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.

16th March – Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott burst onto the scene and went to the 2006 World Cup without playing a single minute in the Premier League and he continues to divide opinion.

At the age of 26 he still has a long career in front of him but he seems to have been around for a long time and maybe hasn’t developed as much as some Arsenal fans hoped. However, on his day his pace is frightening and he can be one of the deadliest finisher in Europe. Unfortunately after going to the World Cup so young a lot was expected.

Walcott England

Walcott started his career at Southampton and became the club’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days after coming off the bench against Wolves in a 0-0 draw. Just four days later he would make his full debut against Leeds United and would go on to score in the game. This began a remarkable rise for him as he would go on to score against Millwall and Stoke City.

Walcott Soton

This form alerted some of the biggest clubs in England and after just 23 professional games he joined Arsenal on the 20th January 2006. He would have to wait until the start of the following season to make his debut and made a good impression setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva against Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute. His first goal for the club would come in the League Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately they would go on to lose the game 2-1.

During the 2007-08 season he would score his first home and Champions League goals against Slavia Prague and his first Premier League goals against Birmingham City on the 23rd February 2008.The biggest compliment given to Walcott was that at the start of the following campaign he was given the number 14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry. But after a positive start a dislocated shoulder meant he missed a lot of the season and after recovering he was rewarded for his form by being given a new contract. Yet again the 2009-10 season was marred by injuries and restricted to just 15 league starts but in the Champions League he produced one of his best performances in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona. This must have given him confidence as he quickly became an important player for the club and started the next season very well with a hatrick against Blackpool in a 6-0 win.

Walcott Arsenal

But controversy was to follow after he admitted to diving to try and win a penalty in an FA Cup against Leeds on the 8th January 2011. He ended the season with a career high nine goals in the league and 13 in total which showed that he was getting better every season. Despite playing more games the next season he didn’t match his previous efforts and it was a little tougher for him.

Walcott was a striker at Southampton and many fans felt that is where he should be played and in the 2012-13 season he was given the opportunity and proved that he could play in that role. In his first game as a lone striker he scored a hatrick and provided two assists in a 7-3 win over Newcastle United and shortly after signed a new deal that put an end to any speculation he was about to leave. At the end of the season he finished 14 goals and 12 assists in 32 Premier League games and a further seven goals in other competitions. Two bad injuries in the next season limited his playing time but he still managed in five goals in 13 games. This season he has slowly been coming back from his injury but will be hoping he can make a difference towards the end of the campaign.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp who gave him his professional debut. “The kid can run through puddles and not make a splash. He’s lightning, he drifts over the ground and he’s a fantastic talent. I hope this kid can go on and be a top player. He’s got a long way to go but I’m sure he can.”

24th February – Kevin O’Connor

One club players don’t come around too often and Kevin O’Connor has progressed right from the youth team at Brentford to now being part of their coaching staff.

He is only 33 but it seems like he is focusing on the next stage of his career as he has had limited playing time this season but he will be happy to still be involved at Brentford. They are definitely a team on the up despite the uncertainties around the managerial position. Since signing for the club he has played in every position and is currently fourth on Brentford’s all time appearance list.

O’Connor first signed with Brentford as a striker and after a run of 23 goals in 30 reserve games he was given a professional contract in 1999. He went on to make his debut on the 15th February 2000 as a substitute in the Football League Trophy defeat to Exeter City and went on to make his first start in a draw with Wycombe Wanderers a few days later. An injury slowed his progress and he had to wait over a year to score his first goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol City.

OC Brent 1

After Steve Coppell became manager in 2001, O’Connor became a regular in the side and made 32 appearances helping his club reach the playoffs, unfortunately they were beaten in the final by Stoke City. New manager Wally Downes was impressed by his performances and he was an ever present in the side for the following campaign and was now seen as a winger and contributed nine goals.

During the 2004-05 season O’Connor was moved to right back and was given the captain’s armband on the 19th October against Hartlepool United. The season again ended in disappointment as they were defeated in the playoffs, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to suffer even more heartbreak in the playoffs in the 2005-06 season but he did manage to score eight times in 38 games. Even worse was to follow as the club were relegated in 2007 after finishing bottom.

OC Brent 3

Relegation meant another position change for O’Connor as he played predominantly in the centre of midfield in League Two. He started off well in his new position by scoring goals against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. But he only added one more goal over the course of the season as the club finished midtable. In the following season Brentford won the league and O’Connor was awarded a new contract. He was impressive once again in League One and made 49 appearances over the season and was given a testimonial at the end of the campaign.

The 2010-11 season was the last one that he featured regularly for the club as injuries stopped him from playing. But he was on the pitch for one of the most exciting endings to the season ever against Doncaster Rovers in the final game of the 2012-13 season. Brentford were awarded a penalty in the last minute and Marcello Trotta took the ball off O’Connor but missed the spot kick and Doncaster ran down the other end and scored, winning the game 1-0 meaning Brentford and O’Connor had to go through the playoffs. Once again they failed to get promoted after losing against Yeovil Town.

