Category: Premier League



(Esta nota fue escrito originariamente en junio 2015)

Finalmente el Everton ha completado el fichaje de Gerard Deulofeu después de semanas de negociación y especulación.

El mediocampista español viene desde Barcelona para €6m en un contrato de tres años. Marca el segundo fichaje de Everton este verano, después de la llegada Tom Cleverley desde Manchester United.

Deulofeu se presenta como jugador de Everton

Deulofeu se presenta como jugador de Everton

Deulofeu pasó una temporada exitosa en el club inglés en 2013-14 pero encontró menos oportunidades en su regreso al Barca eso verano.

El rápido joven, de 21 años se considera muy bien entre los expertos como un extremo promisorio y ahora hay debate entre las hinchas y oficiales de Barca, centrado en el precio bajo de su traspaso al Everton.

El entrenador de los Toffees, Roberto Martinez cree que ahora Deulofeu es un jugador aún más talentoso que el joven que fue cedido al Goodison Park hace dos años.

Añadió que el fichaje de Deulofeu fue uno de sus objetivos más vitales del verano.


Thanks to all the deadline day frenzy involving Marouane Fellaini, James McCarthy et al, Joel Robles’ arrival at Goodison has almost been forgotten already, but the goalkeeper looks to be a shrewd signing by Roberto Martinez. Though first-choice custodian Tim Howard has been a fine servant of the club over the past seven years, as the popular American approaches the end of his career, it’s reassuring to see that Martinez already has a worthy replacement lined up.

Robles entered English football fans’ consciousness in January with an impressive loan spell at Martinez’s Wigan Athletic – so impressive, in fact, that the 23-year-old ousted Ali Al-Habsi (a veteran almost ten years his senior) as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. However, the Getafe-born shot-stopper is much better known in his home country, having been a part of the Spanish national youth set-up since he was 16.

Joel the giant: the lanky Spaniard feels he’s made for the English game (pic: Premier League)

Joel joined Atletico Madrid’s academy in 2005 and eventually became a regular for the club’s reserve side, but sought a move abroad earlier this year when first-team opportunities remained limited. His time at Wigan was fruitful and culminated in an FA Cup winner’s medal as he helped the Latics surprise Manchester City in the final.

The player cites his physical attributes as key to his success, and at 6ft 5”, it’s easy to see why. Robles believes his huge frame will help him deal with aerial challenges in one of Europe’s more physical leagues. Handed a 5-year deal by his compatriot Martinez, it’s clear Everton see the ‘keeper as a fine prospect and – with the possible exception of McCarthy – Robles is perhaps the summer signing likely to be turning out in royal blue for years to come.

Arguably the biggest challenge for Robles will be to avoid repeating the fate of his back-up predecessor, Jan Mucha, who was consigned to the bench throughout his career at Goodison. The Slovakian was released this summer having made just two league appearances in three years in Merseyside, but Robles looks better equipped to seriously challenge Howard for game time, with the American another year older and Joel already boasting experience in the Premier League.

Indeed, Martinez has described the Spaniard as “someone who is going to give us great protection and fight with Tim Howard – and push him all the way.” For that level of competition, the £650,000 Martinez paid Atletico Madrid seems a bargain. Joel concurs: “It is a great honour to work with Tim – he’s a great, great goalkeeper and I am looking forward to learning a lot from him.”

Bergara’s presence should allow Robles to settle quickly (pic: ceroacero.es)

The player has also been quick to emphasize the importance of being reunited with Wigan goalkeeping coach Inaki Bergara, who also worked under Martinez at Swansea and followed him from the DW Stadium this summer. “I am delighted to be back working with Inaki again – he is a great professional and a really nice guy,” says Joel. The feeling is clearly mutual – Bergara has already professed his belief that Robles “has lots of potential” – and this relationship could prove pivotal to Joel’s success at Everton.

Howard may have seen off many a back-up over the years, but it looks like Robles could finally be the worthy replacement the club have been searching for. With bundles of talent and a long career ahead of him, don’t be surprised if Joel is one of the first names on the Everton team-sheet in a few years’ time.


