14th August – Jay-Jay Okocha

Jay-Jay Okocha is one of the greatest Nigerian players to have ever graced the world of football and he lit up every pitch he stepped foot on.

His smile was also seen by many and you could just tell that he loved playing football and enjoyed every minute on the pitch. His skills were wonderful to watch and he was such a good influence on other players including the Brazilian Ronaldinho.

Okocha started his career in Nigeria in 1990 joining Enugu Rangers. While on holiday in Germany visiting a friend he ended up going to a training session at Third Division side Borussia Neunkirchen and impressed the manager enough to sign the midfielder. He stayed for one season scoring seven times in 35 league games and this caught the attention of other clubs and initially he signed for FC Saarbrucken but after just a few months he joined Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

Augustine Jay Jay OkochaFussball Eintracht Frankfurt

He continued to shine in Germany and scored some amazing goals during his four year spell at the club, including one against Karlsruher, where he dribbled into the penalty area, beating some players twice before slotting past Oliver Kahn. Unfortunately towards the end of his time at the club he fell out with manager Jupp Heynckes and with the club being relegated Okocha knew he had to leave.

In 1996, Fenerbahce signed Okocha and once again was an instant success, delighting fans with his skills and his free kick ability. During his time at the club he played 62 games and scored 30 goals which alerted the attention of PSG. The French side paid £14 million for the Nigerian, making him the most expensive African at the time. It was during this time that he became a mentor to Ronaldinho and in his four year stint he scored 12 times.

Okocha PSG

After the 2002 World Cup, Okocha made the move to Bolton Wanderers. Despite injuries he played a key role in helping the club avoid relegation and his seven goals, including their goal of the season against West Ham, made him a fan favourite. The fans printed shirts saying ‘so good he was named twice’. In the following campaign he was named club captain and led them to the final of the League Cup.

Okocha BW

He played over 100 times in the Premier League but he left the club under a cloud. He didn’t think they had built on the foundations that he had helped lay and went to play in Qatar for a season. Afterwards he returned to England signing for Championship side Hull City. Due to injuries he didn’t reach his full potential but he did help them get promoted. He was then released at the end of the season and retired.

The final word can go to Sam Allardyce. “On and off the field he was the captain you looked for. He sorted the odd scuffle out in the dressing room. Then there was outstanding ability on the field. He became an iconic figure at Bolton Wanderers.”

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29th July – Andy Reid

Andy Reid was a midfielder that wanted to play for clubs that could guarantee him games rather than playing for big clubs.

This was evident at the start of his career when he turned down Arsenal and Manchester United as he believed that they did not spend enough time with their youngsters during the early 2000s and waited for a different opportunity to move from his native Ireland.

So Reid started his career at Nottingham Forest and made his debut on the 29th November 2000 against Sheffield United and from then started to play regular football. He spent five years at Forest and finished as their top scorer at the end of the 2003-04 season with 13 goals and was named in the PFA Division One Team of the Year. This would be his final full season at the club as he handed a transfer request in August 2005.

Reid NF

On the last day of the January transfer window Reid and Michael Dawson joined Tottenham Hotspur. He made his debut shortly after in a 3-1 win over Portsmouth and started off brightly but unfortunately this wouldn’t last and he only played 27 times for the club, scoring once in a 5-1 win over Aston Villa.

Due to lack of game time Reid joined Charlton Athletic in August 2006. Once again he started off well and gained a lot of praise, however the club were on a downward spiral at the time and were relegated from the Premier League. Reid stayed at the club to help them get promoted but after seven goals in 23 games he was linked with moves away and joined Premier League side Sunderland in January 2008.

Reid CA

He was a regular in the side for his first three seasons at the club but during the 2010-11 season he had lost his place in the side and joined Sheffield United on a two month loan, playing nine times and scoring twice. After struggling to get his place back in the Sunderland side he joined Blackpool but he only played five times and after their relegation he didn’t do enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Reid Sunderland

Reid rejoined Nottingham Forest on a two year deal. His form returned and his quality was there for all to see. During the 2013-14 season he surpassed all expectations and rolled back the years by scoring 10 goals in 36 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and was also named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year. An injury in the following campaign pretty much put his career to an end but did manage to play a few more games to take his number of appearances to over 450.

