24th September – John Arne Riise

John Arne Riise might be a left back but it wasn’t his defending he was best known for as he had a phenomenal left foot and scored some sublime goals.

He is now currently playing in Cyprus with APOEL and at the age of 34 he is coming towards the end of his career but he does have some good memories, particularly at Liverpool where he helped them win the Champions league in 2005 in that incredible match against AC Milan. Riise also has the honour of being Norway’s most capped player and is definitely seen as a hero in his home country.

The defender started his career at Norwegian club Aalesund and after a fantastic spell he was being linked with moves away from the club. His five goals in 25 league games convinced French club Monaco to sign the full back. During the 1998-99 season he only played eight times but in the following campaign he became a regular in the side and he helped them win the Ligue 1 title. However, soon after he fell out with manager Claude Puel after saying he wanted to leave the club. Riise had been frustrated because bids had been rejected for him as Monaco wanted a higher transfer fee.

Eventually in 2001 he joined Liverpool for £4 million and made his debut against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup and scored as Liverpool won the game 3-2. He quickly became a fan favourite because of his attacking play from left back and ended his first season in England with seven Premier League goals. The next few seasons were difficult for Riise but after the appointment of Rafael Benitez he rediscovered his form and helped the club win the Champions League. In the final he had a mixed game as he set up the all important first goal for Steven Gerrard but then went on to miss his spot kick in the shootout.
Riise LFC
In his time at Liverpool he also helped them win the FA Cup which also went to penalties and Riise was brave enough to step up once more and this time he managed to score. But after this he started getting less game time and although he made it into Liverpool’s top 50 appearance makers it seemed like his time at the club was coming to an end.

On the 18th June 2008 he signed for Italian side Roma and once again quickly became a fan favourite because of his wholehearted displays and his important goals for the club. He seemed to always pop up in the games that mattered to the fans, he scored a goal against Inter in a pivotal game of the season and then followed this up against Milan with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 victory and then also scored a last minute header to give his team a 2-1 win over Juventus.
Riise Roma
After 99 league games and three seasons at the club he was on the move, this time joining Fulham on the 13th July 2011 and joined his brother Bjorn Helge at the club. He was a very consistent player during his three years there but he did not manage to score which was the most surprising thing about his second spell in England. His final year at the club was a disaster for everyone as they ended up getting relegated to the Championship and Riise left when his contract expired.
Riise FFC
Now at APOEL, he made his debut against Ayia Napa and set up two goals in a 3-1 away victory.

The final word can go to Martin Jol. “John Arne Riise is an experienced international left back who will bring a number of qualities to our squad and provide more options for me. He is an accomplished player defensively, who can also contribute to our attacking play.”

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27th August – Dietmar Hamann

Dietmar Hamann came on at halftime in the 2005 Champions League final for Liverpool and at that point they were 3-0 down and although he doesn’t get the headlines he played a crucial role in them lifting the trophy.

The holding midfielder coming on allowed Steven Gerrard to push further forward and get into the box. For his part in the final he will always be a legend in the Liverpool fans eyes but he was also a very consistent performer and he never let down any of the teams he played for.

Hamann started his career at little known German club FC Wacker Munchen and after impressing for them he joined Bayern Munich at the age of 16 in 1989 and eventually made his debut in 1993. In his first season he played in the unfamiliar position of right midfield and scored one goal in his six appearances. After several injuries to first team players Hamann became a regular as the holding midfielder and played 30 times in the Bundesliga. The 1995-96 season was difficult for the club and he was one of the few bright spots, however they did still end up winning the UEFA Cup.
Hamann BM
For the next two seasons he was a regular in the side and added a Bundesliga title to his medal collection but after 105 league games it was time for him to leave the club and joined Newcastle United in 1998 for £5.5 million. After a foot injury he recovered to become a fantastic signing and scored five goals in 31 matches. This turned out to be his only season at the club as he joined Liverpool in July 1999 for £8 million.