TOTTENHAM Hotspur’s Clint Dempsey is set to make a surprise return to the United States after the club announced they had reached an agreement with MLS outfit the Seattle Sounders. Dempsey, 30, has been playing in England since joining Fulham in 2006, but only moved to Tottenham last summer.

After playing youth football in his native Texas, Dempsey started his senior career with the New England Revolution and was near-ever present in his first season in the MLS in 2004. He spent two further years at the club, posting a record of better than a goal every three games in both seasons, before being signed by Fulham for £2 million – making Dempsey the US’ most expensive export to England.

Dempsey made a name for himself during five years at Fulham (pic: mirror.co.uk)

At Fulham, the midfielder enjoyed the best years of his career, somehow managing to improve every season and earning praise for his versatility and all-action style. Fittingly, his best performances in a black-and-white shirt came in his final campaign at Craven Cottage in 2011-12, when he netted 17 times in the league and 23 in all competitions.

Having established himself as one of the Premier League’s best goalscoring midfielders, Dempsey earned a £6 million move to Tottenham in the summer of 2012. Once more, the transfer shattered records in his homeland, making the Texan the US’ highest-paid footballer of all time. Despite relative success in his first season at White Hart Lane, Dempsey’s place in the side’s starting line-up – he had mainly been employed as a second striker by Andre Villas-Boas – was put into doubt by Spurs’ acquisition of Valencia forward Roberto Soldado.

Looking for guaranteed playing time, and perhaps missing the US after so long away, Dempsey appeared to entertain the notion of returning to the MLS. Earlier this week, rumours on Twitter claimed the US national team captain had been spotted in San Francisco, waiting to board a plane to Seattle, and some overly-enthusiastic Sounders fans even waited for his arrival at the airport in Washington.

However, Dempsey never arrived, which, combined with Sounders forward Eddie Johnson dismissing suggestions Clint would sign with the club, sparked a media frenzy as the US tried to second-guess where Dempsey would appear next. The attention he was afforded – rarely seen in America for footballers – demonstrated Dempsey’s stature in the US, but MLS fans were devastated to hear rumours that he was, in fact, flying out to Los Angeles to join up with Everton’s pre-season tour.

“What do you mean there’s no place for me?” Dempsey has left Spurs for regular game time (Pic: bettor.com)

But the speculation turned full circle when ESPN claimed the Sounders were on the verge of completing the player’s signature, and that was confirmed this afternoon when Spurs issued a statement on their website announcing that Dempsey would “return to MLS.” The BBC say the Sounders will match the £6 million Spurs shelled out for Dempsey a year ago, while several media outlets suggest the midfielder will become the MLS’ highest paid player at $5 million per year, overtaking his fellow ex-Premier League attackers Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry ($4 million and $3.75 million per year respectively).

Dempsey’s much-heralded arrival will provide a welcome boost to the Sounders’ attacking roster – the club are currently languishing in seventh position in the nine-team Western Conference, four points adrift of the play-offs.


Everton attacker Tim Cahill looks set to join Major League Soccer outfit New York Red Bulls after the Goodison Park club announced a deal had been agreed between the two sides. The Australian international spent 8 years at Everton, racking up over 270 appearances.

Cahill began his career at hometown club Sydney United, moving to English side Millwall on a free transfer in 1998. He soon established himself as a regular in the The Lions’ starting line-up, playing 36 times in the league in his second season at the Den. Cahill went on to reach double figures in four of his seven seasons at the club from central midfield, and scoring the winner in a FA Cup semi-final tie against Sunderland – a victory that put Millwall into the Cup final and the following season’s UEFA Cup.

Fox in the Box: Cahill in typical pose

Having narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League the previous season, Everton boss David Moyes shelled out £1.5 million for Cahill’s services in a bid to climb up the table in 2004-05. It certainly worked – moved into a more attacking role, Cahill was Everton’s top scorer with 11 goals as the side finished in a hugely impressive fourth place.

Scoring a brilliant headed winner against Manchester City in one of his first appearances for Everton set the tone for a largely successful stay at Goodison Park which saw Cahill become a huge fans’ favourite. He scored in three of Everton’s last 5 games of the 2004-05 campaign – his final goal of the season, against Newcastle in the Blues’ penultimate game, sealed Champions League qualification.