OC Brent 2

Finally in the next campaign they would get promoted to the Championship and on the final day of the season O’Connor made his 500th appearance for the club. Since promotion he has not played a league game but he has been an important member of the coaching staff, helping the team challenge for the playoffs and will be needed now more than ever with Mark Warburton expected to leave in the summer.

The final word can go to Mark Warburton. “Kevin has seen so much change at the club and yet has maintained his exceedingly high standards throughout and it is this outstanding quality that we need to keep at Brentford. I am delighted that Kevin O’Connor will be extending his stay at the club.”

23rd February – Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry has been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League but with Everton not being at their best this season it has been difficult for him to influence games as positively.

The midfielder is now 34 and currently holds the record of picking up the most yellow cards in the Premier League and reached 100 against Stoke City on Boxing Day this season. He will be hoping that he and his club can end the season strongly or it will be seen as quite a disappointing year for everyone involved after such a good season last year and maybe Barry will be one of the players that will be getting dropped from the starting 11.

Barry has had an interesting career and even before he had played a professional game he was involved in some controversy after he left Brighton for Aston Villa along with Michael Standing and Brighton were demanding £2.5 million. But the deal went through after a tribunal set the fee and Barry went on to make his debut on the 2nd May 1998 against Sheffield Wednesday on the left side of a back three alongside experienced duo Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu. Over the next few years he was seen as a versatile player that could fill many roles, after playing centre back for a while, he moved to left back then left midfield and finally to the centre of midfield. This was his best position and it wasn’t long before he was named club captain.

Barry AV

He spent 12 years at Aston Villa and is currently ninth on their all time appearance list but in 2008 it seemed like it was unravelling and after several bids from Liverpool it looked like he was leaving. Despite getting the captain’s armband taken off him he did stay at the club for another season and after an injury to replacement captain Martin Laursen he was given the armband back in January 2009.

On the 2nd June 2009 he did eventually leave the club after 441 games and 52 goals and joined Manchester City. This was a surprising move in a way as he said he wanted Champions League football and at the time City were not in the competition. He made his debut on the opening day of the season against Blackburn Rovers and would go on to score his first goal not long afterwards in the incredible 4-3 defeat against Manchester United.

Barry MC

Over the next two seasons things got better for both him and the club as they lifted the FA Cup and Premier League with Barry being one of the most consistent players in the squad. The next was not so successful as they failed to defend their Premier League title. After 175 games for the club he was on the move once again and joined Everton on a season long loan on the 2nd September 2013.

On his debut for Everton he was named man of the match after helping his new team to a 1-0 win over Chelsea and later in the month became the 10th player to make 500 appearances in the Premier League. He formed a great partnership with James McCarthy and completed the most passes over the course of the season for Everton as they amassed a club record 72 points. At the end of the season his contract expired at Man City and he joined Everton permanently.

Barry Everton

The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “Gareth is a model professional. He sets high standards in everything he does and that is the perfect model you want for your young players. We enjoyed having him as a loan player, but we will be enjoying him even more knowing he is an Everton player.”

6th November – Andre Schurrle

Andre Schurrle might be a World Cup winner with Germany and have a lot of ability but it seems like he has yet to convince Jose Mourinho that he deserves to be in his starting eleven despite scoring some important goals for the club.

The winger isn’t always fully switched on when it comes to defending and this is largely why Mourinho might not see his future at Chelsea. However, there is no doubting that going forward there are few wingers who can get into as many goalscoring positions, he times his runs from the wing into the middle of the box very well and has got a lot of goals from this.

Schurrle is still only 24 so he still has a lot of time to learn different parts of the game and will keep on improving over the next few years. The German international started his career at Mainz, making his Bundesliga debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season against Bayer Leverkusen in a 2-2 draw. He had to wait a month to score his first goals in 3-2 win over Bochum. He had a decent first season and in September 2010 the club agreed a fee with Leverkusen and he would join the club at the start of the next season. This obviously gave Shurrle a lot of confidence and he would score 15 goals in 33 games.
Schurrle Mainz
After joining Leverkusen he scored on his debut in the German Cup against Dynamo Dresden but had to wait until the 15th October 2011 to score his first Bundesliga club, rescuing a point with a late goal in a 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach. A few days later he would score his first Champions League goal in a win over Valencia. He ended his first season with nine goals in all competitions and was putting in some great performances. Yet again he would have an even better second season and was a vital part of Leverkusen’s first away win against Bayern Munich since October 1989, setting up a goal for Stefan Kiebling. He finished his second at the club with 14 goals and nine assists.
Schurrle BL
On the 25th June 2013 Schurrle joined Chelsea and made his debut as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Hull City in the Premier League. His first goal would come in a 2-1 win over title rivals Manchester City and he would also go on to score twice against Stoke City a few weeks later. But his best moment of the season came when he scored a hatrick against Fulham in a 3-1 win and then later in the month was named the Man of the Match after the 6-0 win over Arsenal where he was a constant threat, setting up the first goal and scoring the second.
Schurrle Chelsea
This season he scored a fantastic goal on the opening day of the season against Burnley and scored once again against Manchester City to help his side get a point away to the defending champions. But it has been struggle for him to remain a first choice player this season as Mourinho has preferred other options.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho. “Andre Schurrle is still so young but he already has great history because he plays in his national team. So he is a player who is absolutely ready and he gives us more than one position in attack and adds quality. He will be important for us.”

