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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3rd November – Stevie May

Sheffield Wednesday have made a good start to the season but they have struggled to put the ball in net and they will be hoping that Stevie May can find his feet in the Championship soon.

They have the joint best defensive record in the division and if only they could have scored more goals then they would have been closer to the top of the league than they currently are. May will need time to adapt to the English game but if the chances fall his way then he will surely hit the back of the net on a regular basis.

The 22 year old started his career at St Johnstone and made his debut as a 16 year old on the 11th May 2009 against Airdrie United and even managed to score. This convinced the club to give him a new contract but did not make an appearance in the following season as he needed extra time to develop. He had to wait until a game against Hearts on the 13th November 2010 to make his next appearance and would then start his first game against Motherwell on the 26th January 2011. In total he played 22 games over the course of the season and scored twice in a 2-0 win over Hamilton.
May SJ
At the start of the 2011-12 season he could not break into the first team and joined Alloa Athletic on loan and was instrumental in the club winning the Scottish Third Division. He scored a hatrick against East Stirlingshire in January 2012 and was in fantastic form for the rest of the season. Later in the season he would score four times against Elgin City to secure the title for Alloa and was then named the SFL Third Division Player of the Season after 19 goals in 22 games. This also led to him being given an extended contract at his parent club.

But it did not secure him a first team place at St Johnstone and he once again went out on loan. This time to First Division side Hamilton. After a slightly slow start he found his feet in the higher division and began to score goals for fun, including hatricks in consecutive games in April 2013 against Airdrieonians and Livingston. At the end of the season he won more personal awards after scoring 26 goals in just 35 games. This form finally convinced his parent club to give him a chance in their first team.
May Hamilton
May started the season well with four goals in the first nine league games and a winner over Rosenborg in the Europa League. The following month, May won the October SPL Player of the Month after scoring five times in four games. His goalscoring did not slow as he hit two hatricks in the space of three weeks against Dundee United and then Hearts. May’s 19th and 20th goals of the season were arguably his most important as they were in the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen which secured the club’s place in their first ever final. They would go on to lift the trophy with May providing the assist for former Sheffield Wednesday favourite Steven MacLean. May finished the season with 27 goals in all competitions and he was linked with moves away from the club all summer, however he played in the early rounds of the Europa League, scoring against Luzern and Spartak Trnava.

On the 9th August 2014, the striker signed for Sheffield Wednesday and scored his first goal for the club against Middlesbrough on the 23rd August. He would go on to also score against Birmingham City and Reading in the following weeks but now he has to push on and grab more goals for the side.
May SW
The final word can go to Sheffield Wednesday manager Stuart Gray. “We’ve got to create chances for him. He’s got a calmness in the 18 yard box where he can pick out the corners. I’ve got every confidence he will convert them. He’s very keen to get into the full Scotland squad.”

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.”

27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”

23rd May – Ross Wallace

It has been a remarkable season for Burnley but it was tough for Ross Wallace for long periods as he picked up an injury in preseason that kept him out for a long time and missed a lot of action.

The 29 year old still managed to play 14 times and he will he be pleased to be back at the top level and will be hoping that he can be a regular started in the Premier League. He is no stranger to the top flight and playing in big games as he came through the youth team at Celtic and knows how hard it can be to break into a top team.
Wallace Celtic
In 2003 he signed four year deal with Celtic and in his first season he only played a handful of games but did manage to score his first professional goal in a 5-0 win over Dunfermline and then against the same opposition he picked up his first winners medal as he helped Celtic win the Scottish Cup with a 3-1 win in the final. In the following season he managed to get on the pitch more and even came on as a substitute in three Champions League games. But his greatest moment at the club was when he scored a hatrick against Falkirk in the Scottish League Cup which was praised by his manager Martin O’Neill and the man that was keeping him out the team regularly Alan Thompson.