The 32-year-old’s departure severs another link to that 2004-05 squad, who’s success Everton have failed to emulate in recent years: there are now just two players – local lads Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman – who were part of the Champions League side.

Although he stands at a modest 5 feet, 10 inches tall (hence the affectionate nickname “Tiny Tim”), Cahill’s impressive aerial ability allowed him to outjump many taller defenders. Thumping headed goals – followed by his trademark boxing celebration – became a regular sight at Goodison Park during Cahill’s eight-year stint at Everton.

One of the club’s most consistent players in recent seasons, Cahill suffered a rare blip in form during the 2011-12 campaign, netting just three times and enduring a goal drought that lasted throughout the whole of 2011. As former Everton defender David Unsworth noted: “Tim’s been a fantastic servant for Everton – a bargain buy. He’s scored many goals but his form has just waned a little bit.”

Recent months have seen Cahill linked with big-money moves to China and the United Arab Emirates, but, having ruled out moves to both countries, the former Ballon d’Or nominee found the chance to join New York Red Bulls too good to turn down. Though the American giants have yet to confirm the deal, a statement released on Everton’s official website last night read: “Everton have agreed with Major League Soccer that Tim Cahill can be transferred to the New York Red Bulls. Tim, 32, will move to the Red Bulls for a nominal fee, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. He will travel to the US in the next few days.”

That fee is believed to be in the region of £1 million, representing a decent return on Everton’s original investment, but many supporters feel Cahill’s success over the years should have warranted a larger sum. Tim will join fellow ex-Premier League players Teemu Tainio and Thierry Henry – captain of the Red Bulls – at the Eastern Conference table-toppers, but is the only Asian member of club’s squad.

Current Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard enjoyed a 5-year spell at the side, then known as the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, between 1998 and 2003.

Image: http://www.thesun.co.uk


He may have only won 11 caps for Antigua and Barbuda, but Reading midfielder Mikele Leigertwood has done as much as anyone to boost the tiny nation’s profile and appeal to European audiences.

Born in the London borough of Enfield in November 1982, Leigertwood began his career with capital-based team Wimbledon in 2001. 56 league appearances, as well as a brief loan spell at Leyton Orient, in his three years at the club showed experience and reliability beyond his years, Leigertwood’s spell at Wimbledon was hampered by the side’s financial woes.

Having entered administration in January 2003, the Wombles were forced to flog every first-team player capable of commanding a fee. Although he survived the fire-sale’s first throes, Leigertwood was eventually offloaded in January 2004, joining Crystal Palace for £155,000.

Battling injuries and relegation at Palace

The midfielder became Palace manager Iain Dowie’s first permanent signing for the club, and made ten appearances in the remainder of the 2003-04 Championship season as the Eagles flew into England’s top-flight via the play-offs. Although he was just 21 at the start of the next season – only Palace’s fourth in the Premier League – Leigertwood proceeded to feature in the majority of the club’s league fixtures in 2004-05, even scoring his first goal for the club against Tottenham Hotspur in January 2005 from close range.

Unfortunately, Palace were relegated on the last day of the season, missing out on survival by just a single point. Leigertwood remained at Selhurst Park for 2005-06, and enjoyed increased playing time – 30 appearances in all competitions represented his best return for Palace.

Following the Eagles’ 3-0 play-off defeat to Watford, Leigertwood found an offer from newly-promoted Sheffield United too hard to refuse. He signed on the dotted line at Bramall Lane for £600,000 – a fee only necessary as he was under 24 at the time. 21 league appearances in his debut season for The Blades followed, but, in a scarcely believable development, Leigertwood was once more relegated from the top-flight on the last day of the season – by one goal. It was a relegation Sheffield United fiercely contended, the club infuriated by West Ham’s controversial purchase of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – the former player scoring the goal that kept The Hammers up at United’s expense.

Despite looking set to remain at Bramall Lane for the 2007-08 campaign, Leigertwood would play just two games of the new season before joining second-tier rivals Queens Park Rangers for £900,000. Although this move looked to be a backward one in some aspects – QPR would finish just six points clear of relegation, while Sheffield United were four points shy of the play-offs – the transfer resulted in more playing time for Leigertwood. The midfielder would play in at least 87% of QPR’s league fixtures for the next three seasons, maturing into a reliable holding player capable at both ends of the pitch: Leigertwood netted 12 times during his stay at Loftus Road, the most he has scored for any one club.

