Category Archives: Premier League Files

Premier League Files: John Sheridan

Premier League Career: Sheffield Wednesday (1992-1996), Bolton Wanderers (1997-1998)

Irishman John Sheridan spent the majority of his playing career in Yorkshire. In the Premier League, his career was largely spent at Sheffield Wednesday, featuring for the Owls’ in the first four seasons of the new generation. For the past 11 years, he has been a regular manager in the Football League. He has just finished his fifth spell managing Oldham Athletic, counting caretaker spells.

Born in Stretford and not far away from Old Trafford, many thought Sheridan would become a boyhood Manchester United fan. In fact, he followed Manchester City at a young age and he would start his career with the Citizens. He never quite made the grade with City and ended up making his professional league debut for Leeds United in 1982. Sheridan was very popular with the fans at Elland Road and stayed with the club for seven years, showing great loyalty even in difficult days for the Yorkshire side.

Howard Wilkinson wasn’t his biggest fan though and moved him onto Nottingham Forest in 1989. However, he was sporadically used by Brian Clough. In fact, he turned out just once for Forest in the League Cup and ultimately joined Sheffield Wednesday exactly three months after arriving at the City Ground. It was the fans at Hillsborough who would see the best of Sheridan’s playing career. He would make nearly 200 league appearances for the club. This included scoring the winning goal against Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup final.

He was an integral part of the exciting Owls’ sides in the early 1990s under Ron Atkinson and then, Trevor Francis. Traditionally, Sheffield Wednesday were slow starters but would always come good. They finished third in 1992, reached both domestic cup finals in 1993 and in 1994, were semi-finalists in the League Cup. Individually, Sheridan’s most memorable moment of his Premier League career came at Old Trafford in April 1993. He scored a penalty to give Sheffield Wednesday the lead but victory would be denied by two dramatic Steve Bruce headers in injury-time.

Trevor Francis’ departure at the end of the 1994-1995 season would ultimately spell the beginning of the end for Sheridan’s Sheffield Wednesday career. David Pleat would only pick him occasionally and he was loaned to Birmingham City in the autumn of 1996. He was snapped up by Bolton Wanderers in November of the same year and won promotion to the Premier League as Division One champions. He would play another 12 times in the top-flight but couldn’t prevent the Trotters being relegated back to the second-tier on the final day of the 1997-1998 season.

He would finish his playing career at Oldham, featuring 114 times for them before retiring in 2004, a few months short of his 40th birthday. Internationally, he won 34 caps for the Republic of Ireland and was part of the Irish squads at the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals. He began his management career with the club he finished his playing days with in 2006 and has also had spells managing Chesterfield, Plymouth Argyle, Notts County and Newport County AFC. He returned to the dugout at Oldham in January 2017 but lost his job with them just eight months later.

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Premier League Files: Callum Wilson

Premier League Career: AFC Bournemouth (2015-PRESENT)

He is still only 25 and that means Callum Wilson should have plenty of time to demonstrate his true potential. Sadly, two wretched injuries whilst playing in the Premier League with AFC Bournemouth suggests that his time could unfortunately be limited. That would be a real shame for a player who has shown a ruthless approach to finding the back of the net when he is free of injury.

Born in Coventry, Wilson started his career with his hometown club and made his professional debut in 2009 during a surprising League Cup reverse to Hartlepool United. Naturally, it took time for Callum to remove the raw edge to his game. Loan spells in the non-league with Kettering Town and Tamworth certainly did no harm to this.

In 2013-2014, he established himself as a regular in the starting XI at Coventry City. Wilson was often one of the bright sparks in a club that was often lurching from one crisis to another thanks to dreadful running of the club by its owners. He finished the third-highest scorer in League One with 22 goals and earned himself a place in the League One PFA Team of the Year. That was despite spending two months on the sidelines due to a dislocated shoulder. He won three gongs at the club’s end of season awards and developed an excellent partnership with his strike partner, Leon Clarke.

Coventry knew that this form was always going to make Wilson a transfer target, especially with their precarious financial situation. He joined AFC Bournemouth in July 2014 for £3 million and made an immediate impact, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-0 thumping away at Huddersfield Town. He scored 20 league goals and these strikes helped the Cherries’ win promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.

