Category Archives: Premier League Files

Premier League Files: Richard Jobson

Premier League Career: Oldham Athletic (1992-1994), Leeds United (1995-1998)

Although injuries were an issue in the career of Richard Jobson, his longevity could never be questioned. He made nearly 600 professional appearances and played in the top-flight for Oldham Athletic and Leeds United. Jobson’s early career was dominated by a lengthy stint at Hull City, featuring 221 times for them from 1985 to 1990. Oldham had to pay a club record fee of £460,000 to acquire Jobson. The powerful centre-back then played 189 times for the Latics, playing a pivotal role in their unlikely escape act from relegation in the first Premier League season. He was also an FA Cup semi-finalist in 1994.

After Oldham’s relegation, Jobson remained loyal to the club, staying with them for nearly 18 further months before moving onto Leeds United for £1 million in October 1995. This is where injuries started to take their course on Richard. He played just 22 times for Leeds across three seasons, scoring once in a 1-1 home draw with Wimbledon in December 1995.

He linked up with his former Oldham manager, Joe Royle at Manchester City in 1998 and helped the Citizens’ to back-to-back promotions from Division Two to the Premier League. However, he never got the opportunity to play in the top-flight again. Royle moved him onto Tranmere Rovers before finishing his playing career at Rochdale. The final game of his professional career was in May 2003, just six days short of his 40th birthday. Off-the-pitch, Jobson spent the final year of his playing career as chairman of the PFA and in 2009, became a senior executive within the PFA’s player management department.

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Premier League Files: George Boyd

Premier League Career: Hull City (2013-2014), Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-2017)

What do Steve Kabba, Mark Robins and George Boyd have in common? These three players have suffered the ignominy of playing in the same Premier League season for two relegated teams. In Boyd’s case, this happened to him during 2014-2015 when he started the campaign with Hull City but was a Burnley player by the end of the season.

The Scot, who won two caps for his country is a creative player who likes to play out on the wings and lay on chances for his teammates. He left the Premier League in the summer of 2017, turning down a new deal at Turf Moor to sign a two-year contract with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.

He grew up in Kent and is a Crystal Palace fan. George started his career at fellow London side Charlton Athletic but was rejected at the age of 15. With this early setback, he had to work his way up the football pyramid again, starting with Stevenage. Whilst playing in Hertfordshire, he was working in a sweet shop to earn the money for his train fare to training and was also studying at North Hertfordshire College. He was definitely doing things the busy and hard way.

He made his Stevenage debut at the age of 17 and spent the next five years with the club before joining Peterborough United in 2007. It was with Peterborough that he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career, featuring 263 times for the club during seven seasons at London Road. This included three campaigns in the Championship, having begun with Posh in League Two.

He was the subject of plenty of interest during this time with the likes of Burnley and Nottingham Forest submitting bids that were rejected. Eventually, it looked like he was going to move to the latter in January 2013. Everything was agreed and a medical passed until Forest pulled the plug on the deal due to an “inconclusive eye test.” Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony didn’t hold back with his thoughts, saying: “I’m devastated for George. I got a phone call off him in bits… He said that he passed the medical then they made him do an eye test. He’s played 300 matches and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem. The whole thing stinks. Alex McLeish wanted to sign him. It’s the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to me.”

He eventually did move on but to Hull City on-loan before the move became permanent in the summer of 2013 with the club enjoying promotion to the Premier League. His time with Hull in the top-flight was not as successful, scoring just twice in 29 games although one did come in a 6-0 thrashing of Fulham in December 2013.

After starting the 2014-2015 campaign at Hull, making one appearance against Stoke City, he moved to Burnley on a three-year deal on deadline day. His finest Premier League moments would come that season against Manchester City. In December, he scored the first of the club’s two goals in their fine 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Three months later, it was his 61st minute strike that saw the champions defeated at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Burnley didn’t have enough all-round quality to avoid an instant return to the Championship.

The Scot stayed with the club to help them win promotion at the first attempt back to the top-flight and figured 36 times in 2016-2017, scoring twice as Burnley survived in the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Although he was offered a new deal, he decided for a fresh challenge away from Lancashire and signed for Sheffield Wednesday where he has only just made his league debut after injury hampered the early months of his time in Yorkshire.

