24th July – Martin Keown

Martin Keown might be known more as a commentator to younger football fans but he was an imposing centre back that was very solid and dependable.

The defender now works for the BBC and has commentated on some of the biggest games in world football and the main reason for this is because he has played in huge games throughout his playing career.

Keown started his career at Arsenal, but made his first team debut on loan at Brighton in 1984 and played 23 times for the club. After returning to his parent club he made his Arsenal debut on the 23rd November 1985 against West Brom. He would go on to play 22 games through the season but when new manager George Graham came in he was not seen as part of the future and left for Aston Villa on the 9th June 1986.

Keown AV

His first season was a little bit of a disaster as Villa finished bottom of Division One and were relegated but when Graham Taylor came in as manager there was an upturn in form for both club and player. Keown missed just two league games as they gained promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt and then helped them stay in the top flight in the following campaign.

On the 7th August 1989, the centre back signed for Everton and after an incredible start which saw Everton top of the table they faded in the second half of the season and Keown’s form dipped slightly. He recaptured his great form during the 1991-92 season and after 96 league games for the club he returned to first club Arsenal.

Keown Everton

In his first four seasons back at Arsenal he barely missed a game and was part of the double winning side of the 1997-98 campaign and would also be an integral part of the 2001-02 double winning side. He remained a key player until the end of the 2002-03 season, lifting the FA Cup at the end of it.

The following season Keown played a small role in the Invincible season, playing 10 games, just enough to earn a third Premier League winners medal. But this would be his final season as he was released at the end of his contract and he signed for Leicester City. He only stayed at the club for less than six months, playing 17 league games before joining Reading.

Keown Arsenal

His time at Reading was even shorter and after five games he announced his retirement. He did briefly come back to play for Wembley FC with a number of other ex professionals but this only lasted three FA Cup qualifying games.

Keown won 43 England caps and scored twice for his country before retiring in 2002.

The final word can go to former Leicester City manager Micky Adams. “In Martin Keown we’ve signed a born leader, not just on the field but off the field as well. I believe we’re two people who can learn things from each other.”

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2nd July – Marc-Antoine Fortune

Marc-Antoine Fortune is currently stuck on 98 professional career goals and will be hoping that one more team gives him a chance to reach 100..

The forward started his career at French lower league side Angouleme where he broke into the side during the 1999-00 season, scoring three times in 10 appearances. He helped the club reach the third tier of French football and he was linked with moves to Ligue 1 sides. In 2002, Lille took a chance on Fortune.

While at the club he found himself playing out of position on the left wing and struggled with injuries to make a real impact. After just one season, Fortune joined Ligue 2 side Rouen on loan. He ended the season with 10 goals and for a third summer in a row he was on the move.

Stade Brest had a decent season with Fortune scoring 10 goals in 33 games and finishing 9th in Ligue 2. It looked as though he had settled, however when Eredivisie side Utrecht showed interest, Fortune could not turn down the opportunity. While in Holland, Fortune struggled to settle and the death of David Di Tommaso meant he could not show his talent.

Before his teammate died he had been looking quite impressive but after 13 goals in 56 appearances, he felt he needed to return to France. In January 2007, Nancy signed the striker and began really well, scoring six goals in 17 league games. After this he was largely used as an impact substitute and began to feel frustrated so in January 2009 he joined West Brom.

MAF Nancy

He became a fan favourite and scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and despite only playing half a season he was named the Supporters Player of the Year. He finished his loan spell with five goals and convinced Celtic to buy him.

MAF WB

After a good start with goals against St Johnstone and Rapid Vienna in the Europa League it turned sour, especially after Tony Mowbray was replaced by Neil Lennon so at the start of the 2010-11 season he returned to West Brom. He spent a further three seasons at West Brom, scoring nine goals as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. During this time, he also had a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

MAF WA

His next move was to Wigan Athletic and he featured heavily during their Europa League campaign and ended the season with 49 appearances. He lasted one more season and signed a one year deal for Coventry City. After four goals in 25 games he was on the move again to Southend United following a successful trial. Last season he scored four goals.

The final word can go to former Celtic and West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. “Marc is a quality player and he was a privilege to work with. Some of his play in the second half of the season was phenomenal, you can see the impact he made. He is a team player.”

18th February – Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson has gone down as one of the greatest managers ever after an excellent career but more importantly to him he went down as one of the few genuine nice people in the world of football.

There isn’t anyone that says a bad word about Bobby Robson and he is loved all over Europe after managing in Portugal, Holland, Spain and England with most clubs he was at holding him in a very high regard. It is very rare for someone to be loved as much as him by all football fans and everyone will remember him for a long time to come.

