End of term report: English Abroad XI 2015/16

Report card

Back in August and ahead of the 2015/16, I selected my dream team of the best English footballers abroad.

Now the season is over for the majority of the players in the side, it’s time to see who were the high achievers and who deserves a stint in detention..

Goalkeeper: Matt Jones (Tondela, Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel) C-
Appearances: 11 (Tondela: 10, Union: 0, Steel: 1) Cleans sheets: 1

The season started off perfectly for Matt Jones at new loan side Tondela. His was the side’s first choice goalkeeper as they prepared for a challenging season looking for survival in Portugal’s top division. However, much like the previous season with parent club Belenenses, Jones was replaced in the starting line-up midway through the season.

It was an unfortunate moment of déjà vu for Jones but he didn’t waste any time trying to make a return to first team football. After six-and-a-half seasons in Portugal, the 29-year-old joined MLS side Philadelphia Union in February on loan, returning to the States seven years after leaving college.

Unfortunately for Jones, he has been unable to force his way into the Union’s starting team, having to make do with warming the bench so far this season.

The shot-stopper has made one appearance since the move to America, playing for the Union’s affiliate side Bethlehem Steel in the country’s third-tier, USL.

Left back: Ashley Cole (AS Roma, LA Galaxy) D
Appearances: 10 (AS Roma: 0, Galaxy: 10) Goals: 0

Ashley Cole’s year-and-a-half stint with Italian side AS Roma was underwhelming, to say the least. The former England stalwart managed just eleven league appearances during his time in Italy and he did not feature once for the capital city side this season.

This led to Cole terminating his contract early and joining Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy. His time with the Galaxy so far as been solid without being too impressive. He has missed only a couple of MLS games so far this season as LA’s good start to the season has seen them lose just one game in eleven. However, the 35-year-old left back did pick up his first red card for more than four years earlier in the season.

The 2015/16 period has been disappointing for Cole but the signs are promising that he can end his career on a high with the Galaxy. He was understandably rusty on his arrival in the States but a good run of games now could see him and Gerrard in line for silverware come the end of the year.

Centre back: Taylor Moore (Lens, Lens II) C
Appearances: 23 (Lens: 6, Lens II: 17) Goals: 0

At the age of 19, Taylor Moore has a huge future ahead of him and this season was another big learning curve for the talented defender. The centre-half started the season with Lens’ first team, featuring in the club’s first game of the season in Ligue 2.

However, despite making three appearances for the first team in August, Moore returned to Lens’ second side in the fourth-tier for more regular action. The rest of 2015 saw Moore switch between the two sides.

At the turn of the year, the England U19 international settled in a regular starting spot with Lens II as they looked to battle relegation to the country’s fifth tier. With two games remaining for Lens II this season, they face an uphill battle to survive but with Moore at the back, they have every chance of retaining their status in the fourth tier. A relegation would not be disastrous for Moore though, as he looks set for a future with the first team.

Centre back: Charlie I’Anson (Valencia B) C
Appearances: 20 Goals: 1

Back in August, I predicted Charlie I’Anson to finally get a prolonged shot in Elche’s first team following their relegation to the Segunda Division but instead, the 22-year-old defender joined Valencia’s B team in the third division.

The move meant Charlie would remain in the same division as he ended the 2014/15 season, following his successful loan spell with Real Oviedo in the third tier that year.

The former Grimsby defender made 20 appearances this season, making eleven starts and scoring one goal in a 2-0 win over Badalona in April. His side achieved a respectable 8th place finish

Right back: Todd Kane (NEC, on loan from Chelsea) B
Appearances: 34 Goals: 1

Todd Kane’s fourth season out on loan from Chelsea at his fifth different loan side could well be his most successful to date. The 22-year-old was a regular for NEC throughout the campaign, making 34 appearances, 32 of which were starts.

NEC were in for a difficult season following promotion to the Eredivisie but Kane’s side made light work of survival in their first season back in the top tier, finishing tenth and only four points away from the Europa League play-off spots.

However, the season was not to have a happy ending for Kane who suffered a cruel blow to what had been a very impressive season from the young defender. At the end of April in a match against PEC Zwolle, Kane suffered an ACL injury, curtailing his loan spell with NEC and potentially keeping him out for four to six months.

