22nd March – Luke Freeman

Luke Freeman has had a double celebration today after turning 23 and also helping Bristol City defeat Walsall 2-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

The midfielder is looking to have a fantastic end to a season that has already been pretty special for Bristol City and their fans as they look like they are going to get promoted to the Championship as League One champions. Freeman has always been a very good player and one that definitely has the ability to prove it at a higher level so he will be hoping that the club can secure promotion as quickly as possible so he can prepare for the second tier of English football.

Freeman started his career at Gillingham where he made his debut against Barnet in the FA Cup on the 10th November 2007 at the age of just 15 years and 233 days, therefore becoming Gillingham’s youngest ever player and also the youngest player to appear in the FA Cup. Later in the month he would also make his league debut against Hartlepool United and his performances caught the eye of several Premier League clubs and joined Arsenal on trial in December 2007.

Arsenal signed Freeman on the 30th January 2008 and after impressing for the under 18s he was given a professional contract by the club just over a year later. After progressing through the youth teams and into the reserves he needed first team opportunities and joined Yeovil Town on loan at the start of the 2010-11 season. He got off to a great start scoring in a 2-1 win over Leyton Orient on his debut and would go on to play 12 more league games for the club before his loan was ended by injury.

Freeman YT

He recovered from his injury and would impress again for Arsenal’s reserves and was eager to go back out on loan, this time joining Stevenage on the 17th November 2011. In his second loan spell away he played nine games and scored one goal in a 6-1 win over Colchester United but his performances particularly off the bench were exciting and showed he had a lot of potential. This convinced Stevenage to sign Freeman permanently on the 10th January 2012. He would help the club reach the playoffs with seven goals in 32 games but unfortunately they would lose out in the semi finals.

Freeman Stevenage

The 2012-13 wasn’t as successful for the midfielder as he struggled for consistency and spent a lot of the season featuring as a substitute. However in the following season, despite Stevenage finishing bottom of League One, he put in some fantastic performances and ended the campaign with a career best eight goals. After 128 games and 17 goals for Stevenage, Freeman would leave for Bristol City on the 26th June 2014.

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So far for Bristol City he has played 48 times in all competitions, scored seven goals and provided 15 assists which just shows how important he is to the side and is a big reason why they are challenging at the top of the table.

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s someone we’ve been keeping tabs on for some time and I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring Luke on board. He’s a good, young, exciting player. He’s an excellent addition to the football club for the short term and long term. He can play on the left, on the right and cut in, or play in a midfield three.”

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13th September – Francois Zoko

Blackpool picked up their first point of the season and were helped by birthday boy and one of their summer signings Francois Zoko to finally get their season started.

After coming on as a substitute in the 72 minute, Zoko ensured that the score remained 0-0, however he will be hoping to make more of a positive impact going forward in the coming weeks. Everyone knows about Blackpool’s problems during the summer and they did not even have a full squad with only a few days to go before the start of the season. But with their first point on the board they should gain more confidence.
Zoko Nancy
Zoko started his career at French club Nancy and spent four years with the club, scoring eight times in 70 league appearances before moving onto Stade Laval in the summer of 2004. He played fairly regularly for the club over the next two seasons but he did not hit the back of the net for his liking, with him only scoring nine times.
Zoko Laval
In 2006 he then moved to Belgium and signed for Mons where he started building his reputation and was starting to be linked with bigger clubs. After 55 games and 11 goals he decided he wanted to try a new challenge in a new country and joined Turkish club Hacetteppe Spor Kulubu. However, a lot of off field problems meant he never lived up to his potential and ended up moving back to Belgium with KV Oostende. He made an instant impact at the club and in the second half of the season he played 11 times, scoring four goals and assisting a further five.

Ahead of the 2010-11 season Zoko joined Carlisle United on trial and after impressing he signed a one year deal in July 2010. He made his debut in a 2-0 win over Brentford and after leaving the field he was given a standing ovation and was praised by the management and his teammates at the club. It did not take him long to be linked with other clubs which led to Carlisle giving him a new contract after less than 10 games.

He stayed at the club for two seasons and after scoring double figures in all competitions in both years he decided on the 6th June 2012 that he wanted to play at a higher level and did not sign a new contract. He was described as one of the most talented players to have ever played for the club in recent years.
Zoko CU
On the 3rd August 2012 he signed a two year deal with Notts County. He made his debut against Crewe and also scored in 2-1 win for his new club. He only had to wait three days for his next goal as he scored against Hartlepool United, he could not keep up this goal rate but he still managed seven goals in 39 appearances. At the end of the season his contract was cancelled by mutual consent and he joined Stevenage on the 4th October.

Once again he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over MK Dons and then scored twice in his next game in another 2-1 victory, this time over Brentford. He was a consistent goal scorer for the club and he ended his only season at the club with 16 goals in 40 games which convinced Blackpool that he could make it in the Championship and signed the attacker.

He has so far played five times but has been unable to find the back of the net.

The final word can go to the manager that brought him to England, Greg Abbott. “I know how big an impact he has made here. He is an important player for what we are doing and has been very impressive so far.”

21st June – Cheick Tiote

Cheick Tiote is currently at the World Cup with Ivory Coast and for his 28th birthday he will want nothing more than his country getting out of the group stages.

