26th March – Simon Kjaer

Simon Kjaer has been one of the more consistent centre backs around Europe in recent years but it seems like every time he is close to a really big move his form plummets and mistakes creep into his game.

The centre back is still only 26 but has a lot of experience and has played in some big games for both club and country so his career will more than likely get better. Over the years he has been linked with transfers to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to name a few and it is felt that he would be good in the Premier League and the English top flight definitely needs more top quality defenders.

Kjaer started his career at Danish club Midtjylland and even at a young age he was linked with big moves and even had a trial with Real Madrid in August 2007 but unfortunately a deal could not be agreed. Instead he signed a new five year deal with his first club and made his debut in a 2-0 win over AGF on the 30th September 2007. He would play 21 times for the club before making the move to Italian side Palermo in July 2008.

Kjaer Palermo

He would have to wait until October to make his debut as a half time substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina. Despite the loss Kjaer played well and quickly established himself as an important member of the side and ended the season with 27 appearances and three goals. After a very successful first season he was named the 2009 Danish Talent of the Year and during the 2009-10 campaign he would go on to produce even better performances, ending with a very consistent World Cup which meant once again that many other clubs were looking at him and Palermo had to accept they were going to lose him in the summer.

On the 8th July 2010 he made the move to Wolfsburg but unfortunately Kjaer and the club got off to an indifferent start and were not achieving what they had expected to. After manager Steve McClaren was sacked, Felix Magath took over and it was much tougher for Kjaer to get a regular place in the team and was made a scapegoat by the new manager for the problems Wolfsburg were having.

Kjaer Wolfsburg

After making three appearances at the start of the 2011-12 season the centre back made the move to Roma on a season long loan. This was also not a good move for him as he struggled to show his quality and was even sent off against Lazio in a 2-1 defeat which led to the club not buying him permanently and he had to return to Wolfsburg. After burying the hatchet with Magath he would eventually get back into the team but he only lasted one more season.

His next move was to Lille in France and was very impressive in his first campaign helping the club to 21 clean sheets and was included in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season after they only conceded 26 goals in 38 league games. The defender has continued to put in good performances and has proven that when he is on form he can be a leader and one of the best in Europe.

Kjaer Lille

The final word can go to Palermo director Walter Sabatini. “I have heard that Juventus and their observers have been watching Kjaer. There is also an interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. But he’ll stay, even he knows that. All is well, he wants to complete his development. Simon should be valued based on the qualities he has.”

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28th October – Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Martins is a player with a fantastic history, having been the number nine at Newcastle United and also scoring the winning goal for Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

The striker had electric pace and a brilliant shot on him that a lot of goalkeepers struggled to keep a hold of. He has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but has largely been a fan favourite at every club and is now currently scoring regularly for Seattle Sounders in the MLS and his goals have helped his side to the top of the table.

The 30 year old started his career in Nigeria before getting a trial at Serie C side Reggiana in Italy and signed a youth contract with the club in 2000. After just two appearanceshe joined Inter Milan and would go on to make his debut against Parma in December 2002. Martins began to make an impact during the 2002-03 season where he showed his quality in the Champions League, scoring against Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan. His best season for the club was in the 2004-05 season, where he scored 22 goals in 45 games, unfortunately for him, Inter decided to sign other strikers soon after.
Martins IM
In total he scored 49 goals for the Italian side before signing for Newcastle United on the 24th August 2006 and was handed the number nine shirt, taking over from Alan Shearer. After a difficult start, in which he suffered a few injuries, he would go on to score his first goal for the club on the 17th September against West Ham in a 2-0 win and he became a regular scorer hitting one of the goals of the season when he scored from 20 yards against Tottenham Hotspur at a speed of 84mph. Martins ended his first season with 17 goals in all competitions. His second season at the club was mixed as he had to settle for a place on the bench under Sam Allardyce, as he preferred Michael Owen and Mark Viduka upfront. But after Kevin Keegan became manager he found a system that allowed all three players to be on the field and combine well. He finished the season with 10 goals in 33 games.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park
Martins then started the 2008-09 season in fantastic form, scoring six goals in 12 games before tearing his hamstring and later in the season needing an operation on a hernia, meaning he could not continue this form. After being out since January he returned to the side in a relegation six pointer against Middlesbrough and scored twice. However, this would not be good enough to keep them in the Premier League.

On the 31st July 2009 Martins joined Wolfsburg for £9 million and went on to score on his debut against FC Koln. He only stayed at the club for one season but scored six times in 16 Bundesliga games. He then moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan and helped them win the Russian Cup but it was not the greatest time for the striker and on the 31st January 2011 he joined Birmingham City on loan. Although his time at the club was ruined by injuries, he still managed to write himself into their history books as he scored the winning goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.

With the club getting relegated from the Premier League a permanent move was no longer on the cards and Martins joined Levante. On his league debut he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and was a decent goalscorer, hitting the back of the net in a third of his league games. But on the 15th March 2013 he joined MLS side Seattle Sounders and last season finished with 17 goals, as well as 13 assists for the club, a joint club record with Mauro Rosales.
Martins SS
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He excites me very much as a player. He is very, very different to not only anything we have got at this football club, but probably in the Premier League. It sends up all sorts of ideas in your mind what this player can bring to the football club.”