Despite the injury, Kane’s year with NEC cannot go unnoticed and with Chelsea suffering defensively this season, his return to fitness later in the year could coincide with a place in the first team next season

Left midfield: Andrew Driver (De Graafschap) C-
Appearances: 29 Goals: 4 

From a personal point of view, Andrew Driver’s first season with De Graafschap in the Netherlands could be classed as a success. The former Hearts and Houston Dynamo winger made 29 appearances and scored four goals and it was reported that he was “loving life” in Holland.

However, that is were the positives end. After just one season back in the Eredivisie, De Graafschap were relegated back to the second tier following defeat to Go Ahead Eagles in the relegation/promotion play-offs. Driver played in both legs but was unable to prevent defeat. It was a case of sweet revenge for the Eagles who avenged their defeat to De Graafschap in the play-offs least season.

For Driver though, his time in Holland could be over with his one-year deal the ‘Super Farmers’ expiring at the end of next month.

Centre midfield: John Bostock (OH Leuven) C
Appearances: 27 Goals: 7

It was a similar case for John Bostock in Belgium with OH Leuven. In his first season in the Belgian top flight, the former Spurs midfielder continued his impressive form from the previous year by firing seven goals in just 25 league appearances.

But the 24-year-old’s goals from midfield were to be not enough and Leuven were relegated back to the second tier at the first time of asking. It wasn’t without trying though, Bostock’s men finished just a single point off survival.

Nonetheless, Bostock’s ‘stock’ continues to rise in Belgium and after two seasons with Leuven he now has 20 goals in 52 starts, a record not to be sniffed at from a midfielder.

Since my season preview though, Bostock’s status as an English player abroad has come under threat. The former England youth international has committed his international allegiance to Trinidad & Tobago and although he is yet to earn a cap, he did earn a call-up to the T&T national side earlier in the year.

Centre midfield: Chuks Aneke (Zulte Waregem) D
Appearances: 12  Goals: 2

After a promising start to his career overseas with Zulte Waregem last year, Chuks Aneke’s career has stalled significantly. The former Arsenal midfielder made 38 appearances for Waregem last season and was looking build on that this season, starting the first three games of the 2015/16 season.

But a promising start to the season did not reach its full potential. Aneke managed to add just nine more appearance throughout the rest of the season and he did not play another game after being substituted at half time in the 3-2 defeat against Standard Liege in November.

Following his injury problems this season, Aneke now looks like he is going to be released. It is an unfortunate turn of events for the former Crewe Alexandra loanee, after his first season in Belgium created such an impression.

Right midfield: Izzy Brown (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea) C+
Appearances: 24 Goals: 1

Izzy Brown was one of three Englishmen who were loaned out to Vitesse from Chelsea at the start of the 2015/16 season and although he made the fewest appearances out of the three, the impact that the spell in Holland will have on his development has the potential to be priceless.

Previous to this season, Brown’s first team football experiences amounted to 15 minutes of Premier League action, the culmination of two substitute appearances for West Brom and Chelsea.

Now the 19-year-old has an entire Eredivisie season under his belt as well as experience in the Europa League. Brown made 24 appearances in total, 14 of which were starts, and bagged his first ever senior goal in the 2-1 win over Roda JC back in March.

Attacking midfield: Ravel Morrison (Lazio) D
Appearances: 8 Goals: 0

It was always going to be difficult for Ravel Morrison to make the breakthrough at Lazio this season, a side challenging for European football, but he will be disappointed his first year in Italy resulted in just one start and only 58 minutes of Serie A action.

With Serie A rules permitting eleven substitutes to be named per match, the 23-year-old gained plenty of experience being involved in a match-day squad.

However, out of the 24 times Morrison made the bench for Lazio in Serie A, only four times did he get the call from Stefano Pioli or Simone Inzaghi to come on.

The former West Ham midfielder’s only start of the season came in November last year, where he lasted 75 minutes in the 2-0 win away to Rosenborg in the Europa League.

His first-team chances were even further limited from January onwards after Lazio’s president Claudio Lotito stated Morrison rejected the chance of a loan deal and more first team football with Serie B side Salernitana, a side also owned by Lotito.

At the age of 23, Morrison needs to be playing regular first team football and he may need to make the move away from the Stadio Olimpico in order to achieve that.

Striker: Dominic Solanke (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea) B+
Appearances: 26 Goals: 7

The youngest of Chelsea loanees at Vitesse, Dominic Solanke was still 17 when he made his debut for Vitesse at the start of the season. Just a week later, he scored his first ever senior goal in a 4-1 win over Cambuur.

