19th July – Luke Young

Luke Young was one of the most consistent right backs during the early to mid 2000s and many believe he should have won more England caps.

The right back did play seven times for England and had it not been for Gary Neville and the fact that he played for teams that weren’t challenging for the title then he would have surely gained more. He broke through at a time when a lot of players were overlooked not because of their quality but the team they played for.

Young started his career at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against West Ham at centre back. He featured a lot in the cup competitions that season, helping his side win the League Cup and reach the semi final of the FA Cup. He featured fairly regularly in his three years at the club, playing 76 games in all competitions but it was time to move on.

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Charlton Athletic signed Young on the 25th July 2001 for £3million and made his debut on the opening day in a 2-1 defeat to Everton. In his first season at the club, funnily he played alongside Mark Fish, Jonathan Fortune and Jorge Costa meaning it came up on the starting lineups as Young Fish Costa Fortune. He stayed as first choice through his time at the club and helped them defy expectations and stay in the Premier League for five years until relegation at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Young CA

While at Charlton, Young scored his first professional goal in August 2004 in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa and followed it up soon after with another against Birmingham City. At the end of this campaign he was named their Player of the Year. But after relegation he moved on to Middlesbrough. His spell at the club only lasted one season but he did manage one goal against Tottenham Hotspur.

On the 7th August 2008 Young transferred to Aston Villa. He quickly became a favourite at Villa Park due to his solid performances, playing at both right and left back. Despite this he found himself out of favour under Martin O’Neill and it looked as though he would be leaving for Liverpool as the two clubs agreed a fee, however Young turned them down as he didn’t want to be a backup.

Young AV

He stayed at Villa until 2011 when he joined QPR and was first choice in his first season but was frozen out of the squad by manager Mark Hughes. Then he suffered injuries and wasn’t even included in their 25 man squad. The last appearance of his career would be his only one outside the top flight as he played against Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The final word can go to former Charlton chairman Richard Money. “He is an international and his performances over the last few seasons, including last term when he was club captain, have been excellent. Luke is a key member of our squad.”

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13th October – Gabriel Agbonlahor

Gabriel Agbonlahor has made a good start to the new season and will be hoping to recapture the goalscoring form he had in his first few years after breaking through.

The 28 year old has played as both a striker and a winger during his time at Villa Park but this has not stopped him becoming the club’s all time leading Premier League goalscorer and has the record of scoring in 10 consecutive seasons. He has three England caps and some would argue that he should have been given more opportunities.

Agbonlahor came through the ranks at Aston Villa but went out on loan to gain first team experience in 2005 playing for Watford and Sheffield Wednesday before returning to his parent club and making his debut as a 19 year old on the 18th March 2006 against Everton. Villa went on to lose the match 4-1 but Agbonlahor did get his team’s only goal.
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Under new manager Martin O’Neill the striker found himself playing on the wing but played every minute of the campaign until the 10th February 2007. He ended the season with nine Premier League goals. In the following season he started superbly scoring six goals in the first 13 games and became a hero after scoring the winning goal against Birmingham City in the 86th minute. In December 2007 he was named the Player of the Month but he could not keep his goalscoring run going, and finished the season with eleven goals.

On the 15th August 2008 he signed a new four year deal with the club and two days later scored a perfect hatrick against Manchester City. During the season he formed a good partnership with John Carew. But after hitting his 10th goal of the season against Blackburn Rovers, he hit a barren spell where he scored only once in 12 games. At the end of the season he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
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The 2009-10 season was his best in terms of goalscoring as he hit 16 goals. He scored yet another winner against Birmingham on the opening day of the season and also against Manchester United which gave Villa their first win at Old Trafford since 1983. After the resignation of O’Neill, Agbonlahor had to play in different roles and help the team in other ways. His level of performances didn’t drop but his opportunities to score did.

After a fantastic start to the 2011-12 season, where he scored three goals in three games and was named the Player of the Month for August, his form tailed off. Some say it was the pressure of being made the club captain after Stiliyan Petrov had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia but he still wore the armband with pride and it was a tough for everyone at the club and it mustn’t have been easy for him to take on the role in them circumstances.
Agbonlahor Eng
When Paul Lambert took over he did not make Agbonlahor permanent captain and the striker had a slow start under the new manager. After 29 games without a goal he finally broke his duck with a strike against Sunderland on the 3rd November 2012. Against the same opposition he scored his record breaking 61st Premier League goal for the club to make him their highest ever goalscorer. Last season though he once again struggled to find the back of the net but he has two goals so far this season and will be hoping he can make it to double figures.