Robson started his career with Fulham in 1950 as an inside forward and spent six years at the club playing 152 games and scoring 68 goals before moving to West Brom for a club record fee of £25,000. He finished as the club’s top scorer during the 57-58 season was also given the captain’s armband but in 1962 he returned to Fulham. His second spell lasted five years and in 1967 he joined Vancouver Royals as player-manager.

Robson Fulham

He only spent a year in Canada before returning to Fulham for a third spell, this time as manager. He could not save them from relegation and was sacked in the following campaign. But he was given a chance by Ipswich Town in 1969 and he would build one of the best teams ever seen at the club. After four average years he led the club to fourth place in the First Division and won the Texaco Cup during the 1972-73 season which was the start of something special. For the next nine seasons they only finished below sixth once but in that same season they won the FA Cup so that made up for it.

His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years and he even won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but even more remarkably during his time at the club he only signed 14 players and made up the rest of the squad with players that came through the youth team. These achievements landed him the England job and it is fair to say that he has been one of the most popular England managers ever. But it could have been so different after he offered his resignation after England failed to qualify for Euro 84. He didn’t have much success in the Euros but his record in World Cups was very good as he led England to the quarter finals in 86 and were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal and a bit of magic from the Argentinean. But in 1990 after being hated by many sections of the media he went closer than any other England manager to winning the trophy and reached the semi finals before being beaten on penalties by West Germany. On arrival back home the team and manager were cheered and nobody wanted Robson to leave the job.

Robson England

Robson had already accepted a job offer from PSV after the FA told him they weren’t renewing his contract before the World Cup. While in Holland he won the league title twice before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 1992, where he hired a young Jose Mourinho to be his interpreter. After a decent first season in which the club finished third, he had took them to the top of table but was surprisingly sacked. Rivals Porto were quick to appoint Robson and they went on to beat Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final and would go on to win the title in the next two seasons.

After his success in Portugal he made the move to Spain and joined Barcelona and he led them to the Spanish Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup but was moved upstairs into a general manager position after just one season. He only spent one more year in Spain and returned to PSV for a short spell before he finally came home.

Newcastle appointed Robson in September 1999 and he turned the whole club around right from his very first home match. They went on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Alan Shearer scoring five goals. In just over one season he took Newcastle from bottom of the table to qualifying for the Champions League, finishing fourth and then third in the next campaign. Such was the turnaround that a fifth place finish was disappointing in his final full season in charge.

Robson NUFC

Robson was sacked after a slow start and every Newcastle fan will agree that the club haven’t been the same since and the fans still love him today. Unfortunately aged 76 on the 31st July 2009 he passed away and the news was very hard for most to take that followed football including players, coaches and fans.

The final words are difficult to choose because of how many good things were said about Bobby but Alex Ferguson summed up everything by saying. “I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say that. There is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems. The world, not just the football world, will miss him.”

4th February – Kevin Campbell

Kevin Campbell may not be one of the biggest names to have played during the Premier League era but he was certainly a good striker that could always grab a goal for whoever he was playing for.

The 45 year old has been retired since 2007 but will be fondly remembered by Everton and West Brom in particular. During his career he did a rare thing for an English player and that was play abroad. He also scored 83 Premier League goals which puts him number 40 in the all time list.

Campbell began his career at Arsenal and was prolific for the youth team, scoring 59 goals in a single season and helping the club win the FA Youth Cup. He went on to make his debut on 7th May 1988 against Everton, unfortunately he could not find his way past Paul Merson and Alan Smith to secure a first team spot. In 1989 he joined Leyton Orient on loan and was a success scoring nine times in 16 games which led to them wanting to sign him permanently, however Arsenal refused to sell.

Campbell AFC

He went out on loan once more, this time to Leicester City and again showed that he could find the back of the net with five goals in 11 games. In the 1990-91 season he established himself in the Arsenal first team and helped the team win the First Division title after scoring eight times in ten games during the run in. After the signing of Ian Wright, Campbell got less recognition for his work but still chipped in with some important goals. Over the next few seasons he helped the team win the FA Cup, League Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. More signings were made, including John Hartson and Dennis Bergkamp, so Campbell left the club after playing 224 games and scoring 59 goals.