In total, Solanke fired seven goals in 26 matches in what was his first ever season of senior football. A very impressive return from the youngster who has been tipped for the top ever since he fired 12 goals in nine games for Chelsea U19s in their 2014/15 UEFA Youth League campaign.

Solanke’s goals saw him finish as Vitesse’s third top scorer as his adopted side finished ninth in the league.

The 18-year-old now returns to Chelsea with a very bright future ahead of him.

Substitutes
Goalkeeper: Luke Steele (Panathinaikos) B
Appearances: 35 Clean sheets: 16

Another fine season for the shot-stopper as Panathinaikos finished second in the Greek Super League and are now on course to achieve Champions League qualification in the UEFA play-offs.

Left back: James Lawrence (Trenčín) B
Appearances: 20 Goals: 2

Suffered from injuries so played less than he would have wanted but still managed to score his first senior goals as Trenčín celebrated another league and cup double.

Left back: Jordan Mustoe (Westerlo) C-
Appearances: 19 Goals: 0

Was in and out of the team as Westerlo earned Belgian Pro League survival by a single point.

Centre back: Myles Anderson (L’Aquila, Lupa Castelli Romani) E
Appearances: 15 (L’Aquila: 11, Lupa: 4) Goals: 0

Struggled for game time in Italy’s third tier and even a loan move could not secure regular football. Both sides Anderson featured for finished either in a relegation spot or a relegation play-off spot.

Centre midfield: Lewis Baker (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea) B+
Appearances: 34 Goals: 5

A very productive season out on loan. A regular in the Vitesse side throughout the season and contributed goals too. Currently performing for England U21s in the Toulon Tournament.

Striker: Gary Noel (First Vienna) B
Appearances: 27 Goals: 12

Another productive season in Austria’s third tier for Gary Noel. Finished as the league’s fourth top scorer as his side only missed out on promotion by way of goal difference.

Striker: Osayamen Osawe (Hallescher) C+
Appearances: 39 Goals: 10

Played every league game in Germany’s third tier for Hallescher as he managed his best return for a season.

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English in Action: March 2016

The main talking points from last month…

New beginnings
March saw several leagues across the globe begin their 2016 seasons. Two of those leagues were MLS and J1 League in America and Japan respectively.

Firstly, Jay Bothroyd has made a dream start in Japan’s top tier. After finishing as the J2 top scorer last season, the former Cardiff City man has made the step-up with newly-promoted Júbilo Iwata look easy. In his first three matches of the season, the 33-year has already notched four goals. His early season goal-scoring exploits have made him an early leader in the goalscoring charts.

Over in the US, no fewer than eleven Englishmen have already featured in the first four weeks of MLS this year.

Dom Dwyer has been carrying on what he does best and was a stand-out performer against Vancouver Whitecaps were he bagged a brace to secure a 2-1 win for Sporting Kansas City.

Elsewhere there have been MLS debuts for DC United’s Rob Vincent and England legend Ashley Cole for LA Galaxy.

America’s third tier, the USL, also commenced this month with former Tottenham Hotspur forward Cameron Lancaster already on the score-sheet for Louisville City this year.

Hungarian adventure
Not many Englishmen have featured in Hungarian football. When Craig Short took over as manager of Hungary’s most prestigious club, Ferencváros, in 2009, he was joined by four compatriots. Sam Wedgbury, Paul Shaw, James Ashmore and Mathew Lowton all featured in Hungary during Short’s stint at the club.

However, since then there has not been an Englishmen to feature in the league (don’t quote me on that), until Nathan Eccleston made the move to Békéscsaba at the end of February.

Since then, the former Liverpool forward who is now 25, has scored one goal in five appearances as his new side battles relegation in Hungary’s top tier.

Romanian jackpot
The past two months have seen Romania become a serious attraction for English footballers as three have made the move to the eastern European country in recent months.

At the end of February, 25-year-old midfielder Ross Jenkins left Crawley Town to join ACS Poli Timişoara, the former club of fellow Englishman Wilson Kneeshaw. Former Watford midfielder Jenkins has made three appearances from the bench since his move east.

Elsewhere, winger Jeffrey Monakana who had a spell with League Two club Bristol Rovers at the start of this season, joined fellow Romanian top tier side Voluntari, although he is yet to make an appearance.