Premier League Files: Simon Charlton

Premier League Career: Southampton (1993-1997), Bolton Wanderers (2001-2004), Norwich City (2004-2005)

Making over 500 appearances in a career that spanned 18 years, Simon Charlton was a player who never took the limelight at any of his clubs. However, he was a well-respected figure by the supporters of the teams he represented and was a consistent performer throughout.

Frequently deployed as a left-back, Charlton began his career with his hometown club, Huddersfield Town. During that stint, he demonstrated the capabilities to play as a central defender or even in midfield. It was this versatility that helped win stay with clubs and play in prominent squad positions.

He moved to Southampton in June 1993 for £250,000 but barely figured initially under Ian Branfoot at the Saints. His PL debut came in a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, over five months after arriving on the south coast. However, he went onto make 114 Premier League appearances at The Dell, scoring twice. One of those goals was in a narrow defeat to Manchester United in May 1995.

Three years later, Simon dropped down a division to Birmingham City and would spend three campaigns in the second-tier, eventually escaping Division One with Bolton Wanderers in 2001. On his return to the top-flight, he appeared in 36 of the Trotters’ 38 Premier League matches in 2001-2002. Bolton avoided relegation and Charlton was chosen as the club’s Player of the Year. As Bolton started to improve under Sam Allardyce and more continental stars arrived, it wasn’t a surprise to see him slip down the pecking order at the Reebok Stadium.

He moved to Norwich City in 2004 but couldn’t avoid relegation with the Canaries in his first season with them. He fell out with boss Nigel Worthington and was released on a free transfer in 2006. On his departure, he fired parting shots at Worthington, claiming he had been made a “scapegoat” for the team’s indifferent performance that season. He spent one year at Oldham Athletic before retiring from the game. After playing, Charlton served time as a youth coach back at Norwich before going into management for a season at non-league Mildenhall. He now works in media as a commentator and summariser for Bolton Wanderers matches for BBC Radio Manchester.

Premier League Files: Steven Caulker

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur (2012-2013), Cardiff City (2013-2014), Queens Park Rangers (2014-2015), Southampton (2015), Liverpool FC (2016)

Defender Steven Caulker has already played for six different Premier League clubs. He will be hoping to reach the heights of the top-flight again. Currently at Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, Caulker has opened up in 2017 about a dark and grim period in his life which saw him battle mental illness. In recent years, the product of the Tottenham Hotspur academy has lost his way in his career but his courage in speaking out deserves praise and many will hope to see him back to his best in the near future.

Caulker supported his hometown club Brentford in his youth. Despite being a talented athlete as a teenager, especially at 400m, Caulker chose to pursue a career in football. It was one of his youth coaches who saw traits of a central defender in the player and encouraged him to move back from his early days when Caulker was trying out a career as a central midfielder.

He impressed at youth level with Tottenham and signed his first professional contract with the north London club in July 2009. It was time for Caulker to go and play at first-team level. For the 2009-2010 season, he was sent out on-loan to League One outfit Yeovil Town, alongside a fellow future Tottenham first-team player in Ryan Mason. He impressed throughout his loan period with them, starting 44 games. After a brief cameo with Tottenham in a League Cup defeat to Arsenal in September 2010, he signed a contract extension and went out on-loan again, this time to Bristol City. Again, he did well and despite his loan spell being cut short by a knee cartilage injury in March 2011, he was voted Bristol City’s Young Player of the Year.

Another loan would follow in 2011-2012 but this time, it would be in the Premier League with newly-promoted Swansea City. He made his top-flight debut in Swansea’s opening game; a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City. Unfortunately, a collision with the goalpost at the Emirates Stadium ruled him out of action for three months. After this absence, he became a regular fixture in the Swansea side, featuring 26 times as the south Welsh club finished an excellent 11th in their maiden Premier League campaign.

In the summer of 2012, he represented the Great Britain team during the football tournament at the 2012 London Olympics. In the same year, he won his one and only international cap with England and scored too in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden in Gothenburg.

In 2012-2013, Caulker would spend the entire season with his parent club. He made his Premier League bow for Tottenham as a half-time substitute in a home win over Queens Park Rangers in September 2012. A fortnight later, he scored his first Tottenham goal in a 2-0 home win against Aston Villa and would add another away at Manchester City in November, although this would end in a narrow 2-1 defeat. He was contracted to Tottenham until 2016 but when newly-promoted Cardiff City made a bid of £8 million for the player, Spurs accepted the offer and Caulker was heading back to Wales but this time on a permanent basis.

