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.”

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29th May – Claudio Cacapa

Claudio Cacapa is one of the most decorated players of the 2000s in France but his reputation in England is not as positive.

The central defender was never the tallest and some felt this is why he didn’t succeed in the Premier League and looked better in other leagues. Cacapa started his career in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro where he established himself quickly as first team regular after making his debut in 1996. In 1999 he was voted the best defender in the league receiving the Bola de Ouro award.

Cacapa AM

In 2001, he was linked with moves to Europe and eventually moved to Lyon, making his debut on the 17th February. His success was instantaneous as he scored in the Coupe de la Ligue final which Lyon won and this helped him earn a full time contract. Lyon awarded him with a five year deal and was given the captain’s armband. Over the next five years he lifted the Ligue 1 title each season and played a part in their Champions League campaigns.

Cacapa Lyon

When his contract came to an end there was a lot of interest and on the 3rd August 2007 he signed for Newcastle United. He made his debut as a substitute against Aston Villa and in doing so he became the 1000th player to play for the club in a competitive fixture. Later in the month he would make his full debut in a 2-0 win against Barnsley and followed this up three days later with his full Premier League debut, helping his team to a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

After a goal in a 3-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur, his career at Newcastle went downhill. In a game against Portsmouth, Cacapa was withdrawn after just 18 minutes after a few horrendous errors and his reputation was ruined. It was announced that he had an injury leading up to the game but he was heavily criticised.

Cacapa Newcastle

Despite being at the club until the end of the 2008-09 season, which ended in relegation, he only managed 25 league games and was released at the end of the campaign. Cacapa returned to Brazil and in a surprising move he joined Cruzeiro, big rivals to first club Mineiro. He played 22 times for the club, scoring one goal.

On the 25th January 2011, the defender joined French side Evian on a six month deal and helped the club win the Ligue 2 title and promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history. However, he wasn’t given a new contract and he joined Avai, where he stayed until his retirement on the 20th March 2012.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for Newcastle, Sam Allardyce. “He is a top player. Our fans should not be put off by the fact they may not have heard of Cacapa. He has been captain of Lyon for the past five years and for every one of those five years they won the French title.”

6th February – Per Frandsen

Per Frandsen is a player that will be very familiar to fans of Bolton Wanderers because he put in some brilliant performances for the club and scored some sublime goals.

The midfielder is now 45 and will go down as one of the most important players in Bolton’s recent history as he helped them gain promotion to the Premier League and also produced some solid performances to keep them in the top flight. He was a midfielder that could create a lot from the centre of the pitch and could certainly score some cracking goals, including one against Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2002-03 season which just highlighted everything about his game.

Frandsen started his career in his native Denmark with B 1903 and made an instant impact with the club. He would go on to finish as the third best goalscorer of the 1990 Danish First Division and ended his time at the club with 15 goals in just 25 league games which is a very good record for any player. In November 1990 he made the move to France and joined Lille for a club record fee. He spent four years with Lille and he was very consistent despite still being quite young and inexperienced and took to a new style of football very quickly. During his time at the club he scored 19 league goals in 109 games but they could not keep hold of their promising midfielder because of financial difficulties and he returned to Denmark, signing for Copenhagen.

Frandsen Lille

He acknowledged this would only be a temporary move and after helping the club lift the Danish Cup in 1995, he moved to Bolton Wanderers for £1.25 million in August 1996. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Port Vale and went on to score his first goal for the club in the next game against Manchester City. It was during this time that he was being linked with moves to the Premier League as he was considered one of the best to play outside of the top flight. But instead he stayed with Bolton and helped them win promotion to the Premier League. Despite this being followed by relegation he was one of the bright spots in the team.

Frandsen Copenhagen

In September 1999 he made the move to Blackburn Rovers for £1.75 million and the Bolton manager Colin Todd resigned because he was against the decision to sell the midfielder. Unfortunately for Frandsen it didn’t work out for him at Ewood Park and after just one season he returned to Bolton for £1.6 million. His second spell was also very good and he was very good with the younger players in the squad, particularly Kevin Nolan who has stated how important he has been in his career.

Frandsen BWFC

In 2004 he was released by Bolton after 304 first team games and 38 goals. Before he retired from the game because of a cruciate ligament injury he went on to help Wigan Athletic gain promotion to the Premier League, grabbing a goal against Brighton.

