22nd June – Stephen Crainey

Stephen Crainey was part of Blackpool’s exciting Premier League campaign that saw them become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

Under Ian Holloway, Blackpool played an attacking brand of football that made many neutrals excited but it wasn’t always easy for Crainey in the top flight due to this style.

The defender started his career at Celtic and would play a total of 58 times for the club and helped the team win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title. Although never a regular he earned a move to Premier League side Southampton on the 6th February 2004 and made his debut in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. However, after just five Premier League appearances he was on the move again.

Crainey Celtic

Crainey signed for Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently, and in doing so became the first player Leeds had paid for since 2004. Despite this, he still couldn’t hold down a regular place and after three seasons and the club being relegated to League One he was released from his contract.

Crainey LU

Blackpool signed the left back and he became a fan favourite and club hero. In his first season he would go on to score his first ever league goal in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United and helped the club to their highest finish in the Championship in 27 years. Due to his form he was linked with moves away but instead he signed a new contract. However, an injury at the start of the 2008-09 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but he would recover and become a key player once more.

Crainey then helped Blackpool to arguably one of their greatest ever achievements by appearing in 46 games during the 2009-10 season which saw them gain promotion to the Premier League. In the top flight their efforts were very enjoyable to watch and if it wasn’t for an injury to Crainey in January they may have been more solid at the back and came closer to escaping relegation. Everyone expected them to be one of the worst in the history of the league but they almost pulled off a shock.

Crainey Blackpool

Upon relegation Crainey again signed a new contract to ward off interest from Premier League clubs, such as Wigan Athletic, and he continued putting in solid performances in the Championship and scored his second goal for the club against Birmingham City on the 26th November 2011.

He would stay at Blackpool for one more season before deciding to move on and he did eventually sign for Wigan. This only lasted for one season and in 2014 he signed for Fleetwood Town, where he would play 28 league games before leaving for AFC Fylde, his final club.

The final word can go to former Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander. “He has played at the top level and is still hungry for success. We thought we needed to bring in more added quality and experience. Crainey certainly provides that.”

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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.”

26th September – Paul Dummett

Newcastle United have had a terrible start to the season and will be hoping that Paul Dummett’s winning goal in the League Cup can kick start their campaign and they can compete at the right end of the table.

Dummett is 23 today and will more than most players at the club want to do well for the fans because he is a local lad but it has been difficult for those in the stands to get behind the manager Alan Pardew. The left back will be hoping that his goal against Crystal Palace can secure his place in the starting lineup against Stoke City and can help the club get their first win of the Premier League season.

He has come up through the youth system and in recent years with Newcastle’s transfer policy this has been a rare occurrence and he should have quickly became a fan favourite but unfortunately for him his rise up the ranks has coincided with Newcastle decrease in quality.
Dummett NUFC
The left back had to go out on loan to get some first team action and joined Conference side Gateshead on loan in March 2012 for an initial month, but after several impressive performances this was extended until the end of the season. During his time at the club he played 10 games and helped them keep six clean sheets. Once again in the following season he had to go out on loan and joined Scottish Premier League side St Mirren.
Dummett Gateshead
On the 15th September 2012 he made his debut in a 2-0 win over Hearts and then went on to score his first senior goal in a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone. With his loan spell coming to an end, the Scottish side wanted to extend his loan but he returned to Newcastle and made his debut for them in a disappointing FA Cup defeat to Brighton on the 5th January 2013. After failing to break into the team regularly he rejoined St Mirren on the 31st January until the end of the season. While at the club he helped them win their first trophy in 26 years as he played the full 90 minutes in the Scottish League Cup final victory over Hearts.
Dummett STM
After playing 30 times in the SPL he was rewarded with a new one year contract by Newcastle. With his extra experience he was now ready for the first team and he started to feature more as the 2013-14 season progressed. He then went on to score his first ever goal for the club in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in October 2013. Soon afterwards he was given a new contract which meant his deal was extended until 2019. He played 21 times and started the new season as the first choice left back with Davide Santon injured and Massadio Haidara being left on the bench.