Ironically, having helped stabilise Rangers and establish them as one of the Championship’s better clubs, Leigertwood fell out of favour in 2010-11, the season the side won promotion to the Premier League. Being farmed out to Reading in November 2010, around the time of his twenty-eighth birthday, proved to be a blessing in disguise: forming a central midfield partnership with Jem Karacan, Leigertwood soon proved so invaluable that his loan was extended to the end of the season.

Ultimately, The Royals missed out on following QPR to the Premier League with a play-off final defeat to Swansea in which Mikele played the full 90 minutes. It would be the 2011-12 season, however, in which Leigertwood would really make a name for himself at Reading. Joining the club permanently in August 2011, he became an indispensable fixture in Brian McDermott’s starting XI, playing 41 of Reading’s 46 league games.

“The Premier League’s that way, Mikele!” Leigertwood has enjoyed success at Reading

With Leigertwood’s permanent services, Reading conceded ten fewer goals than in 2010-11, but it was not just his defensive abilities that shone through. Vital strikes against promotion rivals Southampton, Leicester, Blackpool and West Ham helped his side to the league’s summit, but Leigertwood’s finest moment in a Reading shirt was still to come.

On 17 April 2012, the table-toppers had the chance to secure promotion to the Premier League against Nottingham Forest with three games remaining. A predictably tense match ensued, with only a win being enough to warrant Reading’s planned promotion party. The 80 minute mark came and went with the match still goalless, prompting even the most optimistic fan to prepare themselves for one more nervous game. Promotion banners were folded away, pessimists headed for the exits.

However, one man had other ideas. Just nine minutes remained when Leigertwood pounced to fire home Ian Harte’s free-kick, prompting scenes of pandemonium and jubilation around the Madjeski Stadium. A mass pitch invasion followed; Leigertwood, having been, as BBC Sport called him, “the hero”, was carried off by hordes of grateful supporters. He later told cameras he was “delighted” to have scored the winner and the goal that clinched promotion, calling the amazing scenes at full-time “a crazy situation” and laughing “I got picked up in the air…people were trying to take my boots off me!”

The lynchpin of a team who’s average age is just 24, the 2012-13 season will be Leigertwood’s third in the Premier League. Expect him to play a big role. While his previous career has seen him move clubs frequently, Mikele seems to have found his home at the Madjeski.

Leigertwood was first approached to play for Antigua and Barbuda in June 2008 by then-national team coach Willie Donachie. A former Manchester City left-back himself, Donachie was attempting to bring some much-needed quality to the country’s squad by calling up players of Antiguan or Barbudan descent.

Although he was forced to turn down Donachie’s initial approach due to the team’s fixtures clashing with a wedding he had to attend, Leigertwood was eager to be involved in international football and soon afterwards took advantage of four-match Football League ban during his time at QPR to link up with Antigua’s 2008 Caribbean Championship squad.

Making history with Antigua and Barbuda

Making his debut in a 3-2 loss to Trinidad & Tobago, Leigertwood made sure he was on the winning side on his second appearance by scoring the opener in a 2-1 defeat of Guyana. With the midfielder’s help, Antigua and Barbuda progressed to the finals of the competition after finishing as runners-up of Group H, clinching their spot in Jamaica with a thrilling 4-3 win over St Kitts & Nevis.

Drawn in a tough group containing Cuba, Guadeloupe (both of whom would reach the semi-finals) and Haiti, the squad struggled to compete without Leigertwood, whose league commitments in England had ruled him out of the finals, held in December. Antigua and Barbuda picked up two points in their three games, earning creditable draws against Haiti and Guadeloupe, but were sent home early.

Leigertwood returned to international action in November 2010, helping the Benna Boys reach that year’s Caribbean Championship by playing in a qualification win over Suriname and defending well to earn valuable draws against Dominica and Cuba. Once more, however, he was unable to play in the tournament proper, and once more Antigua and Barbuda were eliminated in the group stage.