The final word can go to Paul Lambert. “When you have that speed and power then anything is possible, and he is a strong lad, he really is a powerful boy. If he gets a run then you need to bring him down because I don’t think he can be caught.”

5th September – George Boateng

George Boateng is 39 today and had a very good career in England but not a lot of people will know that he is currently the head coach of Malaysian side Kelantan FA.

The central midfielder took over as manager of Kelantan on the 6th May 2014 and couldn’t have got off to a more dramatic start, with his team trailing 3-0 at half time in the semi final of the Malaysian FA Cup, he inspired his players to come back and secure a 3-3 draw. It will be interesting to see if his managerial career takes him to England where he spent most of his playing days.

Boateng began his career at Dutch side Excelsior and after some impressive performances in the 1994-95 season, he was signed by Feyenoord. He spent three years at the club and featured in 68 league games, scoring just one goal before moving to England and signing for Coventry City.
Boateng Feyenoord
At Coventry he proved to be a very effective defensive midfielder and helped the club to a brilliant 11th place finish in the Premier League. But the performance he is most remembered for was away to Aston Villa. Coventry hadn’t won at Villa Park for 63 years but on the 27th February 1999 Boateng scored twice in a 4-1 win. His performances obviously impressed Villa as they signed him for £4.5 million at the start of the following season.
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He spent three seasons with the club and the midfielder was part of the team that reached the FA Cup final in 2000 and was seen as one of their most consistent players. After falling out with Graham Taylor in the 2001-02 season his time at the club was coming to an end and after 131 matches he joined Middlesbrough for £5 million.

On the first day of the 2002-03 season he made his debut in a 0-0 draw away to Southampton. He will always be remembered by the Boro fans for being part of the team that won the League Cup in 2004. In the next season he finally scored his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on the 16th Ocotber 2004. Boateng was one of the most influential player in the squads and they were not the same when he was out injured. This was evident when he broke his toe and in the eight weeks he was missing, Boro dropped from 4th in the table to 9th. After he returned he helped them qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Middlesbrough v Manchester United, FA Cup 6th round football match, The Riverside stadium, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, Britain - 10 Mar 2007
They went on to reach the final of the UEFA Cup and in June 2006 he was not only rewarded with a new contract but also the captaincy. Some fans would argue that this affected his performances and he was not as good a player and manager Gareth Southgate responded by taking the captain’s armband off him. It turned out to be his last season at the club as he joined Hull City in July 2008.

He spent two seasons at Hull and played 56 times but could only manage one goal, against Manchester City in a 2-1 win and after their relegation he was released by the club and signed for Greek side Skoda Xanthi. After just 19 games he returned to England to sign for Nottingham Forest. But after limited appearances he was on the move again, however he did score a crucial last minute equaliser against Leicester City while at the club.

His last club before retirement was Malaysian side T-Team where he played 20 times and scored four goals before hanging up his boots.

The final word can go to former Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill. “George is as brave as a lion and that’s why he’s had the career he has had. He is a leader and he will put his head where there is danger. That’s why he is our captain.”

13th June – Darius Vassell

Darius Vassell will probably remembered most for missing a penalty against Portugal after he told manager Sven Goran Eriksson he definitely did not want to take one.

It was the goalkeeper who saved the penalty, Ricardo who let it slip that Vassell never wanted to take a penalty in the tournament as he did not want that pressure on his shoulders. Unfortunately for the striker this would be his last kick in international football. Before this he had a pretty decent record for England scoring six times in 22 games. Now 34, he hasn’t had a club since 2012 but there have been reports that he is looking for a new team this summer.