Wilson made AFC Bournemouth history in the club’s third Premier League match. He opened the scoring at Upton Park against West Ham United to score the south coast side’s first goal in the Premier League. He didn’t finish there. Wilson went on to score a hat-trick; the first treble of the 2015-2016 Premier League season.

Further goals followed against Leicester City and Sunderland. There was even talk of Roy Hodgson watching him closely for a possible England call-up. Sadly, a cruel twist of fate would await Wilson. In late September, he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the early stages of a 2-1 defeat to Stoke City. It was a sickening blow for player and club.  It was the third serious ligament injury of Bournemouth’s maiden season. Wilson would be out of action for six months but made his return in early April, arriving as a substitute in an away win at Aston Villa.

He was keen to ensure 2016-2017 would be an impressive season but much of the same story would follow. There were goals against Liverpool FC and Arsenal but in February 2017, another luckless injury in training would stop his second Premier League campaign in its tracks. Unbelievably, it was another ACL and this time, in his left knee. It has meant another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Callum Wilson will be hoping to feature soon in the 2017-2018 Premier League season. If he can stay clear of these dreaded setbacks, he is a sharp shooter and an excellent finisher which would benefit Bournemouth significantly in what looks like a relegation battle in their third PL campaign.

Premier League Files: Steve Stone

Premier League Career: Nottingham Forest (1992-1993), (1994-1997), (1998-1999), Aston Villa (1999-2002), Portsmouth (2003-2005)

Injuries were part of Steve Stone’s football career but when he managed to stay clear of fitness battles, he proved to everyone what a decent footballer he was. His best spell came in the 1995-1996 season with Nottingham Forest.

Stone scored a series of excellent goals during this campaign including a winner at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur and a stunning equaliser at home to Aston Villa.

His performances with his club were recognised by Terry Venables who handed the midfielder his international bow in October 1995 in a goalless draw with Norway in Oslo. A month later, Stone came off the bench to score in a 3-1 friendly win over Switzerland and also found the back of the net at Wembley in a draw against Portugal. He made nine appearances for the Three Lions’ and was part of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals on home soil.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t force his way into Glenn Hoddle’s plans on an international scale and that was down to injury. During his career at Forest, he suffered three broken legs including one in pre-season of 1996 which meant he missed the club’s entire 1996-1997 season as they were relegated to Division One.

Stone recovered and although he missed an absolute sitter in an away match against Reading in the First Division, he played an integral role in Dave Bassett’s team that returned to the Premier League at the first attempt. Sadly, relegation swiftly followed the following season and after making 229 appearances for the club, Stone was sold for £5.5 million to Aston Villa in the summer of 1999.

He became a vital player for John Gregory and figured frequently during his tenure including an appearance in the 2000 FA Cup Final; the last cup final to be played underneath the famed Twin Towers. When Gregory departed in January 2002, Stone fell out of favour with Graham Taylor and was transferred to Portsmouth.

He returned to the Premier League under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship in 2003 and even scored a winning goal against Manchester United in April 2004 that helped Pompey achieve survival in their maiden Premier League season. Stone was released in 2005 by Alain Perrin and he finished his career at Leeds United, retiring in December 2006 after further injury issues.

Stone moved into coaching and worked with the reserves and first-team at Newcastle United from 2010-2015. He was let go by the club after their near-miss with relegation in 2014-2015 and now spends the majority of his time between England and Dubai.

Premier League Files: Edin Dzeko

Premier League Career: Manchester City (2011-2015)

Known as ‘The Bosnian Diamond’ in his homeland, Edin Dzeko has become of the greatest natural finishers in recent times.  Wherever he has been in his career, he has scored goals and this he continues to do now in Serie A with AS Roma. During his time in England, Dzeko won two Premier League titles with Manchester City and played a significant role in the greatest finish ever to a Premier League season in 2012.

However, it was in the Bundesliga where Dzeko began to carve out a reputation for prudent finishing abilities. In the 2008-2009 campaign, he formed a partnership with the Brazilian forward Grafite at VfL Wolfsburg that is among the best ever seen in German football. Between the two players, they scored 54 goals which means their combined total is the most successful in Bundesliga history. Wolfsburg won the title for the first time in their history that season. Having narrowly missed out on the ‘Torjägerkanone’ in 2008-2009, Dzeko’s tally of 22 goals in 2009-2010 was enough to take the most prestigious goalscoring honour in the Bundesliga. He remains Wolfsburg’s all-time record goalscorer in the German top-flight.

