22nd September – Emmanuel Petit

Emmanuel Petit may be more famous for his footballing ability but did you know he was also an actor and starred in a Christmas episode of The Bill?

It may have only been a one off but it is definitely something not many players can claim and adds to his interesting life off the pitch. He also won £17,000 on a fruit machine and kindly gave it all away to charity and after his career had ended he then shaved off his hair for charity in July 2011. He may have been kind off the pitch but when he got on it there were few that could compete with his power and his determination to win.

Petit started his career at the small French side ES Arques-la-Bataille before being spotted by Arsene Wenger. The manager subsequently signed the 18 year old for Monaco in 1988 and he made his debut soon after, featuring in the club’s run to the 1989 French Cup final, which he also played a part in. Petit had a lot of success for Monaco and after becoming a regular in the midfield he helped them win the French Cup in 1991 and reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final in the following season.
Petit Monaco
In the 1996-97 season he became the club captain and led them to the Ligue 1 title but after 292 games and five goals it was time for him to leave and try his hand in a different league. Petit was reunited with Wenger after Arsenal paid £2.5 million for the midfielder in June 1997. Him and fellow countryman Patrick Vieira formed one of the best central midfield partnerships ever seen in the Premier League and over the next three years they went on to dominate the middle of the pitch. With these two in the side they were a team to be feared and it was unsurprising that at the end of the Petit’s first season at the club Arsenal won the double.
Petit Arsenal
He made 118 appearances for the club and scored 11 goals before signing for Barcelona in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. The midfielder struggled in Spain, largely because he was played out of position and had a lot of niggling injuries that stopped him from reaching top form. In the Frenchman’s autobiography he claims that the Barcelona coach at the time, Llorenc Serra Ferrer, did not even know where he played when he first signed for the club.

After a miserable season, he returned to England and joined Chelsea. He was a first team regular to begin with but Chelsea had a disappointing season and although they reached the FA Cup final it was still seen as a failure. The following season things got a lot better as Petit and Frank Lampard had a fantastic understanding and drove the team forward to a fourth place finish and Champions League qualification.
Petit Chelsea
A knee injury ruined the rest of his career and despite having offers from other clubs he decided to retire on the 20th January 2005.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I know Manu well enough – because I gave him his start. He was fantastic. I feel his home is at Arsenal Football Club. We were lucky at Arsenal to have Petit at the peak of his career. He was a tremendous player.”

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23rd June – Patrick Vieira

With three Premier League winners medals and another four Serie A title to his name, Patrick Vieira has certainly had a career to remember and now at the age of 38 he is happy leading Manchester City’s reserve team.

The midfielder dominated most players that came up against him and he had some of the best battles ever seen in the Premier League whenever he stepped on the pitch against Roy Keane and is considered one of the greatest rivalries of the last 20 years.

Vieira was always destined for greatness it seemed and had leadership qualities from a young age after he began his career at French club Cannes, making his debut at the age of just 17 and then captaining the side just two years later. After 49 league appearances for the club, a lot of the bigger European teams were looking to sign him and he eventually went to Milan. However, it was not easy for him and he only played twice in the league before joining Arsenal in August 1996.
Vieira Cannnes
He made his debut as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday and then made his full debut three days later against Middlesbrough. His performances quickly made him a favourite among the fans and also his own players who could see the quality that he was bringing to the side and something different that they were previously lacking. He finished his first season with 38 appearances in all competitions but it would be the next year that really kick started his career.

Alongside Emmanuel Petit there was arguably no better central midfield partnership in the league as they were both instrumental in winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup. Vieira scored his first goal of the season in an important victory over Manchester United and although he started picking up a lot of bookings and red cards in the middle part of the season, when he was really needed he was there and towards the end of the season he only picked up one more booking.

However, over the next few seasons Arsenal struggled to win trophies and this was not helped by Vieira’s poor disciplinary problems and at the start of the 2000-01 season he was sent off twice in the space of 72 hours. Although he scored twice against Charlton Athletic in his next match, there was a lot of speculation he was about to leave the club, however he decided to stay.
Vieira Arsenal
Success finally returned for both club and player in the 2001-02 season after they once again won the League and FA Cup double and at the end of the season Vieira was named the new Arsenal captain after Tony Adams left the club. After being handed the armband his performances got even better and was one of the key players in the ‘Invincible’ team of the 2003-04. His next taste of success would be the FA Cup in 2005 where with his final touch for the club he scored the winning penalty against Manchester United after the game had finished 0-0.

In July 2005 Vieira signed for Juventus and made his debut against Chievo. Although he helped the club win Serie A, it was later stripped from them because of the match fixing scandal but the defining moment of his time was when he came up against Arsenal and a young Cesc Fabregas who had replaced him in the team in the Champions League. Arsenal went on to win the tie and send Juventus out and this must have been tough for Vieira to take.

After Juventus were relegated to Serie B, Vieira left to join Inter Milan and helped the club to win the next three Serie A titles. However, towards the end of his time at the club he began to feature less and was on the move in the January transfer window of 2010.
Vieira Inter
The French man returned to England and joined up with his former Inter manager Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. He didn’t get off to a great start though as on his debut they lost to Hull City. Three days later he made his full debut in a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers and set up the first goal for Emmanuel Adebayor and went on to score his first goal later in the season against Burnley in a 6-1 win and his performances convinced the manager enough to give him a new one year contract. In his final season he was very influential in the club’s FA Cup success as he scored three times in the competition. He retired soon after and ended his career with 651 club appearances and 58 goals.

