WITH football in Wales once again coming to a halt due to the country going into lock-down this week, I’ve decided to turn my attentions to the A-League.
Australia’s top-flight is scheduled to kick-off this weekend with Western Sydney Warriors taking on league newcomers Macarthur FC (7.30am BST) on Sunday morning.
Here’s a quick look at some familiar faces from the A-League who have previously played in the English Football League system …
Matt Derbyshire (Macarthur)
One of the players who could feature in the opening match and one of the most experienced names on the list too.
Forward Derbyshire, now 34 years old, has played in Greece and Cyprus with the likes of Olympiacos and Omonia Nicosia in the past, but the latest stage of his 18-year career to date brings him to South Western Sydney-based side Macarthur FC, who are newcomers to this season’s A-League and have recruited very well with some big names such as Athletic Bilbao stalwarts Benat Etxebarria and Markel Susaeta also joining Ante Milicic’s side recently.
Derbyshire’s career began at Lancashire-based Great Harwood Town, where he netted 21 goals in 31 games in 2002/03. He then moved on to the club he supported as a kid – Blackburn Rovers – with whom he played in the Premier League with. He made his first Premiership start against Arsenal on 13 January, 2007. and hit good form, scoring three goals in four games.
Over the years, he also played for Wrexham (who although they are based in North Wales played in the EFL at the time Derbyshire was there), Plymouth Argyle, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Blackpool and Rotherham United.
The former England U21 player scored 62 goals in 113 goals in Cyprus with Omonia since 2016 before signing for Macarthur in August. He should prove to be a great addition to the A-League and bring a wealth of experience to the table!
Ryan Shotton (Melbourne Victory)
Towering and versatile right back/centre back who was once a household name at Stoke City and Middlesbrough, where he made more than 100 appearances for both clubs in the top two tiers of English football.
The 32-year-old’s wealth of playing experience in England also saw him turn out for Altrincham, Tranmere Rovers, Derby County, Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City.
At 6ft 3′, Shotton is a real threat in the air and can also launch a wicked long throw into the box which could come in handy for his side.
He signed for Victory back in December but is still waiting to make his first appearance – will that come in the club’s first A-League game of the 2020/21 season at home to Brisbane Roar on January 2?
Adam Federici (Macarthur)
Australian soccer fans will be no strangers to this goalkeeper as he featured 16 times for their country between 2010 and 2016.
Now 35 years old, Federici is also a familiar face with English football fans too having played for Reading, where he made more than 200 appearances (and even scored once!) between 2005 and 2015 and he also played a few matches for Bournemouth and Stoke City.
On his day, he can be a top, top shot-stopper and should prove to be a quality signing for The Rams wh he joined back in July.
Scott McDonald (Brisbane Roar)
Vastly-experienced winger who returned to his homeland of Australia with Western United last season, where he hit one goal in nine games.
Over the years, 37-year-old McDonald has spent the best part of his career in both England and Scotland. Between 2004 and 2007, he was a real hit at Scottish Premier League side Motherwell, where he scored 42 times in 108 matches.
He then continued that scintillating form during three years with Celtic, netting a ridiculous 51 goals in 88 matches during what were probably the best days of his 22 year career as a pro.
After that, McDonald returned to playing football in England with Middlesbrough in 2010, having previously played for Southampton, Huddersfield Town (loan) and Bournemout (loan) in the early 2000’s. He scored 37 goals in 113 matches during three years at Boro before moving on to Millwall, then Motherwell, Dundee United and Partick Thistle and finally arriving back home with United in 2019.
Wherever he’s gone, McDonald has been a star and has always provided the goals too. He didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do last season, but can he prove that experience is key during his new adventure with Roar?
Jacob Butterfield (Melbourne Victory)
Another experienced EFL player who signed for Victory in October, where he teamed up with former Luton Town team-mate Callum McManaman (who will be mentioned further down on this list!).
Some of midfielder Butterfield’s best days came when he was at Barnsley between 2007 and 2012. He scored his first senior goal on August 8, 2009 against local rivals Sheffield Wednesday in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
On September 17, 2011, he captained Barnsley for the first time in their 1–1 draw at home to Watford. Butterfield was having an exceptional season that year and Premier League scouts were regularly in attendance at Oakwell. He was soon rewarded for his efforts with a call up to the England under 21 squad.
However, a horror injury put an end to his progress as a player. He missed the rest of the 2011–12 season following a shocking ‘tackle’ in the New Year’s Eve derby encounter with Leeds United causing him to tear his anterior cruciate ligaments.
He eventually left Barnsley for Middlesbrough in 2012, before going on to play for Huddersfield Town, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday (loan), Bradford (loan) and Luton Town before switching to Australia.
Despite injuries marring his career, it’s still fair to say that Butterfield has got plenty of talent in his locker and, should he stay fit, could prove to be one of the best players in the A-League.
