4th October – Ryan Shawcross

Ryan Shawcross may have been disappointed in Stoke City’s 3-1 defeat away to Sunderland but he has quickly became one of the most consistent centre backs in the Premier League.

The 27 year old is Stoke’s captain and the one time England international could count himself unlucky that he doesn’t get into Roy Hodgson’s squad on a regular basis as he is at least the same standard than those that do play for the country. Shawcross has helped the club become a solid Premier League side and one that are usually very difficult to beat and although their form has been patchy this season, they should not battle against relegation and be aiming for the top half.

Shawcross started his career at Manchester United and made his first team debut as a substitute against Crewe in the third round of the League Cup on the 25th October 2006. To gain first team experience, the centre back was sent out on loan to Belgian side Antwerp in January 2007, where in his 22 appearances he scored three times and helped them reach the Second Division playoffs.
Shawcross MU
In the summer he returned to Old Trafford but he wouldn’t stay for long as he was loaned out once again, this time to Stoke City and made a fantastic start to his time at the club by scoring the only goal against Cardiff City on his debut. He continued to impress everyone and was named the Championship Player of the Month in October 2007.

With Stoke looking like one of the teams that would be challenging for promotion they moved quickly to sign Shawcross permanently and on the 18th January 2008, Stoke paid £1 million for the centre back with the fee eventually rising to £2 million after they were promoted. In his first season at the club he played 41 league games and scored seven goals.
Shawcross SC
After starting in Stoke’s first Premier League game he soon lost his place to new signing Ibrahima Sonko but would go onto regain his place in the side and help the team avoid relegation. He scored against Aston Villa, Everton and Middlesbrough and was soon being linked to other Premier League clubs but manager Tony Pulis laughed off the speculation that he would leave.

In the 2009-10 season he scored on the opening day against Burnley in a 2-0 win and he would continue to be very consistent. However, he had a very mixed day on the 27th February 2010 as he was called up to the England squad for the first time but unfortunately he had been involved in an incident against Arsenal that would see him being sent off and Aaron Ramsey suffering a broken leg after a tackle from the centre back. The defender was clearly upset by the incident as he was seen crying as he left the pitch.
Shawcross Eng
He recovered from this and was handed the captain’s armband at the start of the 2010-11 season and led his team to the FA Cup final which they lost 1-0 against Manchester City but qualified for the Europa League in the process. This meant he had a much busier season in the next campaign and played 49 out of the club’s 56 games.

Since being given the captaincy he has barely missed a game and on the 12th April 2014 he became the first Stoke player to ever play 200 games in the Premier League and last season he only missed one game as Stoke finished 9th and he was awarded the Player of the Year award.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “Ryan’s had an exceptional season. There are very few centre halves I’ve seen who are head and shoulders above him. I find it difficult to comprehend that he doesn’t get a mention for England. If he was picked, he wouldn’t let anyone down.”

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3rd September – Scott Carson

Whenever England play at Wembley it must bring back bad memories for goalkeeper Scott Carson as his chances of being England’s number one was ruined in one night.

The game against Croatia will be remembered for England not qualifying for Euro 2008. Carson was at fault for at least one of the goals, however this has not had an effect on his club career as he has always been a very consistent goalkeeper. Now at the age of 29 he will be hoping that he can be a Premier League keeper once again.
Carson WA
Carson started his career at Leeds United and progressed quickly through their youth ranks and the reserves, making his first team debut in January 2004 after Paul Robinson was sent off against Middlesbrough and he had to come on. Two weeks later he made his full debut against Manchester United and helped them get a 1-1 draw. The goalkeeper played once more against Chelsea.

Despite being offered a new contract at Leeds he decided he wanted to leave the club and Liverpool signed him in January 2005. He signed for the club in the right season as it meant that he picked up a Champions League winners medal even though he only played in one game, the quarter final victory over Juventus.

After only playing nine times for the club in a season and a half he was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday in March 2006. Carson played a key role in helping Wednesday avoid relegation from the Championship as he kept five clean sheets in his nine appearances. At the end of the season he returned to Liverpool and signed a new contract with the club but was loaned out for the entire 2006-07 season to Charlton Athletic.

