17th May – Leon Osman

Leon Osman was one of those players that proved that consistent performances will eventually lead to England caps and others should look to his example in the coming season.

With the squad for the 2018 World Cup announced there will be a lot of disappointed players that missed out and throughout his career Osman would have looked at some squads and thought he should be in there. Eventually, at the age of 31, he made his England debut against Sweden and would add one more cap against San Marino.

Osman England

Osman started his career at Everton where he would stay for his whole career. However, he made his first team debut for Carlisle United after joining them on loan in October 2002. In his short spell he played 12 times in the league and scored once in a draw against Macclesfield Town. On his return to Goodison Park he made his Premier League debut in a defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and would go on to make one more substitute appearance before the end of the season.

Despite being given a contract extension he failed to break into the team and was loaned out, this time to Derby County, and played a key role in helping them avoid relegation. Again on his return he was given an opportunity at his parent club and managed to score his first goal against Wolves.

Osman Derby

Finally during the 2004-05 season the midfielder became a first team regular and never looked back after this and was rarely out of the side. He finished his first season as a regular with seven goals in 35 games. Up until his final season he remained first choice for the majority of the time and played a key role in the club during their time in the Europa League and also scored two goals on the final day of the 2008-09 season against Fulham to secure a 5th place finish.

In March 2013, Osman made his 300th start for Everton in a game against Manchester City and scored his 50th goal for the club and would later go on to break David Unsworth’s Everton Premier League appearance record.

Osman Everton

Some outsiders thought that Osman was only getting picked as he was one of David Moyes’ favourites rather than on ability but he proved this was not the case as he was only player to feature in every league match in new manager Roberto Martinez’s first season. He was rewarded with a contract extension soon after but afterwards his appearances started to slow down.

At the end of the 2015-16 season with 433 games and 57 goals to his name for Everton he was released and despite interest from other clubs he decided to retire.

The final word can go to his former manager David Moyes. “We sent Leon out on loan as a kid to develop the physical side. He made himself a career by being very combative and tough. If he had to mix it, he wouldn’t shy away from that.”

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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.”

12th November – James McCarthy

When Roberto Martinez left Wigan Athletic for Everton it was inevitable that some of his former players would join him at his new club and arguably James McCarthy has been one of their most consistent players in the last few seasons.

The holding midfielder does a fantastic job for the side as he allows the full backs to press forward and give the team a lot of width whilst not leaving his own goal overexposed. There are few better in his position at the moment and it is strange that he is still seen as underrated as he is one of the most important players in the squad and has so far never let anyone down.

McCarthy is now 24 and will be hoping that he can continue to improve at the rate he has already and go on to get more plaudits in his career. The midfielder started his career in Scotland with Hamilton Academicals and made his debut as a substitute against Queen of the South on the 30th September 2006 becoming the youngest player to play for the club in the 21st century. His full debut would come just over a month later, a day before his 16th birthday, against Airdrie United. He would then also go on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer when he hit the back of the net in a Scottish Cup game against Livingston, aged just 16 years and 55 days.
McCarthy HA
In the 2007-08 season McCarthy’s quality was clear to see and he helped his side gain promotion to the SPL with six goals in 35 games and was rewarded with a new three year contract. He had quickly become one of the best young players in Scotland and many were interested to see how he would do in the top flight. McCarthy made the step up comfortably and was named the SPFA Young Player of the Year after yet another fantastic season which saw him score a further six league goals.

It was always going to be difficult to keep hold of the midfielder and on the 21st July 2009 he made the move down south to Wigan. His debut was one to forget, however as his side were defeated 5-0 by Manchester United. It did take him a little while to find his feet but this was expected and he would go on to score on his first Premier League start against Wolves on the 16th January 2010. This seemed to give him confidence and his performances steadily improved.
McCarthy WA
He began the 2010-11 season very well but a serious ankle injury kept him out of action for three months. On his return to the side he scored against Aston Villa and then followed this up with two goals against Blackburn Rovers in a 4-3 win. His reputation was once again on the rise and he was given a new five year contract by Wigan to make sure if he did have to leave they would get a good transfer fee for him. He remained consistent for the club and was part of the team that won the FA Cup in 2013 before Wigan were relegated in the same season.