A lot was expected considering the fee paid by the Bluebirds and he would justify the price tag, scoring five goals and playing every single minute of the campaign. Highlights included two goals in a 3-1 victory over relegation rivals Fulham and a headed winner in the first Premier League Welsh derby as Cardiff edged out Swansea 1-0. However, Caulker couldn’t prevent his side from being relegated as they finished bottom of the Premier League. Unfortunately, Caulker’s career has fizzled out pretty dramatically since. He stayed in the top-flight following Cardiff’s demise by joining Queens Park Rangers. Although he scored in a home draw with Stoke City, Caulker’s form was not as strong as it had been at Cardiff and he experienced the bitter pain of relegation in back-to-back seasons.

Nevertheless, Southampton signed the centre-back on a loan deal in July 2015 which was meant to last the whole campaign. He failed to break-up the formidable axis of Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk and played just eight times in all competitions for the Saints. After an insipid display in the 6-1 League Cup battering by Liverpool FC, Caulker would never play for Southampton again. In January 2016, he joined Liverpool FC on yet another loan deal and featured three times, all as a substitute. He did claim one assist and it was a big one too, as Adam Lallana scored a 95th minute winner in the incredible 5-4 victory over Norwich City.

Caulker returned to Queens Park Rangers but continued to struggle to find his best form. In the summer of 2017, he admitted in an interview with The Guardian about struggles with mental illness, plus addictions to drinking and gambling. He said: “For too long I’ve hated everything about myself and I needed to learn to love myself again. I miss the game like crazy. I don’t feel as if I’ve enjoyed playing football since Cardiff. I don’t want to type my name into Google and just see a list of humiliating stories. I want people to remember I am a footballer who was good enough to represent his country at 20 and still has 10 years left in the game.”

“Wherever the opportunity arises, I’m just thankful still to be alive.”

It is hard to believe that he is still only 25. If he can beat his demons, Steven Caulker still has a future in the game and the chance to fulfil his early talent.

Premier League Files: Angel Rangel

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-PRESENT)

Angel Rangel has spent the majority of his professional career at just one club, Swansea City. His loyalty was rewarded in November 2017 when he was made club captain by Swans’ manager Paul Clement, replacing Leon Britton who moved into a player-assistant role.

Born in Catalonia, Rangel played for several clubs in Spain but never in the top-flight of his homeland country. In the summer of 2007, fellow compatriot Roberto Martinez brought him to Swansea for an undisclosed fee. Since then, Rangel has been a prominent part of Swansea’s journey into the top-flight and beyond.

When he joined the Welsh side, they were in League One. He had an excellent debut campaign in British football, scoring twice and being one of five Swansea players to feature in the PFA League One Team of the Year. Swansea were promoted as League One champions, ending a 24-year exile outside the top two leagues.

He continued to feature prominently in Swansea’s teams during their Championship days under the guidance of Martinez, Paulo Sousa and then Brendan Rodgers. It was under Rodgers in 2011 that Swansea made their breakthrough into the Premier League, beating Reading 4-2 in the Championship play-off final. During that summer, he signed a three-year extension to his contract.

In August 2012, Rangel scored his first Premier League goal, opening the scoring in Swansea’s 3-0 home win over West Ham United. He scored three goals that campaign in the top-flight. He’s only got four in his PL career. His most recent strike was a crucial one as it won Swansea three vital points against Crystal Palace in January 2017 – Clement’s first game in charge as manager.

On the announcement of becoming captain, he said: “I never thought I would end up as a captain, but I am proud and honoured and full of enthusiasm after being given this chance.”

Now 35, Rangel only featured once in the first 11 games of the 2017-2018 Premier League season but his experience and guile will be important as Swansea face another difficult campaign at the wrong end of the table.

Premier League Files: Peter Beagrie

Premier League Career: Everton (1992-1994, 1997-1998), Manchester City (1994-1996), Bradford City (1999-2001)

Peter Beagrie spent 23 years in professional football, playing for no fewer than 10 teams. In the Premier League, he featured for Everton, Manchester City and Bradford City. Beagrie is also well-known for bringing acrobatics into his game with the somersault goal celebration that he’d show off whenever he scored.

