19th March – Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure may have been overshadowed by his younger brother Yaya in recent seasons but he has had an amazing career himself and is proving that on his day he can still be one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

At the age of 34 it is understandable that he is not a guaranteed first choice for Liverpool but as he proved away to Real Madrid earlier this season he can produce some immense performances. After winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this year he can finish his career knowing that he has accomplished almost everything in the game, as well as being a part of one of the best teams ever seen in England.

Toure started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before going on trial with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed by the club on the 14th February for £150,000. During his first season he didn’t play for the club but did start the Community Shield against Liverpool at the start of the following campaign. He was initially seen as a versatile player who could fit in either at right back or in the centre of midfield and he would go on to score his first goal in England in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Toure Arsenal

The 2003-04 season saw Toure become first choice at centre back alongside Sol Campbell and they were phenomenal as the club went unbeaten in the Premier League and gained the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. He was obviously a fan favourite because of his performances and he played 50 times in the 2004-05 season and pick up an FA Cup winners medal. By this point he was known as one of the best centre backs in England but in the following Champions League campaign he proved his ability in Europe as he helped Arsenal reach the final and keep 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition and would even get the honour of scoring the final European goal at Highbury.

He stayed at Arsenal for a further three seasons but they were not having the same success and on the 29th July 2009 he signed for Manchester City for £14 million. He was quickly named club captain by Mark Hughes and helped the club finish fifth place in the Premier League. But after Roberto Mancini took charge he lost the armband to Carlos Tevez but was still a regular in the squad and would help the club lift the FA Cup. However, he was banned on the 3rd March 2011 for six months after failing a drugs test.

Toure MCFC

After returning he couldn’t break into the first team regularly but did make enough appearances to pick up another Premier League winners medal. In his final season at the club he would play more league games but this didn’t guarantee him a new contract and he left the club on a free transfer in the summer. On the 2nd July 2013 he joined Liverpool and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City but he once again struggled to become a regular in the first team. Even with Liverpool opting to play with centre backs he still cannot get in the team for a prolonged period and that is why it looks likely that he will leave the club in the summer.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Preston North End v Liverpool - Deepdale

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo has been a central figure in a strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time.

18th September – Sol Campbell

A quiz question that will be asked a lot was who was the first England player to play in six consecutive international tournaments? And that man is Sol Campbell.

The 40 year old was a phenomenal centre back and represented England at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 European Championships as well as the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Campbell also had an intriguing club career that led to him winning many trophies but also being involved in some strange situations, including being branded a Judas.

Campbell started his career as a striker at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut as a substitute against Chelsea in December 1992, going on to score in the game. Over the course of the next two years he played in many different positions before eventually becoming a centre half. His greatest moment in a Spurs shirt was lifting the League Cup as captain during the 1998-99 season.
Campbell TH
With his contract coming to an end in 2001, the club were desperate to keep him, offering him a fantastic contract. However he decided to move on after wanting to play Champions League football and remain a key part of the England squad. He signed for Arsenal which caused a lot of anger among Spurs fans. They would never forgive him for moving to their biggest rivals on a free transfer. His move to Arsenal proved to be the right decision as in his first season he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

The 2003-04 season will always be remembered for ‘The Invincibles’ and the defender was a massive part of this achievement, forming a brilliant partnership with Kolo Toure. The 2005-06 season took a turn for the worse during a 3-2 defeat against West Ham. He had been at fault for the first two goals and requested to be substituted and didn’t return to the club for several days and did not play again for 10 weeks.
Campbell Arsenal
When he returned his performances were back to their usual high standards and was rewarded with a start in the Champions League final against Barcelona. In this final Campbell became one of just six Englishmen to have scored in a final, however it would be in a losing effort.

On the 8th July 2006 he announced he was leaving Arsenal and moved to Portsmouth. His time at the club started very well as him and Linvoy Primus formed a solid partnership and helped the team keep five consecutive clean sheets. At the start of the 2007-08 season he was named captain and led the team to an FA Cup final victory over Cardiff City.
Campbell Pompey
Then he made another surprising move when he joined League Two Notts County. Campbell made his debut against Morecambe in a 2-1 defeat and this turned out to be his only appearance as his five year contract was cancelled by mutual consent.

As he could not join another club until January so he started training with Arsenal and rejoined them on the 15th January 2010. In his second spell he played a lot more than expected because of injuries and was very consistent but he left at the end of the season. On the 28th July 2010 he signed for Newcastle United. His time at the club was not very successful and after just seven league appearances he was released at the end of the season.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger after re-signing him. “He brings experience, good advice, and physically he has worked hard. He has a fantastic attitude and good fitness. He can still play in the Premier League, I’ve said that many times. He is important in the dressing room as well.”

26th April – Chris Perry

Usually centre backs are big strong six foot plus players but every so often one comes along and breaks the mould and is just as consistent despite not having these characteristics.

Chris Perry is 41 today and started his career at boyhood club Wimbledon going on to be one of their most consistent performers and helped them stay in the Premier League for a number of years. And at one point he was in such good form that he was being talked about to break into the England squad. His manager at Wimbledon Joe Kinnear said: “Perry and Blackwell remind me of the finest defensive formation England have had since Roy McFarland and Colin Todd. It takes my breath away just watching them. If Glenn (Hoddle) wants I’ll send a car to pick him up for our next game.” Unfortunately for Perry he never earned a call up to the England squad.
Perry Dons
In July 1999 he made a £4 million move to Tottenham Hotspur and at the time was the clubs record signing and he became an automatic pick after Sol Campbell left for Arsenal. He stayed in the team and played most games until an injury in January 2003 meant he lost his place in the team. When younger players were selected ahead of him Perry signed for Charlton Athletic on loan. After impressing Alan Curbishley during the loan spell the transfer was made permanent and for the majority of the time Curbishley was in charge Perry was in the team. However new manager Iain Dowie released him in the summer of 2006.
Perry Spurs
His next move was to West Brom and Tony Mowbray thought that although he did not make enough appearances to trigger a clause in his contract he still performed well for the club. He said: “I thought Chris did fine. He is a decent footballer and a good defender.” He played his part in helping the team reach the playoff finals where they were beaten by Derby County.

After a season long spell at Luton Town he made his final career move and joined Southampton initially on loan and then permanently. In his short loan spell he was named in the Championship Team of the Week after his performance against Bristol City on 5th April 2008. He continued playing for the club until the start of the 2010-11 season when he was released but he did win a trophy just before he left as Southampton won the Football League Trophy in 2010.
Perry Soton
The final word can go to his former teammate at West Brom Darren Carter who said: “We’ve got Chris Perry in at the back, he’s got bags of experience and every time I’ve seen him play he wins everything despite not being a six footer. He’s a good player and knows the game inside out.”