Vassell started his career at Aston Villa and was one of the best players in their youth team and set a club record of 39 goals in a single season. He made his first team debut as a substitute in a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough. Over the next few seasons he became known as a super sub because he would terrorise defences in the last 15 minutes of matches and the tiring opponents could not catch him. Throughout his whole time at Aston Villa whenever he scored in the league they did not lose a game which is an incredible record as he finished his time at Villa Park with 35 goals in 162 games. Many fans felt that he should have been given more of a chance but in July 2005 he signed for Manchester City for £2 million.
Vassell Villa
In his first season at the club he formed an effective partnership with Andrew Cole and scored eight league goals in 35 games. Manager Stuart Pearce was very happy with his signing. “He’s got pace which we’re short of up front. You know that once he got the wrong side of you that you were not seeing him again. I don’t think you can intimidate him physically, which I always liked in a player.”

The 2007-08 season was more difficult for Vassell as he was not used as a striker and had to play as a wide midfielder in a 4-5-1 formation. But on the 10th February 2008 he scored his 50th Premier League goal in a victory over Manchester United. In the season after he only played 15 times in all competitions and at the end of the season he was released.
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His next move was to Turkey as he signed for Ankaragucu where 3000 fans turned out for his arrival and he scored his first goal in the second game of the season. However he only stayed for one season as there were a lot of problems during his time at the club.

On the 20th October 2010 he returned to England and signed for Leicester City on a two year deal reuniting him with Sven Goran Eriksson. In his first season he scored four times in 32 games and started the next season well by scoring winning goals against Southampton and Derby. However an injury against West Ham ended his season and at the end of the season his contract was not extended.
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The final word can go to Sven Goran Eriksson. “He is as good today as he was then for England. He has not lost his pace. Things always happen around him.”

18th May – Brad Friedel

Brad Friedel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League era setting new records and even has one goal to his name.

Now 43 he still looks like he has the ability to continue for a few more years to come at the top level and even though he is no longer first choice at Tottenham Hotspur whenever he was called upon last season he put in some decent performances. The Premier League are lucky to have had such a talented and committed individual but early in his career it looked like he was not going to get the chance to play in England.

Firstly he tried to sign for Nottingham Forest but he was unable to secure a work permit and the transfer fell through. Then he tried joining Newcastle United but ran into further problems and ended up going on loan to Danish club Brondby. Friedel then attempted to join a third English club in Sunderland but once again he failed to get a work permit and joined Galatasaray. After playing in 30 league games for them he moved back to United States joining Columbus Crew and was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Finally on the 23rd December 1997 he gained a work permit and joined Liverpool. However, it was not as successful as he hoped because he only played 25 league games in three years. In 2000 he joined Blackburn Rovers and his talent began to shine through with them winning promotion to the Premier League in his first season and then producing some brilliant saves to keep them in the top flight. But his most memorable performance was in the 2002 League Cup final as he was named man of the match in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. He continued to get better and in the next season he kept 15 clean sheets and was named the club’s Player of the Year as well as being included in the Premier League Team of the Year. Blackburn manager Graeme Souness said of his keeper. “He would certainly get into the top 10 in the world. He’s one of the best keepers in England and I know there are other managers who think that too.”
Friedel Blackburn
On the 21st February 2004 he became the second goalkeeper to score in the Premier League when he scored the equaliser against Charlton Athletic. Remarkably though they still went onto lose the game.

In 2008 he joined Aston Villa and while at the club he broke the record for continuous games in the Premier League after his 167th finished in a 0-0 draw with Fulham. Friedel’s record was nearly broken when he was sent off against Liverpool, however the decision was overturned and he made it to 250 consecutive games on the 16th January 2011.
Freidel Villa
When his contract expired at the end of the season he joined Tottenham Hotspur which meant that he did not miss a Premier League game while at Villa Park. He made his debut for Spurs against Manchester United and his record continued for the rest of the season. After Hugo LLoris was signed everyone presumed he would be replaced but after an impressive display against Norwich City, the new signing had to wait for his chance. Norwich centre back Sebastien Bassong saifd of Friedel’s performance that day. “Uncle Brad was magic, I’ve never doubted his quality. He is one of the best in the Premier League. He’s a terrific player, they finished fourth last year and he played a big part in that.”
Friedel Spurs
Unfortunately his run of 310 consecutive games was ended when he was named on the bench on the 7th October.

The final word can go to his former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill. “Friedel has not played all those games not to be considered as good as anyone and I played with two unbelievable keepers – Pat Jennings and Peter Shilton.”