24th February – Kevin O’Connor

One club players don’t come around too often and Kevin O’Connor has progressed right from the youth team at Brentford to now being part of their coaching staff.

He is only 33 but it seems like he is focusing on the next stage of his career as he has had limited playing time this season but he will be happy to still be involved at Brentford. They are definitely a team on the up despite the uncertainties around the managerial position. Since signing for the club he has played in every position and is currently fourth on Brentford’s all time appearance list.

O’Connor first signed with Brentford as a striker and after a run of 23 goals in 30 reserve games he was given a professional contract in 1999. He went on to make his debut on the 15th February 2000 as a substitute in the Football League Trophy defeat to Exeter City and went on to make his first start in a draw with Wycombe Wanderers a few days later. An injury slowed his progress and he had to wait over a year to score his first goal in a 2-1 win over Bristol City.

OC Brent 1

After Steve Coppell became manager in 2001, O’Connor became a regular in the side and made 32 appearances helping his club reach the playoffs, unfortunately they were beaten in the final by Stoke City. New manager Wally Downes was impressed by his performances and he was an ever present in the side for the following campaign and was now seen as a winger and contributed nine goals.

During the 2004-05 season O’Connor was moved to right back and was given the captain’s armband on the 19th October against Hartlepool United. The season again ended in disappointment as they were defeated in the playoffs, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. He would go on to suffer even more heartbreak in the playoffs in the 2005-06 season but he did manage to score eight times in 38 games. Even worse was to follow as the club were relegated in 2007 after finishing bottom.

OC Brent 3

Relegation meant another position change for O’Connor as he played predominantly in the centre of midfield in League Two. He started off well in his new position by scoring goals against Notts County and Barnet in August 2007. But he only added one more goal over the course of the season as the club finished midtable. In the following season Brentford won the league and O’Connor was awarded a new contract. He was impressive once again in League One and made 49 appearances over the season and was given a testimonial at the end of the campaign.

The 2010-11 season was the last one that he featured regularly for the club as injuries stopped him from playing. But he was on the pitch for one of the most exciting endings to the season ever against Doncaster Rovers in the final game of the 2012-13 season. Brentford were awarded a penalty in the last minute and Marcello Trotta took the ball off O’Connor but missed the spot kick and Doncaster ran down the other end and scored, winning the game 1-0 meaning Brentford and O’Connor had to go through the playoffs. Once again they failed to get promoted after losing against Yeovil Town.

OC Brent 2

Finally in the next campaign they would get promoted to the Championship and on the final day of the season O’Connor made his 500th appearance for the club. Since promotion he has not played a league game but he has been an important member of the coaching staff, helping the team challenge for the playoffs and will be needed now more than ever with Mark Warburton expected to leave in the summer.

The final word can go to Mark Warburton. “Kevin has seen so much change at the club and yet has maintained his exceedingly high standards throughout and it is this outstanding quality that we need to keep at Brentford. I am delighted that Kevin O’Connor will be extending his stay at the club.”

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3rd October – Danny Coid

Blackpool have finally recorded the first win of the season against Cardiff City on the birthday of one of their former players who helped them go from the old Division Three to the Premier League and that man is Danny Coid.

Although the 33 year old didn’t play a major part in their promotion campaign in the Championship and didn’t even kick a ball in the Premier League he will still be remembered by the Blackpool fans as someone that gave absolutely everything for the club and he will surely have enjoyed tonight just as much as the fans. With three promotions to his name and two Football League Trophies to his name he is definitely one of the most successful players in Blackpool’s recent history.

Coid came through the youth team at Blackpool and signed his first professional contract in 1998, going on to make his debut on the 9th October 1999 away to Chesterfield and although it was a disappointing season for the club it was a positive one for him personally as he went on to play 21 times in the league. In the following campaign he was first choice and didn’t miss a league game as the club won promotion from the Third Division after winning the playoff final.
Coid Blackpool
The next season was also a successful one as the club won the Football League Trophy after beating Cambridge United 4-1 at the Millennium Stadium and Coid was being linked to Premier League clubs because of his consistent performances but decided to sign a new contract with Blackpool on the 24th March 2003.

During the 2003-04 season Coid surprisingly became a goal scoring threat and got some important goals for the club and even scored three times in three games in the space of one week, against Wycombe Wanderers, Halifax Town and then Oldham Athletic. He also went on to score in the final of the Football League Trophy which secured Blackpool’s second success in the competition in three years.

His career unfortunately after this point started to be ruined by long term injuries as he suffered a broken ankle against Tranmere Rovers and then soon after recovering he suffered a knee injury that would keep him out for several months. He returned fully on the 27th February 2007 and helped the club win promotion from League One after beating Yeovil Town in the playoff final and was once again rewarded with a new contract by the club.
Coid Bpool
While in the Championship Coid became a utility player and was used to plug gaps in the team when there were injuries and started to struggle to make his mark on the team, however he always put in solid performances and obviously cared a lot for the club. Coid was injured once again just before the start of the 2009-10 season and only went on to play one more game for the club.