In January 2011, a transfer fee was agreed of £27 million between Wolfsburg and Manchester City for Dzeko to make the move to the Premier League. It was the second-highest transfer fee Manchester City had ever paid out for a player at the time. He made his debut later in the month at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers but would have to wait three months for his first Premier League goal; a winner in the 1-0 away success against Blackburn Rovers.

In 2011-2012, Dzeko started in red-hot form. He scored six goals in the first three matches of the season, including a devastating display at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. Dzeko scored four times in City’s 5-1 win, becoming the first Citizens’ player to score four goals in a Premier League match. His goalscoring exploits won him the Premier League Player of the Month award for August 2011. As the season wore on, Dzeko would have to fight for his regular place in the team but he made a valuable contribution on the final day at home to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers. City were trailing 2-1 going into the dying embers when Dzeko headed home from a corner in the 92nd minute to level the scores. Sergio Aguero then scored the famous winner that ensured City won their first league title in 44 years. The Bosnian forward later said his goal in this match was the most important of his career.

By 2012-2013, Dzeko’s place was mainly warming the bench at Manchester City which was extremely unfortunate because his goalscoring repertoire would have seen him walk into many other starting XI sides. He was making telling impacts though from the bench, scoring 14 goals including winning efforts away at Fulham and West Bromwich Albion. Roberto Mancini left at the end of the season and Dzeko was hoping this would signal a change in his selection usage.

Not initially under Manuel Pellegrini though as the Chilean preferred a partnership of Aguero and new arrival Alvaro Negredo in attack. However, a shoulder injury to the latter in January 2014 saw Dzeko get his chance and he grabbed it with both hands. In March, he scored the fastest away goal at Old Trafford in Premier League history, netting after just 43 seconds in City’s handsome 3-0 victory over their city rivals. Dzeko also scored vital doubles at the backend of the campaign against Everton and Aston Villa as City managed to haul in and overtake Liverpool FC in the final weeks of the season and therefore, claim a second Premier League title in three seasons.

Edin left Manchester City at the end of the 2014-2015 season and moved to Italian football. After a so-so first campaign in the Italian capital, he had an impressive individual campaign in 2016-2017, scoring 39 goals in all competitions and netting an impressive European hat-trick away to Villarreal. Edin Dzeko’s goalscoring record is among the best and Manchester City fans will always thank him for being a crucial part of that day in 2012 when they finally became the kings of English football.

Premier League Files: Neville Southall

Premier League Career: Everton (1992-1998), Bradford City (2000)

Neville Southall had a proud and distinguished career in football and whilst he achieved his main honours before the Premier League began in 1992, that doesn’t take away the impact he had guarding the posts at Everton for the best part of 17 seasons.

He was voted as Everton’s all-time cult hero in December 2004, was selected as the goalkeeper choice for four years in a row in the PFA Team of the Year during the 1980s, won two championships and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1985. His performances during Everton’s trophy-laden 1984-1985 season saw Neville crowned as Player of the Season by the Football Writers’.

He was renowned for his ability in coming off the goal-line and smothering the space for attackers. His agility couldn’t be questioned and even in his later years, could still produce remarkable saves that others could only dream of.

By the time the Premier League was formed in 1992, Neville had already been an Everton stalwart for 11 years and the club in general had seen far better and healthier days. He was part of the squad that only just about survived relegation in the 1993-1994 season. In the final match of the campaign against Wimbledon, Southall showed his leadership qualities by taking the ball and hinting that he would face up to the pressure and take the spot-kick that would get the Toffees back into the game. Eventually, Graham Stuart plucked up the courage to take the responsibility and fortunately, he scored.

Southall’s performances were still consistent, even if they weren’t quite at the level he was displaying a decade earlier but even he suffered a decline in his form in the early weeks of the 1994-1995 campaign. Everton went 12 games without a win at the start of the season and Southall later admitted that after a confrontation from a fan after a home defeat, he was subject to death threats. Things improved when Mike Walker was sacked in November and by the end of the season, Everton had survived relegation under the guidance of Joe Royle and won the FA Cup. The season also saw Southall take a record of appearing in the Merseyside Derby more times than any other player. Everton’s 2-0 victory over their neighbours in November 1994 was his 35th appearance in the fixture.

