe would improve football in the UK.

The forward started his youth career in Holland with Vitesse Arnhem which is probably part of the reason why he didn’t fear going abroad and trying out different cultures and playing styles. He never played for the Dutch side and in 1998 he joined Premier League club Coventry City.

In 2001, he joined Scottish side St Mirren on loan and was an instant success, winning the SPL Young Player of the Month. During his spell he played seven times but he did not convince parent club Coventry that he deserved a place in their team and on the 31st July 2001 signed for Port Vale.

His first season was good as he began it with a goal on his debut against Notts County and ended it as the club’s top scorer with 14 goals. This led to him being linked with moves away and Wigan Athletic had a £300,000 bid accepted, however, he could not agree personal terms. It seemed to be a poor decision as he struggled in the following campaign as he went 21 games without a goal until he scored against Oldham Athletic. He hoped this would kick start his season but only two goals followed.

McPhee PV

The 2003-04 season saw McPhee bounce back and Vale narrowly miss out on the League One playoffs with the striker scoring 27 times. With the club failing to gain promotion, it meant once again that other clubs were looking at him and Leeds United had a bid rejected. As he was out of contract he could join any foreign club for free.

Portuguese club Beira-Mar, managed by Mick Wadsworth, decided to take a chance on the Scotsman. Unfortunately the manager was sacked after just four games and many thought the striker would struggle for games. However, he proved to be a bright spot and despite relegation his consistent performances meant he was singled out for praise.

McPhee Hull

On the 19th May 2005 he returned to England, signing for Hull City. After just four games he suffered an injury and missed the rest of the season. He never fully recovered from his injuries while at the club and in his three seasons he only played 40 times. In January 2008, he signed for Blackpool, and scored three times in 19 games before the end of the season. He played his final game on the 4th April 2009 and for the next 18 months he could not get fit and announced his retirement less than a week after his club had been promoted to the top flight.

McPhee Blackpool

The final word can go to his agent David Manasseh. “Stephen thoroughly enjoyed his time at Vale, however, clubs playing at a higher level have come in for him. Stephen is an ambitious, young footballer and is keen for the chance to play at a higher level.”

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24th February – Kevin O’Connor

One club players don’t come around too often and Kevin O’Connor has progressed right from the youth team at Brentford to now being part of their coaching staff.

He is only 33 but it seems like he is focusing on the next stage of his career as he has had limited playing time this season but he will be happy to still be involved at Brentford. They are definitely a team on the up despite the uncertainties around the managerial position. Since signing for the club he has played in every position and is currently fourth on Brentford’s all time appearance list.

O’Connor first signed with Brentford as a striker and after a run of 23 goals in 30 reserve games he was given a professional contract in 1999. He went on to make his debut on the 15th February 2000 as a substitute in the Football League Trophy defeat to Exeter City and went on to make his first start in a draw with Wycombe Wanderers a few days later. An injury slowed his progress and he had to wait over a year to score his first goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol City.

OC Brent 1

After Steve Coppell became manager in 2001, O’Connor became a regular in the side and made 32 appearances helping his club reach the playoffs, unfortunately they were beaten in the final by Stoke City. New manager Wally Downes was impressed by his performances and he was an ever present in the side for the following campaign and was now seen as a winger and contributed nine goals.

During the 2004-05 season O’Connor was moved to right back and was given the captain’s armband on the 19th October against Hartlepool United. The season again ended in disappointment as they were defeated in the playoffs, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to suffer even more heartbreak in the playoffs in the 2005-06 season but he did manage to score eight times in 38 games. Even worse was to follow as the club were relegated in 2007 after finishing bottom.

OC Brent 3

Relegation meant another position change for O’Connor as he played predominantly in the centre of midfield in League Two. He started off well in his new position by scoring goals against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. But he only added one more goal over the course of the season as the club finished midtable. In the following season Brentford won the league and O’Connor was awarded a new contract. He was impressive once again in League One and made 49 appearances over the season and was given a testimonial at the end of the campaign.

The 2010-11 season was the last one that he featured regularly for the club as injuries stopped him from playing. But he was on the pitch for one of the most exciting endings to the season ever against Doncaster Rovers in the final game of the 2012-13 season. Brentford were awarded a penalty in the last minute and Marcello Trotta took the ball off O’Connor but missed the spot kick and Doncaster ran down the other end and scored, winning the game 1-0 meaning Brentford and O’Connor had to go through the playoffs. Once again they failed to get promoted after losing against Yeovil Town.

OC Brent 2

Finally in the next campaign they would get promoted to the Championship and on the final day of the season O’Connor made his 500th appearance for the club. Since promotion he has not played a league game but he has been an important member of the coaching staff, helping the team challenge for the playoffs and will be needed now more than ever with Mark Warburton expected to leave in the summer.

The final word can go to Mark Warburton. “Kevin has seen so much change at the club and yet has maintained his exceedingly high standards throughout and it is this outstanding quality that we need to keep at Brentford. I am delighted that Kevin O’Connor will be extending his stay at the club.”

9th November – James Hanson

With it being the FA Cup first round weekend it is a chance for non league players to show their quality against those that get paid to do it full time and it is always good to see players coming from below the Football League to being very good professional players like James Hanson.