They started with a 2-1 win over Japan but lost against Colombia in their second group match and will be hoping that they can beat Greece in their final match they will qualify for their next round but the midfielder is on a yellow card and will have to be careful not to pick up another or he will be out of the second round match. Tiote is a player that picks up a lot of cards but this has never changed his style of play and never pulls out of a tackle.

Tiote has always had to battle to have a football career and didn’t own a pair of football boots until the age of 15. He started his career at FC Bibo in the Ivory Coast before he was scouted by Belgian club Anderlecht, who he signed for in 2005. He did not get many opportunities at the club and after just four league games he was sent out on loan to Roda JC. He had more success in Holland where he played 26 times and even managed to score twice in the league.
Tiote Roda
His performances convinced FC Twente to sign the Ivorian in October 2008. He gained a reputation for being a determined player that also had a keen eye for a pass. During his time at the club he played 58 league games and scored once, as well as assisting a further 14. His greatest moment was the 2009-10 season where he helped his team lift the Dutch title under the guidance of Steve McClaren.
Tiote Twente
On the 26th August 2010 Tiote signed for Newcastle United and made his debut shortly after against Everton where he impressed everyone by completing ever pass he attempted. Manager Chris Hughton was very happy with his purchase. “Cheick is a terrific signing for us and I am sure he will prove to be an excellent addition to the squad. He has a first class pedigree and I think his game is well suited to the Premier League.”

He quickly became a fan favourite for his all action displays but he received his first red card for the club in a third round FA Cup game against Stevenage. However, on his return he scored one of the most memorable goals in Premier League history against Arsenal. Newcastle had been trailing 4-0 at half time but managed to pull it back to 4-3 and in the last few minutes Tiote scored a volley from 25 yards to level the scores.
In 2011 he signed new six year deal at Newcastle and although his form has been slightly up and down over the last few seasons he is still one of their most important players and when he is on form Newcastle usually get results.
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Newcastle United - Emirates Stadium
Still a problem that Tiote has is the number of yellow cards he receives and in his first 50 Premier League games he picked up 25 bookings, however he still only has one red card which was slightly controversial in a game against Sunderland.

The final word can go to his current manager Alan Pardew. “Cheick is exactly the type of player I want in my squad. He is fantastic on the pitch and in the dressing room. He offers us strength and presence in midfield and has proved himself to be one of the best in his position in the Premier League.”

11th June – John Dreyer

John Dreyer may not be the most well known Premier League players but he played a vital role in keeping Bradford City in the league while he was there and he became a bit of an expert of helping teams avoid relegation.

Dreyer, now 51, began his career in non league football at Wallingford Town but it was not long before he got a move to the Football League in January 1985 as he joined Oxford United. He did not get first team opportunities straightaway and had to move to Torquay United on loan, playing five times, making his debut in a 1-1 draw with Cambridge United. He returned to his parent club in January 1986 but he once again could not break into the team so left the club once more on loan, this time to Fulham for the rest of the season. He played 12 times in the league for the club and impressed for them. This meant that on his return he broke into Oxford’s first team at the start of the next season and over the next two years he played 60 league games and scored twice.
Dreyer Oxford
On the 27th June 1988 he joined Luton Town for £140,000 and quickly became a fan favourite. He stayed at Kenilworth Road for six years and played 214 times. Dreyer managed 13 goals in his spell at Luton but he was unfortunately released at the end of the 1993-94 season. It did not take him long to find a new club as he was signed by Stoke City in July 1994, where he played nearly 50 times, but he was not always seen as a starter and he eventually joined Bolton Wanderers on loan in March 1995. He was a part of the squad that got promoted to the Premier League through the playoffs, although he would have loved to have played a bigger part, it was still a great achievement.
Dreyer Luton
In November 1996 he left Stoke permanently for a Bradford City who paid £25,000 for his services and scored on his debut in a 3-3 draw with Huddersfield Town. He managed to add another three goals to his tally that season but none of them were league goals as they all came in the FA Cup – two against Wycombe Wanderers and another in a cup upset when Bradford beat Everton 3-2.

In the promotion season of 1998-99 he struggled to hold down a regular place in the side however whenever he contributed they were usually important. In their final win of the season he made a vital clearance in a 3-2 win over Wolves which made sure that they would be playing Premier League football the next season. In the next season he was in and out of the side but once again popped up when he was most needed. In a must win game against Sunderland he scored the only goal which helped Bradford to stay up by just two points.
Dreyer Bradford
Despite being offered a new contract he decided to leave for Cambridge United and he played a major role in keeping the team in the Second Division in the 2000-01 season. He left the club after this season and joined non league club Stevenage, where he was first teamed up with Graham Westley. After two years at the club and a brief spell as caretaker manager he left to pursue a managerial position.

He has only managed Maidenhead United up till now but he has been assistant at a number of clubs, including Stevenage and Preston North End, where he assisted Graham Westley and the final word can go to Westley who obviously liked Dreyer from their first time together. “I feel sure that the door will open somewhere for John. He played at the top level, but he started in non league football so he knows what it is all about. I wish him well and don’t expect it to be too long before I’m giving him his first reference.”