After 13 years and 316 appearances he left Blackpool for the first time in his career and joined Rotherham United on the 12th November 2010 on loan and went on to play 10 times for the club. In the following summer he left permanently and joined Accrington Stanley. He would only play 22 times for the club, scoring once against Aldershot in a 3-2 win before leaving after the 2011-12 season.
Coid AS
The final word can go to Ian Holloway. “I am delighted he has signed again for us because I have played and managed against him and I know he’s a good player. The one thing that has been clear whenever I have spoken to him is that he cares for Blackpool and that he wants to be here, and that is good enough for me.”

7th August – Paul Lambert

When asked which Premier League manager won the Champions League as a player quite a few people will not know the answer to this question but birthday boy Paul Lambert did just that.

Now 45, Lambert had a very good playing career and he is now hoping to have as much success as a manager although he has found it a lot tougher in recent seasons at Aston Villa. Next season will probably be about survival once again for Villa as it is for so many clubs in the Premier League but Lambert certainly has the quality to keep them in the top flight and if given the chance could build them back up to what they once were.

Lambert has never been a stranger to success and at the age of just 17 while playing for first club St Mirren he won the 1987 Scottish Cup final. He stayed at the club for eight years playing 227 league games and scoring 14 times but in September 1993 he moved onto Motherwell for a fee of £250,000. In his first season at the club they finished third but they went one better the year after and finished as runners up, the club’s highest finish since the 1933-34 season. He also played for the club in the UEFA Cup and they were drawn against Borussia Dortmund but they were knocked out by the Germans.
Lambert STM
However, Lambert must have impressed the manager Ottmar Hitzfeld because he signed him for the German side in 1996 and changed his position to a defensive midfielder. He helped the club reach the final of the Champions League that year against Juventus and Lambert set up the opening goal in a 3-1 win. Despite only staying at the club for a year he is fondly remembered by their fans.

In November 1997 he signed for Celtic and made his debut against Rangers and three weeks later he picked up his first winners medal after coming on as substitute in the final of the Scottish League Cup against Dundee United. Lambert spend seven years at Celtic and won four SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups before leaving to become manager of Livingston.
Lambert Celtic
He intended to just be manager but he then changed his mind and registered as a player however his spell at the club only lasted 32 games and resigned after only winning two league games in this time. His next attempt at management was at Wycombe Wanderers where he had more success and took the club to the semi final of the League Cup by beating Premier League sides Fulham and Charlton Athletic before being defeated by Chelsea. But after failing to get them promoted in 2008 he resigned.

On the 9th October 2008 he was appointed manager of Colchester United where he stayed for 43 games but it was the 7-1 victory over Norwich City that he will be most remembered for. This is mostly because he took over as manager of Norwich not long after and led them to the League One title. He followed this up with a second successive promotion and then kept them in the Premier League but then shocked everyone by offering his resignation and then joined Aston Villa shortly afterwards.
Lambert NC
He has had a few ups and downs at Aston Villa but he has brought in a lot of younger players so hopefully they can develop into an exciting Premier League side.

The final word can go to the Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett. “Paul has done a fantastic job for us and has played a full part in restoring some pride to Norwich City Football Club. He is an excellent young manager.”

11th June – John Dreyer

John Dreyer may not be the most well known Premier League players but he played a vital role in keeping Bradford City in the league while he was there and he became a bit of an expert of helping teams avoid relegation.

Dreyer, now 51, began his career in non league football at Wallingford Town but it was not long before he got a move to the Football League in January 1985 as he joined Oxford United. He did not get first team opportunities straightaway and had to move to Torquay United on loan, playing five times, making his debut in a 1-1 draw with Cambridge United. He returned to his parent club in January 1986 but he once again could not break into the team so left the club once more on loan, this time to Fulham for the rest of the season. He played 12 times in the league for the club and impressed for them. This meant that on his return he broke into Oxford’s first team at the start of the next season and over the next two years he played 60 league games and scored twice.
Dreyer Oxford
On the 27th June 1988 he joined Luton Town for £140,000 and quickly became a fan favourite. He stayed at Kenilworth Road for six years and played 214 times. Dreyer managed 13 goals in his spell at Luton but he was unfortunately released at the end of the 1993-94 season. It did not take him long to find a new club as he was signed by Stoke City in July 1994, where he played nearly 50 times, but he was not always seen as a starter and he eventually joined Bolton Wanderers on loan in March 1995. He was a part of the squad that got promoted to the Premier League through the playoffs, although he would have loved to have played a bigger part, it was still a great achievement.
Dreyer Luton
In November 1996 he left Stoke permanently for a Bradford City who paid £25,000 for his services and scored on his debut in a 3-3 draw with Huddersfield Town. He managed to add another three goals to his tally that season but none of them were league goals as they all came in the FA Cup – two against Wycombe Wanderers and another in a cup upset when Bradford beat Everton 3-2.