19th June – Brian McBride

Brian McBride is a Fulham legend and one that will always be remembered fondly by their fans and has a sports bar at Craven Cottage named after him.

The former striker is 42 today and is one of the greatest ever players to come from America and had a very good career that began Milwaukee Rampage where he played for a short time but was very successful. He only played 18 times for the club but he managed to score 17 goals and assisted another 18 which alerted the attention of clubs in Europe and in 1994 he got his move to Germany.

McBride joined Wolfsburg who were playing in the second division at the time and his move encouraged a number of American to take up the sport as they seen that a player could make it in Europe. However, it was not a great time for him personally as he did not play as much as he would have wanted and also struggled to find the back of the net when the opportunities came. He did score twice in the DFB-Pokal quarter finals as the club went on to reach the final of the competition. After just 18 games he was released and returned to the United States.

He was drafted to Columbus Crew in 1996 and played in the inaugural Major League Soccer season. He ended up staying at the club for eight years and scored 62 times in 161 league games as well as providing 45 assists. During his time at the club he did have a few loan spells away from the club to England. Firstly he joined Preston North End in 2000 and although he played well, he only managed one goal in nine games, however this was partly down to the fact that he needed to have a blood clot surgically removed from his arm, which consisted of having a rib removed.
Mcbride CC
Two years later he once again linked up with David Moyes but this time at Everton. He only spent three months at the club but scored on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in a 4-3 defeat and continued his good form in the country by scoring a further three times in seven games. Everton were interested in extending the loan but the MLS rejected it.

In January 2004 he eventually moved to England permanently by joining Fulham. In his first half a season he played 18 times and got five goals. Over the next few seasons he was a very good player for Fulham and even though he did not break any goalscoring records, he always contributed a lot to the team and they were certainly better when he was in the starting lineup.
Mcbride Fulham
After 140 Premier League games and 33 goals McBride returned to the MLS but many of his admirers, including Chris Coleman wished that the striker would stay and that he would have been brought over a lot earlier and had more years in England. But it wasn’t to be and in 2008 he joined Chicago Fire where he scored 18 times including one in the final game of his career.
McBride Chicago
He did return briefly to play for Wembley FC who had grouped together former internationals Ray Parlou, Martin Keown, Claudio Caniggia and Graeme Le Saux. However they did reach their target of making it into the FA Cup proper and he has not played competitively since.

The final word can got to former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. “Brian McBride has been a fine ambassador for Fulham Football Club. As my captain last season Brian was truly respected in the dressing room and led by example on the pitch. His attitude is second to none – Brian is a true pro in every sense of the word.”

3rd May – Steve McClaren

Not many England managers have took on jobs abroad but this particular one has had a lot of success and is now in with a good chance of gaining promotion to the Premier League.

Steve McClaren is 53 today and is currently in charge of Derby County where he has led them to a third place finish and will compete in the playoffs for a place in the top flight. It has been a long journey since the last time he managed in the Premier League which has seen him be the national team manager, manage in Holland and Germany and then have a spell at local rivals Nottingham Forest.

He spent most of his playing career in the lower leagues playing for Hull City, Derby County, Lincoln City, Bristol City and Oxford United until an injury in 1992 forced him to retire. He became a coach at Oxford until 1995 when he joined Jim Smith at Derby to help them gain promotion in their first season and helped them consolidate their position. He was gaining a very good reputation and in 1999 he moved to Manchester United and in his first half a season he helped the club win the treble. The success continued as every year he spent at the club they won the league title but at the end of the 2000-01 season he was actively looking for a managerial position and he had three clubs chasing him. Ultimately he decided to join Middlesbrough.

Every season there was slight improvement and in 2004 he led the team to victory in the League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers, meaning he was the first Middlesbrough manager to win a major honour and take them into Europe. Middlesbrough’s games in Europe against Steaua Bucharest and FC Basel will live long in the memory as the club recovered from positions that never seemed possible and meant they got to the final of the UEFA Cup. Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson said of his manager: “What he has achieved in his time here is highly impressive, and yet I don’t feel he has had anything like the praise his achievements deserve.”
Mcclaren England
However he was being recognised by some and on the 4th May 2006 McClaren became England manager. Taking over from Sven Goran Eriksson who said: “I have worked closely with Steve ever since I came to England and know how good of a coach he is. He is well liked and well respected by all the players and staff.” Unfortunately he only lasted 18 games and failed to qualify for Euro 2008 but he did win nine of his games in charge.

In June 2008 he returned to football and took over Dutch club FC Twente. In his first season at the club they finished in second place and many predicted they would struggle the next season after losing key players but this did not happen as they were crowned champions in 2010 for the first time in their history. Twente won 16 of their 17 home matches and had to withstand some serious pressure from Ajax who won their last 14 games which shows how impressive McClaren had to be.
Mcclaren Twente
Even after this achievement he decided to move on and join German side Wolfsburg. However he did not do as well as he hoped and was only in charge for 24 games and was sacked in February 2011. McClaren then decided to return to England but success did not return as he only won three games out of 13 with Nottingham Forest and resigned.

