Category Archives: Premier League Files

Premier League Files: Maik Taylor

Premier League Career: Southampton (1997), Fulham (2002-2003), Birmingham City (2003-2006, 2007-2010)

Goalkeeping has been a part of Maik Taylor’s professional football life. He kept goal for the likes of Fulham and Birmingham City during a career that was underrated but enjoyable. Since 2014, he has been the goalkeeping coach for the Northern Ireland international football team, a country that he served for 88 times as a player between 1999 and 2011.

Born in Hildesheim in Germany to a German mother and English father, Taylor spent his early infancy in Germany but moved to England as a schoolboy and made his Football League breakthrough in June 1995 when he signed for Barnet for a fee of just £700 from Farnborough Town. Southampton and in particular, Graeme Souness were impressed with his displays at Underhill and they made a move for him in 1997, prizing him away from Barnet for £500,000.

It showed the confidence Souness had in him straightaway that he put Taylor straight into the first-team on his arrival, displacing veteran Dave Beasant in the process. Maik kept a clean sheet on his debut in the 1-0 away victory at Middlesbrough and remained the first-choice keeper for the remainder of the season as Southampton narrowly avoided relegation. When Souness left, Dave Jones replaced him and signed Paul Jones from his former club, Stockport County in the summer of 1997. Jones immediately took the no.1 goalkeeper jersey and Taylor was restricted to warming the bench.

Kevin Keegan knew a talent was there and bought Taylor to Fulham in November 1997 for £800,000. It did mean a drop of two divisions but the guarantee of first-team football. He helped the Cottagers win the Second Division title and remained the first-choice goalkeeper even when Jean Tigana arrived to succeed Keegan in the Fulham hotseat. Taylor’s consistency in the 2000-2001 season helped Fulham win a place in the Premier League as Division One champions. However, when Tigana saw the opportunity to snap up experienced Dutchman Edwin van der Sar from Juventus, he wasn’t going to see that chance slip away. As frustrating as this must have been for Taylor, he simply couldn’t compete with someone with world-class abilities that Van der Sar possessed.

Maik stayed with Fulham and actually played a bulk of their 2002-2003 games when Van der Sar sustained an injury in December 2002 at St James’ Park that would keep him on the sidelines for a few months. However, it was Taylor who would move in the summer of 2003 to Birmingham City. The deal was initially a loan period but his outstanding displays saw Steve Bruce waste no time in triggering a £1.5 million buying fee in March 2004. Taylor’s performances were recognised by his peers and he was in the running to be included as the goalkeeper in the PFA Team of the Year before losing out to Manchester United’s Tim Howard.

Taylor remained the regular first-choice for Bruce at Birmingham for the next four seasons and despite experiencing two painful Premier League relegations, his knowledge of the Football League was vital in Birmingham ensuring they won two instant promotions under the guidance of first Bruce, then Alex McLeish. However, he spent the 2009-2010 campaign  playing second-fiddle again after McLeish signed Joe Hart on-loan for the season from Manchester City. Taylor would only play two league matches that season – both games against City as Hart was ineligible to play against his parent team. They were to be his final top-flight appearances.

He remained a squad member in 2010-2011 but never played as Ben Foster had joined from Manchester United to take the first-choice goalkeeping position and Maik was released following their third Premier League relegation. He had spells with Leeds United and Millwall before hanging up his gloves in May 2013. Two months later, he moved into coaching with Northern Ireland.

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Premier League Files: Stephen Ireland

Premier League Career: Manchester City (2005-2010), Aston Villa (2010, 2011-2013), Newcastle United (2011), Stoke City (2013-PRESENT)

Stephen Ireland’s career started with plenty of potential at Manchester City. Now at the age of 31, he has just experienced Premier League relegation for the first time in his career with Stoke City. The former Republic of Ireland international has had some injury problems in Staffordshire. However, his lack of progress since leaving Eastlands in 2010 is startling.

Born in Cork, Ireland was spotted playing junior football by several British clubs. He eventually chose Manchester City and made his professional debut for the club as an 18-year-old in September 2005. He came on as an 81st minute substitute in a narrow 1-0 home loss to Bolton Wanderers. It was ex-Nottingham Forest left-back Stuart Pearce who gave Ireland his senior breakthrough and it happened around the same time where other City graduates were making an impact on the first-team line-up. They included Lee Croft, Micah Richards and Joey Barton.