The final word can go to former Tottenham sporting director Frank Arnesen. “Andy can play as a left winger, down the right side or just behind the striker so his arrival compliments the squad. He’s a technical footballer with a nice left foot, who can read the game well.”

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.”

22nd July – Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt will go down in history as one of those players that put his teams needs before his own as he played in many different positions and performed admirably.

Kuyt started his career at Dutch side Quick Boys and after some impressive performances he was signed by Utrecht at the age of 18. He started his time there on the wing but during the 2002-03 season he was used a striker and scored 20 league goals and also scored in the KNVB Cup final.

Kuyt Utrecht

This convinced Feyenoord to sign Kuyt and he was an instant success, scoring 20 goals in his first season and in the opening game of the 2004-05 season he scored his first hatrick against De Graafschap. He would continue his good form and 29 goals meant he finished as the Eredivisie top scorer. More goals followed but even more remarkably during his seven seasons at the club he only missed five games. But on 18th August 2006 he joined Liverpool.

Kuyt Feyenoord

The fans quickly took to him and would score his first goal for the club against Newcastle United. He played a key role in helping the team reach the Champions League final and scored in it but unfortunately they were defeated by Milan. The second season was a little more difficult but he did score twice against Everton. It was during this time that he was more often than not played on the right wing.

He had also started to become known as a big game player and would pop up with some very important goals. During the 2008-09 season he had his best return of 15 goals as the team finished second. By the end of the next season, Everton fans were getting sick of Kuyt as he scored in both fixtures and in the second game his goal was his 50th for the club.

Once again he showed why the Liverpool fans loved him by scoring a hatrick against Manchester United in a 3-1 win and would later become the first player since John Aldridge to score in five consecutive games. He would finish the season as the club’s top scorer but the following campaign saw him have less of an impact but he did become only the fifth player to score 50 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League.

Kuyt Liverpool

After 208 league games and 51 goals he joined Fenerbahce in 2012. He managed to score on his league debut and had three successful years at the club, scoring 37 times but it was time for him to return home and he rejoined Feyenoord. He continued to score goals but even more remarkably he led them to their first Eredivise title since 1999 and he scored a hatrick to clinch the title.

The final word can go to Kenny Dalglish. “Dirk is the Liverpool player of choice. He never gives up, fights with everything and he is simply a good footballer. He scores goals and often in major competitions or at crucial moments.”

19th July – Luke Young

Luke Young was one of the most consistent right backs during the early to mid 2000s and many believe he should have won more England caps.

The right back did play seven times for England and had it not been for Gary Neville and the fact that he played for teams that weren’t challenging for the title then he would have surely gained more. He broke through at a time when a lot of players were overlooked not because of their quality but the team they played for.

Young started his career at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against West Ham at centre back. He featured a lot in the cup competitions that season, helping his side win the League Cup and reach the semi final of the FA Cup. He featured fairly regularly in his three years at the club, playing 76 games in all competitions but it was time to move on.

Young TH

Charlton Athletic signed Young on the 25th July 2001 for £3million and made his debut on the opening day in a 2-1 defeat to Everton. In his first season at the club, funnily he played alongside Mark Fish, Jonathan Fortune and Jorge Costa meaning it came up on the starting lineups as Young Fish Costa Fortune. He stayed as first choice through his time at the club and helped them defy expectations and stay in the Premier League for five years until relegation at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Young CA

While at Charlton, Young scored his first professional goal in August 2004 in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa and followed it up soon after with another against Birmingham City. At the end of this campaign he was named their Player of the Year. But after relegation he moved on to Middlesbrough. His spell at the club only lasted one season but he did manage one goal against Tottenham Hotspur.

On the 7th August 2008 Young transferred to Aston Villa. He quickly became a favourite at Villa Park due to his solid performances, playing at both right and left back. Despite this he found himself out of favour under Martin O’Neill and it looked as though he would be leaving for Liverpool as the two clubs agreed a fee, however Young turned them down as he didn’t want to be a backup.

Young AV

He stayed at Villa until 2011 when he joined QPR and was first choice in his first season but was frozen out of the squad by manager Mark Hughes. Then he suffered injuries and wasn’t even included in their 25 man squad. The last appearance of his career would be his only one outside the top flight as he played against Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The final word can go to former Charlton chairman Richard Money. “He is an international and his performances over the last few seasons, including last term when he was club captain, have been excellent. Luke is a key member of our squad.”

