12th November – James McCarthy

When Roberto Martinez left Wigan Athletic for Everton it was inevitable that some of his former players would join him at his new club and arguably James McCarthy has been one of their most consistent players in the last few seasons.

The holding midfielder does a fantastic job for the side as he allows the full backs to press forward and give the team a lot of width whilst not leaving his own goal overexposed. There are few better in his position at the moment and it is strange that he is still seen as underrated as he is one of the most important players in the squad and has so far never let anyone down.

McCarthy is now 24 and will be hoping that he can continue to improve at the rate he has already and go on to get more plaudits in his career. The midfielder started his career in Scotland with Hamilton Academicals and made his debut as a substitute against Queen of the South on the 30th September 2006 becoming the youngest player to play for the club in the 21st century. His full debut would come just over a month later, a day before his 16th birthday, against Airdrie United. He would then also go on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer when he hit the back of the net in a Scottish Cup game against Livingston, aged just 16 years and 55 days.
McCarthy HA
In the 2007-08 season McCarthy’s quality was clear to see and he helped his side gain promotion to the SPL with six goals in 35 games and was rewarded with a new three year contract. He had quickly become one of the best young players in Scotland and many were interested to see how he would do in the top flight. McCarthy made the step up comfortably and was named the SPFA Young Player of the Year after yet another fantastic season which saw him score a further six league goals.

It was always going to be difficult to keep hold of the midfielder and on the 21st July 2009 he made the move down south to Wigan. His debut was one to forget, however as his side were defeated 5-0 by Manchester United. It did take him a little while to find his feet but this was expected and he would go on to score on his first Premier League start against Wolves on the 16th January 2010. This seemed to give him confidence and his performances steadily improved.
McCarthy WA
He began the 2010-11 season very well but a serious ankle injury kept him out of action for three months. On his return to the side he scored against Aston Villa and then followed this up with two goals against Blackburn Rovers in a 4-3 win. His reputation was once again on the rise and he was given a new five year contract by Wigan to make sure if he did have to leave they would get a good transfer fee for him. He remained consistent for the club and was part of the team that won the FA Cup in 2013 before Wigan were relegated in the same season.

After relegation it was unlikely that he would stay at the club but he did feature five times for them in the Championship showing his commitment but on the 2nd September 2013 he joined Everton for £13 million. McCarthy was brilliant in his first season and forged a very good partnership with Gareth Barry which was a key reason why they reached a club record 72 points in the Premier League. He had to wait until the final day of the season to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Hull City.
McCarthy Everton
The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “James is one of those players you sometimes don’t appreciate but he’s always there making sure the team has the right balance. He allows others to shine. He can adapt to different situations during a game when you need him to because of the tactical awareness that he has.”

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27th October – Rhys Weston

Rhys Weston may not be the most recognisable name but he has had a very interesting career and if it wasn’t for injuries he may have played at a higher level for a prolonged period of time.

The defender will be fondly remembered by Cardiff City fans as he helped them climb from the bottom division of the Football League to the Championship and even took a pay cut in 2005 to help the club. The 34 year old can also say that he played at the highest level as he featured seven times for Wales between the years of 2000 and 2005.

Now 34 he doesn’t have a club but has played in a few different countries and experienced some different cultures so he can at least take that from his career. Weston started his career at Arsenal and made his debut on the 30th November 1999 in a League Cup game against Middlesbrough after coming on as a substitute. Later in the season he would go on to make his only top flight appearance as he started the final game against Newcastle United on the 14th May 2000.

In total he played three times for Arsenal before joining Cardiff in November 2000 for £300,000. He made his debut in a 3-2 win over Lincoln City and would go on to play another 31 times as the club gained promotion to Division Two after finishing 2nd. In the following season Weston was a more important member of the team and showed his quality in the 43 games he played, unfortunately the club missed out on back to back promotions after being beaten in the playoffs by Stoke City. The 2002-03 season was successful for the player and the club as they managed to gain promotion after beating QPR 1-0 in the playoff final. During the season Weston also scored his first professional goal after scoring in a 4-0 win over Tranmere Rovers on the 26th October.
Weston CC
Despite adapting well to the First Division, Weston struggled with injuries and would only play 24 times after suffering a knee injury and then damaging cartilage in his other knee in March 2004. In the following campaign he returned to his consistent self but again his season was ended by injury. At the end of the season he accepted a substantial reduction in his wages and was placed on the transfer list by new manager Dave Jones but still managed to play 30 times during the 2005-06 season. However, he was left out of the club’s pre-season tour and was released.