After relegation it was unlikely that he would stay at the club but he did feature five times for them in the Championship showing his commitment but on the 2nd September 2013 he joined Everton for £13 million. McCarthy was brilliant in his first season and forged a very good partnership with Gareth Barry which was a key reason why they reached a club record 72 points in the Premier League. He had to wait until the final day of the season to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Hull City.
McCarthy Everton
The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “James is one of those players you sometimes don’t appreciate but he’s always there making sure the team has the right balance. He allows others to shine. He can adapt to different situations during a game when you need him to because of the tactical awareness that he has.”

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.”

31st October – Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin may not spring to mind when thinking of Manchester United greats but there is no denying that he is one of the club’s most dependable and consistent full backs ever.

The 49 year old had a very good career and has been called Alex Ferguson’s pound for pound greatest ever signing which is a huge honour and just shows how important he was to the side during the 1990s. Irwin also got the honour of being named in the first Premier League Overall Team of the Decade and represented his country, Republic of Ireland, 56 times and was part of the World Cup 1994 squad.

Irwin started his career at Leeds United in 1983 and went on to make 72 appearances in the Second Division for the club, including 41 games in the 1984-85 season. But in 1986 he moved to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer and barely missed a league match over the next four seasons, featuring in 167 games and scoring four goals.

In his final season at the club he helped the club reach the semi final of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup before moving to Manchester United in 1990 for a fee of £625,000. He would spend the next 12 years at Old Trafford and would win seven Premier League title along the way, which is an incredible achievement. He can also add three FA Cup, a League Cup, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a Champions League winners medal to his collection before he left the club.
Sport.Football. pic: 24th February 1990. Denis Irwin, Oldham Athletic defender, who won 56 Republic of Ireland international caps 1991-2000, while playing at Manchester United.
During his time at the club he also became a reliable goalscorer from the penalty spot and also was a real asset from free kicks, delivering great balls into the box. He would score 22 goals in the league all together for the club with his first coming on the 7th September 1991 in a 3-0 home win over Norwich City. Irwin’s best goalscoring season came in the 1992-93 season, as the team went on to lift the first ever Premier League trophy, hitting the back of the net five times.

He continued to be Manchester United’s first choice until his mid thirties and was rewarded with a testimonial against Manchester City on the 16th August 2000 but this was the beginning of the end of his time at the club as he was no longer an automatic first choice. Irwin made his last appearance for the club in a 0-0 draw against Charlton Athletic on the 12th May 2002 and was given the captain’s armband by Alex Ferguson on his 529th appearance for the club.
Irwin MU
After the 2001-02 season the Irishman joined Wolves and was a crucial part of their promotion to the Premier League, playing in 43 of the 46 league games and scoring goals against Burnley and Grimsby. Wolves then struggled in the top flight but on Irwin’s return to Old Trafford he received a warm reception but this was a personal high point in a poor season as the club were relegated. Irwin announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur
The final word can go to the former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson. “We called him the quiet assassin. He was a left back and he was taking penalties in a team full of Man United players. He’d take all of the free kicks – it just shows what a class player he was. He was tough and quick.”

21st September – Danny Batth

Wolves have made a fantastic start to their Championship campaign and this is largely because of their strong defensive including birthday boy Danny Batth.

The centre back has benefitted from the management of Kenny Jackett and the fact that he had to rely on youth to get them promoted from League One last season. With Batth coming through the youth system at Molineux he will always be a fan favourite and want to do well for the club and if he can help them get promoted this season then it will be a great achievement for him personally and for the club who fell very quickly.
Batth WW
Batth joined the Wolves Academy at the age of 10 and despite having shoulder problems over the next few years he became an important player at every youth level and was one of seven academy players to sign a professional deal at the end of the 2008-09 season. The defender joined Colchester United on loan on the 17th September 2009 to get some first team action and after injuries to regulars Pat Baldwin, Paul Reid and Lee Beevers, he made his professional debut in a 2-0 win over Hartlepool United and earned the man of the match award for his performance.
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League Division One - Colchester United v Charlton Athletic - Community Stadium
After impressing in his initial month loan it was extended until the end of the season and he went on to score his first career goal in a 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic on the 20th February 2010 which extended the club’s unbeaten run to five games. At the end of the campaign he had made 18 appearances and on his return to Wolves he was named their Young Professional of the Year.