He remained an ever-present during the next campaign which Everton finished sixth. However, Royle saw the goalkeeper spot as an area where the team could improve and Neville would have slipped down the pecking order if a deal to sign Nigel Martyn from Crystal Palace could go through. The move collapsed and Southall remained Everton’s no.1 goalie but Royle was desperate to strengthen in this position.

In 1996-1997, he was dropped after a run of six successive defeats from the Christmas programme onwards. Despite his uncomfortable relationship with the manager, Southall continued to support Joe Royle in the media but when Royle resigned in March 1997, he received the support of caretaker boss and fellow long stalwart Dave Watson. He was put back in the team to steer the Toffees’ to another uncomfortable survival.

His final appearance for Everton came in November 1997 during a 2-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Howard Kendall offered him a coaching role in the aftermath of the game but Southall rejected the offer, insisting he still could offer something to a club looking for a goalkeeper to play professional matches.

He made 53 appearances for Torquay United between 1998 and 2000 but had one final Premier League fling for Bradford City. When all three of Bradford’s senior goalkeepers sustained injuries at the same time, Southall played for the Bantams in a Yorkshire derby against Leeds United in March 2000. He became the fourth oldest player in Premier League history, at the age of 41 years and 178 days.

After retiring from the game in 2002, Neville worked as a coach and occasional manager in the non-league. His last role was eight years ago, as a caretaker manager for Margate. In 2012, he released his autobiography, “The Binman Chronicles” which was the sixth bestselling football book of the year.

Neville Southall saw it all and achieved many great things during a wonderful playing career. He gave so much service to Everton, achieving league titles and seeing the darker period at the start of the 1990s. He certainly made his mark between the goalposts on Merseyside.

Premier League Files: Juan Mata

Premier League Career: Chelsea (2011-2014), Manchester United (2014-PRESENT)

A graduate of Real Madrid’s youth academy, Juan Mata has become one of the Premier League’s most precise players. Full of skill and panache, Mata has been a fans’ favourite at both Chelsea and Manchester United. Whilst the ultimate prize of the Premier League title has eluded this super Spaniard, Mata has become an integral part of many Fantasy Premier League squads because many can count on a fair return of goals and assists from him.

Mata started to make a name for himself in his homeland with Valencia. In August 2011, Chelsea bought him from La Liga for £28 million. On his arrival in west London, he revealed that his international teammate Fernando Torres had played a significant role in bringing him to English football. He said: “Fernando got me excited about the thought of coming here. He said it would be good for me here and that he and I together could be good.”

Getting his favourite no.10 shirt on his arrival, Mata made an immediate impression at Stamford Bridge. He scored on his debut in a home victory over Norwich City and was a shining light in an inconsistent season for the team which led to the March sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas. When Roberto di Matteo took over, he played Mata as a no.10 attacking midfielder rather than out on the left-wing. This produced even better performances. Mata won the Man of the Match award as Chelsea beat Liverpool FC in the FA Cup final and ended the campaign with 14 assists in the league and six goals. He was part of the squad that stunned Bayern Munich on Bayern’s own turf to win the UEFA Champions League. That was despite having a penalty saved in the shootout by Manuel Neuer.

His performances won him the Club’s Player of the Year award in 2011-2012. He was even better in 2012-2013. Mata was shortlisted for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, won the club’s individual prize for the second successive campaign and scored a ton of important goals. This included a late winner at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United. He added another honour to his collection with the UEFA Europa League. Unfortunately for Mata, his time at Chelsea was coming to a swifter end than he could have predicted.

Jose Mourinho’s arrival for a second spell as Chelsea manager would mean a frustrating first six months of the 2013-2014 campaign for Mata. Mourinho preferred to play the likes of Oscar and Ramires in more attacking positions as he valued their better defensive contributions. In January 2014, he moved to Manchester United for a club record fee at the time of £37.1 million.

His debut for the Red Devils’ saw an assist created for the opening goal against Cardiff City, scored by Robin van Persie. It did take Mata slightly longer to settle than he would have anticipated and two months before scoring his first goal for the club; in a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa in March. He ended with six goals at the end of the campaign.