The final word can go to Alan Pardew. “We love him to bits. Paul’s a local lad. He’s having to prove to the Newcastle public that he’s good enough. It’s hard for players to come through the academy these days. He does what it says on the tin. He’s a tough tackler, he’s good going forward.”

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.”

23rd August – Steve MacLean

Steve MacLean was already a legend at Sheffield Wednesday but when he convinced striker Stevie May to join the club he became even more of a hero to their fans.

On the day that May scored his first goal for Wednesday, MacLean was at St Johnstone also doing what he does best and scored the only goal of the game against Aberdeen. MacLean will now have to be the main striker at St Johnstone but it is something that the 32 year old is used to and at times in his career he has been prolific and helped his clubs achieve their aims.
MacLean and May
MacLean started his career at Forres Mechanics in Scotland before being signed by Rangers. He stayed at the club for two seasons but spent the whole of the 2003-04 season out on loan at Scunthorpe United and earned the nickname ‘The Loan Ranger’ as he scored 23 league goals in 42 appearances. Despite this effort and his good goal record he was deemed not good enough by Ranger manager Alex McLeish and was placed on the transfer list.

On the 7th July 2004 he joined Sheffield Wednesday on a three year deal and it would become arguably his best time of his career. He hit the ground running and in his first season he hit 20 goals, including a hatrick against Doncaster Rovers which made him the first Wednesday player to score an away hatrick for 32 years. His impressive goal return also made him the first Wednesday player to hit the 20 goal mark in one season since Mark Bright in 1994.

But his greatest moment in a Wednesday shirt was in the League One Playoff final when he held his nerve to score an equalising penalty to take the game to extra time against Hartlepool United which they then went on to win. Many believed he wouldn’t be fit for the game, but he was there when he was needed most.
MacLean Wednesday
The following season was much tougher for MacLean as he suffered a broken leg just before the start of the Championship season and only played six times, scoring twice. But the 2006-07 season was a much better year, despite a few more injuries he finished the season as joint top scorer alongside Deon Burton with 13 goals.

After 35 goals for the club he joined Cardiff City on a free transfer on the 22nd June 2007. The striker got off to the worst possible start by missing a penalty on his debut in a 1-0 defeat to Stoke City. However, he made up for this by scoring in the next game away to QPR. Unfortunately injuries and the manager going for other options meant this would be his only goal for the club.

After short spells at Plymouth Argyle, Aberdeen, Oxford United, Yeovil Town and Cheltenham Town, it seems like he has finally found a new place to call home at St Johnstone. He became a club legend at the club when he scored the second goal in the 2014 Scottish League Cup final to secure a 2-0 win, helping them win their first ever major competition in Scotland.
MacLean SJ
The final word can go to St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright. “He’s a big character in the dressing room. On and off the pitch he’s a leader for us, he’s someone that gets people going. He’s a good footballer, he’s a good number nine.”

10th August – Roy Keane

Roy Keane never wanted to be second best on the pitch but now he is second in charge at both Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland.

He may just be using these positions to get himself back into coaching before becoming a manager at another club in the future but he will definitely get the respect of the players that are working under him and this can only be beneficial to Paul Lambert and Martin O’Neill.

Keane’s career started in 1989 with Cobh Ramblers and quickly progressed to the first team and was soon being scouted by teams in England. It was Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest that took a chance and signed him in the summer of 1990 for £47,000.
Keane CR
Over the next two years he visited Wembley twice but left both times as a loser and with Forest struggling in the league other clubs were interested in his services. Although he was voted the Player of the Season by the Forest fans he could not keep them up and in 1993 he signed for Manchester United for a British record fee of £3.75 million.
Keane NF
He enjoyed a great start to his career there by scoring twice on his home debut and then later scored the winning goal against Manchester City. By the end of the year he helped the club to the Premier League title and broke his Wembley losing streak by winning the FA Cup. The following season was less successful as they lost the title and Keane picked up his first red card for stamping on Gareth Southgate.

In the summer a lot of senior players left the club and Keane was seen as one of the more experienced players and this led to better performances as the club once again won the league and FA Cup double and despite injuries in the following campaign he picked up his third Premier League medal.