Raised in Middlesbrough, he began his career as an apprentice at Boro in 1983 but left acrimoniously following their liquidation in 1986. Arriving at Sheffield United for a tribunal fee of just £35,000, he was voted Player of the Year by the club’s fans in his debut year. He scored 11 times for the Blades’ but was sold in the summer of 1988 by Dave Bassett, who felt Beagrie’s inconsistency was going to be a problem going forwards. His next port of call was Stoke City. He was given high praise by his then teammate Chris Kamara, who stated: “He is the best winger in the country – even better than John Barnes.”

He was Stoke’s top goalscorer in 1988-1989 but was sold to Everton in November 1989 for £750,000 as Stoke elected to cash in after making a rotten start to the season. Beagrie remained with Everton into the transformation of the Premier League and he even scored the first goal of the 1993-1994 season, netting after 10 minutes of the Toffees’ 2-0 victory over Southampton. Mike Walker didn’t rate him though when he succeeded Howard Kendall and decided to sell him to Manchester City on transfer deadline day in March 1994. He was sold for £1.1 million to allow Walker to fund a move for Swedish winger Anders Limpar, who was leaving Arsenal in an aim to get minutes under his belt before the World Cup finals in the United States. Everton fans were not impressed as Beagrie was one of their favourite players.

He made an early impression on City and Brian Horton and put in an incredible performance against Tottenham Hotspur in October 1994, setting up two goals and giving Tottenham’s full-backs the runaround in a 5-2 victory. Unfortunately, he couldn’t replicate his form on a regular basis and only played five times in their relegation season of 1995-1996 when Alan Ball had succeeded Horton as City manager. After a brief loan spell back at Everton in 1998, Beagrie’s final Premier League stint came with Bradford City. He scored seven times in their debut Premier League season as the Bantams’ avoided relegation on the final day of the 1999-2000 season. He left after their relegation a season later and would drop down three divisions to join Scunthorpe United. He played 172 times for Scunthorpe between 2001 and 2006 and eventually ended his lengthy playing career with a brief nine-game spell at Grimsby Town.

By then, Beagrie was another ex-footballer who was trying his hand at media work, especially for Sky Sports, making regular appearances on Soccer AM and the channel’s Football League coverage. In August 2017, Sky sacked him after Beagrie was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend during a drunken incident.

He was a journeyman for the bulk of his career but Peter Beagrie often produced the spectacular, especially after he scored with his entertaining celebrations.

Premier League Files: Gary Rowett

Premier League Career: Everton (1994-1995), Derby County (1996-1998), Leicester City (2000-2002), Charlton Athletic (2002-2004)

Now manager of Derby County in the SkyBet Championship, Gary Rowett will be aiming one day to manage in the Premier League. His playing career took him to four clubs in the top-flight and his best days were with the Rams between 1996 and 1998 under the guidance of Jim Smith.

Rowett started his career at Cambridge United and was part of the team that finished fifth in the Second Division during the 1991-1992 campaign, the club’s best league finish to-date. After three strong campaigns at the Abbey Stadium, Rowett was signed by Everton for £200,000 in March 1994. His debut was a nightmare, featuring for just 11 minutes as Everton were crushed 5-1 at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday. He would play only four times in the top-flight for the Toffees.

During his Everton stint, the full-back went out on-loan to Blackpool before being sold onto Derby in a part-exchange which saw Craig Short go to Goodison Park.  He was more of a first-team regular at Derby. His first Premier League goal came in April 1997 in a victory over Aston Villa. He also struck in a win at Coventry City towards the end of the 1996-1997 campaign as Derby finished a creditable 12th in their maiden Premier League season.

He was sold to Birmingham City in 1998 but after failing to win promotion to the Premier League with the Blues, he moved back into the top-flight with Leicester City in 2000. He featured in every single game in 2000-2001 under Peter Taylor and even scored in a fine victory over Chelsea. Injuries then started to catch up with Rowett. He played just 11 times in Leicester’s 2001-2002 relegation season before moving to Charlton Athletic. His final game in the top-flight was on the opening weekend of the 2003-2004 campaign as Charlton went down 3-0 to Manchester City. A persistent knee injury put an end to his career and he went straight into management.