Although he didn’t make his mark in the FA Cup he did come from obscurity to become one of the most difficult to mark in League One and has done a fantastic job for Bradford City since he signed for the club. The striker has added a lot to the team and he will be thankful that he has been given the chance to play professionally which a lot of those in the top flight do not.

The 27 year old played youth football for both Huddersfield Town and Bradford but was never given the chance in the first team and had to drop to semi professional level, turning out for Eccleshill United and Guiseley. But to support his dreams of playing football he also had to work in a supermarket on a part time basis. During his two seasons at Guiseley he scored 46 goals and this attracted the interest of Football League clubs.
Hanson BC
In July 2009 Hanson signed his first professional contract with Bradford and would go on to make his debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season in a disappointing 5-0 defeat against Notts County. He would go on to score his first goal in a 5-4 win over Cheltenham Town on the 22nd August and had a very good first season which led to him being given a new contract by the club and being named the Player of the Year.

The following season was much tougher for the striker as he only scored six league goals but he was improving other areas of his game. But came back with his highest goalscoring league season in the 2011-12 season with 13 goals. The next campaign will be remembered for a long time by Bradford fans as they reached the League Cup final and also gained promotion from League Two, with Hanson and Nakhi Wells linking up well and scoring a lot of goals between them. Although Wells got most of the attention, Hanson chipped in with important goals in the big games, including one in the second leg of the League Cup semi final against Aston Villa, one in the semi final of the playoffs against Burton Albion and then another in the final against Northampton Town.
Hanson LC
Hanson was again rewarded with a new contract for his contributions and with his partnership being broken with Wells, some may have thought that he would struggle but he hit a good run of form after the turn of the year and scored six goals in nine games, meaning he finished his first season in League One with 12 goals in 35 games.
Hanson Wells
This season has been up and down for the striker as he started fantastically by scoring five goals early on and entering the club’s top ten all time top scorer list, however injuries have frustrated him since and he has not been able to recapture that form yet but he will be hoping as the season goes on he can continue his good goalscoring record.

The final word can go to teammate Andrew Davies. “Hans is getting better and better and maturing as a person as well. He needs to be our main goal threat. Strikers are judged on goals and he’s scored a few this season. If we’re going to go up this year, and that’s what we all want, then he needs to be scoring the goals.”

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.”

27th September – Lloyd Sam

A lot of high profile players have gone over to America in recent years but there are others that have went over from England and made a big impression, like Lloyd Sam.

The 30 year old plays alongside world superstars such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill as well as others that have played in England such as Bobby Convey, Richard Eckersley and Bradley Wright-Phillips. So Sam will certainly feel at home at the New York Red Bulls and is known as someone that can use his pace and direct running to create chances for his teammates and it is no surprise to see him setting up a lot of goals.

Sam started his career at Charlton Athletic and became a professional in 2003 at the age of 18. He began to impress in the youth team and was called up to the first team squad for a game against Arsenal but unfortunately did not get on the pitch. He then went out on loan to get some more first team experience and joined Leyton Orient in 2004 and played 10 times for the club before returning to Charlton and making his debut for them on the final day of the 2004-05 season against Crystal Palace.
Sam CA
His opportunities were still limited and after playing just twice in the following season, he went out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Southend United during the 2006-07 season. Sam did also play seven times in the Premier League that season but unfortunately Charlton were relegated but this meant that the winger was now going to get a chance in the first team on a regular basis.

At the start of the season he was a bright spot for Charlton and scored his first professional goal against Stockport County in the League Cup. After this the club began to struggle and after missing out on promotion they started to fall down the table and were relegated once more at the end of the 2008-09 season. They narrowly missed out on a return to the Championship with Sam playing 43 league games as they lost in the playoff semi finals against Swindon Town.

After not being offered a new contract he joined Leeds United on a free transfer on the 9th July 2010 but he did not make a great start as he gave away a penalty on his debut against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. However, in the next league game he scored against Nottingham Forest and also received the man of the match for his performance. He then went on to score against Millwall on 21st August but this positive start did not last as Sam suffered several niggling injuries which kept him out of action for long periods.
LEEDS UNITED V LINCOLN CITY CARLING CUP  10/8/2010
He only featured in 18 league games for Leeds in his first season and did extra work in preseason to get himself fit for the new season and in the friendly matches he provided a lot of assists and topped it off by scoring in a 3-1 win over Newcastle United. This was still not good enough to get him a regular place in the side and on the 14th March 2012 joined Notts County on loan for the rest of the season and scored five goals in 10 games, including a hatrick against Yeovil Town in a 3-1 win.

When his contract came to an end at Leeds he signed for New York Red Bulls on the 16th August 2012 and impressed in his first five games before and injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has now recovered from this and helped the club win its first ever Supporters’ Shield in 2013, scoring the third goal in a 5-2 win over Chicago Fire.
Lloyd Sam
The final word can go to the Notts County manager that brought him in on loan Keith Curle. “I like Lloyd. It took him a bit of time to settle at first, but in the end he was enjoying it and was playing free flowing, entertaining, attacking football. Lloyd just keeps getting better and better.”