At the start of the 1997-98 season he took over as club captain but he missed most of the season because of an incident with Alf-Inge Haaland which led to the Leeds United midfielder accusing him of feigning injury. Keane did not play again that season but returned the following year to captain the side in the treble winning season. Although he missed the final of the Champions League he was inspirational in the semi final against Juventus.

In 1999-2000 Manchester United won the title again and Keane won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and the Football Writers award. However, things would take a turn in 2001 when he met Haaland on the field once again and got sent off for a blatant knee high foul with Keane later admitting to doing it on purpose and wanting to hurt his opponent.
Keane MU
After coming back from his ban and a hip operation many believed that Keane had come back a different player however he still managed to pick up another Premier League and FA Cup trophy before his unexpected departure in 2005. After 480 appearances and 50 goals in all competitions Keane left for Celtic.

His time at Celtic only lasted six months but he did still help the club win the SPL and the Scottish League Cup. After his retirement he became manager of Sunderland in August 2006 with the club second bottom of the Championship. It was not long before results picked up and at the end of the season Sunderland were champions and Keane was named the Championship Manager of the Year.

After keeping Sunderland in the Premier League, the second season proved tougher and on the 4th December he decided to step down as manager. Keane’s final managerial job to date was at Ipswich Town where he had minimal success and didn’t come close to reaching the playoffs and after just 28 wins in 81 games he was sacked in 2011.

The final word can go to Lambert. “Roy has a great knowledge of football and he’ll be a great asset. As a player, he was one of the most accomplished in the history of the Premier League. I’m really looking forward to working with him and I’m delighted that he’s here.”

7th August – Paul Lambert

When asked which Premier League manager won the Champions League as a player quite a few people will not know the answer to this question but birthday boy Paul Lambert did just that.

Now 45, Lambert had a very good playing career and he is now hoping to have as much success as a manager although he has found it a lot tougher in recent seasons at Aston Villa. Next season will probably be about survival once again for Villa as it is for so many clubs in the Premier League but Lambert certainly has the quality to keep them in the top flight and if given the chance could build them back up to what they once were.

Lambert has never been a stranger to success and at the age of just 17 while playing for first club St Mirren he won the 1987 Scottish Cup final. He stayed at the club for eight years playing 227 league games and scoring 14 times but in September 1993 he moved onto Motherwell for a fee of £250,000. In his first season at the club they finished third but they went one better the year after and finished as runners up, the club’s highest finish since the 1933-34 season. He also played for the club in the UEFA Cup and they were drawn against Borussia Dortmund but they were knocked out by the Germans.
Lambert STM
However, Lambert must have impressed the manager Ottmar Hitzfeld because he signed him for the German side in 1996 and changed his position to a defensive midfielder. He helped the club reach the final of the Champions League that year against Juventus and Lambert set up the opening goal in a 3-1 win. Despite only staying at the club for a year he is fondly remembered by their fans.

In November 1997 he signed for Celtic and made his debut against Rangers and three weeks later he picked up his first winners medal after coming on as substitute in the final of the Scottish League Cup against Dundee United. Lambert spend seven years at Celtic and won four SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups before leaving to become manager of Livingston.
Lambert Celtic
He intended to just be manager but he then changed his mind and registered as a player however his spell at the club only lasted 32 games and resigned after only winning two league games in this time. His next attempt at management was at Wycombe Wanderers where he had more success and took the club to the semi final of the League Cup by beating Premier League sides Fulham and Charlton Athletic before being defeated by Chelsea. But after failing to get them promoted in 2008 he resigned.

On the 9th October 2008 he was appointed manager of Colchester United where he stayed for 43 games but it was the 7-1 victory over Norwich City that he will be most remembered for. This is mostly because he took over as manager of Norwich not long after and led them to the League One title. He followed this up with a second successive promotion and then kept them in the Premier League but then shocked everyone by offering his resignation and then joined Aston Villa shortly afterwards.
Lambert NC
He has had a few ups and downs at Aston Villa but he has brought in a lot of younger players so hopefully they can develop into an exciting Premier League side.

The final word can go to the Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett. “Paul has done a fantastic job for us and has played a full part in restoring some pride to Norwich City Football Club. He is an excellent young manager.”