Louis van Gaal arrived as David Moyes’ successor and it took Mata time to really establish himself at Old Trafford. The arrivals of Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria put his place in doubt but towards the end of the 2014-2015 season, he had emerged as United’s creative spark. In March 2015, the club travelled to Anfield for a crucial match with Liverpool FC. The two were fighting it out for a top-four finish in the Premier League and Liverpool had the momentum following a lengthy unbeaten run. On this day, Mata was unplayable.

He ghosted past Alberto Moreno for the opening goal inside 10 minutes. His second goal was voted as the Goal of the Month for March. He produced a spectacular and fantastic bicycle kick from the edge of the area to leave Simon Mignolet stranded. The goal even got a usually unemotional van Gaal out of his seat. Manchester United won the game 2-1 and Mata has said since this was his best performance for the club.

In May 2016, he won the FA Cup for the second time in his career, scoring the equaliser in the final against Crystal Palace. Further goals in 2016-2017 followed against the likes of Watford, Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth as Mata once again proved his critics wrong and showed he could play a crucial role at the club for Jose Mourinho – the man who had so easily discarded him at Chelsea.

Great vision, many assists and plenty of skilful moments, Juan Mata has been a serial consistent player for the past six seasons and I’m sure more is to come from him in the 2017-2018 season.

Premier League Files: Riyad Mahrez

Premier League Career: Leicester City (2014-PRESENT)

2015-2016 was the season of Riyad Mahrez’s life. The Algerian came from the periphery at Leicester City to play a prominent role in the club’s shock Premier League title success. He was often overlooked at an early age due to his slenderness. Mahrez may not be a powerhouse but he has bags of tricks within his game and in the Foxes’ title-winning campaign, was at his absolute best.

He began his journey as a youth player at the unheralded French club AAS Sarcelles. He turned professional in 2009 with Quimper before switching over to Le Havre a year later. Leading French teams including Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain had shown significant interest in adding Mahrez to their roster of players but the Algerian turned them down, preferring the youth system at Le Havre. This showed the dedication to his career and the ambition to follow the dream that his late father would have wanted.

Mahrez lost his dad when he was just 15 to a heart attack. Later on during his prominent rise at Leicester, he reflected on this life-changing memory, saying: “I don’t know if I started to be more serious but after the death of my dad things started to go for me. Maybe in my head I wanted it more.”

At Le Havre, he played 60 times for the senior side, scoring six times in three seasons. They were slightly modest figures but it was here where he was spotted by Leicester scout Steve Walsh. Walsh had actually been assigned to watch Mahrez’s teammate Ryan Mendes but it was the skilful midfielder that captured the eye more. When initially approached by the Foxes’, he admitted he had never heard of Leicester and presumed they were only a rugby club! It was a good thing that this was overlooked by the club and they signed him in January 2014. On his departure from French football, he criticised the French second division for a defensive approach and the negative feel towards the game.

After playing a small part in Leicester’s promotion back to the Premier League, the 2014-2015 season was all about starting to attract attention of others. He scored a winning goal away at Hull City and a crucial double in the 2-0 defeat of Southampton in May 2015. Leicester won seven of their last nine matches to miraculously avoid relegation when they looked all but doomed in March.

Claudio Ranieri was brought in to replace Nigel Pearson in pre-season as Leicester manager and he immediately got the best out of Mahrez who would turn out to be an unexpected revelation on the Premier League. He was swiftly out of the starting blocks, scoring four goals in the opening month of the season including an opening day double at home to Sunderland. In December, his hat-trick in the 3-0 victory away at Swansea City not only took Leicester top of the table but it made him the first Algerian to score a Premier League treble. By now, his transfer value had sky-rocketed and many of Europe’s top clubs were being linked with the player. Mahrez stayed loyal to Leicester and to Ranieri too. He and Jamie Vardy were the gems in a team that were heavily overachieving and shocking world football at the same time.

In April 2016, Mahrez won the biggest individual award a player can achieve in England. He was crowned PFA Players’ Player of the Year and voted rightly into the Team of the Year. A week later, Leicester City – 5000/1 outsiders at the start of the season were champions of England! He became the first Algerian to win a Premier League medal in a season that will never be forgotten by many within the game.