In the promotion season of 1998-99 he struggled to hold down a regular place in the side however whenever he contributed they were usually important. In their final win of the season he made a vital clearance in a 3-2 win over Wolves which made sure that they would be playing Premier League football the next season. In the next season he was in and out of the side but once again popped up when he was most needed. In a must win game against Sunderland he scored the only goal which helped Bradford to stay up by just two points.
Dreyer Bradford
Despite being offered a new contract he decided to leave for Cambridge United and he played a major role in keeping the team in the Second Division in the 2000-01 season. He left the club after this season and joined non league club Stevenage, where he was first teamed up with Graham Westley. After two years at the club and a brief spell as caretaker manager he left to pursue a managerial position.

He has only managed Maidenhead United up till now but he has been assistant at a number of clubs, including Stevenage and Preston North End, where he assisted Graham Westley and the final word can go to Westley who obviously liked Dreyer from their first time together. “I feel sure that the door will open somewhere for John. He played at the top level, but he started in non league football so he knows what it is all about. I wish him well and don’t expect it to be too long before I’m giving him his first reference.”

12th April – Grant Holt

Not many English players have played in Singapore and had a loan spell in Australia but that is exactly what Grant Holt did in his early career.

Holt had a difficult start to his career with him thinking that after his time away in these countries he was going to get a full time contract at Carlisle United, however things did not pan out and he fell into non league football where he was a good goal scorer and was linked with moves to a number of Football League clubs.

Sheffield Wednesday were the ones that took a chance on him but after only 30 games and not getting enough game time to show his potential he joined Rochdale where his career finally took off. His record in League 2 was phenomenal and it alerted the attentions of bigger clubs in higher divisions and the 42 goals in 83 games convinced Nottingham Forest to pay £300,000 for his services.
Holt Forest
After scoring on his debut he had an up and down time at the club where one season he finished as the top scorer with 18 goals even though he spent a lot of the time on the bench. But in his other seasons he was not prolific and ended up joining Blackpool on loan which was a surprise as they were in the Championship at the time. Once again in the summer he was linked with moves away and eventually he joined Shrewsbury Town for a club record fee of £170,000.
Holt Shrewsbury
He scored on his debut for the fourth time and then a few weeks later scored five in a cup game against Wycombe Wanderers proving that the fee they paid for him was definitely worth it. His work rate and determination was also vital as he finished the season with 28 goals and this led to him linked with another move and the player was desperate to get another chance in the higher leagues.

Norwich City came calling in the summer of 2009 and he very quickly established himself as one of the best strikers in League 1 and under Paul Lambert became the club captain. On Boxing Day he scored his 20th goal of an impressive season and ended as the Norwich Player of the Season and winning promotion to the Championship. Many predicted that Norwich would be ok in the Championship but felt that maybe they did not have enough quality to do much more than survive. But they more than just surpassed expectations and secured a second consecutive promotion with Holt scoring 23 goals and being nominated as the Championship Player of the Year.
Holt Norwich
Surely the Premier League would be a step too far for the man that was only a part time player to begin with. But 15 goals later and Norwich comfortably staying in the top division he was heavily linked with an England call up that should have happened.

Holt spent another season with Norwich which was a little more difficult then moved to Wigan Athletic to try and help them get promoted back to the Premier League. He has since joined Aston Villa on loan and is helping them avoid relegation.

The final word can go to his current manager Paul Lambert who commented on his time at Norwich: “He scored goal after goal and became a big, big player and he probably never really got the credit he deserved for what he did at the club.”

11th April – Nile Ranger

He may have had problems off the pitch but today is not a day to focus on them things as Nile Ranger turns 23.

Focusing on his actions on the pitch isn’t always easy and the player himself will know that he has to win over the fans of every club he plays for in the future. He had a very good reputation as a youngster and impressed for Newcastle United’s youth teams and reserves which led to him receiving a three and a half year contract.
Ranger Newcastle
He made his debut for the first team on the club’s first game back in the Championship and was rewarded with a start soon after in a 1-0 win against Leicester City where he led the line brilliantly and was awarded the man of the match. He spent a lot of time as a substitute at the club but he did show a lot of potential and scored his first career goal to seal a victory against Coventry City. The manager at the time Chris Hughton felt he could become a first team regular soon. “Nile is a young player who is improving all the time. It’s less than 18 months since he made his debut and he’s coming on leaps and bounds.”

However his time at Newcastle came to an end and he left by mutual consent but before this he enjoyed a successful spell on loan at Sheffield Wednesday where he was vital in helping them achieve automatic promotion from League 1. Dave Jones had a lot of faith in the player and felt he made the difference saying . “I wouldn’t have signed him if I didn’t think he could do a job. If he can focus on football I have an excellent player that will do a fantastic job for the club.”
Ranger Wednesday
Ranger scored in the final game of the season against Wycombe Wanderers to get the club promoted and sparked one of the biggest celebrations League 1 has ever seen.

For one reason or another the club did not sign him permanently and his next move was to League 1 Swindon Town where he has been very successful in his first season as a regular. In the league he has seven goals in 19 games. He certainly has the talent to succeed at this level and should be able to go further in the game but it may be difficult to get a transfer so he will have to do his best to get Swindon promoted.
Ranger Swindon
The last word can go to his manager Mark Cooper who believes that it may have happened this season. “I think everyone knows, if Nile Ranger had been fit all season we’d be in the playoffs.”