When Gordon Strachan took over as manager Wallace found it tougher to break into the side but did have a run of games at left back in late 2005 and he played the full 90 minutes of the Scottish League Cup final in that position which they went on to win. This would be his last full season at the club and he left for England and joined Sunderland.

He made a very good first impression by scoring the winner against Derby County on his debut and then scored the winner against Hull City a few weeks later. However, he took off his shirt and was given a second booking which he had to apologise for as he was facing a suspension. But this was one of the few negatives of his season as Sunderland went on to win the Championship meaning he would play in the Premier League.
Wallace Sunderland
He started the new season at left back and settled into the Premier League very well by setting up the winner in the opening game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur and then in the next game he set up a late equaliser for Stern John in a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City. He also scored twice in the season but an anterior cruciate ligament injury pretty much ended his season and surprisingly Roy Keane stated that he was willing to listen to offers for Wallace.

He joined Preston North End initially on loan and had a brilliant season by playing 39 times, scoring five times and getting 19 assists. He then signed for them permanently but unfortunately he couldn’t quite replicate the same form and his disciplinary record was not the greatest as he picked up 13 bookings. Preston then sold the winger to rivals Burnley.
Wallace Burnley
At Burnley he has been one of their most consistent performers, sending in dangerous crosses and popping up with important goals. In his four years at the club he has played 147 times and will be hoping to add more to this number as he still has one more year left on his contract.

The final word can go to manager Sean Dyche after he signed his new contract. “We are delighted that Ross has agreed a new, long term deal with the club. He is a valued member of the squad and I am sure he has a big part to play in our future.”

12th May – Darren Randolph

Birmingham City stayed in the Championship with a last gasp equaliser against Bolton Wanderers and one of their players might not have expected to be a Championship player the next time his birthday rolled around.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph turns 27 today and has been one of the few consistent players Birmingham have had this season with him appearing in every single league game. It cannot have been easy for him as the club brought in a lot of loan players and the defenders in front of him kept changing. But Randolph knows what it is like being a young player and having to go out on loan to play first team football so he would have been able to give these players some good advice.

Randolph first played for Ardmore Rovers before joining Charlton Athletic in 2003 and it wasn’t long before he was going out loan as he joined Welling United in 2004 and played four times for the club. At the beginning of the 2004-05 season he was back out on loan again, this time to Accrington Stanley who played him 14 times in the league and at the end of the season he had impressed enough to earn a contract extension at his parent club.
Randolph Charlton
In August 2006 he went out on loan again to Gillingham for a month and on his return he finally made his Charlton debut against Liverpool where he performed well. Manager Alan Pardew said of his performance. “The professionalism Darren shows in training as back up was evident. You can’t put a performance like that in without a lot of hard work that no one ever sees.”

After more loan spells away from the club (Bury and Hereford United) he eventually left permanently and joined Scottish side Motherwell. He proved what a fantastic goalkeeper he was straight away and broke John Ruddy’s club record of 15 clean sheets in a season in his first year and helped them reach the Scottish Cup Final. The next season he also performed well and made some crucial saves, and gained recognition by being named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. With Rangers unable to compete in European football it meant that Randolph got to taste Champions League football and although it ended in defeat it would still have been a great occasion for him.
Darren Randolph, Motherwell goalkeeper.
Motherwell continued their fine form into the next season and finished in second place behind Celtic and Randolph was once again named in the team of the year which meant that, with his contract expiring in the summer, a lot of clubs would be looking at him. His manager at the time Stuart McCall said: “Darren has been outstanding for us and if I was managing in the Championship now I would go for him straight away.”

Although McCall wouldn’t have wanted him to leave, he knew it would be difficult to keep hold of him and Birmingham City were the team to sign him. The club struggled in the season just finished but he will be hoping for better things next time around.
Randolph Brum
The final word can go to Stuart McCall. “He is not only an outstanding goalkeeper, he is a really good guy, he is composed, he gets about his job and he never lets us down.”