Rowett has managed Burton Albion and Birmingham City. He was surprisingly sacked by Birmingham in December 2016, despite sitting seventh in the Championship table and only outside the playoffs on goal difference. After a brief spell out of the game doing some punditry work with Sky Sports, he returned to management with Derby County in March 2017, succeeding Steve McClaren.

Premier League Files: Andy Reid

Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (2005-2006), Charlton Athletic (2006-2007), Sunderland (2008-2011), Blackpool (2011)

Turning professional in August 1999, Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid would start and finish his career in the same place – the second-tier of English football with Nottingham Forest. In-between that, he had spells with four Premier League clubs but never quite managed to scale the heights he achieved at Forest.

Reid started making a name for himself at a couple of Irish youth clubs – Lourdes Celtic and Cherry Orchard. There were a number of clubs queuing up to get his signature but ultimately, he chose Nottingham Forest over the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. His breakthrough season came in 2003-2004. Despite missing a fair portion of the campaign due to injury, Reid finished as the club’s top scorer with 13 goals and was named in the PFA Division One Team of the Year. It was at this time he decided a new challenge was required.

On the eve of the 2004-2005 campaign, he handed in a transfer request but ultimately stayed until January 2005, moving on deadline day to Tottenham Hotspur alongside his teammate Michael Dawson. A combined fee of £8 million was paid to Forest by Spurs. However, his dream move quickly turned sour.

After his debut performance for Tottenham in a win over Portsmouth, manager Martin Jol was quoted as saying; “Andy Reid also did well on his debut, and you worry a bit how new players will cope with the Premiership.” You got the sense the manager was never certain of Reid’s qualities and neither were the Tottenham supporters.

He scored once for Tottenham in a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa in May 2005 but he never hit the heights of his time at Forest and was derided as a flop by many journalists analysing the dealings in the January transfer market of that season. In August 2006, he moved to Charlton Athletic for £3 million. Once again, Reid experienced turmoil with three managers that season and Charlton were ultimately relegated from the top-flight.

Back in the Championship, Reid sparkled even when Charlton didn’t. Three years after his January deadline day move to Tottenham, Andy was moving again on the final day of the window – this time to Sunderland in a £5 million transfer. He was signed by fellow Irishman Roy Keane and the early signs were encouraging. Reid set-up a goal on his debut and scored a late winner against West Ham United at the end of March. However, his performances quickly went back to games where he was glorious and other matches where he barely existed on the pitch. By now, injuries were also taking their toll on a player who won 29 international caps for his country, scoring four goals.

His Sunderland career petered out in 2010 and after a three-month loan spell at Sheffield United; he signed for battling Blackpool in January 2011. It was his fourth Premier League club and once again, it ended in disappointment. Reid only made five appearances and the Tangerines’ lost their battle to stay in the top-flight. He returned to Nottingham Forest to finish his playing career. Although he was named Forest’s Player of the Year in 2014, Andy could not keep clear of the treatment table. Eventually, these setbacks caught up with him and he retired from the game in July 2016.

Andy Reid never quite settled away from Nottingham Forest and once a spate of injuries take their course, it is difficult to rediscover early heights. One thing you did get from him – he loved a January transfer.

Premier League Files: Robbie Earle

Premier League Career: Wimbledon (1992-2000)

Robbie Earle spent his entire playing career with just two clubs. He played professionally for 18 years until a nasty injury forced him to quit the game he loved in November 2000. In that time, he became a cult hero at Port Vale and was a major part of the ‘The Crazy Gang’ squad at Wimbledon that often was able to defy the odds against relegation.

Earle’s youth career started at Stoke City but a broken leg put paid to any hopes of a professional deal with the Potteries. Stoke’s local rivals Port Vale took a chance on Earle and he signed a pro contract with them in 1982. He spent nine years with Vale, helping them during that time from the Fourth Division to the Second Division in 1989.

An attacking midfielder who loved to score goals, Earle was well-known for late runs into the penalty area and was a formidable competitor in heading challenges. He won a regular place in the Port Vale team for the start of the 1984-1985 campaign. He showed his durability by making 142 consecutive appearances for Vale between September 1984 and January 1987. That run ended with a groin strain that required a hernia operation and forced him to miss most of the early part of the 1987-1988 campaign. Considered one of the best midfielders to play for the club, Earle would feature 357 times and score 90 goals. He was sold to Wimbledon for a fee of £775,000 in July 1991.