Weston then joined Norwegian side Viking but his only match for the club lasted 12 minutes as he dislocated his shoulder. Four days later the manager was sacked and the incoming manager could not speak English so Weston returned to the UK. In February 2007 Weston signed for Port Vale. He would go onto play 15 games for the club before being released. On the 16th July 2007 Weston signed for Walsall and went on to play 50 games for the club during the 2007-08 season earning himself a new deal. He would continue to be a consistent player but at the end of the 2009-10 manager Chris Hutchings decided not to give him a contract and after 111 games he joined Dundee.
Weston Walsall
He spent two seasons at the Scottish side and in both seasons they finished 2nd in Division One but at the end of his contract he decided to join Icelandic side KR Reykjavik. Due to financial problems he left the club after just 16 appearances and made the move to Malaysia to sign for Sabah FA. He only played six times and joined AFC Wimbledon on the 7th August 2013. Once again he did not get much game time and after a loan spell at Sutton United he was not offered a new contract.
Weston Dundee
The final word can go to Richard Money. “Rhys has become an important member of the team. His performances have become more and more consistent as the season has progressed and we hope that he will continue to be an important player for Walsall.”

2nd October – Michael Ball

A lot of people say that more British players should go abroad and learn how football is played in different countries and that is exactly what birthday boy Michael Ball did.

He may not be the most famous to go play abroad but at least he took the risk and decided to give it a go, a lot of British players are criticised because they take the safe option and would rather stay in a league that they understand. So the 35 year old left back definitely deserves credit for deciding that his football would improve by leaving England and trying to adapt to a new culture.

The one time capped England defender started his career at Everton and made his debut in April 1997 as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur and then started the match against West Ham a week later. He developed into a very solid full back and could also fill in at centre back when it was required and in his five years at the club he played 121 Premier League games, scoring eight times. His form at club level impressed England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and was included in his squad for a friendly against Spain in February 2001. Ball would come on at half time for Chris Powell to get his one and only England cap.
Ball at Everton
In 2001 Everton had to sell some of their better players, including Ball who joined Rangers for £6.5 million. Ball had a difficult start at Rangers as he was fined £10,000 by the club for swearing at manager Dick Advocaat in the Old Firm Derby against Celtic after being substituted and then in only his 11th game he suffered medial ligament damage that would keep him out for 18 months.

After missing the entire 2002-03 season he regained his fitness and became a first team regular in the following season and in his first month back he scored his first goal against Dundee United and also won the Player of the Month award. In all competitions he played 43 times during the season but this caused problems as Rangers would have to pay more money to Everton after he played a certain amount of games so they were reluctant to use him at the start of the 2004-05 season.
Ball Rangers
This was eventually solved in December 2004 and Ball helped the club win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title but at the end of the season Rangers wanted to get rid of some of their highest earners and after 55 SPL games Ball joined Dutch side PSV. Unfortunately the manager Guus Hiddink and the PSV fans could not see the best of the defender because of injury problems that ruined his time at the club but he did still help them lift the Dutch title in his first season.

Injuries meant he did not even play a game in his second season at the club and joined Manchester City on the 31st January 2007 on a six month deal after impressing on a trial. He quickly regained his form and became a dependable defender for City and in his first season and a half at the club he captained the side on a number of occasions. But in January 2009 he needed an operation on his knee which would keep him out of action for nine months and on the 1st July he was released by the club.
Ball MCFC
To get back to match fitness he joined several clubs on trial but none of these led to contracts and he had to wait until the 8th August 2011 to get signed to another club. Leicester City signed him but he only made three appearances for the club in his only season at the club.

The final word can go to Sven Goran Eriksson who was also his manager at Manchester City. “Michael’s experienced, having played in Scotland and Holland as well as England and it’s good he is staying with us as he’s going to be very useful. We had to build on what was good here, so I’m happy that he’s signed.”