In the country’s second tier, Moses Makinde, who featured for Auerbach in Germany last season, has featured for Metalul Reşiţa. The 23-year-old has made four appearances so far.

Fresh start in Malaysia
After five seasons in the A-League for three different sides but only 27 appearances, defender Brent Griffiths swapped the Central Coast for Pulau Pinang in Malaysia.

The 26-year-old defender has struggled for game time in the past year but has since made three starts for his new side, lasting the entire match in all three.

After five games in the 2016 season, Pulau Pinang sit in mid-table, with one win and two draws.

Third country lucky
After spells in Spain and India failed to yield goal, Jermaine Pennant finally has a goal on foreign soil (he failed to score in European competitions too) for Singapore side Tampines Rovers.

Since the move to Singapore, Pennant has been a key player for Tampines, firing two goals in six games, which has led Tampines to second in the league after four games.

One of his strikes was a sumptuous free-kick, which can be seen in the video below.

April
April is another big month for new beginnings as football begins in Finland, Norway, Sweden and America’s second-tier, the NASL.

 

English Abroad XI 2015/16

With many leagues across Europe beginning this month, it would seem appropriate to look at the players set to stand out this season.

To do this, I have selected an English Abroad dream team. The best 18 players who begin their campaigns this month.

XI 15
Goalkeeper: Matt Jones, 28 (Tondela) After three seasons with Belenenses in Portugal, the former West Brom youth player has joined fellow Primeira Liga side Tondela on loan. Tondela earned promotion from the country’s second tier last year so Matt Jones is set to be busy this year. However, he has two seasons of experience in the country’s premier division now which will be vital as he looks to earn safety with his new side.

Left back: Ashley Cole, 34 (AS Roma) England legend Ashley Cole found minutes difficult to come by last year, making just eleven league starts in his first season abroad. More chances on the pitch are possible this year though, as José Holebas, the man Cole was competing for left back with last year, has left the club to join Watford. The 34-year-old will be hoping to impose himself in Italy this season.

Centre back: Taylor Moore, 18 (RC Lens) Young defender Moore only made his first team debut in May, starting Lens’ last four games of the season. Unfortunately, the England youth international could not prevent his side suffering relegation to the second tier. As the saying goes though, every cloud does have a silver lining for Moore, who will now have more regular playing opportunities with his side in Ligue 2. He already has one clean sheet under his belt, after playing 90 minutes in Lens’ first game of the season last weekend.

Centre back: Charlie I’Anson, 22 (Elche) This season is set to be an interesting one for the former Grimsby defender. Last year was an unsettled one for I’Anson. After a promising start, making eight starts for second tier club Alcorcón on loan from Elche, he lost his place in the side and dropped down a division for more regular playing opportunities. The move came at the perfect time however, with I’Anson making twelve appearances as he helped Real Oviedo to the Segunda B title. The victory was a much needed confidence boost for the defender, known as Charlie in Spain, and he will now make a push to stake his claim back in Elche’s first team after their relegation from La Liga last season.

Right back: Todd Kane, 21 (NEC, on loan from Chelsea) After four domestic loan deals, Kane has followed the well-trodden route of many a Chelsea youth player and made the move to Holland – except the right back has not joined Vitesse. Instead, the former Nottingham Forest loanee has joined newly promoted side NEC Nijmegen for the upcoming season. The former England U19 international has spent the majority of the last three seasons on loan at Championship clubs and with first team chances limited at Stamford Bridge, the move to Holland will provide vital first team experience outside of the comfort zone of England and even Vitesse.

Left midfield: Andrew Driver, 27 (De Graafschap) After just one game back in Britain for Aberdeen, Andrew Driver is on the move abroad again, this time agreeing a deal with another of Eredivisie’s newly-promoted sides De Graafschap. Driver is no stranger to playing overseas, having spent two seasons as a regular at Houston Dynamo, although the move to Holland will provide a new culture. Driver will be looking for his first goal since May 2013 this season, having failed to score all last year.

Centre midfield: John Bostock, 23 (OH Leuven) After two seasons in Belgium’s second division, John Bostock is back playing top tier football again after the most successful season in his career helped OH Leuven to promotion. Big things are expected of the former Tottenham Hotspur wonder-kid this year, after scoring 11 goals in 26 games from midfield last season and it will be intriguing to see if he can make the step-up. Leuven have had a tricky start to the new season, losing their first two games – despite Bostock starting both.