His first year in south London was his best in terms of goalscoring return, scoring 14 times despite Wimbledon having three managers during the course of the season. His strikes kept them in the top-flight which became the Premier League in 1992. He scored seven times in the inaugural season of the new top division in English football and another nine goals in 1993-1994 when Wimbledon finished above several elite clubs including Liverpool FC, Aston Villa and Chelsea to finish sixth in the table.

Injury restricted Earle to just nine appearances in 1994-1995 but he regained fitness for the following season and was appointed club captain ahead of the 1995-1996 term by manager Joe Kinnear. This was Earle’s best top-flight campaign. He scored 11 goals including strikes in victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers. Another strong aspect of Robbie’s game was his ability to link-up with the other Wimbledon attack-minded players, including Mick Harford, Efan Ekoku and Dean Holdsworth.

Under his captaincy in 1996-1997, Wimbledon enjoyed a brilliant season, going on a lengthy unbeaten run in the Premier League between early September and late December. They also made the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions before losing to eventual winners, Leicester City and Chelsea respectively. Robbie’s consistency earned him the Premier League Player of the Month award in February 1997.

Although he harboured ambitions of playing international football for England, Earle was eligible to play for Jamaica as both of his parents were Jamaican. He accepted the offer to play at international level for the Jamaicans and would play at their only major international tournament so far – the 1998 World Cup finals in France. He scored their first-ever goal in the competition against Croatia in Lens and played all three of their group stage matches. His services to football saw him earn an MBE in 1999.

Earle was part of the Wimbledon squad that waved goodbye to Premier League football in 2000, relegated on the final day at The Dell by Southampton. Later that year, during a reserve team game, he sustained a heavy blow to the stomach that ruptured his pancreas. He admitted years later: “One afternoon in hospital, I was told that I had picked up an infection again. By this time I had lost four stone. My breathing was irregular, I was in agony. If somebody had told me that death was the best choice, I’d have accepted it – anything to take away the pain.”

At the age of 35, he was forced to retire from playing. He moved into the world of football journalism and has worked for the likes of Capital Radio, ESPN, BBC Radio 5 Live and ITV. A familiar face with ITV, he was sacked by them days into the 2010 World Cup for giving away tickets for a group stage match between Netherlands and Denmark which were sold to a brewery company. He admitted to his “naivety” after this error of judgement. Earle is now a commentator for the Premier League on NBC and has also done some analytical work on the MLS.

Premier League Files: Jordon Mutch

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2010-2011), Cardiff City (2013-2014), Queens Park Rangers (2014), Crystal Palace (2014-PRESENT)

Jordon Mutch’s career has stalled in recent times. Still on the books at Crystal Palace, Mutch will be hoping that his persistence will pay off, having turned down the chance to move on-loan to Championship clubs this summer. His best spell in the Premier League was during Cardiff City’s single season dalliance at this level in 2013-2014.

From Derby, Mutch began his football career in the youth system at his local club and built a close working relationship with the Rams’ Academy director Terry Westley. They would link up again in the summer of 2007 when Mutch decided to ditch Derby for Birmingham, where Westley had gone as Academy director earlier in the calendar year. There was interest from Aston Villa and Liverpool FC but Mutch wasn’t going to turn his back on taking his development to a club that might not give him the opportunities to progress.

A year later, he made his first-team debut as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Southampton. He became Birmingham’s second-youngest debutant of all-time, aged 16 years and 268 days. The only Birmingham player to have featured at a younger age was the first £1 million footballer, Trevor Francis. Loan spells would follow at Hereford United, Doncaster Rovers and Watford.

2011 was Mutch’s big breakthrough at Birmingham. He made his debut in the Premier League in January, playing all 90 minutes at Old Trafford against Manchester United. The Red Devils’ won 5-0 but it was an afternoon that Mutch will look back on with pride. Days later, he signed a three-year extension to his contract which had been due to run out that summer.