The midfielder’s last five national team appearances have all come in 2014 World Cup qualifiers, enjoying slender wins over Curaçao and Haiti, as well as suffering a 2-1 loss to the latter team in November 2011, before returning to the side last month. Although a 3-1 loss to the USA and a goalless draw with Jamaica may not look particularly inspiring results, the Benna Boys have run two of North America’s best teams very close – a position that may not have been achieved without Leigertwood’s experience and leadership.

An article on Reading’s official website expressed the club’s pride in Leigertwood having “ma[de] history for his country” by leading Antigua and Barbuda to the next round of World Cup qualifying, going down in the nation’s footballing history for being part of the country’s squad to do so.

Ironically, Leigertwood’s relative fame means his off-field actions have helped Antigua and Barbuda just as much as his on-field performances. Since Mikele accepted an invitation to represent the country, fellow English-born footballers including Macclesfield’s Kieran Murtagh, Wycombe’s Marvin McCoy, ex-Oldham forward Josh Parker, and, most notably, Leigertwood’s former Championship colleague Dexter Blackstock, have all agreed to join Antigua’s squad.

Blackstock – a Nottingham Forest forward who has scored over 75 goals in England’s professional leagues and cups – will bring goalscoring prowess to the tiny, overachieving country with a population of just 89,000. The other players recruited from the English leagues will not be available all year round, but will make Antigua and Barbuda’s squad more solid and professional.

Having significantly improved a squad that previously only consisted of locally-based players, Mikele Leigertwood has paved the way for European-born footballers to represent Antigua and Barbuda internationally. His role in the team’s upturn in fortunes should never be underestimated, and, when Leigertwood and his new recruits are all available, Antigua will be able to field a team with six England-based professionals – forming a side that will be a force to be reckoned with.

 

Image: Leigertwood at Crystal Palace – http://www.holmesdale.net; Leigertwood at Reading – http://www.getreading.co.uk; Playing for Antigua and Barbuda – http://www.zimbio.com

 


Everton have confirmed the departure of young Portuguese striker João Silva  to Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia on a 3-year deal. The move comes following two years at Goodison Park in which the 22-year-old failed to make any appearances for Everton.

Having joined the Toffees in 2010 from Portuguese second-tier club CD Aves, Silva was hailed as a “starlet” and compared to Pauleta, the country’s all-time scorer at international level. Inevitably, young Silva struggled to displace regular first-team forwards Louis Saha, Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford, and soon returned to his homeland with a loan move to UD Leiria.

Silva’s Everton career never took off

Back in Portugal, Silva looked more comfortable, averaging a goal every three games for Leiria and netting twice against national giants Benfica in a 3-3 draw on the last day of the 2010-11 season. The following summer he joined Vitória de Setúbal, scoring 3 goals in 16 league appearances before being recalled by Everton in January.

However, Silva still failed to make the breakthrough at Goodison, scoring two goals in six starts for the reserve team, and few fans will be surprised to see the Portugal under-21 international offloaded in a transfer that probably benefits both parties. What may have come as a surprise, though, is Silva’s move to Bulgaria, rather than back to his homeland, where his talents have already been proven.

Silva will join compatriots Nino Pinto, a defender, and fellow forward Cristovão Ramos at Levski Sofia, who finished third in last season’s Bulgarian PFG. João follows fellow reserve-team players Adam Forshaw, James Wallace, James McFadden and Marcus Hahnemann out of the exit door at Goodison, with Rangers forward Steven Naismith currently Moyes’ only summer signing.

Image: http://onossofuteb0l.blogspot.co.uk

 


Premier League outfit Queens Park Rangers have completed the signing of experienced South Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung on a two-year deal. Park leaves Old Trafford after seven successful years at United during which he won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy.

QPR will become the fourth club of a brilliant career which has seen Park take in national honours with Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan, Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven as well as at Manchester United – a trophy haul that makes him the most decorated Asian footballer of all time.

The 31-year-old’s experience at the highest level can only benefit QPR, and the Super Hoops will hope to utilize Park’s hard-working playing style to full effect. Similarly, Park’s versatility in midfield will be able to fill a number of positions in Mark Hughes’ squad: he can play anywhere across the middle of the park and was used as both a defensive midfielder and a winger by Manchester United.

