Premier League Career: Everton (2006-2009), Manchester City (2009-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2014-2015), Aston Villa (2015-2016), Sunderland (2017)
A constant threat at attacking set-pieces and a fine tackler in his prime, Joleon Lescott is a double Premier League title winner from his successful days at Manchester City. Lescott played for five different clubs in the English top-flight, also making a significant impact during three strong campaigns on Merseyside with Everton.
Hailing from the west Midlands, Lescott had a lucky escape when he was just five. Outside his primary school, he was hit by a car that left him with head injuries. He required several operations and was left with permanent scarring to his forehead which is still visible today. Lescott admitted the accident brought him even closer to his family in a 2006 interview: “We definitely appreciate each other more as a result of what happened and the accident has made me appreciate life a lot more and people with disabilities. I realise that I am one of the fortunate ones.”
His footballing career began at Wolverhampton Wanderers, making his debut in the first-team against Sheffield Wednesday in August 2000. He was just 17 when he made his bow for the club. Lescott immediately became a valuable member of Wolves’ first-team squad, winning the Supporters’ Young Player of the Year in back-to-back campaigns. He helped Wolves reach the promise land of the Premier League in 2003. However, knee surgery meant he missed the entire 2003-2004 campaign. Wolves went straight back down, so his Premier League chance would have to wait.
At the start of the 2006-2007 season, he moved onto pastures new, linking up with Everton in a £5 million transfer. It was a fine debut campaign, considering Toffees’ medics still had some doubts over the transfer due to his previous injury woe at Wolves. Lescott’s first Premier League goal came at the club he’d supported as a boy, Aston Villa in April 2007. He was voted Players’ Player of the Season by his teammates and fans made him second-choice in-terms of achievements behind Mikel Arteta.
In 2007-2008, Lescott’s levels continued to rise and he became a fearsome threat in the opposition penalty area too. In all competitions, he managed double figures and boasted the highest shot-to-goal ratio in the Premier League that season. With an impressive 42.1% ratio, Lescott finished with eight Premier League goals – easily the best figures for a defender in that campaign. He dominated the individual player awards at Everton too. Other clubs were now aware of his genuine qualities as a defender.
Another strong season followed in 2008-2009 for the defender, helping Everton reach the FA Cup final. However, it ended in disappointment with a 2-1 defeat in the showpiece event to Chelsea. With their new riches, Manchester City identified him as a key transfer target in the summer of 2009. Everton refused to budge, rejecting two transfer offers and even a transfer request from the player himself. Controversially, he started the Toffees’ 2009-2010 season opener against Arsenal but looked a shadow of his best. Arsenal won 6-1 and it was clear to all the speculation over his future had affected Lescott’s concentration.
Towards the end of the transfer window, Everton saw he was distracted and decided to end the saga by selling him to Manchester City for approximately £22 million. He made his debut at the end of August, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth. His first season in Eastlands was frustrating. Injuries meant he was unable to hold down a regular place and he didn’t quite meet the expectations of his transfer fee either. Nevertheless, when he was fit to play, Roberto Mancini often selected him ahead of Kolo Toure to partner Vincent Kompany at the heart of the City backline. The injury issues though meant he missed out on playing for England in their disappointing 2010 World Cup finals campaign in South Africa.
In 2010-2011, Lescott’s big moment at The Etihad arrived when Toure failed a drugs test and was suspended from all forms of football for several months. He made the most of his opportunity, forming a strong partnership with Kompany. Joleon scored a couple of crucial headers in end-of-season fixtures that helped Manchester City finish in third place above Arsenal, earning automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League. They also won the FA Cup, making up for his own personal disappointment in 2009 with Everton. 2011-2012 was Lescott’s best-ever campaign, both in-terms of appearances and success. He made 31 league appearances, assisting a goal in the 6-1 away thrashing of Manchester United and scoring in a crucial 1-0 away win over Aston Villa.
Although he had a brilliant personal campaign, it nearly ended in disaster for Joleon on the final day. Against Queens Park Rangers, his wayward header early in the second half allowed Djibril Cisse in to score an equaliser for the struggling visitors. Of course, it didn’t matter ultimately in the final reckoning. Sergio Aguero got Lescott and the team out of jail with his staggering last-minute winner that saw Manchester City become Premier League champions. Relief was the main form on the day for the defender.
Fuelled with confidence from his performances at club level, Lescott started every single game of England’s European Championship finals campaign of 2012 under new manager Roy Hodgson. He scored England’s first goal of the finals, heading in the opening goal in a 1-1 draw with France. England made the quarter-finals before bowing out on a penalty shootout to Italy. That goal against the French was his only goal in the 26 caps he won for The Three Lions.
Lescott made another 36 appearances in the next two Premier League campaigns for Manchester City. An unused substitute in the 2013 FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic, Lescott’s 2013-2014 campaign saw him largely used in a back-up role only under Manuel Pellegrini’s management. However, he won another Premier League title winners’ medal and also the League Cup in his last season as a Citizens player.
Released by the club in the summer of 2014, Joleon moved back to the Midlands, signing for West Bromwich Albion. He was Alan Irvine’s first signing as manager and remained a major figure when Tony Pulis replace Irvine as manager in January 2015. His only goal for the Baggies came in a 3-2 defeat at Queens Park Rangers when West Brom led 2-0 but lost the game to a Charlie Austin hat-trick.
Although he started the 2015-2016 campaign at The Hawthorns, Lescott moved to his boyhood club Aston Villa on August transfer deadline day. It was meant to be fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play for Aston Villa. However, the move turned out to be a disaster. Villa won just two matches whilst Lescott was at the club and were relegated with the fourth lowest points tally in Premier League history. The one tiny consolation for Lescott was he did score in both of the games Villa won during his time there, at home to Crystal Palace and Norwich City. The fans though were exceptionally critical of his performances throughout the season and even his attitude towards the cause.
After a very unhappy flirtation with AEK Athens in the autumn of 2016, Lescott reunited with his manager from his Everton days, David Moyes at Sunderland in January 2017. It was a short-term deal which saw him play just twice in the league in the year where the Black Cats luck ran out. Relegation to the Championship followed and he was released following their drop to second-tier level.
Since retiring from the game after his Sunderland contract expired, Lescott has often appeared as a television and radio pundit for Premier League games in the UK and also works as a loan manager at Manchester City.