7th February – Clayton Donaldson

Clayton Donaldson has played a big part in Birmingham City’s revival this season under Gary Rowett and helped his side to a 1-1 draw with Fulham on his birthday but unfortunately could not add to his goal tally.

Now 31 it has been a long road for the 31 year old to reach the Championship but he has always scored goals at whatever club he has been at in England. It seemed like he made a bad decision leaving Brentford for Birmingham in the early months of the season but in recent weeks his new club have started playing much better.

The striker started his career at Hull City and scored on his debut on the 22nd October 2002 against Port Vale in the Football League Trophy. Shortly afterwards he joined Northern Premier League club Harrogate Town on loan and also scored on his debut for them against Gateshead. He spent three months at the club, scoring five times in 10 games. Back at his parent club he signed a new two year deal and made a further two appearances before the end of the season. After short loan spells at Scarborough and Halifax Town, he returned to Harrogate again on loan and had more success with the club, winning the Conference North Player of the Month in October 2004 and scored four times in 11 games before being released by his parent club.

In June 2005 Donaldson joined York City and had an impressive first season, finding the back of the net 18 times and being named Clubman of the Year. During his second season he was being linked with moves away from the club and this may have distracted for short periods and many clubs tabled bids for the striker but none were accepted. After 26 goals in the Conference he did leave York in the summer of 2007 and made the step up to the SPL and joined Hibernian. Donaldson got his first goal for the club after winning and scoring a penalty against Falkirk but was later sent off in the game. After serving his suspension he scored on his return against Motherwell and then later in the month got a hatrick against Kilmarnock.

Donaldson York

During the second half of the season he was frozen out of the team and didn’t play leading to a transfer to Crewe Alexandra in the summer. He first season wasn’t as prolific as he hoped but he improved in his second season despite injuries and eventually in his third season he showed his true potential. He ended the campaign as League Two’s top scorer with 28 goals.

Donaldson CA

Once again his talents were seen by teams in higher leagues and on the 1st July 2011 he joined League One side Brentford. In each of his three seasons he hit double figures and was a constant threat to the opposition, ending his time there with over 50 goals but even though he helped them to promotion at the end of the 2013-14 season he declined their new contract offer and joined Birmingham. He is already in double figures so he has proved he can make the step up to the level and it will be interesting to see how far he can go.

Donaldson Brentford

The final word can go to Birmingham manager Gary Rowett. “He deserves his purple patch because he works so hard for the team. His role is pivotal to the way we play and he plays it brilliantly. He occupies defenders and all the players appreciate the role he does. He’s picking up goals as well and for me they’re bonuses.”


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.”

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.
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.”

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.”

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.”