“I’m going to QPR!? YESS!” Park is excited to join the London side

Although Park was clearly more likely to win silverware at Old Trafford than QPR’s Loftus Road – QPR boss Hughes has admitted “Ji has been attracted not to where QPR are, but where QPR are going” – he had fallen out of favour somewhat at Old Trafford during the latter years of his spell with the Red Devils, playing less than half of United’s Premier League fixtures in his last three seasons at the club.

He was often recalled for vital league, cup and European games, but Park is expected to play a much larger role at QPR, where first-team football chances are more assured. Enticed by the London club’s vision for the future, Park said: “The project was simply too good to resist and I am excited about getting started in pre-season and going on tour to Asia in the coming days. I am joining a club that is very much on an upward curve – a club that has a very bright future.”

Similarly delighted were Hughes and QPR owner Tony Fernandes: ex-United forward Hughes gushed “He is hugely respected there because of what he has achieved, his application to his work and the impact he has on games…this is a huge signing for this football club”, while a statement on the club’s official website hailed Park as a “global phenomenon”.

Fernandes, a Malaysian entrepreneur, surely appreciates Park’s value in making QPR a club attractive to the Asian market – the signing “coincides” with the team’s pre-season tour of the region. The AirAsia director said: “I am overjoyed and can’t wait to see him in a QPR shirt. It shows our determination and our ambition to build this club. Ji is a global star with a Champions League winner’s medal to his name, and he is as excited about this move as we all are.”

Park’s retirement from international football in January 2011, shortly after winning his 100th cap for South Korea, means that QPR will not face losing their new signing during the Premier League season. 26 of Park’s international appearances came after 2009, representing his country mid-season at the 2011 Asian Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Image: http://www.canvasprintsonline.com


Ivorian midfielder Jean-Jacques Gosso has expressed his delight at being linked with Premier League club Everton in recent days. Gosso, currently playing for Turkish side Orduspor, has yet to play in England and has spent most of his career outside of Europe.

Beginning his senior career in his homeland in 2002 with Stella Club d’Adjamé, Gosso moved to Morrocan club Wydad Casablanca the following year. Interest from several Israeli sides followed, with Maccabi Tel Aviv and FC Ashdod both inviting the midfielder to discuss terms with them. He signed for the latter club in 2008, ironically making his league debut against Maccabi.

A successful trial in June 2008 at French side Moncaco, then of Ligue 1, Gosso spent three years in France, leaving after Les Rouge et Blanc’s relegation to the second tier in 2011. Turkish outfit Orduspor have boasted the Ivorian international’s talents since, the 29-year-old playing 24 of the club’s 34 Super Lig fixtures last season.

Gosso’s international experience makes up for his lack of European football

After hearing of Everton’s interest, Gosso admitted: “I am very interested if there is an option for me in England. My dream has always been to play in the Premier League and prove myself against midfielders and strikers at the top level”. Gosso described Everton, who finished seventh in the Premier League in 2011-12, as “a fantastic team…one of the biggest club in England.”

Predominantly a holding midfielder, but having also represented Ivory Coast at right-back, Gosso provides vital versatility that could aid Everton’s small transfer budget by allowing Blues boss David Moyes to provide cover for two positions in his squad in one fell swoop.

Gosso also believes his playing style would suit the Everton sides that Moyes has built: “I know David Moyes likes players who put a shift in, so if he is interested in me – like I am hearing – that means I must be doing something right.”

Although the Liverpool Echo have reported that Everton have yet to make a formal approach for Gosso, a move would suit both player and club. The Ivorian would provide cover for, or replace, first-choice defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who has been linked with a move away from Goodison Park, while he could also act as back-up to long-serving right-backs Phil Neville and Tony Hibbert.

Image: http://www.mtnfootball.com


Despite only racking up 10 caps for Grenada at international level, Reading forward Jason Roberts has become one of the Caribbean’s most successful Europe-based footballers in a 17-year career spent solely in England.

Born in London in January 1978 to a Grenadian father and a French Guianese mother, Roberts’ eventual success in football will have come as little surprise to his family –  Jason has three uncles who all played at international level: Cyrille Regis won 5 caps for England, David Regis earned 25 for the USA, and Otis Roberts represented Grenada on two occasions, while yet another uncle, John Regis, won silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a sprinter.