Two weeks after his first Premier League appearance, Stephen made his first start in the 2-0 victory over Everton and won the Man of the Match for a very impressive full start. He ended a promising first campaign with 28 appearances and a new contract that would keep him at the club until 2009. His rapid progress continued in a struggling side in 2006-2007. Ireland scored his first Premier League goal on Boxing Day in a crucial 1-0 victory away at Sheffield United.

Sven-Goran Eriksson succeeded Pearce in the summer of 2007 and ensured Ireland remained a key part of the Citizens midfield. He scored four times in the Premier League in 2007-2008. One of these strikes did attract some controversy though for his celebration against Sunderland. After scoring the only goal of the game, he dropped his shorts to reveal a pair of underpants sporting the Superman logo! He was given a warning by the FA for his actions. This came in a tricky period for the midfielder where his international career came to a shuddering halt.

After scoring four times in just six international appearances and days before a crunch European Championships qualifier against the Czech Republic, Ireland was given compassionate leave by his international manager, Steve Staunton. Staunton had received a phone call from Ireland’s girlfriend reporting the death of his maternal grandmother. However, the media quickly learned this was a lie and Ireland changed his story announcing it was his paternal grandmother who had passed away. More lies were discovered in the days that followed and he was forced to finally tell the truth, admitting he was making an excuse to leave the team hotel so he could visit his girlfriend in Cork. It was naïve, angered a lot of people and damaged his professional reputation greatly. He would never play international football again.

Despite this damaging episode, he remained an integral part of Manchester City’s plans, even in the early years of the Abu Dhabi Group’s takeover which would turn their fortunes completely around. This included 13 goals in all competitions in the 2008-2009 season when Mark Hughes was the first-team manager. However, Roberto Mancini’s arrival and his signings of Patrick Vieira and Nigel de Jong limited his impact in the second half of the 2009-2010 campaign. His Manchester City career had reached its conclusion.

In August 2010, he was made a makeweight in a deal with Aston Villa which saw the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year, James Milner move to City effectively as his replacement. Ireland left some stinging criticism for his former employers, saying: “Even the young lads (at Villa) are so polite. I’m actually quite shocked with that. At City they’re not like that. They’re coming in with £10,000 watches on their wrists and walking around as if they have played 200 Premier League games.”

His debut for the Villans was a disaster. Aston Villa lost 6-0 to Newcastle United and he was quickly dropped and criticised for his lack of work ethic by Gerard Houllier. He was made surplus to requirements and after just six months at Villa Park, was loaned to Newcastle for the remainder of the 2010-2011 campaign. Ankle injuries restricted him to just 49 minutes of first-team football on Tyneside and his career looked dangerously in limbo going into the summer of 2011.

Stating he was keen to fight for his first-team place at Villa Park, Ireland was handed the no.7 shirt by new manager Alex McLeish following Ashley Young’s departure to Manchester United. He responded well by winning the Supporters’ Player of the Year award, starring in particular at Stamford Bridge with a goal and an assist in Aston Villa’s 3-1 victory on New Years’ Eve.

However, he quickly fell out of favour with Paul Lambert when he took over as Villa manager in 2012 and was left out of the first-team squad for “footballing reasons” for the remainder of the season from January onwards. He was reunited with Hughes in September 2013, linking up with the Welshman at Stoke City. Since then, Stephen has made 59 appearances, scoring twice but again, he has made limited impact.

A broken leg in May 2016 didn’t help matters and he failed to make a single appearance for the Potters in 2017-2018 when their 10-year tenure in the Premier League came to an end. Out of contract this summer, it is highly unlikely he will stay when the retained list comes out in the coming weeks. Stephen Ireland’s career has been full of frustration and disappointment. When he finds the right environment, he can be a real force for the team. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really found that since he left Manchester City.

Premier League Files: DJ Campbell

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2005-2006), Blackpool (2010-2011), Queens Park Rangers (2011-2012)

Forward DJ Campbell played for three Premier League teams, experienced the heartache of relegation twice and actually experienced his most prolific scoring days in the non-league. Campbell did impress though in Blackpool’s one-season dalliance in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals in the 2010-2011 campaign.