The midfielder was very influential throughout his time at Liverpool and by the time he left £8 million was a bargain. The 2000-01 season was very successful for both him personally and Liverpool as they won the League Cup, FA Cup and the UEFA Cup with Hamann playing 53 times in all competitions and scoring three goals. Over the next few seasons he was a regular side and although he is mostly remembered for his contribution in the final of the 2005 Champions League final, he also had a major impact earlier on in the competition. In the first leg of the round of 16 against Bayer Leverkusen he put in a fantastic display and finished it off by scoring the final goal in a 3-1 win. He also took the first penalty in the shootout win over AC Milan.
Hamann Liverpool
In the following season Liverpool won the FA Cup on penalties and once again Hamann had the bravery to take the first spot kick and scored with what would be his last kick for the club. In the summer he joined Manchester City after being at Bolton Wanderers for one day and then having a change of heart. City had to play £400,000 for the midfielder. He spent three seasons at City and played 54 times in the Premier League but was then released in 2009 and spent a year out of the game before becoming player-coach at MK Dons on a one year contract.
Hamann MC
He played 12 times for the club before joining Leicester City as a coach on the 3rd February 2011. After this he had a short spell in charge of Stockport County where he only won three games in his 20 matches in charge.

Hamann also gets the honour of scoring the last goal at the old Wembley Stadium for Germany in a 1-0 win over England.

The final word can go to Stuart Pearce. “I am delighted he is here as he brings experience and leadership qualities to the team. He has everything. If you get more winners like him in your squad, you are going in the right direction.”

30th May – Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is going to be England’s captain at the World Cup and will be hoping that they finally produce at a big tournament despite low expectations from the fans.

The Liverpool captain who turns 34 will want to continue his fantastic club form in the tournament and as this may be his last major international tournament he will surely want to make a mark. Unfortunately Liverpool could not win the Premier League title last season and it is the closest the skipper has been to picking up the trophy but he has had an exceptional career and is surely one of the best to have never won the title, however he has picked up ever other trophy in club football.

He is a one man club and signed his first professional contract with Liverpool in 1997 and made his first team debut on the 29th November 1998 against Blackburn Rovers. He became a first team regular in the 1999-00 season in the centre of midfield, partnering Jamie Redknapp but it was a season of ups and downs with him receiving his first red card and he struggled with injuries that required operations, slowing down his progress but he did manage to score his first goal against Sheffield Wednesday.
Gerrard Liverpool
He recovered from his injuries and in the 2000-01 season he played 50 times and won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup and scored 10 times in all competitions. His next big moment came in October 2003 when he was named Liverpool captain by Gerard Houllier. Soon after he was linked with moves away but decided to stay with the club. The next season started slowly for Gerrard as he was injured in September and wouldn’t return until November. On his return he scored one of the best and most memorable goals of his career against Olympiakos securing Liverpool’s place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Liverpool reached two finals that season and Gerrard had a major impact in both. Firstly in the League Cup final he scored an own goal in a 3-2 loss to Chelsea but he had a much more positive impact in the Champions League final, scoring the first in Liverpool’s incredible comeback and then winning the penalty that levelled the scores. He was also given the man of the match award by UEFA after the game.
Gerrard Liverpool 2
In the next season he became more of an attacking midfielder and scored 23 times in 53 appearances and was named PFA Player of the Year. But more importantly he scored twice in the FA Cup final against West Ham which meant he is the only player to have scored in FA, League, Champions League and UEFA Cup finals.

Even though Gerrard continued to play exceptionally and gain respect from everyone in the game the trophies dried up at Liverpool. His greatest week in recent years is in March 2009 when he scored twice in a 4-0 win over Real Madrid and then four days later he scored against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 4-1 win.

The 2011-12 season Liverpool seemed to be getting back on track and Gerrard was a big part of that, helping them win the League Cup against Cardiff City. During the season he also scored a hatrick against rivals Everton. Unfortunately they could not build on this and the 2012-13 season was more difficult.
Gerrard Liverpool 3
But onto the season just finished and Liverpool looked like the team that was going to win the title for a long time. Gerrard scored his 100th Premier League goal against Newcastle United and then the club went on a great run in the second half of the season that brought them to within touching distance of the title but all the momentum was lost when they were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea at Anfield with the first goal a result of a Gerrard slip. This maybe the most defining moment of the season but Gerrard had one of the best seasons of his career as he adapted to a new role in the team and was fantastic all through the campaign.

The final word can go to Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane. “He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives players around him confidence and belief. You can’t learn that – players like him are just born with that presence.”

24th May – Vladimir Smicer

The Champions League final is being played today birthday boy Vladimir Smicer scored in one of the most memorable games in the history of the competition.

In 2005, he came on as a substitute in the first half for Liverpool and when his team were 3-0 down to AC Milan he probably thought his last game at the club was going to end in a terrible way but when Steven Gerrard pulled one back, Liverpool still needed something special and that is exactly what Smicer provided as he struck a great shot from 20 yards that flew into the bottom right hand corner. Liverpool went on to win the final on penalties and Smicer scored the last Liverpool spot kick and kissed the badge in front of the supporters moments before Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty.

