21st March – Michu

Michu made such an impact in the Premier League that it is surprising that he is not still in England and it is unbelievable that Swansea City would loan him out.

He is now 29 and can do a number of jobs in the attacking areas of the pitch but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to click between him and Wilfried Bony whenever they did play together. His form during his first season at Swansea was exceptional and it earned him a call up to the Spanish team which at the time were the most dominant in international football.

The forward started his career at Oviedo and made his debut in the Tercera Division during the 2003-04 season and would go on to play 100 league games for the club, scoring 13 times and his form convinced Segunda Division side Celta Vigo to take a chance on him in 2007. He started out in the B team but after 10 goals in 28 games he was promoted to the first team. He would go on to spend four seasons at the club, once again not being a prolific scorer but putting in some good performances, as he ended his time there with 112 appearances.

Michu Oviedo

On the 27th July 2011 he signed for newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao. This would be a brilliant season for the player as he finished with 17 goals in all competitions, which was the same amount he scored in four seasons in Celta’s first team. He scored some notable braces against Real Sociedad, Racing Santander and Real Madrid. This meant that he was being linked with moves away from the club as he only had a year left on his contract.

Michu CV

For just £2 million Michu signed for Swansea City on the 20th July 2012 and on his debut he scored yet another brace in a 5-0 win over QPR and then continued his fantastic goalscoring form by finding the back of the net against West Ham and Sunderland. He would go on to be one of the best signings of the season and would score 22 goals in all competitions as he helped Swansea win the League Cup. At the end of the campaign he was named the team’s Player of the Year and the Supporters Player of the Year.

It looked as though the following season was going to follow a similar pattern as he scored the club’s first goal of the season in a Europa League game against Malmo but injuries restricted him to just 24 games over the course of the season, however he did still manage to score six goals, but only two of these were in the league.

Michu SC

It was still surprising though when he made the move to Napoli on a season long loan at the start of this season but it hasn’t been the greatest time for him as he has suffered with injuries and has barely been able to make an impact.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Michu is a player that can play in two positions. He is able to penetrate and score but also knows how to play with other strikers. I have told Michu that I expect a certain number of goals from him to just to motivate him.”

16th February – Ron Vlaar

Tim Sherwood has a big challenge in keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League but more importantly for them it looks like they will have their captain Ron Vlaar available for the run in.

Although it is scoring goals that has been the major problem for the team, having their captain back will still be a big boost and it will make Sherwood more confident in his back four. Vlaar had been having a great season before getting injured and that was coming off the back of a great World Cup with Holland and therefore has been linked with moves away, mostly to Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. He would not look out of place at Old Trafford but he doesn’t seem to be distracted by these reports and will surely be as consistent as ever from now until the end of the season.

The defender now 30 has plenty of experience and started his career at AZ making his debut at the age of 20 on the 32rd April 2005 against RKC Waalwijk and then played a few days later in the semi final of the UEFA Cup against Sporting Lisbon. It was expected he would become a first team regular in the following season but this didn’t happen and he only played 10 games in total for AZ before leaving for Feyenoord on the 28th December 2005.

Vlaar AZ

In his first half a season at the club he played 16 times but an injury in the following preseason meant that he had to sit out the first half of the following campaign. But after recovering he did become an important member of the side and scored his first goal against FC Utrecht. Once again though his development stalled after being ruled out for most of the 2007-08 season after surgery on a cruciate ligament injury. He returned to training but picked up yet another injury and missed another season.

After two years on the sidelines he came back and scored a great goal in the KNVB Cup against Harkemase Boys on the 24th September 2009. His performances began improving and was getting more praise from everyone and during the 2011-12 season he helped Feyenoord qualify for the Champions League after they finished second in the Eredivisie.

Vlaar Feyenoord

But on the 15th July he joined Aston Villa, however the deal initially seemed like it wouldn’t be completed after he returned to Holland. After another turn of events he did eventually join the Premier League club on the 1st August. Shortly after he was named captain due to the continued absence of Stiliyan Petrov. He went on to score his first goal for the club in the 6-1 win over Sunderland with a 30 yard strike and his second goal was even more spectacular in the 2-2 draw with Wigan Athletic.

Vlaar AV

The club know how important he is to the team and how much he helps the younger players in the squad so they need to keep hold of him if they stay in the top flight and help them become more than a team that battles relegation.

The final word can go to teammate Andreas Weimann. “Ron is our captain so everyone knows he’s important. Ron was always our leader and captain. He’s always been vocal and the player we look up to in the changing room. There are definitely signs that he has grown in confidence even more since the World Cup in Brazil.”