Centre midfield: Chuks Aneke, 22 (Zulte Waregem) Partnering his Belgian Pro League colleague in the centre of the park, former Arsenal player Chuks Aneke had a mixed start to life abroad. 38 appearances in all competitions was an impressive return for a player who had previously never played top flight football. However from the point of view of his new club, the season was very disappointing as as Zulte Waregem dropped from 4th place to 12th in one season. The club will be looking for improvement this year and Aneke could be catalyst as he looks to add to the four goals he managed last season.

Right midfield: Izzy Brown, 18 (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea) Another of the English contingent in Holland, Izzy Brown will be looking for regular first team football at Vitesse, having made just one league appearance for Chelsea since joining from West Brom in 2013. The England U19 international started both games as his new side were knocked out of the Europa League by Southampton recently and will hope to stay in the line-up going into the league campaign. Blessed with immense potential, José Mourinho said that he should be blamed if Brown were not to become a senior England international under his management.

Attacking midfield: Ravel Morrison, 22 (Lazio) The pinnacle of all mercurial talents, Ravel Morrison has a lot to prove this season. The move to Italy could be perfect for Ravel; away from the distractions of home where he can finally concentrate on rediscovering the form he displayed at West Ham that had everyone talking. However, cementing a place in the Lazio starting eleven will not be easy, despite firing a brace in a pre-season game for the Italian giants. 2015/16 is a massive season for one of the stars of England’s future.

Striker: Dominic Solanke, 17 (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea) With over a month to go before his 18th birthday, Dominic Solanke is one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from England in the past decade. At the tender age of 17, the young forward has a chance to replicate his prolific goalscoring form in a top division after he joined Vitesse earlier this week. The striker fired an astonishing 12 goals in just 9 games last season for Chelsea U19s in the UEFA Youth League and he also has a total of 24 goals at various youth levels for England. Solanke is definitely one to watch this season.

Substitutes
Goalkeeper: Luke Steele, 30 (Panathinaikos)
Experienced ‘keeper, a regular in Greece.
Left back: James Lawrence, 22 (Trenčín) 
Can also play in midfield, won league and cup double last year.
Left back: Jordan Mustoe, 24 (Westerlo) Former Wigan player will be looking to build on a solid first season in Belgium.
Centre back: Myles Anderson, 24 (L’Aquila)
Has dropped down from Serie A for more playing opportunities. 
Centre midfield: Lewis Baker, 20 (Vitesse, on loan from Chelsea)
England U20 captain started both Europa League games against Southampton
Striker: Gary Noel, 25 (First Vienna)
Has been prolific in Austria’s third tier.
Striker: Osayamen Osawe, 21 (Hallescher)
Former Blackburn youngster had a good start to life in Germany last season with seven goals.

English in Action: Weekend 8-10 May

A busy weekend for Englishmen abroad saw some important contributions from the expatriates.

On Friday night in Austria, striker Gary Noel bagged a brace for his side First Vienna, as they defeated Donaufield 3-1 in the country’s third tier. It was the English forward’s sixth goal in eleven appearances since he made the move to Vienna in March.

On Saturday, newly-promoted PS Kemi Kings hosted their first game of the season against Haka. Starting up front was Billy Ions, now in his third season at the Finnish club. The former Newcastle United youth player scored his club’s third in a 3-2 win to secure back-to-back wins in the country’s second tier.

In Japan, ex-England international Jay Bothroyd failed to extend his scoring streak to four games but his side Júbilo Iwata still managed to defeat Mito HollyHock 2-1. The former Cardiff City striker has five goals in eight games since the move to Asia and his side currently sit top of J. League 2 after 13 games.

Over in America, there were impressive performances from a couple of Englishmen. First, midfielder Luke Mulholland fired home his second goal of the season to guide Real Salt Lake to a 2-1 away win over Chicago Fire. Then in Florida, Luke Boden provided the assist for Aurelien Collin’s 90th minute equaliser as Orlando City secured a late point at home to New England Revolution. Former Middlesbrough defender Seb Hines also played the full ninety for Orlando.

Sunday was a prolific day for England’s ex-pats, with no fewer than eight exiles on the score-sheets for their respective clubs.