4th November – Enner Valencia

West Ham have made a fantastic start to the season and have been one of the surprise packages with birthday boy Enner Valencia playing a key part in their new attacking style.

It is an unwritten rule not to sign a player after a World Cup as they can sometimes be hit and miss but Sam Allardyce took a chance on the Ecuadorian and it has certainly worked out for him. The striker from Ecuador has 11 goals in 17 international appearances and that is a very good record and with three goals at the World Cup it was a surprise to see him not being linked with more clubs.

The 25 year old started his career in Ecuador with Emelec in 2008 but he had to wait until 2010 and the arrival of Argentinean coach Jorge Sampaoli to get a chance in the first team. He would go on to score his first professional goal in a crucial game against LDU Quito on the 10th March to gain an important win against their title rivals. In the following season he became more of a regular starter and rewarded his managers confidence by scoring nine goals and helping his side finish second in the table. For a third season in a row Emelec would finish runners up in 2012 but Valencia was getting better and scoring more goals, this time grabbing 13 goals.
Valencia Emelec
Finally in 2013 Emelec would win the title but surprisingly the striker didn’t have his goalscoring boots on and in terms of goals had a poor season. However, he did manage to hit his first career hatrick on the 7th August 2013 in the Copa Sudamericana. This proved to be his last season at the club as he joined Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 and would score his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Tijuana on the 18th January. The following week he scored twice against defending champions Club Leon and would end the season as the top scorer in Liga MX with 12 goals. In the playoffs he would also score a hatrick in a 4-2 win over UNAM.
Valencia Pachuca
After a total of 18 goals in 23 league games and an impressive World Cup, West Ham signed the striker on the 29th July 2014. His time at West Ham did not start well as he came on as a substitute in the defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season and then had a penalty saved in the League Cup tie against Sheffield United. But on his full league debut he put in an impressive performance away to Hull City, where he also scored his first goal for the club with a strike from 25 yards that reached 61 miles per hour. He has scored two more goals for West Ham, in a 3-1 win over Burnley and in the 2-2 draw with Stoke City.
Valencia WH
The final word can go to teammate Stewart Downing who has benefited from playing alongside Valencia. “From what I’ve seen, he looks a very good player. He can nick a goal and it’s what we’ve needed as we didn’t have that last season. It will help the manager that he has options and he can bring people in who can perform straight away.”

2nd November – Stevan Jovetic

Manchester City beat rivals Manchester United which meant it was a double celebration for birthday boy Stevan Jovetic who started the game just behind Sergio Aguero.

The 25 year old has not had the greatest time so far at City with multiple injuries keeping him out for long periods but when he has been fit he has really shown his potential. So far this season the club have been hit and miss but if they can get a good combination between Aguero and Jovetic then they will surely come close to winning trophies. The Montenegro international can play in a few different positions so he will be a fantastic option for Manuel Pellegrini.

Jovetic started his career at FK Partizan and made his debut on the 9th April 2006 at the age of just 16 and would go on to become an important player soon afterwards. On the 2nd August 2007 he scored a hatrick against Zrinjski in a UEFA Cup qualifying match and then become the club’s youngest ever captain after being given the armband at the age of just 17 years, 10 months and 21 days. In his final season at the club he scored 19 goals in 33 games and was then being linked with moves away from the club.
Jovetic Partizan
On the 10th May 2008 Jovetic joined Italian side Fiorentina. After a slightly difficult first season at the club he showed his potential during the 2009-10 season where he impressed mostly in the Champions League. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Liverpool on the 29th September and then followed this up with two more against Bayern Munich in a 3-2 win later in the competition. In total he got 11 goals in all competitions and a lot was expected of him in the following season, however he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his right knee which meant that he did not play a single game.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group E - Fiorentina v Liverpool - Artemio Franchi Stadium
But on his return he was in superb form and scored twice against Parma. He finished the season with another 12 goals in 26 games but the club finished in a disappointing 13th place but Jovetic decided to stay with the club for one more season and hit another 13 goals before joining Manchester City on the 19th July 2013. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw with Stoke City before scoring his first goals for the club in a 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the League Cup.
Jovetic MC
Injuries completely ruined his first season at the club and he had to wait until the 29th January 2014 to score his first Premier League goal away to Tottenham Hotspur in a 5-1 win. Before the end of the season he would also score against Chelsea, Southampton and Aston Villa as he helped the club win the Premier League title after a fantastic end to the campaign. He started this season in great form by scoring twice against Liverpool in a 3-1 win but once again injuries have stopped him playing in as many games as he and the fans would have liked.

The final word can go to Manuel Pellegrini. “Stevan had very bad luck last year. This year he’s started pre-season well, and if he continues to work every day, he will demonstrate why he’s here at Manchester City. He’s a very good player.”