Roberts captains Wigan during the most successful spell of his career

However, Jason’s path to footballing stardom was not as straightforward as some may imagine. Despite trials with the academies of London clubs Chelsea, Tottenham and Watford, at the age of 16 – when many other future stars were comfortably bedded in with big-name teams – Roberts was working as an export clerk and considering quitting football altogether.

Thankfully for Roberts, and the forward’s future clubs, uncle Cyrille eventually arranged a trial at Isthmian League side Hayes FC in 1995. Jason may well have finally taken his first steps towards the Football League by earning the contract that came as a result of his trial, but the terms were certainly not glamourous  – Roberts was paid just £15 per week, a wage comparable to that of 1930s footballers.

Making his debut at the tender age of 17, in a league more physical than divisions higher up the footballing pyramid, Roberts showed remarkable talent and maturity to net 16 times in 50 league appearances. Five goals in Hayes’ opening three games of the 1997-98 season led, unsurprisingly, to Midlands giants Wolverhampton Wanderers, then of the second division, offering £250,000 – a then-record fee for a non-league player.

Still a teenager with no previous Football League experience, Roberts predictably found himself farmed out on loan to Southern sides Torquay United and Bristol City soon after joining Wolves. Arriving at Plainmoor in December 1997, Roberts transformed Torquay from fourth division cannon-fodder to promotion candidates, scoring 6 times in 14 games and forming a great partnership with fellow Caribbean forward Rodney Jack as the club embarked on an 8-game winning streak.

Ultimately, the end of Roberts’ loan spell ended United’s chance of automatic promotion, and the side had to settle for the play-offs, eventually losing in the final to Colchester in what would prove to be Jack’s final game for the club. Roberts, meanwhile, scored once in his three games at Rovers, but it was the Robins’ city rivals Bristol Rovers who stumped up £250,000 for the frontman’s services.

Typically, Roberts didn’t disappoint, reaching 16 and 22 goals respectively in his two seasons at Rovers. Unsurprisingly, his prolific strike rate in the lower leagues had caught the attention of bigger clubs, and following Rovers’ failure to win promotion in 2000, Roberts handed in a transfer request. If he was looking to move, it worked – West Bromwich Albion, then of the Championship, paid a club record £2 million (since eclipsed) to bring Roberts to The Hawthorns.

Settling into the higher division like a duck to water, Roberts netted 15 times in his first season to fire the Baggies to the play-offs, leaving the club three games away from reaching the Premier League. Though Albion were beaten by Bolton in the semi-finals, the club secured promotion the following season, finishing second only to Manchester City. Cruelly, Roberts was injured for much of the campaign, and it would be the beginning of the end of his Albion career.

Just three goals in 31 games in his first Premier League season caused West Brom to loan Roberts to fellow top-flight side Portsmouth in 2003-04. Unfortunately, one goal in ten appearances at Fratton Park seemed to suggest the Premier League was one step to high, and in January 2004, Roberts moved to Wigan Athletic of the second division.

Thankfully, a return to the Championship helped Roberts find his shooting boots: a goal 35 seconds into his debut, and eight goals in 14 appearances, fired Wigan to seventh place, agonisingly missing out on the play-offs by two points. However, even better was to come – Roberts scored 21 league goals in 2004-05 as Wigan were promoted to the Premier League, with Jason finishing as the Championship’s second-top scorer.

This time, Roberts took advantage of the promotion and established himself as a Premier League goalscorer, making Wigan history in the process: his penalty against Sunderland in August 2005 was Wigan’s first-ever top-flight goal, and helped the club to its first Premier League victory. In January, Roberts’ last-minute goal at Highbury sent Wigan to the League Cup final at the expense of Arsenal. At Wembley, they were convincingly beaten 4-0 by Manchester United, but Roberts played the full 90 minutes and had firmly established himself as a top-flight footballer.

Although Wigan had done remarkably well to finish ninth in their first season in the Premier League, Roberts’ ambition caused him to join sixth-placed Blackburn Rovers, who boasted the carrot of UEFA Cup football. A period of relative calm – unusual in Roberts’ career – followed, with the striker’s six-year stay at Ewood Park by far his longest spell at any one club.