There was always going to be a reality check after the highs of 2015-2016. 2016-2017 was a real struggle for both player and club. Mahrez didn’t score from open play until March and saved his best form for the Foxes’ run to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. At the end of the season, he revealed in a statement on the club website and to the Guardian that he wanted to leave the club. It read: “I am fiercely ambitious and feel now is the time to move on to a new experience. I’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with the chairman and everyone at the club, and I hope I have been able to repay the faith shown to me by my performances and commitment on the pitch during my time here.”

Despite this, there were few suitors for Mahrez. Italian club AS Roma made three bids which were rejected by Leicester. To the Algerian’s credit, he has got his head down and played very well in the opening three matches of the 2017-2018 season for the Foxes. Whilst his longer-term future remains in doubt, Riyad Mahrez will continue to play for Leicester City until January 2018 at least. In his time with the club, he has already provided plenty of wonderful memories for the fans at the King Power Stadium.

Premier League Files: Yannick Bolasie

Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (2013-2016), Everton (2016-PRESENT)

Born in Lyon, Yannick Bolasie has nothing slow about his game. His main attribute is speed. Bolasie has given plenty of full-backs the run-around and he will be hoping to return even better from a serious injury that stopped his first season at Everton in its tracks.

Bolasie started out at the now defunct club Rushden & Diamonds. He spent four months in their youth side when he was just 16. After a spell playing in the lower echelons of English football with Hillingdon Borough in the Southern Football League, he moved back into mainland Europe. Yannick graced the Maltese Premier League with Floriana.

He returned to England in 2008 and spent the majority of his early professional days in this country at Plymouth Argyle, either side of a couple of loan spells in the capital with Barnet. In 2011, Bolasie transferred to Bristol City and impressed the fans at Ashton Gate with his rapid rate of development. So much so, they voted for the DR Congo international to be their Young Player of the Year. Unfortunately for them, Bolasie missed London and in August 2012, elected to submit a transfer request. It was reluctantly accepted and he would join Crystal Palace.

His contribution to the Eagles’ cause was fleeting to start with. They returned to the Premier League in his first season at the club but he was largely an impact substitute. In fact, he was an unused substitute in the playoff final victory over Watford at Wembley Stadium. Ian Holloway didn’t seem to trust his qualities and he didn’t figure in the club’s opening six Premier League matches.

He eventually featured in the top-flight for the first time as a substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool FC in October 2013. Holloway left the club shortly afterwards and he started more frequently for Tony Pulis although he chalked up a red card in an away win at Hull City in November 2013. Although he failed to score a goal in Palace’s successful survival season, his prominence was clear. Bolasie set-up two of the three goals in the famous comeback against Liverpool FC in May 2014 when the south Londoners came from 3-0 down to rescue a draw and all but bury the Reds’ title aspirations.

2014-2015 was Bolasie’s real breakthrough season. His maiden Premier League strike came in a 3-2 away win over Everton in September 2014. Later that season, he ensured his name in the Crystal Palace record books by becoming the first player from the club to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. His treble came in a 4-1 win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and was a quick-fire treble. It took just 11 minutes for Bolasie to register his three strikes on a sunny afternoon in Wearside.

After intense transfer speculation in the summer of 2016, Bolasie eventually moved to Everton just a week into the 2016-2017 campaign for an approximate £25million transfer fee. In 13 Premier League appearances for the Toffees’, he had scored once in defeat to Burnley and was credited with four assists. In early December, he limped out of the draw with Manchester United after what looked like an innocuous collision with Anthony Martial. Tests later revealed a cruciate knee ligament injury which would rule him out for a full year.

Yannick has recently indicated that he hopes to be back in the Everton playing squad by the end of the 2017 calendar year. Whether that is a realistic or ambitious target, time will tell. However, everyone will want to see him return to full fitness because he still has the ability to fulfil his true potential.

Premier League Files: Kyle Walker

Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (2010-2017), Aston Villa (2011), Manchester City (2017-PRESENT)

He turned 27 recently and Kyle Walker has impressed many with the journey he has been on. Now established as first-choice right-back for his country, the Sheffield-born defender had been a regular fixture in a hungry and energetic Tottenham Hotspur side that has won the plaudits from many neutral supporters in the past couple of seasons. Now, Walker is embarking on a new challenge for 2017-2018 in the colours of Manchester City.