The final word can go to Sam Allardyce. “I have ultimate respect for him. Per will go down in Bolton folklore. Everyone at the club has appreciated what he has done for us. Eight years is a long time in any career and Per has had eight great years at the club.”

4th November – Enner Valencia

West Ham have made a fantastic start to the season and have been one of the surprise packages with birthday boy Enner Valencia playing a key part in their new attacking style.

It is an unwritten rule not to sign a player after a World Cup as they can sometimes be hit and miss but Sam Allardyce took a chance on the Ecuadorian and it has certainly worked out for him. The striker from Ecuador has 11 goals in 17 international appearances and that is a very good record and with three goals at the World Cup it was a surprise to see him not being linked with more clubs.

The 25 year old started his career in Ecuador with Emelec in 2008 but he had to wait until 2010 and the arrival of Argentinean coach Jorge Sampaoli to get a chance in the first team. He would go on to score his first professional goal in a crucial game against LDU Quito on the 10th March to gain an important win against their title rivals. In the following season he became more of a regular starter and rewarded his managers confidence by scoring nine goals and helping his side finish second in the table. For a third season in a row Emelec would finish runners up in 2012 but Valencia was getting better and scoring more goals, this time grabbing 13 goals.
Valencia Emelec
Finally in 2013 Emelec would win the title but surprisingly the striker didn’t have his goalscoring boots on and in terms of goals had a poor season. However, he did manage to hit his first career hatrick on the 7th August 2013 in the Copa Sudamericana. This proved to be his last season at the club as he joined Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 and would score his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Tijuana on the 18th January. The following week he scored twice against defending champions Club Leon and would end the season as the top scorer in Liga MX with 12 goals. In the playoffs he would also score a hatrick in a 4-2 win over UNAM.
Valencia Pachuca
After a total of 18 goals in 23 league games and an impressive World Cup, West Ham signed the striker on the 29th July 2014. His time at West Ham did not start well as he came on as a substitute in the defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season and then had a penalty saved in the League Cup tie against Sheffield United. But on his full league debut he put in an impressive performance away to Hull City, where he also scored his first goal for the club with a strike from 25 yards that reached 61 miles per hour. He has scored two more goals for West Ham, in a 3-1 win over Burnley and in the 2-2 draw with Stoke City.
Valencia WH
The final word can go to teammate Stewart Downing who has benefited from playing alongside Valencia. “From what I’ve seen, he looks a very good player. He can nick a goal and it’s what we’ve needed as we didn’t have that last season. It will help the manager that he has options and he can bring people in who can perform straight away.”

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.”

9th October – Mark Viduka

Mark Viduka was a very good striker that scored a lot of goals during his career and was well liked at most clubs he was at.

The striker also holds the record for being the highest scoring Australian in the Champions League, unfortunately the 39 year old didn’t get that many opportunities to play in the competition. He also captained his national side in the 2006 World Cup which must have been a great moment. His goal record was usually superb and his strike partners benefitted from playing alongside him.

Viduka started his career in Australia with Melbourne Knights in 1993 and in his two seasons at the club, he finished as the top scorer and was awarded the NSL Player of the Year. In his second season he helped the club win the title and after 40 goals in 48 appearances in his time at the club he was being linked with moves to Europe. In 1995 he moved to Croatia and joined Dinamo Zagreb and with the transfer money his former club rebuilt a new grandstand and named it the ‘Mark Viduka Stand’. He quickly settled into life in Croatia and in his three and a half years at the club he helped them win three doubles in between 1996 and 1998.
Viduka DZ
The next part of his career is interesting as he signed for Celtic in December 1998 for £3.5 million but this fee seemed to get to the striker as he quit playing the game without kicking a ball, citing stress as the reason. However, these issues were resolved and he eventually made his debut against Dundee United on the 27th February 1999. In his first full season he showed everyone his real quality and at the end of it he was named the Scottish Player of the Year after scoring 27 times.

Just before the start of the 1999-00 season he joined Leeds United for £6 million. Viduka formed good partnerships with the other strikers including Michael Bridges, Alan Smith and Robbie Keane. In his first season he scored 22 goals and will always be remembered for his performance against Liverpool when he scored all four goals in a 4-3 win.