Born in Hammersmith, Campbell started his career as a trainee at Aston Villa but failed to impress enough to get a professional deal. He went down into the non-league and came to prominence with a devastating spell at Yeading. He scored 83 times in 109 appearances in all competitions and managed to showcase his skills in a televised FA Cup tie with Newcastle United in 2005.

Brentford manager Martin Allen took a gamble on him in the summer of 2005, paying Yeading £5,000 and nine goals in 23 appearances was good returns for a player who was making a major jump upto League One level.

After scoring twice for the Bees to dump Premier League strugglers Sunderland out of the FA Cup in January 2006, DJ was sold to Birmingham City just three days after this fantastic moment for him personally. The Blues paid £500,000 for his services but he failed to score in the 11 appearances he made as Birmingham dropped out of the Premier League.

Campbell scored nine times in the 2006-2007 season as he helped Birmingham back to the top-flight at the first attempt but he was moved on by Steve Bruce that summer and spent the next three years with moves to Leicester City and loan periods at Derby County and Blackpool. It seemed like he’d finally found a settled home at the latter and Blackpool paid a club-record £1.25m to sign him permanently on transfer deadline day in August 2010.

In his first game as a permanent Blackpool player, he scored the second goal in a sensational 2-0 away win at St James’ Park against Newcastle United. He then went on to score matchwinning strikes away at Stoke City and Sunderland and a winner to send Liverpool FC crashing to a second league defeat of the season against the Tangerines. At this stage, Blackpool were punching well above their weight in mid-table. Unfortunately, they slid down the table and ended up going down. Campbell didn’t help their cause with a red card for violent conduct in a 4-0 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He moved to Queens Park Rangers in August 2011, joining the club he’d supported as a boy. Injuries restricted him to just 11 appearances, scoring once in an away win at Wolves. That was his final Premier League season. Campbell was loaned to Ipswich Town for the 2012-2013 campaign and went on to have spells with Blackburn Rovers, Millwall and Maidenhead United in the Conference South.

The latter part of DJ’s career was overshadowed by a spot-fixing scandal which saw him arrested in December 2013 along with five other men by the National Crime Agency. He was released without charge in August 2014 but it seriously damaged his relationship and love with the game of football.

Premier League Files: Oyvind Leonhardsen

Premier League Career: Wimbledon (1994-1997), Liverpool FC (1997-1999), Tottenham Hotspur (1999-2002), Aston Villa (2002-2003)

Oyvind Leonhardsen played for four different Premier League clubs across a nine-year period. His most productive spell was at his first English top-flight club, sparkling as a creative asset in a Wimbledon side that wasn’t always the most attractive, but quite effective in the mid-1990s.

Leonhardsen started his career in his native Norway, playing for top domestic clubs Molde FK and Rosenborg. He was voted Player’s Player of the Year in Norway for 1994 and for several seasons, was considered as the top midfielder in the division. He won 86 caps for his country, winning cult hero status and playing in two World Cup final tournaments.

Joe Kinnear brought him to the Premier League in time for the 1994-1995 season and he impressed constantly on the left-wing for Wimbledon. Across three campaigns, he scored 13 times. Towards the end of his final season in south-east London, Leonhardsen informed the Dons hierarchy that he wouldn’t be extending his contract which was due to expire in 1998. Rather than lose a talented player for nothing, Wimbledon cashed in on his services and he joined Liverpool FC in May 1997 for £3.5 million.

He was initially a regular in Roy Evans’ starting line-up but he never quite found his best form at Anfield. Sometimes, the expectation to deliver seemed to weigh too much on his shoulders. He netted seven times in 37 league games before switching to Tottenham Hotspur in 1999.

Leonhardsen was a victim of George Graham’s sacking in 2001. He got frozen out of Glenn Hoddle’s first-team plans and went on-trial to Bundesliga club FC Schalke 04 despite having another year to run on his deal at White Hart Lane. Schalke didn’t offer him a permanent deal but like fellow compatriot Ronny Johnsen, Graham Taylor did at Aston Villa. Tottenham allowed him to leave on a free transfer in August 2002 and he moved to the Midlands in a bit to kick-start his career again.

He spent just one campaign at Villa Park before returning to Scandinavia, finishing his playing days in 2007 with Strømsgodset aged 37. Leonhardsen is now working as a youth coach at his former club, Lyn Fotball.