1st November – Carl Cort

Newcastle United have a history of having great strikers and sometimes it is tough to live up to the expectations in the North East but unfortunately for Carl Cort he never got the chance to show his true potential.

The striker had a lot of potential and could have become an England international had it not been for the amount of time he spent on the sidelines. He was one of the many young players that Bobby Robson brought to St James’ Park but unlike the others he never got a run in the side.

Now 37, Cort started his career at Wimbledon but had his first taste of professional football on loan at Lincoln City in February 1997, where scored once in six games before returning to his parent club and making his debut on the 9th April against Aston Villa. Cort would have to wait until the 13th September to make another appearance and he showed his potential by scoring in the first minute against Newcastle in a 3-1 win. He followed this up three days later with a double against Millwall in the League Cup. His greatest moment in a Wimbledon shirt was also in the League Cup as he scored a hatrick against Sunderland in October 1999.
Cort Wimbledon
After 16 league goals in 73 games and an impressive goal record for the England under 21s, he joined Newcastle in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. He made his debut against Manchester United and then scored on his home debut against Derby County. However, this would be one of the few high points at the club as he began to struggle with hamstring problems kept him out for a long time. He eventually returned in March 2001 and scored five times in the final 10 games.

But during the 2001-02 season he suffered more injuries and barely played. With seven goals in 22 games it shows that when he was on the pitch he was a fantastic option and one that could have made a big difference to the side. But the problem was that he only made 22 league appearances in three and a half seasons.
Cort NUFC
In January 2004 he joined Wolves for £2 million and scored five times before the end of the season but this was not good enough to keep the club in the Premier League. During the 2004-05 season he had a relatively injury free season and he was a regular goalscorer, hitting the back of the net 16 times and causing a lot of problems for opposition defences. Cort began the following campaign in phenomenal form, scoring nine goals in the first 11 games but unfortunately his old injury problems returned and he only managed another 13 appearances and two goals over the rest of the season. After another season of injuries he was released by Wolves in May 2007.
Cort WW
On the 8th June 2007 he signed for Leicester City but this was a largely unsuccessful time as he only scored once in the League Cup and was released on the 11th January, allowing him to join Spanish side Marbella. After seven appearances and one goal he returned to England and signed for Norwich City. He scored once for the club against former team Wolves but this was not enough to stop Norwich getting relegated to League One.

After leaving Norwich, Cort spent the next two seasons at Brentford and scored six times in his 31 league games for the club. But on the 10th August 2012 he joined American side Tampa Bay Rowdies and has been there since.

The final word can go to Bobby Robson. “I still have a lot of faith in his ability. When he first came to the club he looked superb alongside Alan Shearer and he did very well for us. We did our research and we knew what a good player he was. It’s not his fault he has been injured the whole time.”

26th October – Steve Howey

Being born in Sunderland but going on to play for Newcastle United is what birthday boy Steve Howey did in his career and he will have been delighted that his former side got a win away to Tottenham Hotspur.

The central defender is 43 today and he went through a number of emotions during his time at Newcastle and will know exactly what the fans are going through at the moment as he endured some good times and bad times during his career. He will also be remembered as one of the defenders in Newcastle’s very attacking team under Kevin Keegan that reached the very top of the Premier League and should have won a title, however this didn’t quite happen but Howey still managed to earn himself four England caps because of his performances.

Howey started his career at Newcastle and signed his first professional contract on the 11th December 1989 and would go on to be one of the most popular players amongst the fans over the next 11 years. He was originally a striker when playing for the youth teams and reserves before the manager of the time Ossie Ardiles decided to use him as a defender. He did not become a first team regular until Kevin Keegan took charge and became an important member of the side during the club’s First Division title win in the 1992-93 season. Unfortunately Howey didn’t quite get to live up to his potential as injuries disrupted his time at the club but he still helped the club finish runners up in the Premier League during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and was involved in some dramatic games. He also helped the club reach the final of the FA Cup in 1998.
Howey NUFC
His time at Newcastle finally came to an end in August 2000 as newly promoted Manchester City paid £2 million for his services. It would be a very tough start to his career in Manchester and on his debut the team went on to lose 4-0 against Charlton Athletic. Things would not get better and the club were relegated from the top flight at the end of the season. However, Howey decided to stay at the club and helped them secure an immediate return to the Premier League as they won the First Division. Howey would stay at the club for one more season and this time it was a much better effort as they finished in the top half of the table. While at City, he had a decent goalscoring record and found the back of the net 11 times in 94 games, including a late equaliser against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, unfortunately for Howey though the game is more remembered more for the clash between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland.
Howey MCFC
In 2003 the defender moved to Leicester City for £200,000 however he only stayed at the club for six months and after just 13 games he joined Bolton Wanderers. After just three appearances for the club he was released and had a short spell in the MLS with New England Revolution before returning to England to play one game for Hartlepool United.
Howey LC
The final word can go to Micky Adams who signed him at Leicester City. “I’ve been looking for players with Premier League experience and Steve fits the bill. He can still do a very good job. It’s pleasing to get the first signing out the way and at such a good price. He is a former international and will be a good addition.”