In Belgium, John Bostock scored OH Leuven’s only goal of the game as they drew 1-1 with AS Eupen in the Second Division playoffs. After finishing fifth in the league, Bostock’s side are in a four-way battle to play Belgian Pro League football next season, with three teams from the Second Division competing with one from the top tier.

Former Walsall defender Netan Sansara opened the scoring as his side Fredrikstad secured a much-needed 3-1 win over Ranheim. Fredrikstad, now in their third season in Norway’s second tier, had started the season poorly, failing to win any of their first six games of the season but a goal from club captain Sansara helped secure maximum points for the first time on Sunday.

In Sweden’s top tier, Hakeem Araba continued his fine form, making it four goals in four games as he scored the only goal of the game to secure victory for Falkenberg over Halmstad. The English striker has now scored in four games in a row, having previously failed to find the net in his first four games of the season. The video below shows highlights of the match.

In the country’s second tier, Östersunds FK managed by former West Brom defender Graham Potter, secured a 2-1 away win over AFC United helped by a goal from Jamie Hopcutt. James Sinclair was an unused sub for Potter’s side.

In the MLS, it was the usual suspects making the headlines. Dom Dwyer‘s third goal of the season picked up a point for Sporting Kansas City who drew 1-1 away to DC United. Elsewhere, a brace from Bradley Wright-Phillips was enough to secure victory for Red Bulls over City in the first ever New York derby. Lloyd Sam was also involved, assisting Wright-Phillips’ first of the night.

Finally, in the NASL, the country’s second tier, goals from Tomi Ameobi and Ritchie Jones were not enough to prevent a 4-2 loss for FC Edmonton away to New York Cosmos, who had Spanish legend Raul on the score-sheet. The English pair now both have three goals each this season.

2015 Season Preview (April Edition)

A few weeks back now, I previewed the leagues which featured Englishmen which started in March. Well now it’s time for a preview of the leagues which start this month…

Finland: Veikkausliiga & Kakkonen
Opening match: 12th April & 24th April
This year, there are two Englishmen flying the flag in the Veikkausliiga (Finland’s top tier) and three in the Kakkonen (the country’s third tier). The nation’s second tier, the Ykkonen, begins next month.

Former Southampton youngster Josh Mulvany will be featuring in Finland’s premier division for the first time after his KTP side won promotion from the second tier last year after finishing as runners-up. When KTP travel to Lahti for the opening game of the season, Mulvany will complete a hat-trick of featuring in all of Finland’s top three tiers. Now in his fourth season in the country, the 26-year-old began his Scandanavian adventure with Kakkonen side Ekenäs IF in 2012, before moving to KTP where he played two seasons in the Ykkonen.

Elsewhere in the top division, former Fulham and Bristol Rovers midfielder Wayne Brown will be starting his fourth consecutive season in the country’s top tier as he prepares to represent SJK. Brown, who has seen league appearances limited in recent season, will be hoping his performances in the League Cup so far this year will earn him a starting spot in the first game of the season away to Inter Turku. The 26-year-old also has Europa League action to look forward to after SJK finished second last season.

The third division begins in three weeks time. The Kakkonen is split into four regional divisions, with the top team in each division entering the promotion play-offs, from which two teams can be promoted.

Squad lists have yet to be announced for the third tier but there is a strong possibility there could be several Englishmen plying their trade in the competition.

Norway: 1. Division
Opening match: 6th April
Norway’s top tier, the Eliteserien, also starts next Monday but only the second tier, 1. Division, features an Englishman. Netan Sansara will be starting his second season with Fredrikstad next week and it will be his first as captain, having been announced as the club’s skipper recently. The 25-year-old defender featured for Walsall in England before featuring for Cypriot side PAEEK and Danish side FC Vestsjælland and finally moving to Norway.

Last season, Fredrikstad reached the promotion play-offs but were knocked out at the semi-final stage. Sansara contributed three goals in 15 games from defence and will be hoping he can lead his team a stage further this year and gain promotion.

Sweden: AllsvenskanSuperettan & Division 1
Opening match: 4th April, 3rd April & 11th April
All three of Sweden’s top tiers are set to feature Englishmen this year. The top tier, the Allsvenskan, begins this weekend and will feature three expatriates. One of those is legendary Brit abroad Kenny Pavey, who has played in Sweden since 1998. One of the few Englishmen to have successful carved an entire career abroad, the left winger/wingback will be featuring for AIK again this year.