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.”

20th September – Henrik Larsson

Henrik Larsson is loved by Celtic fans because of everything he did for the club but he will also be fondly remembered by fans of Barcelona, Manchester United and Helsignborg.

The striker is now 43 and is currently the manager of Swedish side Falkenberg. It will always be difficult for his managerial career to match up to his playing career as he won honours all throughout his career and scored goals at every level.

Larsson started his career at Hogaborg and after leaving school he combined a semi professional career at the club with work as a fruit packer. He was a regular goal scorer, hitting the back of the net 23 times in 74 games. This convinced Swedish second division side Helsingborg to sign him in 1992. In his first year he scored 34 goals which helped his side gain promotion to the top flight and his career continued to grow after scoring 16 in the following season to help them finish in a respectable mid table position. In November 1993 Larsson signed for Dutch side Feyenoord.
Larsson Feyenoord
He never really settled but he still managed to play over 100 times for the club and score 26 league goals. During his time at the club he also won two KNVB Cups and was also a consistent goal scorer in Europe, particularly the 1994-95 season where he scored seven times.

He left Feyenoord in 1997 but had to go through a legal battle with the club before signing for Celtic. On his debut he inadvertently set up the winner for Hibernian in a 2-1 loss and then scored an own goal on his European debut against Tirol Innsbruck. But he recovered from this and finished the season as the club’s top scorer with 18 in all competitions, including goals in the final of the League Cup and also on the final day of the season, clinching the title for Celtic.

His second season was better on a personal level as he hit 38 goals but Celtic could not retain their title. After a bright start in the 1999-00 season, he suffered a broken leg in two places and it was feared that his career was over, but after eight months out he returned as a substitute on the last day of the season. He then had his best season, scoring 35 goals in 38 games and winning the treble in Scotland. He would go on to win the Golden Boot in the next two seasons as well.
Larsson Celtic
After seven years at Celtic he left with four SPL titles, two Scottish League Cups and two Scottish Cups. In 2002 he was voted in Celtic’s greatest ever team, finishing with 242 goals in 315 matches. At the end of the 2003-04 season he joined Barcelona. He played his part in helping them win the title and earned a contract extension despite missing a lot of the season through injury. He announced he would be returning to Sweden at the end of the 2004-05 season and in his final game for the club he came on as a substitute in the Champions League final, setting up both goals in a 2-1 win over Arsenal.

Larsson then re-signed for Helsingborg and scored eight goals in 15 league games and helped them win the Swedish Cup. With it being the off season in Sweden, Larsson joined Manchester United on loan and scored on his debut against Aston Villa. Larsson went back to his parent club after 13 games and three goals. On the 20th October 2009 he announced his retirement from playing but was still scoring goals and ended his second spell at Helsingborg with 54 goals in just 104 games.
Larsson MUFC
The final word can go to Alex Ferguson speaking after his final game for the club. “The players took to him very well. That’s the thing I’ll remember. He was all over the place, tackling, running and sprinting forward. When we walked into the dressing room, all of the players stood up and applauded him because it was his last game. It was a really touching moment.”

14th September – Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith has been one of the surprising stars of the Premier League so far and now at the age of 27 he is getting towards the best years of his career.

Everton have had an indifferent start to the season but with their 2-0 victory over West Brom they will be hoping this is where things will get more consistent for them and they will battle for a place in the top four. Despite this being their only league win so far, they have also only lost one game and Naismith has been in excellent form, scoring in the first three games of the season against Leicester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The striker started his career at Kilmarnock and signed professionally in August 2002, then making his debut as a substitute against Hibernian on the 24th April 2004. He had to wait until February 2005 to score his first senior goal against Hearts in a 2-2 draw. It was in the 2005-06 season that he really began to make a name for himself as he won the SPL Young Player of the Month in August and January and then the SPL Player of the Month award in March.
Naismith Everton
He continued to be one of the best strikers in Scotland and was therefore linked with moves away from the club and after 115 games and 35 goals for Kilmarnock he moved onto Rangers on the 31st August 2007. His first season at the club started off well but a knee injury in April 2008 kept him out of action for eight months. After missing the majority of the following campaign he returned to help Rangers lift the Scottish Cup.