David Ball (Wellington Phoenix)
Striker who began his career at Manchester City, but never made a first-team appearance despite being a star player in the club’s Academy.
Ball, now 31, has been with Wellington Phoenix – the A-League’s only New Zealand based side since July 2019 and has scored 6 goals in 25 appearances so far.
His finest spell in England came when he was at Fleetwood Town between 2012 and 2017, where he scored 41 times in 179 matches. He signed for them when they were a League Two side in July 2012, and ended that campaign with nine goals in 38 games, before scoring 13 goals in 40 games in 2013/14 – with Fleetwood earning promotion to League One at the end of that season.
An exquisite lobbed goal he scored in a 1-1 draw with Preston North End on March 29, 2015, was nominated for the prestigious FIFA Puskas Award (handed out to the best goal scored by a footballer from around the world). That made him only the second Englishman to be shortlisted after Wayne Rooney in 2011.
Other spells in England saw Ball play for Rotherham United, Bradford City and Peterborough United.
Craig Noone (Melbourne City)
A winger best known for his time spent with EFL Championship club Cardiff City, who also spent a season in the Premier League with in 2013/14.
Noone scored his first Premier League goal for the Bluebirds in a 4-2 loss at Manchester City in January 2014 – a side they had beat 3-2 in the reverse fixture in August 2013. The campaign ended in tears for the club as they were relegated after just one season in the English top-flight.
33-year-old Noone is held in high regard at Cardiff though, having made more than 150 league appearances for the club during his five years there.
Before Cardiff, he had starred at the likes of Plymouth Argyle and Brighton and Hove Albion before spell at Bolton Wanderers followed after he departed South Wales in 2017.
In June 2019, Noone signed for Melbourne City and scored his first goal on his debut against Capmbelltown City in the round of 32 in the 2019 FFA Cup. He’s scored 5 goals in 27 league appearances so far for the club.
Simon Cox (Western Sydney Wanderers)
An internationally-capped footballer, who’s earned 30 caps for the Republic Ireland since 2011, scoring four goals.
The 33-year-old striker was a real journeyman during his time in England, spending time at a total of eight different clubs during 15 years there before moving to the Wanderers in January of this year.
His finest season came whilst playing for Swindon Town in 2008/09 (above). Back then, Cox hit 35 goals in 62 league games whilst the club was playing in League Two, making him the joint-top scorer in all four English divisions, along with Bristol Rovers’ Rickie Lambert.
Spells at West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Reading were followed by a successful end to his time in England with Southend United where he scored 43 goals in 150 league games during his four years there.
Upon moving to Western Sydney Wanderers, Cox has scored three goals in 12 appearances.
Callum McManaman (Melbourne Victory)
Once regarded as a player with huge potential in the English game, McManaman first burst onto the scene with Wigan Athletic whilst they were in the Premier League – becoming the club’s youngest ever top-flight player when he played against Portsmouth on May 24, 2009.
The attacker, now 29 years old, scored his first goal for the Latics in his first start for the club against Hull City in the FA Cup on January 8, 2011.
McManaman was also part of the Wigan Athletic side which made history by winning the FA Cup in 2013 with Ben Watson’s injury time header handing Roberto Martinez’s side a shock victory, adding the club’s first ever FA Cup success to its trophy cabinet.
He left Wigan for West Brom in 2015, but only made 20 league appearances before moving on to Sunderland two years later, where he spent a season before returning to Wigan for the 2018/19 season. He then signed for Luton Town the season after, scoring four times in 23 appearances.
McManaman signed for Victory on October 13 and will no doubt be a fantastic addition to both the club and the A-League itself too.
Tomer Hemed (Wellington Phoenix)
Another top signing for the A-League that was made very recently, Hemed is a forward who has been capped 37 times for his country of Israel since 2011, scoring 17 times.
At club level, he began his career in his homeland with Maccabi Haifa before moving to play for Spanish side Mallorca, where he scored 21 goals in 90 appearances between 2011 and 2014. He then played for Almeria before moving to England to play for Brighton and Hove Albion in 2015.
He proved to be a decent goalscorer for the Seagulls, scoring 30 times in 97 league matches before brief stints with QPR and Charlton Atheltic followed.
In November, the 33-year-old signed for Phoenix who will start their campaign with a tricky home tie against current Champions Sydney FC on January 2.
Rudy Gestede (Melbourne Victory)
A player who should be a very familiar name to any true fan of English football.
Gestede, a Benin international capped 11 times for his country, is a former player of Cardiff City, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.
The forward enjoyed is finest spell in England whilst with Rovers, as he hit 32 goals in just 60 matches in the Championship between 2014 and 2015.
His height (6ft 4′) and strength make him a very difficult opponent for defenders to deal with and he almost guarantees goals for Victory, who he signed for in November.
Graham Dorrans (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Midfielder who began his professional career with Livingston in his homeland of Scotland (who he has been capped 12 times for), having spent his youth days with Rangers.