After signing a new five year deal in the summer of 2001 much was expected of him and Leeds but after another two good seasons, things started to unravel. They slipped down the table and had to rely on Viduka’s goals to keep them in the Premier League. In the 2002-03 campaign he almost singlehandedly kept them up by scoring another 22 goals, including a hatrick in a 6-1 win over Charlton Athletic and the winner over Arsenal on the penultimate day of the season.
Viduka LUn
Eventually they suffered relegation at the end of the 2003-04 season and after 59 goals in the Premier League they had to sell him to Middlesbrough. His first season at his new club was impressive but also frustrating as he suffered a lot of injuries. He spent three seasons at Boro and was a constant threat, helping them to reach the UEFA Cup final in 2006. After a further 29 Premier League goals he joined Newcastle United.
Viduka Boro
He was Sam Allardyce’s first signing at the club but he did not show his true potential until Kevin Keegan became manager and played him alongside Obafemi Martins and Michael Owen. The goals did not come as easy for the Australian but he certainly helped his two strike partners find the net regularly. However an achilles injury at the end of his first season ruined the rest of his time at the club as Newcastle were relegated in the following campaign and Viduka didn’t score a single goal.

The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He’ll be a massive asset. He’s very focused, and we’re working on his sharpness. His training has been excellent. When he’s fit, he’s a handful in any league in the world and in the Premier League. He’s certainly proved that.”

1st October – Ricardo Vaz Te

Ricardo Vaz Te may not be getting much game time at West Ham at the moment but the club definitely owe a lot to him and may not even be in the Premier League if it wasn’t for him.

The forward scored a late winner in the Championship playoff final against Blackpool just a few months after signing for the club and the fans, board and manager should not forget his achievements. This season West Ham are definitely a more attacking team and have certainly played a lot better football and maybe the fans would have seen more of Vaz Te’s talents had he been in a side that played this style of football. Now 28 he should be in the best years of his career but he is sat on the bench probably getting more frustrated.

Vaz Te started his career at Bolton Wanderers in 2003 when Sam Allardyce was in charge and quickly rose through the youth teams and made his debut in an FA Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers in January 2004. Two months later he made his Premier League debut in a 2-0 defeat against Middlesbrough and started his first ever game away to Manchester United later in the year.
Vaz Te Bolton
Over the next few seasons he was involved regularly but most of his appearances were from the bench and injuries ruined his time at the club. On the 11th May 2010 he was released by Bolton after playing 78 times and scoring seven goals, while at the club he also had a loan spell at Hull City.

On the 30th June 2010 Vaz Te joined Greek side Panionios on a three year deal, however the club suffered financial problems and after just six months agreed to cancel his contract. He feature eight times for the club, scoring one goal but it must have been difficult for a young player to continue playing when he had not received any pay for four of the six months he was at the club.

His next move was to Scotland after a trial with Hibernian, they signed him on the 28th February 2011 and made his debut in a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone. Although his time at the club was short, he did become a fan favourite after scoring in the Edinburgh derby against Hearts, however this turned out to be his only goal. At the end of the season he joined Championship side Barnsley in July 2011 on trial and impressed enough to earn a contract with the club.

He had to wait a while to score his first goal but will go down as one of the club’s best strikers in recent years after hitting a fantastic run of form. His first goal did not come until a 2-0 win over Burnley on the 18th October and afterwards he scored some important goals that will make the Barnsley fans never forget him. On the 6th December he scored the fastest goal in Barnsley’s history after scoring only 8.5 seconds into a match against Crystal Palace and then scored a hatrick against Leeds United in a 4-1 win on the 31st December.
Vaz Te Barnsley
After 10 goals in 22 games he was being linked with moves away from the club and joined promotion chasing West Ham on the 31st January 2012. Over the course of the 2011-12 season Vaz Te scored 24 goals, including 12 in just 18 games for his new club, including the winning goal in the Championship playoff final.
Vaz Te WH
Since promotion to the Premier League, he has suffered from injuries and has never really been given a run in the side.

The final word can go to Sam Allardyce. “Ricardo Vaz Te: what a signing. He’s one of my best signings ever and I’ve had some bargain buys in my time, he deserves a lot of credit. He was down and out in his career, and I brought him back.”