25th October – Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shaun Wright-Phillips was a player that was very highly rated as a youngster but as the years have gone by he has become less effective and is now in the footballing wilderness, however if given the chance he could still help QPR avoid relegation.

The club are really struggling to create chances and if they could get the winger back on form they would have a real player on their hands. The 33 year old has made some big money moves in his career but he has largely failed to live up to his potential, despite six goals in 36 games for England and some fantastic performances for club and country. With him being on such a high wage it is difficult for QPR to get rid of him so they have will have to try and work something out.

Wright-Phillips started his career at Manchester City and made his debut in 1999 as a substitute in a League Cup match against Burnley. He made his league debut against Port Vale a few months later and helped his side turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, with the winger having the shot that resulted in his team’s first goal, unfortunately it was given as an own goal. City were promoted to the Premier League at the end of the season but their stay only lasted one season with Wright-Phillips, playing in a number of positions in his 19 appearances.
SWP MC
After Kevin Keegan replaced Joe Royle as manager and the winger benefitted hugely from this as he became an automatic first choice in Keegan’s more attacking team. He was used as a right wing back and helped the club gain promotion once more, scoring eight times in 35 league games. From 2000-2003 Wright-Phillips won the club’s Young Player of the Year award and was quickly developing into one of the best young players in the country. In his final season at the club he scored 10 Premier League goals in 34 games and was being linked with moves away.

On the 18th July 2005 the winger completed a £21 million move to Chelsea. In his first season he struggled to make his mark on the team and only started 15 games all season. Wright-Phillips would have to wait 52 games and 17 months before scoring his first goal for the club on the 5th December 2006 in a 2-0 win over Levski Sofia in the Champions League. Afterwards he gained confidence and got a lot more game time, including the FA Cup final which Chelsea went on to win.
SWP Chelsea
At the beginning of the 2006-07 season it seemed as though he was going to be a regular but this did not last and after 65 starts and 60 substitute appearances he returned to Manchester City on the 28th August 2008. On his second debut he scored twice in a 3-0 win over Sunderland and then just over a month after joining the club he equalled the same amount of goals in his entire time at Chelsea but his form slowed towards the end of the season.

The 2009-10 season started well and he scored in three consecutive games against Burnley, Hull City and Arsenal but after Roberto Mancini became the new manager, he did spent the rest of his time on the bench and in the following season he only played seven times. On the 31st August 2011 Wright-Phillips signed for QPR and made his full debut against Newcastle United on the 12th September. His time at QPR has been disappointing and failed to score for almost a year before scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over former club Chelsea. QPR were relegated at the end of the season and last season the winger only featured 13 times in their promotion campaign.
SWP MCFC
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He’s a very special player. I haven’t seen a player like him in all my time in the game. He’s got terrific balance and courage. He may be small but he can win the ball in the air and he never stops running.”

23rd October – Keiren Westwood

Keiren Westwood has arguably been the best signing of the season in the Championship as he has performed brilliantly for Sheffield Wednesday and has won them some valuable points in an encouraging start to the season.

The signing of Westwood was an interesting one as Wednesday already had Chris Kirkland, who in his own right is one of the best keepers in the Championship but it seems that Stuart Gray made a fantastic decision signing the goalkeeper. Now that he is once again first choice player he will be hoping that his form can convince the Republic of Ireland management that he deserves to be his country’s number one.

The 30 year old started his career at Manchester City but never played a first team game as he was understudy to David James and Nicky Weaver. In his final season at City he joined Oldham Athletic on loan, however he also didn’t play a game for them as he broke his hand and at the end of the season he was released by his parent club. In 2004 he had trials at Bradford City and Accrington Stanley but after being unsuccessful he contemplated retiring from the game and becoming a police officer.