In total, Oyvind scored 30 Premier League goals in his career and impressively, never finished on the losing side whenever he found the back of the net. That is an impressive feat considering the clubs he played for during his Premier League spell weren’t world-beaters.

Premier League Files: Juan Sebastian Veron

Premier League Career: Manchester United (2001-2003), Chelsea (2003-2004)

The British transfer record was broken in the summer of 2001 on two separate occasions by Manchester United. First, they completed the protracted signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy from PSV Eindhoven and then they swooped to sign Juan Sebastian Veron from Serie A giants Lazio. Although he won a Premier League title in 2003, Veron largely disappointed in United colours and endured another wretched season in the top-flight at Chelsea before heading back to Italy.

Veron made his professional debut in Argentine football in 1993 and even had a spell playing alongside the country’s national hero, Diego Maradona at Boca Juniors. He made the move into European football in 1996, when future England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson took him to Italian football with Sampdoria.

After making over 60 league appearances for Sampdoria, Parma paid £15 million for him after he sparkled in Argentina’s run to the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals. Parma were a decent team who always gave the leading Italian sides a run for their money but specialised primarily in cup competitions. Veron experienced this in 1998-1999, as Parma won both the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia.

His stay at Parma lasted just a solitary season. Eriksson was now manager of Lazio and took him to Rome for the 1999-2000 campaign in an £18.1 million deal. He scored eight goals as Lazio achieved the treble of UEFA Super Cup, Coppa Italia and the Serie A title.

Sir Alex Ferguson was impressed and in July 2001, signed Veron for £24.3 million. He scored three early season goals, including the fourth goal at White Hart Lane as Manchester United completed a sensational turnaround from 3-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-3. However, he really struggled to adapt to the Premier League as players didn’t allow him the time to dictate proceedings as he could in Italian football.

He saved his best performances at Old Trafford for the UEFA Champions League and scored four goals in the 2002-2003 group stages but league form remained erratic. The highlight of his two seasons in the Premier League was scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 victory over chief rivals Arsenal in December 2002. Ferguson tried to defend him in the media and even used expletives at times against journalists who picked on his inconsistent performances. Most United fans agreed with the general media consensus though that he was nothing short of an expensive flop.

In 2016, Veron admitted: “Games were intense for 90 minutes. In Italy, it was more tactical and about closing down the games. In England, the games were more open, the ball came back and forward. It was more physical too.”

In the summer of 2003, Chelsea had money to spend following Roman Abramovich’s takeover and Veron was one of the new arrivals, despite having a determination to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford. He made a brilliant start with the west Londoners and scored the first Premier League goal of the Abramovich era at Anfield in August 2003. Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Liverpool FC set them up for an excellent campaign under Claudio Ranieri which saw them finish runners-up in the Premier League and reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Veron struggled with injuries though and even when fit, couldn’t break into the team on a regular basis. When Jose Mourinho replaced Ranieri as manager in the summer of 2004, Veron was sent packing on-loan back to Italy, joining Inter Milan. He returned to his homeland in 2007, winding down his career in 2014 with Estudiantes where he is now chairman of the club.

Technically gifted and talented, Juan Sebastian Veron won a clutch of honours in his career but his best moments were few and far between in the Premier League.

Premier League Files: Clive Mendonca

Premier League Career: Charlton Athletic (1998-1999)

Clive Mendonca will always be linked with being a prominent part of Charlton Athletic’s sensational play-off final victory over Sunderland in 1998. He scored a magnificent hat-trick in the 4-4 draw which the Addicks went on to win on penalties, with Clive also converting his spot-kick in the shootout.

Mendonca started his professional career with Sheffield United in 1986 and also had periods in his career with Doncaster Rovers and Rotherham United. His best spells though were saved for Charlton and Grimsby Town. At Grimsby, he scored 60 goals in 166 appearances and is widely regarded as one of the club’s greatest forwards.

He moved to Charlton in the summer of 1997, scoring 28 times in an unforgettable campaign which ended with that wonderful day at Wembley against the Black Cats which was the club he supported as a boy. He made an amazing start to his Premier League career too, scoring another hat-trick in Charlton’s first match at home against Southampton. Alan Curbishley’s side won 5-0 and spent the weekend on top of the Premier League table.