He stuck with the Blues’ despite their relegation to the Championship but with the club experiencing a transfer embargo and having just lost manager Chris Hughton to Norwich City; Mutch was sold to ease financial worries. He joined Cardiff City for an undisclosed fee. This meant he would work under Malky Mackay again. Mackay had been manager at Watford when Mutch had a loan spell at Vicarage Road. A persistent foot injury would keep him out of action for five months. However, Mutch did get himself fit to play the final eight games of the season as Cardiff gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Cardiff’s first Premier League away victory was one of Mutch’s finest Premier League moments. In the 92nd minute, he struck a spectacular winner away to Fulham in September 2013. His 25-yard strike ensured the Bluebirds’ achieved their first win away from home since November 1961. His individual performances were brilliant. He scored seven times, including two goals in a home defeat to Liverpool FC. He hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since Cardiff’s relegation.

Cardiff went down but Mutch’s performances were enough for Queens Park Rangers to pay the Welsh club £6 million on the eve of the 2014-2015 season. He started the opening day defeat to Hull City but failed to settle in west London and would eventually move to Crystal Palace towards the end of the January 2015 transfer window. QPR were able to recoup £4.75 million of the transfer fee they’d paid Cardiff from Palace.

He has featured 40 times for Palace in all competitions but has struggled to breakthrough regularly into the first-team at Selhurst Park. He joined Reading on-loan in the second part of the 2016-2017 campaign but didn’t do enough for the Royals’ to be tempted to fork out a permanent deal for the midfielder. In August 2017, he turned down loan moves to Bristol City and Burton Albion in an effort to establish himself in the capital.

Current evidence would suggest he might need to reconsider his thoughts on moving for the good of his career. All he can do is work hard in training and hope former England manager Roy Hodgson takes a chance on him.

Premier League Files: Richard Dunne

Premier League Career: Everton (1997-2000), Manchester City (2000-2001, 2002-2009), Aston Villa (2009-2013), Queens Park Rangers (2014-2015)

Richard Dunne is a Premier League veteran, having featured in the top-flight 431 times for the likes of Everton, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers. His most successful time was in the colours of Manchester City, featuring nearly 300 times for the club, departing just before the club’s rich success under the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Dunne began his Premier League journey at Everton, signing schoolboy forms in 1995 and been given his debut at this level by Joe Royle at the age of just 17. Being a youngster meant mischief was bound to follow and he was disciplined by the club for two separate off-field incidents during Walter Smith’s reign. In 1999, it looked like he was going to join Wimbledon but the move fell through at the last minute and the man from Dublin stuck it out at Goodison Park into the millennium.

After 60 appearances for the Merseysiders, a move for Richard was probably best for all parties. Back in the top-flight after back-to-back promotions, Manchester City was the perfect destination where the man who had given him his Premier League debut, Joe Royle, was now in the dugout at Maine Road. £3.5 million was paid to Everton and he would start a nine-year stint at Eastlands.

Relegation was a setback in 2001 but the Irish international stuck with the club under Kevin Keegan’s tenure and helped the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt. Like at Everton, some indiscretions off-the-field led to trouble and in 2003, he was even suspended by the club for these incidents. It was at this stage that saw Dunne turnaround his career which was in danger of completely petering out. He went on a serious fitness regime programme, won back his place in both his club and country set-ups and started to set an example for the youngsters in the side. He learned from his bad experiences and therefore, that made him a decent person for the youth stars at City to listen to.

His best spell at the club came before the huge money came into the place. Richard won the Manchester City Player of the Year award for four successive seasons; becoming the first player in the club’s history to achieve this. With Sylvain Distin on the verge of leaving for Portsmouth in 2006, Stuart Pearce handed Dunne the captain’s armband. It was a huge honour that he would hold for three seasons. In January 2007, his teammate Micah Richards gave him high praise, saying: “Ever since I’ve come to this club Richard has just been quality. I play with him week in, week out and I think he’s one of the best players I’ve played with. I’ve played with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the England squad but Richard is right up there with them.”

He did set some unwanted history in January 2009. A red card against Wigan Athletic was his eighth Premier League dismissal, equalling a record jointly-held by Duncan Ferguson and Patrick Vieira. When Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott arrived at the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2009, he knew his time was coming to an end at the club. Aston Villa snapped him up in the closing days of that summer window for a fee of £5 million.

In October 2009, Villa played City at Villa Park and the teams shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Dunne scored the opening goal that night and was applauded by his former supporters for not celebrating the goal; a trait that has become fairly common in recent times across the game. He had a great first season in the Midlands. Dunne scored one of the goals in a victory over eventual champions Chelsea and was voted into the PFA Team of the Year.