Dorrans made 77 league appearances for the club in three years (2005-2008), scoring 16 times before moving onto West Bromwich Albion, where he would enjoy some of his best days as a player.
Between 2008 and 2015, he played in 166 league games for the Baggies in both the top-flight and the EFL Championship. He was held in high regard at the club, often being described as a ‘composed’ character by fans and pundits alike.
After West Brom, came a spell at Norwich City (2015-17) followed by a move back to Rangers, where although he wasn’t a regular starter, he still managed five goals in 17 matches for the Glaswegian giants. Last season, he played for Dundee 25 times in the Scottish Championship.
As of November, he has been contracted to A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers, where he links up with former Rangers team-mate Kenny Miller, who is a coach at the club. When asked why he joined the club, he told its website; “After speaking with the manager and hearing the vision he has for the club and the way he wants to play, I think it’s a brand of football that really suits my game.”
Alessandro Diamanti (Western United)
A familiar name to West Ham United fans, Diamanti starred for the Hammers in 2009/10. After becoming a star player for Livorno in his home country of Italy, scoring 17 goals in 59 games for them, the attacking midfielder/forward signed on at Upton Park in 2009.
He quickly became a fans favourite following a string of impressive performances, and ended the season with eight goals to his name and was voted runner-up for the Supporters Player of the Season award with Scott Parker coming out on top.
After just one season at West Ham, Diamanti moved back to Italy with Brescia for a season before switching to Bologna soon after, where he spent three seasons. A move to China-based Guangzhou Evergrande followed in 2014, as a whole host of European talents began moving overseas to the Asian country in favour of big money.
Diamanti’s journeyman career then saw him go out on brief loan spells to Fiorentina, Watford and Atalanta before he completed a permanent switch to Palermo in 2016/17.
Two more moves in his native to Perugia and Livorno followed before he ended up at A-Leaue side Western United in July of 2019, where he has been a real standout player.
Diamanti, who earned 17 caps and scored one goal for Italy between 2010 and 2013, is a creative left-footed player whose also a great free-kick and penalty taker. At the end of the 2019/20 season with United, he earned the Johnny Warren Medal (given to the A-League’s best player) and has so far scored eight goals in 27 appearances.
Andy Keogh (Perth Glory)
30-times capped Irish forward who turned out for several English clubs between 2003 and 2014, before he moved on to pastures new overseas – where he would really make a name for himself.
In England, Keogh was perhaps best known for his time spent with Scunthorpe (2005-2007) where he scored 23 goals in 97 league appearances and at Wolves (2007-2012), where he scored 23 goals in 129 league appearances.
Upon moving to Australia with Perth Glory in 2014, Keogh really hit good form. He bagged 17 goals in 34 league matches in 2014/15. After departing Perth due to the club’s salary cap breach in 2015, Keogh briefly joined Thai Premier League side Ratchaburi for a season, playing eight matches before returning to Perth once more soon after.
And he continued his rich vein of form in his second spell with the A-League side. Keogh was a key player in the 2018/19 Premiership win after scoring 15 goals for the club but then departed the club once more July 2019, this time switching to Saudi Arabian side Al-Qadsiah, bagging eight goals in 17 league appearances.
He then briefly signed for Indian side NorthEast United before returning for a third spell with Perth Glory in October. The 34-year-old, who gained Australian citizenship last month, will be reunited with former team-mate Richard Garcia, who himself made more than 100 league appearances for Hull City between 2007 and 2012, and is now head coach at Perth.
Joe Ledley (Newcastle Jets)
I thought I’d save one of the most familiar faces till last – although I’m not 100% certain the Welsh hero is still on the books at the Jets.
Despite Transfermarkt and the club’s official website stating he is still there, the midfielder himself recently said he was ‘back living’ in Cardiff.
Ledley, famed for his God-like beard and being part of the Wales squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, signed for the Jets back in February on a short-term deal and went onto make six league appearances. But some confusion surrounds whether or not he is still contracted to them, despite the fact that he stated he was ‘keen’ to return to play in the A-League in 2020/21.
Nevertheless, he WAS there earlier this year and so have featured him on this list.
A real hard-working midfielder, he’s been viewed as the ‘engine’ in the heart of several teams over the years, including the Welsh national team for who he has been capped for 77 times since 2005.
His club career took him from his beloved Cardiff City, who he made 229 league appearances for between 2004 and 2010 and was an FA Cup runner-up for in 2007/08, to Scottish giants Celtic, where he won a Scottish Cup and three Premiership titles.
Three years at Crystal Palace were followed by two more at Derby County in the EFL Championship and a brief spell at Charlton. All in all, the player amassed more than 400 career matches in England and Scotland and so he was a real big signing for Newcastle Jets.
The question now is, will we see him turn out in the red and blue once more in the new season?
I hope you enjoyed this quick delve into the A-League. Stay tuned for many more updates from across the pond real soon when the season gets underway!