He finished with eight goals in 24 appearances but injuries were starting to take their toll on Mendonca. His last game in the Charlton line-up came in December 1999 in the First Division. After over two years of constant setbacks, he announced his retirement in February 2002 after being advised by specialists that a further operation on his hip could leave him with permanent damage and possibly a disability.

In 2012, he was inducted into the Charlton Hall of Fame and now works at the Nissan car plant in Sunderland.

Premier League Files: Christian Ziege

Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (1999-2000), Liverpool FC (2000-2001), Tottenham Hotspur (2001-2004)

German international Christian Ziege enjoyed a glorious career, winning plenty of honours at a young age and only a freakish injury whilst at Tottenham Hotspur cut short a pretty impressive spell in the Premier League.

A left wing-back by trade, Ziege started his playing career with the mighty Bayern Munich. He made his Bundesliga debut in 1990 as an 18-year-old and spent the next seven years winning three trophies with the Bavarians. These were two Bundesliga titles and the UEFA Cup in 1996. Ziege showed his instincts in attack too, achieving double figures for goals in two campaigns with his 12 goals in 29 matches from the 1994-1995 season being his best individual season, actually ending as Bayern’s top scorer.

Capped by Germany for the first time in 1993, he missed out narrowly on the 1994 World Cup squad but was a prominent part of their success in the 1996 European Championships in England. Ziege scored in Germany’s opening group win over the Czech Republic and was one of the six successful Germans to score in the semi-final shootout success against the hosts at Wembley Stadium.

Ziege was a man in-demand by the summer of 1997. He received offers from Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Newcastle United but with Serie A still experiencing a boom of getting many top players, Ziege elected to move to AC Milan. He spent two seasons at The San Siro but faced stiff competition from Milan legend Paolo Maldini in his preferred position. Ziege did win the Serie A championship in 1999 but struggled to settle in the fashionable Italian city and chose to leave for the Premier League that summer.

His first port of call was Middlesbrough. He impressed hugely in his only season on Teeside, scoring six goals in 29 appearances and winning a recall to the German international setup for their doomed EURO 2000 title defence. After returning from their group stage exit, Liverpool FC made a £5.5 million bid to acquire Ziege’s services. This matched a clause in his contract which meant he had to talk to the Merseysiders. Middlesbrough insisted they’d received offers in the region of £8 million for the player but Christian would ultimately move to Anfield. The FA later found Liverpool guilty of making an illegal approach and in March 2002, fined the club £20,000 and the player £10,000.

Liverpool had an amazing 2000-2001 season, winning three cup competitions and earning UEFA Champions League football. However, the improving form of Jamie Carragher meant Ziege was not a guaranteed starter and he admitted in a FourFourTwo interview that for playing purposes, his move to Liverpool had been a mistake. He said: “Unfortunately I had some problems, problems with the manager [Gerard Houllier] and I still don’t know what his problem was with me. He never talked to me. I realised it was a bad move because I really enjoyed my time playing for Boro.”

Ziege played in the League Cup final victory over Birmingham City, scoring in the shootout but didn’t even make the bench for their sensational 5-4 UEFA Cup final success against Alaves in Dortmund. With a World Cup finals looming in Asia, he needed to leave to retain his national team appeal. He moved to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2001 and rediscovered his form from his Middlesbrough days. Ziege scored five times in the Premier League, including a diving header against Manchester United. He linked up well with the likes of Gus Poyet, Simon Davies and Teddy Sheringham as Tottenham reached the League Cup final. Ziege scored in the showpiece but this time, it was a losing cause as Glenn Hoddle’s side lost 2-1 to Blackburn Rovers. His form was enough for him to feature prominently at the 2002 World Cup, reaching the final as Germany lost 2-0 to a Ronaldo-inspired Brazil in Yokohama.

Throughout the years, he developed a reputation as a fearsome direct set-piece taker. This was demonstrated in the North London Derby of December 2002 at White Hart Lane. Less than two weeks later, his career was nearly cut short after two dramatic matches in a few days.

First, despite setting up two goals in Tottenham’s 3-2 victory over Manchester City, he was sent off for two bookable offences in the closing stages. On Boxing Day, he suffered a similar fate in the 2-2 home draw with Charlton Athletic. However, it was the aftermath that left more than his footballing life in the balance.