At the opposite end of the scale though are Lloyd Saxton and Hakeem Araba, who will both be undertaking their first seasons in Sweden with GIF Sundsvall and Falkenberg respectively. Goalkeeper Saxton moves to the country have previously played in his homeland for Bradford City, whilst forward Araba attempts to settle in a new country once again after spells in Cyprus and Greece.

There are three more ex-pats in second tier. 22-year-old Jamie Hopcutt will be hoping to match his tally of nine goals from last season as he features for Östersunds FK, where he’s joined by former Bolton defender James Sinclair, who secured a move from Ljungskile. Finally, Kieron Cadogan will begin his first full season at GAIS, having joined partway through last season from Barnet.

The country’s third tier is split into north and south divisions, with the top team in each earning promotion plus an additional promotion spot up for grabs between the two second place teams. There are currently five Englishmen registered to feature in Division 1, which starts a week after the other two tiers. They included former Forest Green Rovers defender James Baldwin, who has dropped down a tier to join IFK Luleå from Östersunds FK and ex-Northampton Town midfielder Ryan Gilligan, who begins his fifth season in Sweden with new club Umeå.

USA: North American Soccer League (NASL)
Opening match: 5th April
Following the start of the other professional domestic leagues, the MLS and USL, the NASL begins this weekend along with its two English players.

26-year-old midfielder Mark Anderson will be starting his fourth season in the States but at a new side. After three seasons with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who he guided to the Championship Final last year, Anderson will be featuring for the Carolina RailHawks this season.

Elsewhere, 25-year-old Paul Black will be competing in his first ever season in the States. The defender joins the Atlanta Silverbacks after seven seasons in the English game with Oldham Athletic, Tranmere Rovers, Carlise United and most recently, Cheltenham Town.

There are also some divisions which begin in May. There will be a preview for them too.

English in Action: Weekend 21-22 March

As he so often is, Bradley Wright-Phillips was the stand-out performer in a busy weekend for Englishmen abroad. The forward has carried his form over from last season as he bagged a goal and an assist to guide the New York Red Bulls to a 2-0 victory over DC United on Sunday. The 30-year-old showed a ice-cold composure to control and long ball and slot home before setting up his compatriot Lloyd Sam to wrap up the victory for the Red Bulls.

The New York duo were among eight Englishmen who featured in the MLS the past weekend. Featuring for the other team in the Big Apple, Manchester City loanee Shay Facey did not have the full debut he was dreaming of. The young defender picked up two yellow cards during the second half of New York City’s goalless draw with Colorado Rapids to earn career-first red card.

Elsewhere in the US, Sporting KC’s Dom Dwyer and Portland Timbers’ Liam Ridgewell faced each other as their sides battled to a 0-0 draw, which was the same scoreline over in the match in New England where Nigel Reo-Coker featured for Montreal Impact. Seb Hines‘s Orlando City suffered their first MLS loss as they went down 1-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps and Giles Barnes and co. at Houston Dynamo secured an impressive draw away to last year’s champions LA Galaxy.

There were two other English players on the score-sheet across the globe. Adam Burnaby-Atkins‘ second goal of the season was enough to secure a 2-2 draw for Dender in the Belgian Third Division. The 19-year-old midfielder is in his first season in Belgium, having previously featured for DC United’s academy in America.

The other goalscorer was Saul Hapin of Hawke’s Bay United in New Zealand but his first half penalty was not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss at home to Team Wellington. English ‘keeper Josh Hill also featured for Hawke’s Bay.

Another appearance of note was Khurram Shazad, who debuted for Austrian third-tier side WSG Wattens. The young forward entered the game as 55th minute substitute and saw his side won 1-0 over bottom club Bizau. Shazad is a former US college student, having attended Young Harris College in Georgia.

In Slovakia, Trenčín went top of the Super Liga table after a 3-0 win over DAC. 22-year-old midfielder James Lawrence played the entire match, his 15th appearance of the season.

In the Singapore S. League, Craig Fagan is still looking for his first goal for Brunei-based side DPMM FC, as he made it three starts without registering a strike. However, Steve Kean’s DPMM did still manage a 2-2 draw with Home United.

Finally, Medy Elito played the last 16 minutes as VVV Venlo secured a late draw away to Fortuna Sittard. The result means Venlo remain just one point outside the play-off spots in Holland’s second tier.