He then returned to Twente but once again he could not rediscover the golden touch and after a disappointing 6th place finish and tough time in the next season he resigned from his post. After a brief spell as coach at QPR he joined Derby County and in his 37 games in charge so far he was won 22 games and it is hard to argue against them winning the playoffs and he will be quietly confident that he will be a Premier League manager once again next season.
Mcclaren Derby
The final word can go to Jim Smith who made him his assistant at Derby. “He’s a very talented coach and very good at man management. He’s up there with the best in coaching terms.”

15th April – Andres D’Alessandro

Foreign players need time to settle in England and are very rarely put in a position where if they fail their club could get relegated.

Andres D’Alessandro had to come into a new country and perform straight away after joining Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth who were in a very difficult situation and were looking certainties for relegation. When he joined the club it was a real surprise because he was considered one of the best attacking talents in Europe and earlier in his career he was seen as the next big thing to come out of Argentina.

This led to Wolfsburg splashing out a club record fee for the midfielder after helping his country win the 2001 Youth World Championships and outshining future stars like Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola. It was not long before he was in the headlines again after another very impressive showing at the Olympic Games where Argentina won the gold medal. His first season at Wolfsburg was ok after playing 34 times but over the next two seasons he was playing less and less. Eventually this led to him and the club coming to an agreement to allow him to leave on loan.
D'All Wolf
This was when he joined Portsmouth and Harry Redknapp said on his signing. “The boy is a really influential playmaker. This is a massive signing for the club and I am delighted.” A lot of other clubs fans were jealous of this signing and could not believe that he had joined a club that was battling relegation. His first goal for the club was one of the best of the season unfortunately it was in a losing effort against Charlton. Although he did not score again he was very influential and was one of the main reasons his side stayed up with his brilliant passing and accurate set pieces.
D'All Pompey
Portsmouth wanted to make the signing permanent but his form had made a lot of clubs sit up and take notice of him once again. D’Alessandro ended the speculation by signing for Real Zaragoza on loan. He wanted to try his hand in Spain and felt his game was suited to the Spanish style. After a good loan spell he joined the club permanently and his career stalled slightly but he was still seen as a threat every time he played.

As a lot of South American players do he decided to return there and he joined Brazilian side Internacional. Since being there he has proven to be an important player, in 2011 he played 48 times and scored 15 times but he is getting even better as he gets older and more experienced. In 2013 he scored the most goals in a season in his career when he scored 20 times.

The Argentinean is a fantastic player and he excited the fans every time he was on the pitch and it was great to see him play in the Premier League even if it was only for half a season.
Da'All Internacional
The last word can go to Harry Redknapp who knew how good he was going to be after only a few games. “He has already been superb for us. He is a bit of a throwback to Graham Rix as a player with his magical left foot.”

5th April – Thomas Hitzlsperger

Earlier this year Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay and is the most high profile player to do so and today he turns 32.

Firstly it should not really matter what the sexuality of a footballer is but it did create a lot of news headlines and it is something that cannot be avoided and it is easy to see why the player decided to wait till he retired till he made the announcement.

It is quite sad that he may now be more known because of this rather than his very good football career which saw him win the Bundesliga, be part of the Germany squad to come runner up at Euro 2008 and third at the 2006 World Cup.

He started his career at Bayern Munich but unfortunately could not break into their squad and left for his first spell in England. It took him a short while to settle in England and a loan spell at Chesterfield was just what he needed to get used to physical side of the game. When he came back to Villa, manager Graham Taylor gave him a chance in the first team and he impressed the fans and became one of their favourites, earning him the nickname Der Hammer because of his long range shooting and the fact that nearly all of his goals were very powerful strikes.
Hitz Villa
After falling out of favour he joined Stuttgart and in his second season at the club he won the Bundesliga playing in 30 of their 34 league games and scoring seven times. He was then given the captain’s armband however this did not last as new manager Markus Babbel decided to take the team in a different direction and therefore Hitzlsperger had to leave the club to get more first team opportunities.
Hitz Stuttgart
He only spent six months at his next club Lazio but scored once against Udinese in a 3-1 win. After this he came back to England and joined West Ham but injuries were catching up with the midfielder and he spent a lot of time on the sidelines but whenever he did play he produced some good performances, however they were not good enough to keep the team in the Premier League.

His career came to an end pretty soon after with short spells at Wolfsburg and Everton not leading to contract renewals and he decided to retire after, in his own words, “many transfers and some injuries”.
Hitz Everton
It would be easy to give the last word to the many people that commented on his decision to come out as gay because they were all very supportive however this has mostly focused on his career so the last word can go to his former Wolfsburg manager and the current Fulham manager Felix Magath after signing the German. “I am pleased he is now with us because he is a player that can lead the team and a player who will help us with his professional approach and international experience.”