Walker started his professional career with his local side Sheffield United. Quickly sent to Sixfields to get some Football League experience under his belt at Northampton Town, Walker returned into the fold at Bramwall Lane in January 2009 and was a surprise inclusion in the closing matches of the season as the club struggled with an injury crisis. Walker seized his chance and became the club’s youngest player to ever play at Wembley Stadium when Burnley defeated the Blades’ in the 2009 Championship play-off final.

Tottenham wasted no time in snapping up their man, seeing Walker as part of their future. Harry Redknapp was manager at the time and combined with Kyle Naughton, £9million was paid to the Yorkshire side for Walker to become a Spurs player. He was immediately loaned back to Sheffield United to continue his development before being recalled in February 2010. Less than two months later, he made his Premier League debut in a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth at White Hart Lane.

2010-2011 was another season out on-loan. It began at Queens Park Rangers, before crucial Premier League experience with Aston Villa. It was at Villa Park where he scored his first senior league goal; a 30-yard low drive in the Villans’ 2-2 draw with Fulham on a goalscoring afternoon in February 2011.

The time had come now for Kyle to make the grade at Tottenham. He returned to his parent club that summer and was a regular feature in the teams of Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood and Mauricio Pochettino. After a highly impressive full debut season in north London, Walker was voted into the PFA Team of the Year and saw off competition from the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to win the coveted PFA Young Player of the Year award. He also scored one of the free-kicks of the campaign; a 25-yard curling effort in the 2-0 success against Blackburn Rovers.

Although his attacking prowess is highly regarded, Walker has at times been found guilty of overplaying at the back or easily getting physically beaten in battles against wingers. One of his worst performances came in a home defeat to Manchester United in 2012 when he was at fault for two of the Red Devils’ goals – both scored by Ashley Young.

By now, Kyle had full international recognition from England. Only a toe injury stopped him taking part at the 2012 European Championships but he did make the squad for the 2016 edition in France. In 2016-2017, his performances were once again recognised by his peers who voted Walker in the PFA Team of the Year for a second time. This encouraged Manchester City to break the British transfer record for a defender in July 2017, signing Walker for £45million which could rise to £50million on instalments.

No-one can doubt that Kyle Walker has been an impressive force at the back for Tottenham Hotspur. His progress at Manchester City will be an interesting development in the 2017-2018 season.

Premier League Files: Nicky Butt

Premier League Career: Manchester United (1992-2004), Newcastle United (2004-2005), (2006-2009), Birmingham City (2005-2006)

Part of the young talent that were dubbed “Fergie’s Fledglings,” Nicky Butt enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful Premier League career, winning six Premier League titles at Manchester United. He is back at the club where he received his big break helping today’s youngsters in the academy as well as being one of the five ‘Class of 92’ owners at Salford City FC.

The midfielder turned professional in 1993 but he had already made his Premier League debut by then, appearing as a late substitute in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Oldham Athletic in November 1992. It wasn’t until the 1994-1995 season though that the Old Trafford faithful got to see Butt play on a regular basis.

Roy Keane and Paul Ince were the main central midfielders at the time but with Paul Parker injured and Gary Neville still an emerging talent, Keane was often asked to deputise as a right-back. That meant Butt got more opportunities than expected and when Ince departed in the 1995 pre-season for Serie A with Inter Milan, Ferguson elected to draft Butt into the team on a regular basis as Ince’s replacement.

Goals were not a crucial part of Nicky’s game. Instead, his job was to be the ball-winner in midfield and allow the creative talents to take control going forwards. Nevertheless, he could still chip in with the odd strike. This included a goal in the opening minute of a fixture with Liverpool FC in October 1995 which was Eric Cantona’s comeback match after his nine-month ban for his kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter. In 1997-1998, Butt made the PFA Team of the Year and many believed this was his best season in the colours of Manchester United as he developed leadership qualities after a knee injury robbed the club of Keane’s presence for much of that season.

Although he started the 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory in Barcelona as Keane was suspended, Roy’s return to fitness, coupled with Paul Scholes dropping back into a central role meant Butt’s first-team opportunities got more limited into the millennium. As competition increased in the midfield, he realised it was time to leave the club that developed him. In January 2004, Nicky Butt handed in a transfer request. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “Nicky Butt has asked to leave; it is a very sad situation. Nicky has given Manchester United great service but he wants to play first-team football.”