In the 2009-10 season he received his first SPL winners medal after the club won back to back titles but this time Naismith had played enough games to get one. He played 28 times in the league, scoring three times. While at Rangers he was used a lot as a wide player and this was part of the reason he did not score a lot of goals but the 2010-11 season he had his best goal return at the club, hitting the back of the net 15 times and winning the Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year.
Naismith Rangers
The 2011-12 season could have been so much better for Naismith if it wasn’t cut short by injury. He started the season by scoring on the opening day against Hearts, and followed this up by scoring eight times in the first eight league games, including two against Celtic in a 4-2 win. After nine goals in 11 games he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and did not play for the club again.

Naismith joined Everton on the 4th July 2012 after Rangers had been liquidated. He made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Manchester United. He did not have the best first season as he was largely used as a substitute but he has the record of scoring the final goal of David Moyes’ reign at the club in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Naismith Killie
Under new manager Roberto Martinez he made a rare start against Chelsea in September 2013 and scored the game’s only goal. As the season progressed he became a more important member of the team and his good run of form coincided with Everton winning seven games on the bounce and also helping them to fifth place and also their highest point tally ever in the Premier League.

The final word can go to David Moyes. “He is an established international who can play in a number of positions. He will be an excellent addition to the players we already have and will hopefully prove to be very useful for us.”

7th September – Robert Snodgrass

Scotland put a brave fight against Germany tonight in a 2-1 defeat but could it have been a different story if birthday boy Robert Snodgrass had been available?

The winger would have given his country a different option and it seemed like Germany were struggling with Scotland’s wide players so someone with Snodgrass’ ability could have just given them something extra. It was a very good performance from Scotland and they will be very proud tonight and they will now think that they can qualify for the European Championships which Snodgrass will be hoping to be a part of.

Snodgrass started his career at Scottish club Livingston and impressed as soon as he broke into their first team but did not become a regular in the side until the 2005-06 season. However, this would be a year of mixed emotions as he played 26 times in the league, scoring four times but his team suffered relegation from the SPL. After breaking a metatarsal in the 2006-07 season he moved on loan to Stirling Albion for the remainder of the campaign and was sensational scoring five times in just 12 games.
Snodgrass Livingston
After returning to Livingston he did everything he could to get the club promoted but his nine goals were not enough and after 15 goals in 79 league appearances he decided to leave the club. Leeds United signed the midfielder and after initially struggling to become a regular in the side, he hit a fantastic run of form in November 2008 which saw him score four times in seven games. By the end of the season he finished his first season with 11 goals and 16 assists.

In the 2009-10 season he produced some more excellent performances and was named in the PFA League One Team of the Year and helped the club gain promotion back to the Championship, adding another 10 goals and 14 assists to his tally. His first season in the Championship didn’t start off well because he picked up a knee injury in preseason and missed the early months of the season.
Robert Snodgrass, Leeds United
However, when he was back fully fit he proved he was good enough for the division and won the Player of the Month in both January and February 2011. Although he missed a few games during the season he still scored six goals in the league. At the start of the following campaign Leeds did not want to lose one of their star players and wanted him to sign a new contract which Neil Warnock said would make him the highest paid Leeds player. Despite his future being in doubt he was given the captain’s armband by Warnock and proved his loyalty to the club by being one of the best players in the Championship, scoring 13 goals and assisting a further 14.

In July 2012 Snodgrass signed for Premier League side Norwich City and made his debut in a 5-0 away defeat to Fulham. Things would improve for both him and the club as they eventually finished 11th in the table and Snodgrass finished runner up in the Fans Player of the Year vote. The 2013-14 season was a more difficult season as Norwich were relegated but Snodgrass finished as the club’s top scorer with seven goals.
Snodgrass NC
On the 30th June he moved to Hull City but on his league debut he suffered a dislocated kneecap and is expected to miss six months.

The final word can go the former Norwich manager Chris Hughton. “He is a player I have admired for a number of years now and he’s at a good age. He’s also got that international experience with Scotland and is used to playing in big matches both with his country and at Elland Road.”