30th August – Kris Commons

Kris Commons played over 500 games and scored over 100 goals during his professional career and proudced some magic moments.

Commons started his career at Stoke City, making his debut in a 3-2 defeat against Blackpool. Shortly afterwards he picked up an injury and was out of action for year before making his comeback in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and his first goal came 16 days later against Norwich City. After a promising start he was offered a new contract, however he rejected it and signed for Nottingham Forest.

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Although his first season ended in relegation from the Championship, Commons stayed with the club to try and get them promoted. He had to wait until his final season to finally achieve this aim and following a 3-2 win over Yeovil Town they gained promotion with the midfielder being named in the PFA League One Team of the Year. At this point he had played 159 times for Forest but with his contract up he made the unthinkable move to Derby County.

He started his time at Derby on the wing under Paul Jewell but he didn’t really show his potential until he was moved into the centre and he would go on to score the only goal of the game in a victory over Manchester United in the League Cup. Later on in the season he would also score the winning goal against Forest in an FA Cup game.

Commons DC

Injuries caught up with him in the next season and he didn’t have much of an impact, however the 2010-11 season was probably his best in England as he went on a run of seven goals in nine games. This form caught the attention of Celtic who signed him on the 28th January 2011 and on the following day he scored against Aberdeen and would end the season winning the Scottish Cup. Celtic won the title in the following campaign but it was a difficult one for Commons as he only scored one goal.

But he did manage to bounce back and show his quality. During the 2013-14 season he finished as the top scorer, hitting the back of the net 32 times in all competitions. However, this wasn’t enough to convince new manager Ronny Deila to give him a starting place. He did manage to turn this round again but things got worse when Brendan Rodgers took charge as he told him he would not be part of the squad.

Commons Celtic

Commons would stay at the club until the end of his contract and after a back injury he decided it was time to retire. His last games in football came during a loan spell at Hibernian where he played five times, scoring twice.

The final word can go to Neil Lennon. “He’s intelligent, grounded and hungry. What he will do is improve us and influence the team and squad on and off the field. He will provide a goal threat from the wider areas or deeper lying areas.”

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25th August – Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling has been one of the best defenders in the Championship for a lot of his career and will be hoping he can make the step up to the Premier League soon.

The defender usually plays at right back but he can also fill in at centre half or play as one of the defenders when his manager decided to play three at the back. Under the stewardship of a manager like Marcelo Bielsa he will surely get better and will be hoping that this could be the manager that takes him to the top flight.

Ayling started his career at Arsenal and despite an impressive record at youth level in which he was part of their double winning team of the 2008-09 season, he failed to make a first team appearance for the club but was named on the substitute bench for a Champions League game against Greek side Olympiakos. Towards the end of his time at the club he signed for Yeovil Town on loan in March 2010. He played four times and did enough to convince them to sign him permanently.

Ayling YT

In his first full season he was a key player, making 40 appearances, however his disciplinary record was quite poor as he picked up 13 yellow and two red cards. He played in 40 games every season he was at the club and helped them win the League One playoff final on the 19th May 2013 and therefore secured them a place in the Championship. The team found it very tough in the higher division but Ayling was certainly one of the bright spots.

After relegation, Ayling decided not to sign a new contract with the club and joined Bristol City on a free transfer. It turned out to be an impressive season as he played 58 times in all competitions and Bristol City went on to win the League One title and the Football League Trophy beating Walsall 2-0 at Wembley on the 22nd March 2015. He would continue to impress in the following season as they managed to avoid relegation in the following campaign, playing 33 times at either right back or centre back.

Ayling BC

On the 11th August 2016 the right back signed for Leeds United and would play 43 times in his first season. With many changes at the club throughout his time there so far, he has managed to convince every manager that has been in charge that he deserves his place in the team. During the 2017-18 season he was also named as the club’s vice captain and was also rewarded with a new four year contract. He had to wait until the 18th August 2018 to score his first goal for Leeds in a game against Rotherham United.

Ayling LU

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s a very versatile player and therefore offers us competition and cover in a variety of positions. He was instrumental in Yeovil’s promotion from League One and did very well in the Championship.”