Nottingham Forest signed the striker for £2.5 million in the summer of 1995 but unfortunately he could not stop them from getting relegated in 1997. He stuck with the team and his 23 goals in the following season helped them to an immediate return to the Premier League. Controversy then clouded the next 12 months of his career as he was sold to Turkish side Trabzonspor for £2.5 million and this made Forest striker Pierre van Hooijdonk go on strike. But worse was still to come as after just seven months he was involved in a racist incident with the club president. Campbell was very popular with the fans and the other players so they stood behind him and accompanied him to the press conference announcing his departure and the reasons.

Campbell NF

In March 1999, Campbell joined relegation threatened Everton and was arguably one of the greatest loans ever in the Premier League. Despite only playing eight games he finished the season as the club’s top scorer with nine goals and was named April’s Player of the Month. In the summer he made the move permanent and he became even more of a legend at the club by scoring the winner against Liverpool at Anfield. Although Everton were largely disappointing in the Premier League with bottom half finishes, Campbell was a regular scorer.

Campbell Everton

West Brom then signed Campbell on a free transfer in January 2005 and many had written them off after being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. But after making Campbell captain there was an upturn in form and he led them to survival, the first time a team had achieved this. Unfortunately he could not repeat the trick in the following season and the club were relegated and was released. He then joined Cardiff City but he could not have as much of an influence as he hoped and played his last professional game on the 20th February 2007 against former club West Brom.

The final word can go to Bryan Robson. “He’s got vast experience and Premier League know-how. I think he’ll be a success. He’s up for trying to keep us in the Premier League. The way he leads the line is a good example to everybody but the way he gets on with players has been excellent.”

1st February – Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher is celebrating his birthday today but he must have lots on mind as his long career at Manchester United seems to be over and he will have some tough decisions to make over the next few days.

Fletcher 1

The 31 year old should be in the best years of his career but unfortunately injuries and other problems have stopped him from getting on the pitch in recent seasons. Fletcher has been linked with West Ham and West Brom as well as many other teams in the last few weeks so it will be interesting to see where he ends up but he could definitely add something to a lot of teams.

Fletcher joined Manchester United as an 11 year old and would sign his first professional contract with the club on his 17th birthday and helped the reserve team win the Manchester Senior Cup during the 1999-00 season. However, his progress was halted by injuries and he had to wait until the 12th March 2003 to make his first team debut in a Champions League game against Basel. During the following campaign he began to get more opportunities and even started in the FA Cup final win over Millwall in May 2004. But he was still in and out of the team and just couldn’t make the central midfield position his own, and had to wait until the 1st January 2005 to score his professional goal in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Fletcher 2

After allegedly being criticised by Roy Keane in a TV interview in October 2005, Fletcher began to put in more commanding performances from then on and was always on the team sheet for the important games. On the 6th November he scored the only goal in a win over Chelsea which put to an end their 40 game unbeaten run.

Over the next two seasons he struggled to break into the team again after further signings were made but he did manage to pick up a Champions League winners medal at the end of the 2007-08 season. In the opening months of the following season he was given more chances in the team and scored three times. Arguably the biggest moment of his career came in the semi final of the Champions League against Arsenal where he was sent off and would miss the final. This made many realise how important he was to the team. Inter manager at the time Jose Mourinho said. “Fletcher is more important than people think. His work in midfield, especially in the midfield ‘wars’, in crucial matches is very important. Man United will miss his pace and aggression in defensive actions: he ‘eats’ opponents in defensive transition”

The 2009-10 saw Fletcher consolidate his place in the team and was very influential in one of the most dramatic Manchester Derbies as he scored twice in 4-3 win over City. During the campaign he was also named as the club’s vice captain and for his performances he was even named in the PFA Team of the Year.

Fletcher 3

After this ulcerative colitis kept him out of action for long spells and it is good to see him starting to get his career back on track and if he can join a club where he will play regular football then he will definitely be a consistent player and someone that will pass on a lot of experience to the younger players. He has played 342 times for Manchester United during some of their most successful years which just shows how good of a player he is.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “There isn’t a nicer boy at the club and he’s a star professional. He’s a fantastic character, a brilliant boy, and he’ll does his best as he always does. He has started sitting in the front of the back four and that could be his role in the future.”

25th September – Glenn Murray

Glenn Murray has to be one of the unluckiest players ever after working so hard to get to the Premier League and then miss pretty much the whole campaign must have been hard to take.

At the age of 31 he is at the stage of his career where it is unlikely that a Premier League team will take a chance on him and he will have to be at a club that gets promoted. He is still contracted to Crystal Palace but is currently on loan at Reading.