After turning down a move to Birmingham City, Butt was signed by Sir Bobby Robson for Newcastle United in July 2004. Signing a four-year deal, he was seen as a replacement for Gary Speed who had departed for Bolton Wanderers. Robson was sacked though four games into the new season and Graeme Souness was not convinced by Butt’s performances. He signed Emre, Amdy Faye and Scott Parker and sent Butt packing on-loan to ironically, Birmingham City in August 2005.

He scored on his Blues’ home debut in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City and played 24 times but after finding out that Steve Bruce had picked his son Alex ahead of him for an away trip to West Ham United, he walked out of the squad and was fined for his lack of discipline. He apologised and returned to the squad but Birmingham were relegated at the end of the season and he returned to Newcastle.

Butt became an integral part of the Newcastle line-up on his return and would captain the side on many occasions when Parker and Michael Owen were injured. He won over the fans’, who had been sceptical about his arrival in the first place and stayed with the club even after their relegation from the top-flight in 2009. He helped get them back into the Premier League before retiring from football.

He might not have attracted major headlines but Nicky Butt had a medal-winning career.

Premier League Files: Paul Wilkinson

Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (1992-1993, 1995-1996)

Paul Wilkinson played professional football for 18 years and even won four international Under-21 caps for England in the mid-1980s. He was a stereotypical target man who was not shy of tussling with defenders and coming out on top in some bruising battles over the years. Wilkinson also had a knack of finding that extra yard of space in the penalty area which probably explains why he scored more than 150 goals during his career in over 650 appearances.

Wilkinson was part of the last Everton squad that were champions of England back in the 1986-1987 campaign, scoring 12 times in their winning team that pushed Merseyside rivals Liverpool FC into second spot. He joined Middlesbrough in 1991 from Watford and was Lennie Lawrence’s last marquee signing at the club. He scored 24 goals in his debut season, including a final minute strike away at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers which took Middlesbrough into the inaugural Premier League season as Division Two runners-up to Ipswich Town.

Wilkinson quickly found his feet in the newly-formed Premier League. On the opening weekend, he scored Middlesbrough’s first goal at this level; a 63rd minute effort in the 2-1 defeat at Highfield Road to Coventry City. A week later, he scored twice in the shock 4-1 defeat of reigning English champions Leeds United and reached double figures despite Boro’s relegation to Division One. By the time Middlesbrough won promotion again in 1995, Wilkinson had become a rarely used figure and he was eventually let go on a free transfer by Bryan Robson to make way for international talent to arrive on Teeside.

Barnsley signed him and he was recruited to play alongside his former colleague at Middlesbrough in John Hendrie. In April 1997, he scored one of the goals in the Tykes’ 2-0 win at home to Bradford City which secured their automatic promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. However, he wouldn’t be going up with them – moving onto Millwall before winding down at Northampton Town in 2000.

Wilkinson moved straight into coaching. He has managed the reserve teams at Grimsby Town and Cardiff City and was Rob Page’s assistant manager during his brief tenure at Northampton. He is back at Blundell Park as Grimsby assistant currently to the experienced Russell Slade and looks set to become a manager in the future.

Premier League Files: David Linighan

Premier League Career: Ipswich Town (1992-1995)

Defender David Linighan came from a footballing family. He has two brothers who played professional football. One of his brothers, Andy Linighan scored a winning goal for Arsenal in the 1993 FA Cup final.

David’s career wasn’t quite as high-profile as that of Andy but has the record for the most Premier League appearances for Ipswich Town and is a former captain of the club.

He began his career as a 17-year-old at Hartlepool United in 1982, making close to 100 appearances at Victoria Park. David moved onto Shrewsbury Town in 1986 before Ipswich snapped him up two years later.

He played 277 league games for the Tractor Boys’, scoring 12 times. Named skipper in 1990, his commanding performances helped the club win promotion to the Premier League in 1992.

Linighan would score four times in the Premier League Years – all at Portman Road. His final goal came in a draw with Manchester City in March 1994.

He moved to Blackpool in the closing months of 1995, playing under three different managers at Bloomfield Road in Sam Allardyce, Gary Megson and Nigel Worthington. He finished his playing career playing in the non-league with Hyde United in 2002.

Although he has made the occasional appearance on local radio as a matchday pundit, David has stayed out of the game since retirement and now works as a carpenter.