The final word can go to Roberto Mancini. “Patrick is a world class midfielder with a winner’s mentality and will fit into this group very well. Patrick is one of the great players of his era with almost every honour in the game against his name.”

13th May – Yaya Toure

He might have just won the Premier League for the second time but this time it is more special because he beat his older brother to the title.

Yaya Toure’s Manchester City were behind Kolo’s Liverpool until the last few weeks of the season but Liverpool let it slip and City were there to take advantage. The younger Toure brother has had a very interesting career which has seen him play in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France, Spain and England.

After joining the ASEC Mimosas youth team in 1996 in his home country of Ivory Coast he showed a lot of potential and was one of a number of Ivorian players to join Belgian club Beveren in 2001. In his time at the Belgian club he played 70 times and scored three goals and he thought his big moment was coming when he had a trial at Arsenal in 2003. He played in a pre-season friendly against Barnet and missed a good chance and then had his performance described as ‘completely average’ by manager Arsene Wenger. However, Arsenal did try and sign him but were unable to get a work permit and Toure decided to join Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk where he stayed for a year and a half before being watched by bigger clubs.
Toure Beveren
Greek side Olympiakos took a chance on him and he was quickly dubbed ‘the new Patrick Vieira’. The club won the double and Toure was one of their best players which meant he was linked with a move away from the club and after a good 2006 World Cup he did get a move to French side Monaco. It was not until new manager Laurent Banide came in that the fans got to see the best of him and in the second half of the season he scored five times and was crucial in pulling the club away from the relegation zone. Banide said of him: “Yaya has got terrific technique and uses his body strength to effect. He can do just about anything.”

Once again he only stayed for a season and moved onto bigger things. This time to Spanish giants Barcelona for £6.7 million. He played in the defensive midfield role for the team and his attacking runs were limited and after being forced out of the team by Sergio Busquets he started playing as a centre back and this is where he played in the 2009 Champions League final. After staying for three seasons he was on his way to England.
Toure Barca
It cost Manchester City £24 million to sign him but nobody can argue that he isn’t worth every penny. In his first season he saved his best performances for the FA Cup as he ran the midfield and scored the only goal of the game in the semi final against Manchester United and then repeating it in the final against Stoke City securing the club’s first major trophy for 35 years.

The Premier League title would follow the next season and in the match that was billed as the title decider Toure’s performance against rivals Manchester United was dominant and magnificent. As for much of the season they could not handle his power and he ran the midfield in the 1-0 victory. But he then went on and performed even better when the pressure was higher against Newcastle United by scoring twice in a game that would mean they only needed to win their last game to clinch the title.

Although the 2012-13 season did not go as well for the team, Toure kept his performances as consistent as ever. But in the 2013-14 season he went on to a whole new level, he scored 20 Premier League goals including his first professional hatrick, as well as scoring the equaliser in the League Cup final against Sunderland which they went on to win 3-1. Manuel Pellegrini knw how important he was to the side. “If the team did a good performance it was because of the individual high level from players like Yaya.”
Toure City
The final word can go the manager that brought him to England Roberto Mancini. “It is clear he has class – if he didn’t we wouldn’t have bought him. When you are a top player you can play in every position, and for me Yaya is one of the best players in Europe. But he is also a good guy, which is another important asset.”

6th April – Fabrice Muamba

Fabrice Muamba is 26 today and everyone knows that he may not have seen this birthday after what happened at White Hart Lane.

Thankfully he recovered and has carried on with his life and has that huge grin on his face that everyone was happy to see again. But it is important to remember that he had a pretty decent career and was always a model professional who had the respect of his teammates and managers. Steve Bruce said: “He is a pleasure to manage.” Alex McLeish said: “He is a manager’s dream.” And Gary Megson said: “He is a great person to be around.”
Fabrice Muamba
Muamba’s career is remarkable and his whole life has been an interesting journey. The midfielder moved to England at the age of 11 but he could not speak a word of English however he still went on to get 10 GCSE’s and A-Levels in English, French and Maths. This just proves he is not the stereotypical footballer and will have no problems in getting media work in the future.

Onto his career and he first signed for Arsenal where he did not quite make it into the first team but did play two League Cup games and was a very well liked player at the club. At the start of the 2006-07 season he joined Birmingham City and was very impressive winning the fans Young Player of the Year award after some performances that reminded everyone of a young Patrick Vieira. This led to them signing him permanently and he played 37 times in the Premier League that season, unfortunately it ended in relegation.
Muamba birmingham
He would not be going back to the Championship as Bolton Wanderers paid a fee of £5 million to bring him to the club. He had a solid first season at the club barely missing a game but his second season he went on to even better things and was once again picking up individual accolades. This time The Bolton News Player of the Year. He was rewarded with a new four year contract and he was progressing well in the England set up, playing in every age group up to the full national team.
Muamba Bolton
It is unfortunate that his career has been cut short because he would have been a very good player in the Premier League for years to come but as he said himself he has lived the dream by being a professional footballer and there is more to life than football. He seems very happy in all aspects of his life and this is a credit to the man himself who has always been a positive person and someone that is generous and loving.

The final word can go to David Sullivan the West Ham owner who was at Birmingham City at the same time as Muamba and commented on how good of a person he is. “He actually gave Karen Brady his first framed England under 21 shirt as a gesture of thanks for us giving him his big chance.”