22nd March – Luke Freeman

Luke Freeman has had a double celebration today after turning 23 and also helping Bristol City defeat Walsall 2-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

The midfielder is looking to have a fantastic end to a season that has already been pretty special for Bristol City and their fans as they look like they are going to get promoted to the Championship as League One champions. Freeman has always been a very good player and one that definitely has the ability to prove it at a higher level so he will be hoping that the club can secure promotion as quickly as possible so he can prepare for the second tier of English football.

Freeman started his career at Gillingham where he made his debut against Barnet in the FA Cup on the 10th November 2007 at the age of just 15 years and 233 days, therefore becoming Gillingham’s youngest ever player and also the youngest player to appear in the FA Cup. Later in the month he would also make his league debut against Hartlepool United and his performances caught the eye of several Premier League clubs and joined Arsenal on trial in December 2007.

Arsenal signed Freeman on the 30th January 2008 and after impressing for the under 18s he was given a professional contract by the club just over a year later. After progressing through the youth teams and into the reserves he needed first team opportunities and joined Yeovil Town on loan at the start of the 2010-11 season. He got off to a great start scoring in a 2-1 win over Leyton Orient on his debut and would go on to play 12 more league games for the club before his loan was ended by injury.

Freeman YT

He recovered from his injury and would impress again for Arsenal’s reserves and was eager to go back out on loan, this time joining Stevenage on the 17th November 2011. In his second loan spell away he played nine games and scored one goal in a 6-1 win over Colchester United but his performances particularly off the bench were exciting and showed he had a lot of potential. This convinced Stevenage to sign Freeman permanently on the 10th January 2012. He would help the club reach the playoffs with seven goals in 32 games but unfortunately they would lose out in the semi finals.

Freeman Stevenage

The 2012-13 wasn’t as successful for the midfielder as he struggled for consistency and spent a lot of the season featuring as a substitute. However in the following season, despite Stevenage finishing bottom of League One, he put in some fantastic performances and ended the campaign with a career best eight goals. After 128 games and 17 goals for Stevenage, Freeman would leave for Bristol City on the 26th June 2014.

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So far for Bristol City he has played 48 times in all competitions, scored seven goals and provided 15 assists which just shows how important he is to the side and is a big reason why they are challenging at the top of the table.

The final word can go to Steve Cotterill. “He’s someone we’ve been keeping tabs on for some time and I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring Luke on board. He’s a good, young, exciting player. He’s an excellent addition to the football club for the short term and long term. He can play on the left, on the right and cut in, or play in a midfield three.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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.”

27th September – Lloyd Sam

A lot of high profile players have gone over to America in recent years but there are others that have went over from England and made a big impression, like Lloyd Sam.

The 30 year old plays alongside world superstars such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill as well as others that have played in England such as Bobby Convey, Richard Eckersley and Bradley Wright-Phillips. So Sam will certainly feel at home at the New York Red Bulls and is known as someone that can use his pace and direct running to create chances for his teammates and it is no surprise to see him setting up a lot of goals.

Sam started his career at Charlton Athletic and became a professional in 2003 at the age of 18. He began to impress in the youth team and was called up to the first team squad for a game against Arsenal but unfortunately did not get on the pitch. He then went out on loan to get some more first team experience and joined Leyton Orient in 2004 and played 10 times for the club before returning to Charlton and making his debut for them on the final day of the 2004-05 season against Crystal Palace.
Sam CA
His opportunities were still limited and after playing just twice in the following season, he went out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Southend United during the 2006-07 season. Sam did also play seven times in the Premier League that season but unfortunately Charlton were relegated but this meant that the winger was now going to get a chance in the first team on a regular basis.

At the start of the season he was a bright spot for Charlton and scored his first professional goal against Stockport County in the League Cup. After this the club began to struggle and after missing out on promotion they started to fall down the table and were relegated once more at the end of the 2008-09 season. They narrowly missed out on a return to the Championship with Sam playing 43 league games as they lost in the playoff semi finals against Swindon Town.

