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.”

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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.”

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.
Best NU
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.”

12th September – David Prutton

With 25 England under 21 caps to his name a lot was expected of David Prutton unfortunately his career did not quite progress as well as he hoped but he has still had a decent career.

Now a free agent he has been looking for a club and started doing media work, suggesting that he may already have plans for when he does announce his retirement. Prutton has been a model professional for most of his career but he is arguably most famous for an incident while at Southampton.

The midfielder came through the youth system at Nottingham Forest and went on to make his debut in 1999 and stayed with the club until 2003, making 155 appearances for Forest and scoring seven goals. He moved to Southampton for £2.5 million which was seen as a great investment.
Prutton proved to be a versatile player for Southampton and impressed in his first four months at the club, playing in midfield and at right back. During the 2003-04 season he continued his progression by playing 30 times and scored his first goal for the club on the final day against Charlton Athletic.
Prutton Forest
The 2004-05 season however was one to forget as Southampton were relegated to the Championship and Prutton was banned for 10 games after being sent off in a game against Arsenal and then proceeding to push referee Alan Wiley on several occasions while shouting at the assistant referee. He tried to put it right by staying at the club and help them get promoted, however he broke his metatarsal in September against QPR and after he returned he could not break into the side.
Prutton Soton
In January 2007 he returned to Nottingham Forest on loan to try and help them secure promotion back to the Championship. He played 13 times but he was sent off in League One semi final second leg against Yeovil Town. After his loan spell he joined Leeds United on the 7th August 2007.

During the 2007-08 season he was one of their most consistent performers, however there would be playoff heartbreak for him as they lost in the final against Doncaster Rovers. Under both Dennis Wise and Gary McAllister he was an automatic first choice but this changed when Simon Grayson took over. Once again Leeds lost in the playoffs but Prutton usually had to settle for a place on the bench before joining Colchester United on the 26th January 2010.
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League One - Leeds United v Crewe Alexandra - Elland Road
He scored on his debut against MK Dons and ended the season in good form, despite being offered a new contract by the club he decided to sign for Swindon Town. He only stayed for one season as they were relegated to League Two and signed for Sheffield Wednesday. He also scored on his debut for Wednesday with a fantastic volley against Rochdale on the opening day of the 2011-12 season.

Wednesday got promoted at the end of the season and in the following campaign Prutton played his part in keeping them in the Championship but he was getting less game time. He had to go out on loan to play games, firstly to Scunthorpe United and then Coventry City before being released by his parent club.

The final word can go to Coventry City manager Steven Pressley. “He has played at the highest domestic level. He also has a detailed knowledge of this division and its demands. It was vitally important that we brought in a player with established quality, leadership skills and experience and David certainly fits that mould.”

7th June – Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is 33 today and is the youngest manager in England and has been in charge of Oldham Athletic since the 18th March 2013.

It is remarkable that a club would give the manager’s job to a 31 year old but he has achieved all his expectations and has proved to be a very good appointment. His dad, Gary, is also a football manager so he has obviously had a lot of help and always has someone to call when he needs someone to talk to about tactics and other areas of management.

Johnson had an interesting start to his football career as he left Arsenal after a falling out with one of the coaches at the club and was then signed by Watford but he could not break into their team and ended up at Brighton. While at Brighton he only played once in the Football League Trophy but he did manage to score a goal in the game against Cardiff City. In 2001 he joined his father’s team Yeovil Town in the Conference and while at the club he helped them gain promotion twice as they rose to League One. The player also began to have a growing reputation as he was getting better and better as the club got higher up the leagues and he won their Player of the Year award three years in a row.

After 191 league appearances for Yeovil he left in January 2006 to join Scottish Premier League side Hearts for £50,000 and manager Graham Rix was delighted with his signing. “He will bring enthusiasm, ability, he wants to play and he wants to get better. He is dynamic. He wants to get on the ball and make passes. He is full of energy and he is competitive.” His debut was memorable as it came in a 4-1 victory over Edinburgh rivals Hibernian. However Graham Rix was sacked soon after and Johnson only made one substitute appearance after he left.
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League Championship - West Bromwich Albion v Bristol City - The Hawthorns
In August 2006 he was reunited with his dad as he joined Bristol City and had a very good first season by helping them win promotion to the Championship. Johnson was a key figure in Bristol City’s run to the playoff final in the Championship, unfortunately they lost the game against Hull City but the player’s reputation had grown and he was one of standout players in the division.

He remained a key member of the squad for many years but in 2010 he was loaned out to Derby County for a month and played four times for the club before returning to his parent club. He also had a brief loan spell at Chesterfield before leaving the club permanently in January 2012.
Johnson Kilmarnock
Johnson signed a two and half year deal with Kilmarnock in the SPL and he played a crucial part in the Scottish League Cup final as he set up the only goal of the game against Celtic and picked up a winners medal just a little over a month after signing for the club. Less than a year later though he decided to leave the club and was soon appointed the manager of Oldham.

His first game in charge was a 3-0 win over Hartlepool United which lifted the club out of the relegation zone and they successfully avoided relegation. His most important victory was over his dad as his team beat promotion chasing Yeovil Town towards the end of the season which must have been a great moment for the younger Johnson.
Johnson Yeovil
In the summer he had time to change the style of the club and the fans took to it warmly as they were playing fast attacking football and they received many plaudits for the way they played. However, a lot of the time they were seen as admirable losers after not getting the results they deserved but they did finish the season with a 10 match unbeaten run and finished the season in 15th place. Johnson was rewarded with a new three year contract by the board.

The final word can go to his dad Gary. “Over the years, he has been on all the courses. He’s gone out and met a lot of coaches, he’s been to Barcelona all off his own back and at his own expense. He just wants to learn, he’s like a sponge as far as wanting to take things in.”