But in 2004 he was given another chance at Conference club Carlisle United and was largely an understudy to Matt Glennon, finally making his debut in March 2005 after an injury to Glennon. In total he played four games in his first season. The following campaign Glennon left and the club brought in Anthony Williams who was expected to be the first choice. However, Westwood finally got his chance to be the club’s number one and proved his ability. He played 35 League Two games, helping the club win the title and continued to be an important member of the team.
Westwood CU
Over the next two seasons he remained first choice and at the end of the 2007-08 season he was named in the League One PFA Team of the Year and also won the club’s Player of the Year, this form led to interest from other clubs. On the 18th June 2008 Westwood joined Coventry City for an undisclosed fee and proved straightway that he could make the step up to the Championship as he was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year. In the 2009-10 season he then went on to win the club’s Player of the Year.
Westwood CC]
After 138 appearances he left the club on a free transfer and joined Sunderland on the 1st July 2011. His time at the club was less successful as he was never given a real run in the side as Simon Mignolet was usually in good form. But after the Belgian’s departure to Liverpool, it seemed as though Westwood would become first choice and at the start of the 2013-14 season he was given the opportunity to show his quality in the Premier League, however he would only play 10 Premier League games and because of the club’s poor results he was dropped for Vito Mannone.

Now at Wednesday he will be hoping that he can help the club challenge for the playoffs, although this may be out of reach this season, they have made a decent start and this has been down to some impressive performances from the goalkeeper, with the club only conceding 11 goals in the first 11 league games.
Westwood SW
The final word can go to Wednesday midfielder Chris Maguire. “He’s kept us in five or six games, making valuable saves at the right time. He’s up there with the best I’ve worked with, but Chris Kirkland is a great keeper as well, so it’s great for competition and it’s a hard one for the manager.”

15th October – Mesut Ozil

He might be a World Cup winner and used to be known as the ‘King of Assists’ but Mesut Ozil has yet to convince fans of the Premier League that he was worth the transfer fee paid by Arsenal.

With an injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a while, it at least gives Ozil time out of the spotlight as every time Arsenal play poorly, he is the scapegoat and the one everyone points the finger at. Sometimes he hasn’t been able to influence games as much as someone with his talent but he has been shoved out wide and Arsene Wenger does need to take some of the blame.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Schalke and was being labelled as the next big thing in German football. He played 39 times for the club but only scored one goal and after a falling out with Mirko Slomka he moved to Werder Bremen in January 2008. He quickly settled at his new club and began fulfilling his potential. He helped the club win the DFB-Polka Cup in 2009 and scored the winning goal in the final against Bayer Leverkusen. Ozil was also excellent in the UEFA Cup that season and was a major reason why they reached the final.

In his second full season at the club he helped them to 3rd in the Bundesliga, contributing nine goals and also 17 assists in 31 league appearances. This would be his final season at the club and he finished his time at Bremen with 16 goals and 55 assists in 108 games and after a very good World Cup on the 17th August 2010 he joined Real Madrid.
Ozil WB
Ozil made a fantastic start to his career in Spain and his form over the season kept the Kaka on the bench. He finished the season with 25 assists which was the most in Europe and after Jose Mourinho became manager, his number changed from 23 to 10 suggesting that he would be the first choice. He was a crucial in helping the club to their 32nd La Liga title after another 17 assists in the league and even chipped in with two goals on the final day of the season against RCD Mallorca which meant that Real were the first club ever to reach 100 points in a single season.

For a third season in a row nobody came close to him in terms of the number of assists he got. But there were reports that he was not happy and wanted to leave but he rejected these claims and proved with his 26 assists that he was willing to fight for his place. In his three full seasons at the club he played over 50 times and it was quite surprising that on the 2nd September 2013 he joined Arsenal for a fee believed to be £42.5 million. This was seen as a huge signing and the Real Madrid players were disappointed that he left, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo who benefitted a lot from him.
Ozil RM
The attacking midfielder made his debut away to Sunderland and it only took him 11 minutes to get his first assists as he set up Olivier Giroud. He had an even better home debut as he was involved in all three goals in a 3-1 win over Stoke City. His first two goals would come in a 4-1 win over Norwich City just over a month later but after a good November and December he started picking up niggling injuries and this slightly affected his form. Despite a shaky second half of the season he still helped the club win the FA Cup.
Ozil Arsenal
He needed a positive start to this season but it hasn’t quite happened to him and this injury will not help him but surely his quality will come through and provide a lot more goals for his teammates in the years to come.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.”