After not being offered a new contract he joined Leeds United on a free transfer on the 9th July 2010 but he did not make a great start as he gave away a penalty on his debut against Derby County in a 2-1 defeat. However, in the next league game he scored against Nottingham Forest and also received the man of the match for his performance. He then went on to score against Millwall on 21st August but this positive start did not last as Sam suffered several niggling injuries which kept him out of action for long periods.
LEEDS UNITED V LINCOLN CITY CARLING CUP  10/8/2010
He only featured in 18 league games for Leeds in his first season and did extra work in preseason to get himself fit for the new season and in the friendly matches he provided a lot of assists and topped it off by scoring in a 3-1 win over Newcastle United. This was still not good enough to get him a regular place in the side and on the 14th March 2012 joined Notts County on loan for the rest of the season and scored five goals in 10 games, including a hatrick against Yeovil Town in a 3-1 win.

When his contract came to an end at Leeds he signed for New York Red Bulls on the 16th August 2012 and impressed in his first five games before and injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has now recovered from this and helped the club win its first ever Supporters’ Shield in 2013, scoring the third goal in a 5-2 win over Chicago Fire.
Lloyd Sam
The final word can go to the Notts County manager that brought him in on loan Keith Curle. “I like Lloyd. It took him a bit of time to settle at first, but in the end he was enjoying it and was playing free flowing, entertaining, attacking football. Lloyd just keeps getting better and better.”

19th September – Leon Best

Leon Best is already a legend at Derby County after scoring his first goal for the club in the last minute against local rivals Nottingham Forest.

It may have been one of the easiest goals of his career but in the 89th minute with your team losing in a derby it must be hard to keep your composure and pass the ball into the back of the net. Derby will be hoping that this will be the first of many as they look to go gain promotion to the Premier League.

Best started his career at Southampton and made his debut on this day in 2004 as an 18 year old against Newcastle United. Over the course of his first season he played 10 times, five at Southampton and another five while on loan at QPR. He scored his first professional goal in the following season after joining Sheffield Wednesday on loan. On the 9th August 2005 he scored at Hillsborough against Hull City but unfortunately his loan spell had to be cut short after he broke his foot in the game. After recovering he returned to Wednesday once more, but could only score once in 11 appearances.
Best SW
He struggled to break into the first team at Southampton and had to spend more time out on loan, firstly to Bournemouth, where he scored three times in 15 games and then to Yeovil Town. At Yeovil he showed all his quality, scoring 10 times in just 15 games. When he returned he started in the second leg of the Championship playoff against Derby. But this turned out to be a disaster for the striker as he scored an own goal and after the game went to penalties he missed his spot kick.

On the 5th July 2007 he joined Coventry City. He spent three seasons at the club and although he was never prolific he became a fan favourite and in his final season he did win the Championship Player of the Month in September 2009. He scored 19 league goals in 92 games and this was good enough to convince Newcastle to sign the striker on the 1st February 2010 to help them gain promotion.
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In his first half season he had to settle for a place on the bench as Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Carroll were in such good form. He did not score and was linked with moves away but after an impressive pre season he was seen as a vital member of the squad. However, a cruciate injury forced him to miss the first few months of the season. He finally made his comeback on the 2nd January 2011 in a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic and then started his first Premier League match for the club in the next game scoring a hatrick in a 5-0 win over West Ham.

He ended the season with six goals in just 11 games and continued his great form at the start of the next campaign, as he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Fulham and grabbed an equaliser against Aston Villa. He then went 12 games without scoring but ended this drought with the only goal in a 1-0 win over QPR.
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This proved to be his last goal for the club as he joined Blackburn Rovers on the 2nd July 2012. Less than a month after joining the club he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury and he has never really been given the chance at the club, playing just 16 times in two seasons so on the 14th February 2014 he joined Sheffield Wednesday for a third time and played a key role in helping them pull away from the relegation zone. He added another six goals to his total for Wednesday in 13 league games.

The final word can go to Steve McClaren. “I’m extremely pleased that we have been able to sign Leon Best. He is a player with Premier League and Championship experience, knows how to score goals and will provide a different option in our attacking armoury.”