In the FourFourTwo interview, he revealed: “I was close to dying. I was playing for Tottenham against Charlton and I got a knock on my thigh. It wasn’t a big kick but my leg swelled up really badly after the match. I was in massive, massive pain. They operated on me, and I can’t remember too much about the next few days because they put me on a lot of medication to help relieve the pain. They told me if we’d left it another 30 or 45 minutes, they would have had to cut off the leg as otherwise I would have died.”

Ziege left Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2004 and returned to Germany to finish his career with Borussia Mönchengladbach. A persistent ankle injury restricted him to 13 appearances only and in October 2005, he announced his retirement.

Christian has gone into coaching since. He has had spells as manager of DSC Arminia Bielefeld and SpVgg Unterhaching, worked as a coach with the German international junior sides and moved to coach in Thailand in December 2017. However, he departed by mutual consent after just two games.

Premier League Files: Jesper Gronkjaer

Premier League Career: Chelsea (2001-2004), Birmingham City (2004)

A tricky winger who was once the most expensive Danish player in history, Jesper Gronkjaer might have had his detractors during his time with Chelsea but he will go down as having scored one of the most important goals in the club’s proud and distinguished history.

Pace was one of the main characteristics of Gronkjaer’s game and early on in his career; he was told by youth coaches that he could become a sprinter. He stuck with football though and sparkled with his first club, AaB. He scored 10 times in 86 matches for the club and played in the UEFA Champions League before moving to Dutch powerhouses Ajax in July 1998. Coached by Morten Olsen, Jesper won the Dutch Cup in his first full season in Amsterdam and a year later, the fans voted him as the Ajax Player of the Year.

His next calling was English football as Chelsea snapped him up for £7.8 million in October 2000. He arrived in west London with an injury, so didn’t make his first start for the Blues until January 2001, scoring twice in his first full appearance for the club in an FA Cup tie away to Gillingham. It was the first of just 11 goals he’d score in Chelsea colours and at times, some of his form was heavily inconsistent. However, he did have a knack of scoring crucial goals when the Londoners needed them most.

On the final day of the 2002-2003 season, Chelsea played host to Liverpool FC in what was a straight shootout for the final Champions League qualification place. Liverpool had to win to snatch fourth spot and took the lead early on, only for Chelsea to equalise virtually straightaway through their skipper, Marcel Desailly.

Just before the half hour mark, Gronkjaer escaped the attentions of John Arne Riise and bent a curling shot past Jerzy Dudek which sank Liverpool. Chelsea qualified for the Champions League for the first time in four years and it was such an important moment. On the brink of financial meltdown, this made Chelsea attractive to foreign investors. Less than two months later, Roman Abramovich bought the club and life at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t be the same again. Had it not been for Gronkjaer’s goal, the chances are Abramovich would have come into the English game but invested elsewhere.

It was nearly a full year before the flying Dane scored again as he opened the scoring in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, second leg against AS Monaco. It was all in vain though, as the French side prevailed over two legs. Gronkjaer, who had looked short of confidence throughout the 2003-2004 campaign, finished his season in style. He crashed home an effort at Old Trafford in the draw with Manchester United which secured Chelsea’s best finish in the league since 1955. A week later, his diving header beat Leeds United in Claudio Ranieri’s final match in-charge. This also turned out to be Gronkjaer’s final game for Chelsea.

He joined Birmingham City for £2.2 million in July 2004 but never settled and lasted just six months in the Midlands. He transferred to Atletico Madrid before the year was out and after one season in the Bundesliga with VfB Stuttgart, returned to his homeland in 2006. He retired professionally in 2011 with FC Copenhagen, winning four Danish league titles.

Premier League Files: Andy Impey

Premier League Career: Queens Park Rangers (1992-1996), West Ham United (1997-1998), Leicester City (1998-2002, 2003-2004)

Andy Impey made 289 appearances during a Premier League career that ultimately spanned 10 seasons. He scored 12 times in the top-flight, playing for London clubs Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United, before finishing his Premier League days with Leicester City in 2004.

Impey made his professional debut for Queens Park Rangers in 1991 and would play for the Hoops for six seasons. He was an auxiliary player who could play either at left-back or on the left-hand side of midfield. Impey’s consistency was shown by his teammates who voted him as the club’s Player of the Season in three consecutive seasons (1993, 1994 & 1995).