On a personal level he had a very good season there as he played in 36 league games (only missing the games against Liverpool) and being voted the Supporters’ Club Player of the Year. However, he could not prevent them from being relegated. Once again he was told he would not be first choice at Liverpool and was loaned out to Aston Villa and only missed three league games in the next season. During the 2007-08 season he managed 11 clean sheets but did also receive the first red card of his career.

After years of being loaned out, Carson left the club permanently in 2008 when he joined West Brom. He had some ups and downs during his time there with him suffering another relegation to the Championship but did help them gain promotion with 15 clean sheets in 43 games. He briefly lost his place during the 2010-11 season but after Roy Hodgson became their new manager he was quickly reinstated as the number one.
Carson WB
On the 1st July 2011 Carson left West Brom and joined Turkish side Bursapsor for £2 million and was very impressive in his first season, helping them to 8th place and only conceding 35 goals and in his second and final campaign at the club he helped them qualify for the Europa League by finishing in fourth place.
Carson Bursaspor
Wigan Athletic brought him back to England to help them return to the Premier League and in his first year he played 18 times.

The final word can go to Martin O’Neill. “Carson has been doing very well for us. We are very pleased with him. He has shown a bit of strength of character, and that is always encouraging. He is a very strong person and he is staying very focused.”

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.”

8th June – Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano could be the most important player in the Argentina squad and even though he won’t get the headlines like Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero, their hopes of winning the World Cup could depend on how well he plays.

The midfielder will play just in front of the back four allowing the more attacking players to go and do what they do best with the knowledge that one of the best ball winners in Europe is protecting their defence. It is a job that only a few players can effectively do and Mascherano is one of the best at it.

The 30 year old began his career at River Plate and in his first season he won the Clausura Championship and also helped the club reach the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores, unfortunately they lost to rivals Boca Juniors on penalties. Several European clubs tried to sign Mascherano at this time, including Real Madrid but River decided to keep that player for another season. However, this one was less successful as they struggled in the league and once again lost in the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores.
LIBER CUP MASCHERANO
In 2005 he did leave the Argentinean side for Corinthians in Brazil but he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot which meant after just nine games he would not play again that season. After six months out he returned to a struggling side who were battling relegation and although his performances were still very high, the team were struggling. After just 28 games for the club, one of the most bizarre transfer happened in world football as he and Carlos Tevez joined West Ham. Mascherano did not have the same impact as Tevez and he only played 15 league games for the Hammers and in Janauary 2007 he was on the move once again.

Liverpool signed him and he made his debut against Sheffield United on the 24th February in a 4-0 win and was praised by manager Rafael Benitez. “He is young but he has great experience having played for his country. It’s clear that he is one of the best midfielders in the world but he can get better with us.” Mascherano and Xabi Alonso’s partnership in the centre of midfield was a key part of Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final.
Mascherano Liverpool
In 2008 he signed a new four year deal and within a month he scored his first Premier League goal with a 20 yard strike against Reading. The 2009-10 season was a little harder for the hard tackler as he picked up two red cards during the season and had the worst disciplinary record in the league but he was considered undroppable when available and he was quickly becoming a fans favourite. However, after the 2010 World Cup he told new manager Roy Hodgson that he wanted to leave the club.

In August 2010 he joined Barcelona and his time there did not start well as his league debut ended in a 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Hercules at home. It was a difficult first season at the Spanish club with a lot of his early appearances being as a substitute and then in the second half of the season playing out of position as a central defender. But he performed well in this position, especially in the Champions League and he started the 2011 final alongside Gerard Pique and helped his team to a 3-1 win over Manchester United. Since then he has played most of his games in defence and has been a consistent performer for the team and even though he is not the tallest, he has never let the team down.
Mascherano Barca
He is yet to score for Barcelona in his 184 appearances but he is a valued member of the team and this summer was awarded a new contract keeping him at the club until 2018.

His teammates know how important he is and the final word can go to Lionel Messi. “He has turned into a fundamental player for us. He hasn’t had a bad game for us since Guardiola put him in the middle of the defence.”