18th September – Sol Campbell

A quiz question that will be asked a lot was who was the first England player to play in six consecutive international tournaments? And that man is Sol Campbell.

The 40 year old was a phenomenal centre back and represented England at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 European Championships as well as the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Campbell also had an intriguing club career that led to him winning many trophies but also being involved in some strange situations, including being branded a Judas.

Campbell started his career as a striker at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut as a substitute against Chelsea in December 1992, going on to score in the game. Over the course of the next two years he played in many different positions before eventually becoming a centre half. His greatest moment in a Spurs shirt was lifting the League Cup as captain during the 1998-99 season.
Campbell TH
With his contract coming to an end in 2001, the club were desperate to keep him, offering him a fantastic contract. However he decided to move on after wanting to play Champions League football and remain a key part of the England squad. He signed for Arsenal which caused a lot of anger among Spurs fans. They would never forgive him for moving to their biggest rivals on a free transfer. His move to Arsenal proved to be the right decision as in his first season he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

The 2003-04 season will always be remembered for ‘The Invincibles’ and the defender was a massive part of this achievement, forming a brilliant partnership with Kolo Toure. The 2005-06 season took a turn for the worse during a 3-2 defeat against West Ham. He had been at fault for the first two goals and requested to be substituted and didn’t return to the club for several days and did not play again for 10 weeks.
Campbell Arsenal
When he returned his performances were back to their usual high standards and was rewarded with a start in the Champions League final against Barcelona. In this final Campbell became one of just six Englishmen to have scored in a final, however it would be in a losing effort.

On the 8th July 2006 he announced he was leaving Arsenal and moved to Portsmouth. His time at the club started very well as him and Linvoy Primus formed a solid partnership and helped the team keep five consecutive clean sheets. At the start of the 2007-08 season he was named captain and led the team to an FA Cup final victory over Cardiff City.
Campbell Pompey
Then he made another surprising move when he joined League Two Notts County. Campbell made his debut against Morecambe in a 2-1 defeat and this turned out to be his only appearance as his five year contract was cancelled by mutual consent.

As he could not join another club until January so he started training with Arsenal and rejoined them on the 15th January 2010. In his second spell he played a lot more than expected because of injuries and was very consistent but he left at the end of the season. On the 28th July 2010 he signed for Newcastle United. His time at the club was not very successful and after just seven league appearances he was released at the end of the season.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger after re-signing him. “He brings experience, good advice, and physically he has worked hard. He has a fantastic attitude and good fitness. He can still play in the Premier League, I’ve said that many times. He is important in the dressing room as well.”

19th July – Drew Talbot

Drew Talbot will always be a legend at Sheffield Wednesday after scoring in their 4-2 victory over Hartlepool United in the League 1 Playoff final.

Talbot is now 28 and has had an interesting career with him changing position and becoming a very versatile member of the Chesterfield squad. He is now mostly known as a fullback but has played as a winger and a centre forward in his career and it was in this position where he made his name in football.

He started his career at Sheffield Wednesday and broke into the team on a regular basis in the 2004-05 season, where, although he was mostly used as a substitute, he still managed to score five times, including that goal at the Millennium Stadium. The game finished 2-2 and went to extra time before Glenn Whelan gave Wednesday a 3-2 lead and then in the very last minute Talbot scored to ensure the club’s promotion back to the Championship. Captain Lee Bullen remembers not only the goal, but the importance of it to the fans. “I was in prime position, right behind Drew as he picked the ball up on the halfway line. I was focussed on him but my peripheral vision could see a whole stadium of Owls slowly rising to their feet in anticipation of years of disappointment being laid to rest.”
Talbot SW
Big things were expected from the striker, however injuries took their toll on him and the next year proved to be very disappointing and would not play again until September 2006 where he made a substitute appearance against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. Despite his return he struggled to keep his place in the team and went out on loan to League 1 side Scunthorpe United. However, he only stayed for three games but did manage to score against Doncaster Rovers. His loan was cut short because he was transferred to Luton Town for £250,000, his time at Sheffield Wednesday ended with 4 league goals in 29 games.
Talbot Luton
At Luton Town he made his debut against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup and he didn’t have to wait long until he scored his first goal which came on his home debut against his former club. Despite some impressive performances he could not stop Luton getting relegated from the Championship and he was linked with a transfer away from the club and he turned down a move to Italy on transfer deadline day.

The next few years were tougher with a serious knee injury ruling him out for a few months and he only managed to play 11 games in the 2008-09 season. On the 27th January he joined Chesterfield on loan and he scored his first goal against Notts County and ended his loan spell with two goals in 17 games. At the end of the season he signed for the club permanently and ended his first full season with 10 goals in all competitions but the club narrowly missed out on a playoff position.
Talbot Chesterfield
Under John Sheridan, Talbot moved to right back and performed very well in that position so he has been used there for a lot of his 184 league appearances for the club.

The final word can go to Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee who tweeted after it was announced that Talbot had signed a new contract at the club. “Made up Drew has signed, proper player. He can play anywhere, but as a fullback there isn’t many better. Fantastic bit of business.”