Impey stayed with QPR after their relegation from the Premier League in 1996 but he would eventually cut his ties with the club and joined West Ham United in 1997. Harry Redknapp was a fan of Impey’s and was very annoyed midway through the 1998-1999 season when he was sold to Leicester City behind the manager’s back.

Impey was part of Martin O’Neill’s squad that won the League Cup in 2000 and he appeared as a substitute in the final against Tranmere Rovers. Whilst he made over 100 appearances for the Foxes, Andy never quite found the form he demonstrated when he was at QPR. His final Premier League appearance was in February 2004 when Leicester lost 3-1 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

Shortly afterwards, he moved to Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest on-loan and the move became permanent in the summer of 2004. He finished his playing days with Millwall and Coventry City before calling time on his playing career in 2006.

In 2015, he rejoined Queens Park Rangers as an academy coach.

Premier League Files: Lars Bohinen

Premier League Career: Nottingham Forest (1994-1995), Blackburn Rovers (1995-1998), Derby County (1998-2000)

Norwegian international Lars Bohinen enjoyed a productive spell in English football. He played in the Premier League for Blackburn Rovers, Derby County and most prominently, Nottingham Forest. He was part of an exciting Forest side in the mid-1990s that finished third in the table in 1994-1995.

Born in Vadsø in 1969, Bohinen made his international debut at the age of just 20 and had already played for several clubs in his homeland as well as a successful time in Swiss football with BSC Young Boys. It was Frank Clark who managed to tempt him to English football, signing Bohinen in 1993 for £450,000. At the time, Forest were languishing in the First Division and were just 18th in November but they rapidly improved as the season progressed and ultimately won promotion in his first season in the Midlands.

In 1994-1995, Bohinen shone in a team of thrilling talent. His long-distance effort in a 4-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday in September 1994 set the tone for Lars’ season. He was showing no effects from his country’s agonising elimination in the group stages of that summer’s World Cup finals in the United States. Two weeks later, he was at it again, scoring a 30-yard lob at White Hart Lane in a very impressive 4-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur. He finished with figures of six goals in 34 league appearances as Clark’s side finished third, only behind Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United in the final standings.

In his contract, Bohinen had a £700,000 buyout fee which meant he could leave The City Ground if any club matched the fee. Reigning champions Blackburn did just this in October 1995 and he was heading for Lancashire. Clark was unimpressed, saying: “Lars is not the first player to move for money, but I feel very disappointed in him and let down. You learn from your mistakes and I would never again let anyone have that sort of clause, but when he first joined us I agreed to it as security for him.”

He never quite rediscovered his Forest form at Blackburn, although there were moments of magic, such as a fine individual effort at Old Trafford as Rovers drew 2-2 with the reigning champions in August 1996.

Having scored just once in the 1997-1998 season and firmly a backup player under Roy Hodgson’s tenure, Bohinen was sold to Derby County in March 1998 for £1.45 million. He scored his solitary goal for the Rams a month later in an away defeat to Crystal Palace. Injuries meant he wasn’t able to string together a consistent run of matches and he made his last Premier League appearance in a 4-1 loss to Chelsea in December 2000. A month later, Derby cancelled his contract and he returned to Norway.

Bohinen retired from playing in 2005 and has since held roles as the sporting director at Stabæk IF and assistant coach of Vålerenga. In 2011, Lars finished third in the Norwegian version of Strictly Come Dancing and is now firmly in management, having taken over as boss of Aalesund in December 2017.

Premier League Files: Julian Speroni

Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (2004-PRESENT)

Julian Speroni is Crystal Palace’s all-time record appearance maker and a club idol. He had a testimonial with the club in 2015 and although he is very much an understudy nowadays to Wayne Hennessey, the Argentine has seen some first-team action in the Premier League during the 2017-2018 season. This is Speroni’s 14th season on the books at Selhurst Park.

Born in Buenos Aires, Speroni made just two professional appearances in Argentine football before moving to British shores by signing for Dundee in 2001. He had three seasons at Dens Park and played over 100 times for the Dark Blues. He was a consistent goalie who won rave reviews from the experts in Scottish football and was on the radar for selection to the Argentine national team. That call-up didn’t arrive and hasn’t throughout his long career.