The striker started his career at non league side Workington Reds before going to America to sign for Wilmington Hammerheads, where he spent one season, scoring three goals in 14 games before returning to England. He joined Barrow and impressed with seven goals in seven games and earned a move to Conference side Carlisle United.
Murray CU
He did not have the greatest goal scoring record at Carlisle but played a part in two successive promotions as they won the Conference Playoffs in 2005 and then won League Two a season later. But he would only go on to play one League One game for the club and had to join Stockport County to get regular football and in two months he played 11 games and scored three goals. After initially joining Rochdale on loan he signed for them permanently in January 2007. During his loan spell he scored four goals in 12 games. He finished the 2006-07 season with 16 goals in 31 league games and was seen as the player that could lead the club to promotion.

The 2007-08 season started well for the striker and after nine goals in 23 games, Murray joined League One side Brighton in January. He made his debut in a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Northampton Town but on his home debut he scored twice in a 3-0 win over Crewe. He ended the season with eight goals in 21 games.
Murray BH
Injuries in the following campaign restricted his playing time but he did still manage 12 goals and had a similar record in the 2009-10 season. His final year at Brighton proved to be his most successful as he scored 22 goals in 42 league games. After he rejected Brighton’s new contract offer he left after hitting the back of the net 53 times in the league for the club.

This was forgotten by the Brighton fans after he signed for their rivals Crystal Palace in May 2011. But his first season wasn’t as successful as he hoped as he only scored six times but the 2012-13 season must have been like a dream for the striker. On the 22nd September he scored a 20 minute hatrick against Cardiff City and followed this up with more goals and another hatrick in November against Ipswich Town.

At times he was unstoppable and before Christmas he had scored 22 goals which is a record. However, his dream soon turned into a nightmare as he picked up a serious knee injury but his 30 goals in 42 games were good enough to help Palace get promoted. Murray eventually returned on the 8th February 2014 as a substitute against West Brom.
Murray CP
Since he has only played 15 Premier League games and on the 1st September 2014 he was loaned out to Reading. On his debut he scored twice against Fulham in a 3-0 win but he did miss a penalty against Sheffield Wednesday in the following game.

The final word can go to Ian Holloway. “There are not many strikers who have got 30 in one season. What he’s done is phenomenal. It’s not just that. It’s his work rate, he leads the line and how he brings other people into the game is as good as I’ve seen.”

14th September – Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith has been one of the surprising stars of the Premier League so far and now at the age of 27 he is getting towards the best years of his career.

Everton have had an indifferent start to the season but with their 2-0 victory over West Brom they will be hoping this is where things will get more consistent for them and they will battle for a place in the top four. Despite this being their only league win so far, they have also only lost one game and Naismith has been in excellent form, scoring in the first three games of the season against Leicester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The striker started his career at Kilmarnock and signed professionally in August 2002, then making his debut as a substitute against Hibernian on the 24th April 2004. He had to wait until February 2005 to score his first senior goal against Hearts in a 2-2 draw. It was in the 2005-06 season that he really began to make a name for himself as he won the SPL Young Player of the Month in August and January and then the SPL Player of the Month award in March.
Naismith Everton
He continued to be one of the best strikers in Scotland and was therefore linked with moves away from the club and after 115 games and 35 goals for Kilmarnock he moved onto Rangers on the 31st August 2007. His first season at the club started off well but a knee injury in April 2008 kept him out of action for eight months. After missing the majority of the following campaign he returned to help Rangers lift the Scottish Cup.

In the 2009-10 season he received his first SPL winners medal after the club won back to back titles but this time Naismith had played enough games to get one. He played 28 times in the league, scoring three times. While at Rangers he was used a lot as a wide player and this was part of the reason he did not score a lot of goals but the 2010-11 season he had his best goal return at the club, hitting the back of the net 15 times and winning the Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year.
Naismith Rangers
The 2011-12 season could have been so much better for Naismith if it wasn’t cut short by injury. He started the season by scoring on the opening day against Hearts, and followed this up by scoring eight times in the first eight league games, including two against Celtic in a 4-2 win. After nine goals in 11 games he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and did not play for the club again.

Naismith joined Everton on the 4th July 2012 after Rangers had been liquidated. He made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Manchester United. He did not have the best first season as he was largely used as a substitute but he has the record of scoring the final goal of David Moyes’ reign at the club in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Naismith Killie
Under new manager Roberto Martinez he made a rare start against Chelsea in September 2013 and scored the game’s only goal. As the season progressed he became a more important member of the team and his good run of form coincided with Everton winning seven games on the bounce and also helping them to fifth place and also their highest point tally ever in the Premier League.

The final word can go to David Moyes. “He is an established international who can play in a number of positions. He will be an excellent addition to the players we already have and will hopefully prove to be very useful for us.”