Roberts (left) celebrates one of seven international goals for Grenada

Having said that, Roberts arguably enjoyed more success off the pitch than on it while at Blackburn: in 2007 he founded the Jason Roberts Foundation, aiming to “provide a range of sporting opportunities for children and young people in the UK and Grenada”, and three years later he was awarded an MBE for his services to sport in both Grenada and London. On the pitch, he failed to reach double figures in any of his six seasons at Ewood Park, and in 2011-12, with the club facing relegation from the Premier League,  Roberts joined Championship side Reading on a one-and-a-half year deal.

At 34, Roberts’ experience of numerous promotion campaigns and top-flight credentials proved invaluable to Reading as the side cruised to the Premier League, winning the Championship and securing the title in late April. Six league goals in 17 games represented a return to form for Roberts, and tellingly, equalled his tally for Blackburn in the previous two seasons combined.

Although his international career ended in 2008, Roberts’ ten caps for Grenada, accumulated over a nine-year spell, provide cherished memories for the veteran – he described making his Spice Boys bow in 1999, aged 19 as “the proudest moment of my career”. Despite admitting that he would have rather represented England given the chance, Roberts has expressed his delight at making his debut alongside uncle Otis, and saw his international career as “a chance to put something back into the country”.

7 goals for Grenada, including strikes against Costa Rica and the United States, as well as a brace in a 10-0 demolition of the US Virgin Islands, made Roberts by far the island’s best and most famous player, but his club career in England limited the number of appearances he could make. Roberts acknowledged his celebrity status in the country in 2005, saying “I do get recognised all the time when I go over [to Grenada].” He travels to the island every summer to track the progress of his eponymous Foundation’s work.

Rather than dreaming of Premier League glory or FA Cup silverware, Roberts has said “It is my dream before I retire, maybe it is just pie in the sky I don’t know, but it is my dream to take Grenada to the World Cup finals.” While that looks unlikely, Roberts’ role in putting Grenada on the map, and promoting sports on the island, means that he will go down in the country’s history regardless of whether or not he achieves his dream.

Images: Roberts at Wigan – http://www.freewebs.com; Roberts scoring for Grenada – http://jasonroberts30.com/


Ghana international Asamoah Gyan has joined United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a permanent deal, following a loan spell at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium last season.

Having signed for Sunderland of the Premier League in August 2010, Gyan enjoyed an impressive start to life in England in his debut season, netting 10 times in 34 league games. However, things quickly turned sour for the striker as he accepted a loan move to Al-Ain in September 2011, infuriating then-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce as well as the club’s fans.

Gyan unsurprisingly proved too much for UAE defences during his loan spell

The loan deal – rumoured to include a £6 million payment to Sunderland, as well as Gyan’s Sunderland wages being quadrupled – led Bruce to express his anger on what he viewed as a transfer made behind his back: “I had a conversation with [Gyan] 48 hours ago and he assured me, he shook my hand, that he wanted to be a Sunderland player…[but] all of a sudden within a few hours it seems things have changed.”

Gyan openly admitted that the financial benefits of the loan had been a key reason in his move, describing the deal as “too good to refuse.” With the United Arab Emirates typically a destination for over-the-hill internationals looking for one last payday, Gyan had moved to Al-Ain aged just 25, prompting Bruce to tell English press: “I don’t think he’s got a future here.”

While Sunderland initially missed Gyan’s goals – Bruce was sacked in November with the club having won just 2 of its opening 13 Premier League games – they soon recovered under new manager Martin O’Neill, reaching the quarter-final of the FA Cup and finished mid-table in the league.

Gyan also enjoyed success, becoming the UAE Pro-League’s top scorer with 22 goals in just 18 games as Al-Ain cruised to the title. With O’Neill also reluctant to welcome Asamoah back into the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light – saying “you wouldn’t really want somebody who is really unwilling to come back to the football club” – the Accra-born attacker has unsurprisingly decided to join Al-Ain on a permanent basis.

The 58-cap Ghana international may be Al-Ain’s biggest star, but he is by no means the first to make the transition from Premier League to Pro League: former Coventry and Aston Villa midfielder Mustapha Hadji joined the club in 2004, while ex-Portsmouth coach Alain Perrin managed The Boss in the same year.

Image: http://www.footballspotlite.com