He moved to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2004 that had just enjoyed the euphoria of promotion to the Premier League. Palace paid Dundee £750,000 but he made a poor start as first-choice goalkeeper. Some sloppy errors in a home defeat to Everton cost him the regular spot in-goal to Hungarian Gabor Kiraly after just six matches of the campaign. He would play second-fiddle to Kiraly until he departed in 2007.

Speroni became the undisputed number one and in some tough times for the club who constantly struggled in the lower reaches of the Championship, he regularly delivered some excellent displays. For three seasons running, he was crowned Player of the Season.

In May 2013, he was in unstoppable form in the Championship play-offs, as the Eagles saw off Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford to earn themselves promotion back to the Premier League. This gave Speroni a second chance at Premier League football, nearly a decade after his first appearance in the division.

In 2013-2014, Speroni took his chance with both hands and played an integral part in the club achieving their highest-ever Premier League finish at the time of 11th place under Tony Pulis’ stewardship. His high-levels of performances saw him start 37 of the 38 Premier League matches and win his fourth Palace Player of the Season award.

By now, his contract was running down and both Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion made offers to end his Palace career. In June 2014 though, Speroni stayed loyal to the club and signed a new contract. He again remained no.1 despite the arrival of Hennessey from Wolverhampton Wanderers. In February 2015, he equalled John Jackson’s league record for the club of 347 appearances for a goalkeeper in the south Londoners 2-1 loss to Arsenal.

Alex McCarthy’s arrival from Reading in the close-season added to the competition and naturally, the younger goalkeepers were given their chance by Alan Pardew ahead of the 2015-2016 season. McCarthy started as the no.1 but Hennessey had usurped him by the season’s conclusion. Speroni seemed happy to fill in now as a deputy.

Against Watford in 2017, he made the magical mark of 400 matches in Palace’s colours and remains a cult hero with the club supporters. A solid and reliable presence, Julian Speroni has been the heartbeat of Crystal Palace for over a decade.

Premier League Files: Graeme Sharp

Premier League Career: Oldham Athletic (1992-1994)

Graeme Sharp’s professional career will always be linked to just two clubs – Everton and Oldham Athletic. He won two First Division titles with the Toffees in the 1980s and experienced two Premier League campaigns with Oldham before going on to become the player-manager of the Latics.

He started his playing career with Dumbarton in 1978, playing 40 times for them before joining Everton in 1980 for £120,000. It took time for Graeme to make an impact on Merseyside but Howard Kendall’s arrival as first-team manager was the telling impact for his career. Between 1980 and 1991, he would score 111 league goals for Everton in 322 matches.

Sharp won the FA Cup in 1984, scoring the first goal in the final against Watford at Wembley Stadium. It was his sole victory in this competition, experiencing the agony of defeat in the final in 1985, 1986 and 1989. It was a time where the Merseyside clubs were dominating English football. Liverpool FC were the prime team but Everton did crash the Reds’ supremacy to win the First Division title in 1985 and 1987. There was also European glory with victory over Rapid Vienna in the 1985 Cup Winners’ Cup final.

He formed successful scoring partnerships with the likes of Andy Gray, Adrian Heath and Gary Lineker and was seen as the perfect foil for a striking duo. However by 1991, his days were numbered at Goodison Park and he moved to Oldham for £500,000. This came just weeks after they had won promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 68 years.

He made 55 Premier League appearances, scoring 16 goals in total. Sharp scored Oldham’s first-ever Premier League goal at Boundary Park in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in August 1992 and also scored vital goals in victories over Nottingham Forest, Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough.

After finding the target seven times in 1992-1993, Sharp improved his tally to nine in 1993-1994 including a goal in a 1-1 draw at Highbury with Arsenal and two goals in gallant defeats to champions Manchester United. It was United who agonisingly ended Oldham’s FA Cup dreams at the semi-final stage and the club were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season despite Graeme’s best efforts.

In November 1994, Oldham manager Joe Royle quit to take over the vacant position at Everton. Sharp took over as player-manager but he struggled to adapt his playing success into the dugout. After two mediocre seasons in the First Division, he resigned in March 1997 with Oldham on the verge of relegation to Division Two.

He had one season managing Bangor City in Welsh football before stepping away from the game in a primary capacity. Sharp is now a club ambassador at Everton and works for the local press in Liverpool on the radio for 96.7 Radio City.