In the next season he made his debut for his parent club in a League Cup tie against Southend United and then spent the rest of the season in Sheffield. He first joined Sheffield United on loan for a month and only made a single loan appearance but after returning to Wolves he was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday where he had a lot more success. After joining on the 16th March 2011 he played 10 games before the end of the season and put in some solid performances.

His performances were good enough to convince Wednesday to sign him again on a six month loan which was later extended until the end of the season. Batth was a key player in the club getting promoted, playing 49 times in all competitions and scoring against Preston and Bournemouth as The Owls finished second in League One.

At the beginning of the 2012-13 season he was heavily linked with a permanent move to Wednesday but this never happened after manager Dave Jones ruled out a move for the defender. With Wolves struggling in the Championship it was always going to be difficult for a young centre back to make a difference and they were relegated with Batth playing 12 times.
Baath SWFC
He eventually became a first team regular at Wolves and helped them gain promotion at the first time of asking and in all competitions played 50 times. He was rewarded with a new contract in January 2014.

The final word can go to Wolves Chief Executive Jez Moxey. “Danny’s performances have remained consistently high. It is no surprise that he is very popular among the club’s supporters. He shows the highest level of focus and professionalism both on and off the pitch.”

17th September – Sean Scannell

Huddersfield Town have had a difficult start to the season but now they have Chris Powell in charge they will be hoping they can pull away from the relegation zone and birthday boy Sean Scannell could play a big role.

They drew 0-0 with Wigan Athletic in their last fixture and the 24 year old winger came on as a substitute in the 46th minute and although he could not produce a bit of magic to put his team in front, he did a very good job defensively and as always put in a decent shift for his side. A lot was expected of the wide man when he first broke through and although he hasn’t quite lived up to that potential, he certainly has time to put that right and play in the top flight.

His first club was Crystal Palace and after being a constant threat in the youth team and also in the reserves he made the step up to the first team during the 2007-08 season. He made his debut in December 2007 after coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 win over QPR and then in his home debut on the 15th December he scored a last minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday after once again coming on as a sub. He played 25 times in his first season and scored twice.
Sean Scannell, Crystal Palace
Before signing a professional contract with the club he was linked with Premier League teams but decided to stay with Palace and celebrated his new contract by scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win over Wolves. At the end of the 2008-09 season he was voted the Championship Apprentice of the Year after showing his potential and showing that he can add consistency to his game.
Scannell ROI
Unfortunately a knee injury at the start of the 2010-11 season meant he missed the first half of the campaign but recovered to have arguably the best season of his career in the following year. Under new manager Dougie Freedman, Scannell once again began showing his potential and this was because of a slight change to his position, as he was now given more freedom to roam around the pitch. He finished the campaign with a career high of four goals but was involved in a lot more goals and caused defences a lot of problems with his pace and direct running.

On the 22nd June 2012 he finally left Palace and became Simon Grayson’s first permanent signing at Huddersfield Town. He made his debut on the 17th August in a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City and went on to score his first goal for the club against Bristol City on the 3rd November and it proved to be a vital one as it was the only goal of the game.
Scannell HT
For a 24 year old he has played a lot of games, already over 200, and this just shows that he has a lot of potential and with the majority of these appearances coming in the Championship he will be hoping that one day he can show his talents in the top flight.

The final word can go to Simon Grayson. “He is a brilliant addition. Despite his young age, he brings bags of experience. He is an exciting, young, talented footballer who is very adaptable. Hopefully he will be able to fulfil his potential with us.”