2015 Season Preview (March Edition)

Although March usually sees English football edge closer to its nail-biting finale, for many leagues it signals fresh optimism as the local domestic scene kicks off.

Across Scandinavia, footballing hibernation is over as the spring beacons those who have been locked up all winter to brace the outdoors and play ball once again. Several competitions across Asia and the Americas also see the turn of the month as the ideal time to kick off their 2015 campaigns.

Here’s my preview for the countries which begin their campaigns in March. An April edition will follow.

Singapore: S. League
Opening match: 1st March
Singapore’s top domestic league, the S. League, kicks off the 2015 football-fest with its opening round taking place at the weekend. Both English players feature this Sunday, with former Hull City forward Craig Fagan set to make his debut for Steve Kean’s DPMM side.

The S. League has slimmed to ten teams for this year, with each side playing each other three times. Although the competition is the domestic league of Singapore, three sides from outside the country compete. Japanese side Albrix Niigata have a sister side which compete in the league, as well as Brunei-based DPMM and Malaysian side Harimau Muda B.

Warriors FC lifted the title last season, their first victory since 2009, and they boast the most English talent. As well as being managed by Stoke-born coach Alex Weaver, they also include compatriot midfielder Tom Beattie who is set to feature in his third consecutive season in Singapore. Weaver impressed many in his first full season in charge of the Warriors, becoming the first non-Asian manager to win the S. League title and only the second ever foreigner. Beattie also dazzled under Weaver’s leadership, having been re-united with his former coach after a spell together at Hougang United. The pair will be looking to hold on to their title this season when the campaign kicks off this weekend.

Elsewhere, the only other English player set to feature in Singapore this year also begins his campaign this Sunday. Former Derby County forward Craig Fagan joined Brunei-based side DPMM earlier this month, linking up with ex-Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean. DPMM will be looking to recover from a disappointing campaign last season, in which they finished 8th, and will be hoping that Fagan can provide the spark needed to guide them towards the top of the table.

USA: Major League Soccer and United States League
Openings match: MLS – 7th March, USL – 22 March
March marks the start of two of the US’s leagues as the country’s first and third tiers begin within the next four weeks.

Major League Soccer, the country’s premier competition, begins on March 7th and will include expansion sides New York City FC and Orlando City for the first time.

It’s fair to say they are not the only two notable additions to the MLS this year. Both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will make the move across the Atlantic to join LA Galaxy and New York City respectively following the conclusion of the Premier League season. Although that means the pair will both miss the opening months of the season, it has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of their arrival to the country.

The highly decorated pair will join ten Englishmen already plying their trade in the rapidly expanding league. They include ex-Villa players Luke Moore and Nigel Reo-Coker, midfielders Giles Barnes and Lloyd Sam and last season’s top scorers, Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips. English boss Adrian Heath also continues to take charge of Orlando City as they compete in the MLS for the first time.

The league kicks off its 20th season next week with two ten-team conferences and culminates in the end-of-season playoffs, which will include twelve teams this year.

Just bumped into myself in Hollywood, standing next to TH too 👏 #LuckyBoy

A post shared by Dom Dwyer (@ddwyer14) on

Dom Dwyer with Dom Dwyer…

The newly rebranded United States League also begins next month, with its first match taking place on March 22nd.

The league has had a major overhaul during the off-season with the competition increasing from fourteen teams to twenty due tot he fact that every MLS franchise now has a reserve side, or an affiliate side, competing in the competition.

The increased number of teams means the division will now split into eastern and western conferences, adopting the structure of the MLS.

Two English managers will feature in the league, with Leigh Cowlishaw and former Everton player David Irving taking the reigns at Richmond Kickers and Tulsa Roughnecks respectively.

There are also several Englishmen on the rosters of the USL sides. One of those is former Manchester United youth defender Mark Howard who, after five seasons in Denmark, joined Oklahoma City Energy last season.

In addition, with many second sides in the division, players can easily drop down from the MLS. This will both increase the quality of the division and also give chances to Englishmen who may not be featuring regular in the top tier.

Read my piece on why you should watch US soccer here.

April
Several other divisions, especially those across Scandinavia, begin their league campaigns in April. There will be a separate post for those leagues. However, in Finland and Sweden, competitive football has already begun with cup competitions starting as early as last week in Finland and yesterday in Sweden.