That would be the peak of his career. Injuries and a loss of form followed and he was released by Villa in 2013. After one more Premier League campaign which ended with relegation in 2015 at Queens Park Rangers, Richard hung up his boots and he now does some occasional punditry work for BT Sport whilst spending his time living in the streets of Monte Carlo with his wife and two children.

Richard Dunne was a committed, fierce and combative defender who was unlucky to be playing for Manchester City in a period when they were still widely considered as the sleeping giants of English football.

Premier League Files: Geoff Horsfield

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2002-2003), West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006)

Geoff Horsfield was one of those players who would always give a workmanlike effort. His hold-up ability and talent to back into defenders allowed his strike partners to get onto the end of decent opportunities. Horsfield’s career has been through a varied rollercoaster of emotions; from the joy of helping Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 to a battle with testicular cancer six years later.

His Football League breakthrough came as a teenager at the now-defunct club Scarborough before being released in 1994. Geoff had to earn his living then in part-time football with the likes of Witton Albion and Halifax Town whilst holding down a job as a bricklayer. A serious knee injury whilst in the non-league briefly threatened his longer-term football career but Horsfield would never let adversity get him down. After helping Halifax return to the Football League, he joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998 who were managed at the time by Kevin Keegan.

There was an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. Fulham won the Second Division title by 14 points and Horsfield was voted into the division’s PFA Team of the Year after chipping in with 15 goals from 28 games. Before leaving to take the England job, Keegan made a bold prediction: “Geoff’s your old-fashioned centre forward and we love him. He will score goals in the next divisions. He chases a lot of lost causes.”

Keegan’s successor, Jean Tigana disagreed and sold him to Birmingham City in July 2000. Horsfield proved the Frenchman wrong, featuring in the 2001 League Cup final and scoring the equaliser in the 2002 First Division playoff final against Norwich City which saw Birmingham promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

He will always be fondly remembered by Birmingham supporters for his contributions in the two Second City derbies in the 2002-2003 campaign. He capitalised on a dreadful mistake from Alpay to score the third goal in Birmingham’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at St Andrews. That was his first goal at this level. Six months later, he beat Peter Enckelman to a loose ball to score the second goal in a 2-0 win at Villa Park to ensure a famous league double for Birmingham as they finished a creditable 13th in their first season at this level.

However, he was slightly frustrated about his lack of starts in the top-flight and moved on in the closing days of the 2003 August transfer window, eventually to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion via a brief unhappy spell at Wigan Athletic.

On signing Horsfield, Gary Megson suggested: “I actually went out on a bit of a limb by saying to the chairman that I think [Horsfield] would get us promoted … I think he just gave us that little something that was missing in getting hold of the ball, a little bit of cuteness up the front that enabled us to bring other people into the game.”

Megson was correct with his view. Geoff scored seven times and helped West Brom back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. 2004-2005 would see him have another go at the top-flight.

It started slowly for both player and club but Geoff became a Baggies’ cult figure forever with his impact on ‘Survival Sunday’ in 2005. Going into the final day of the season, none of the bottom four were safe and two points adrift of safety, it was West Brom who were the bookies’ favourites for relegation. By now, Bryan Robson was in charge and he left Horsfield on the bench for the crucial match against Portsmouth. The scoreline was 0-0 when Robson decided early in the second half to bring Horsfield on.

Within seconds, he had scored with his first touch to haul West Brom ahead and out of the bottom three. Kieran Richardson added a second goal, set-up by Horsfield and when Crystal Palace conceded late at Charlton, the party could begin. West Bromwich Albion survived and Horsfield later admitted this was the best achievement of his football career, despite the promotions he’d achieved with Halifax, Fulham and Birmingham.

He started 2005-2006 with this confidence, scoring twice against Portsmouth again and adding another against former club Birmingham but that was to be his last goal in the Premier League. He was loaned to Sheffield United in February 2006 and although he was a member of the Blades’ Premier League squad of 2006-2007, he never played for the club at the highest level.

In October 2008, Geoff revealed he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was advised to retire from football. After successful treatment, he returned to the game with spells at Lincoln City and Port Vale. After doing some coaching with the latter, he walked away from football completely in May 2012 to pursue his business interests.

He was a no-nonsense footballer and there is no doubt that Geoff Horsfield left his mark on the Premier League chapters of both Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.