12th July – Stelios Giannakopoulos

Stelios Giannakopoulos is a player that helped his teams achieve much more than what was expected of them at both club and international level.

The midfielder helped Greece win the European Championships in 2004, playing in four of their six games, when nobody thought they would do anything in the tournament but it was largely down to how hard the team worked and their organisation and this is something Stelios has shown throughout his career.

Stelios Greece

In 1991, Stelios made his debut for Greek side Ethnikos Asteras and helped the club gain promotion to the Third Division and he was quickly impressing scouts from bigger clubs. He made the move to Paniliakos, where he continued developing and in three years scored 26 goals and was once again linked with moves to bigger clubs.

Olympiakos took a chance on him in 1996 and he would play a key role in helping them win the title every season he was there. But in his seven successful seasons, his most iconic contribution was in the Champions League as he scored the club’s first ever goal in the competition and it was even voted the goal of the tournament by fans.

Stelios Olypiakos

After his success in his homeland he wanted to test himself abroad with many suitors looking at him and English side Bolton Wanderers signed him on the 28th May 2003. In his first season he helped the club to their highest finish in the Premier League and also to the final of the League Cup. His performances were of the highest quality and other big clubs were trying to sign him. However, he stayed at Bolton and finished as their top scorer at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Injuries did start catching up with Stelios and he started playing less and less but he still managed to score some very important goals, including his last one for the club against Tottenham Hotspur which helped Bolton avoid relegation. With his contract coming to an end, he decided to join Hull City on a free transfer.

Stelios BW

He never really got the opportunity to show his quality at Hull and after just two league appearances he returned to Greece, joining AEL. He scored three times in his first four games and was influential until the end of the season as the club qualified for the Europa League which was seen as a miracle due to the size of them. A difficult second season followed and it ended with Stelios’ contract being cancelled and announcing his retirement.

Since retiring he has been the president of the Greek Professional Footballers Association as well as a spell as manager of former club Paniliakos from the 13th August 2012 to the 20th January 2013.

The final word can go to former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce. “He might be small but he’s very aggressive and very strong. He doesn’t mind the physical side of the game. He’s proved that. He’ll take it and just get up and get on with it.”

2nd July – Marc-Antoine Fortune

Marc-Antoine Fortune is currently stuck on 98 professional career goals and will be hoping that one more team gives him a chance to reach 100..

The forward started his career at French lower league side Angouleme where he broke into the side during the 1999-00 season, scoring three times in 10 appearances. He helped the club reach the third tier of French football and he was linked with moves to Ligue 1 sides. In 2002, Lille took a chance on Fortune.

While at the club he found himself playing out of position on the left wing and struggled with injuries to make a real impact. After just one season, Fortune joined Ligue 2 side Rouen on loan. He ended the season with 10 goals and for a third summer in a row he was on the move.

Stade Brest had a decent season with Fortune scoring 10 goals in 33 games and finishing 9th in Ligue 2. It looked as though he had settled, however when Eredivisie side Utrecht showed interest, Fortune could not turn down the opportunity. While in Holland, Fortune struggled to settle and the death of David Di Tommaso meant he could not show his talent.

Before his teammate died he had been looking quite impressive but after 13 goals in 56 appearances, he felt he needed to return to France. In January 2007, Nancy signed the striker and began really well, scoring six goals in 17 league games. After this he was largely used as an impact substitute and began to feel frustrated so in January 2009 he joined West Brom.

MAF Nancy

He became a fan favourite and scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and despite only playing half a season he was named the Supporters Player of the Year. He finished his loan spell with five goals and convinced Celtic to buy him.

MAF WB

After a good start with goals against St Johnstone and Rapid Vienna in the Europa League it turned sour, especially after Tony Mowbray was replaced by Neil Lennon so at the start of the 2010-11 season he returned to West Brom. He spent a further three seasons at West Brom, scoring nine goals as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. During this time, he also had a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

MAF WA

His next move was to Wigan Athletic and he featured heavily during their Europa League campaign and ended the season with 49 appearances. He lasted one more season and signed a one year deal for Coventry City. After four goals in 25 games he was on the move again to Southend United following a successful trial. Last season he scored four goals.

The final word can go to former Celtic and West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. “Marc is a quality player and he was a privilege to work with. Some of his play in the second half of the season was phenomenal, you can see the impact he made. He is a team player.”