What makes it all even more remarkable is that he had been told by manager Rafael Benitez that he would not be getting a new contract at the end of the season, so it just shows what a model professional the Czech international was, which he has been his whole career. He first came to prominence in 1996 as he helped his first club Slavia Prague to the semi final of the UEFA Cup and his country to the final of Euro 1996. He joined Lens shortly after and was also an instant success there scoring 16 times in 91 appearances from a wide position and helping them their first ever French title in the 1997-98 season.
Smicer Lens
In 1999 he joined Liverpool for £4.2 million and made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday. He scored his first goal in a 3-2 victory over Watford, however it was a difficult season for him personally as initially struggled with the pace of the English game and a few injuries. But the next season he was much more settled down and was an important member of Liverpool’s treble winning season, as they secured the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup. He produced many memorable moments for Liverpool over the years and scored some unbelievable strikes, including a brilliant volley against Borussia Dortmund.
Smicer Liverpool
His old injuries started reoccurring though and he struggled to be a regular in the side under Benitez but he did make some key substitute appearances on the road to the Champions League final and as mentioned played a big part in the final. But in the summer of 2005 he left the club on a free transfer and returned to France.

He joined Bordeaux on a free transfer but only played 28 times in two seasons because of injuries and considered retiring but he continued playing and in 2007 he returned to Slavia Prague on a one year deal. The fans were delighted when he rejoined and they were even more pleased when he helped them lift their first Czech title for 12 years. He played his last football match on the 9th November 2009 and then a day later became the Czech sports manager of the national team.
Smicer Prague
The final word can go to Rafael Benitez who probably didn’t expect Smicer to be as influential as he was towards the end of his spell at Liverpool after deciding not to renew his contract. “He is a good professional and he’s determined to play as much as possible and he’ll do everything he can to help us in the last games.”

18th April – Matthew Upson

The top scorer for England at a World Cup is usually someone that will be remembered as a true great but forgetting the 2010 World Cup is what most England fans have tried to do.

The team finished with Jermain Defoe, Steven Gerrard and birthday boy Matthew Upson as top scorers with one goal each as they crashed out of the tournament in the second round to Germany. The defender scored his goal in the 4-1 defeat and interestingly his only other international goal was against the same opposition.

At the start of his career it seemed like he was destined to be an England player and be a big part of the team as after only one appearance for Luton Town he was signed by Arsenal for £2 million. Unfortunately his time at the club did not turn out that well as long term injuries took their toll and the fact he was behind Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould in the pecking order meant he rarely got a run in the side. After missing out on a Premier League medal for not playing enough games in the 1997-98 season, he must have been ecstatic that he played 14 league games in the 2001-02 season as that meant he could pick up a winners medal and leave the club on a high.
Upson Arsenal
In January 2003 he joined Birmingham City for an initial £1 million. Steve Bruce said on the signing: “He’s young, he’s quick, he’s athletic and a good footballer.” He proved to be a very good signing playing over 100 league games but an injury towards the end of the 2006 season meant that he could not help his team in their relegation battle which they lost and the next time he pulled on a Blues shirt was in the Championship.
Upson Birmingham
He only spent half a season in the Championship as West Ham paid £6 million for his services which seems like a good deal but manager Steve Bruce was not happy with the sale. This should have been his chance to impress once more in the Premier League but Upson struggled with injuries, suffering a calf injury on his debut and then only lasting 11 minutes on his comeback. It took until August 2011 to complete his first 90 minutes for the Hammers but it was in a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Manchester City. Soon after his fortunes changed as he was given the captains armband and kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over former club Birmingham and then a few months later scoring the only goal against Manchester United.
Upson West Ham
After becoming permanent captain times were tough at the club and they were eventually relegated. This meant he did not sign a contract extension and joined Stoke City on a two year deal. Part of the reason he joined was because they were in the Europa League and he played most of his matches for the club in this competition and spent the majority of Premier League games on the bench.

With a lack of first team opportunities he joined Brighton on loan initially and was then signed permanently in the summer. He is still at the club and is trying to get them promoted to the Premier League.

The final word can go to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who always had high hopes for the defender: “I knew when he left that he would have a big career. I didn’t stop him going because I knew he had the qualities to play in the Premier League. I knew he would make it and had the potential to be international quality. He is there now.”