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.

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2014 Review: #7 Mark Anderson

2014 REVIEW - Anderson

2014 saw Mark Anderson play a pivotal role as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers came agonisingly close to lifting their first North American Soccer League (NASL) title.

Last year was the Durham-born midfielder’s third season as a professional at the Strikers, having joined the second-tier club in 2012.

After moving to the States in 2008 to study at Barry University, Florida, Anderson played college football and also had a stint at fourth-tier side Balton Rouge Capitals in 2010 – before graduating in 2011.

Following graduation, he impressed in the NASL combine and was selected by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to join their roster for the 2012 season.

Two years on, and Anderson has had his most impressive season to date.

He made 27 appearances, 26 of which were starts, missing just two matches all season.

His performances, which saw him contribute six goals from midfield, helped the Strikers to equal their best ever finish in the NASL. He was also named in the the league’s ‘Team of the Week’ on three occasions.

After reaching the post-season playoffs, the Strikers saw off Minnesota United in the semi-finals on penalties, with Anderson converting his effort from the spot.

The Englishman’s side then took on San Antonio Scorpions in the final, which is known as the Soccer Bowl. Despite assisting his side’s goal, Anderson was unable to prevent defeat, as the Strikers fell to a narrow 2-1 reverse. Although his side lost, the 25-year-old could be pleased with his performances and the NASL runners-up medal.

After three seasons with the Strikers, Anderson is amongst the club’s record holders. The club have only been known as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers since 2011, having previously been known as Miami FC before relocating.

With the side only four seasons old, Anderson is currently the club’s all time goal scorer, with 19 goals, and has also made the third highest amount of appearances for the club.

During his time in the States, the English midfielder has picked up a reputation for scoring speculative goals. In 2012, he wowed spectators with a goal from his own half, before doing it a again a month later, when he scored from virtually the corner flag.

At 25, Anderson still has the best years of his career to come and after a season which so very nearly brought silverware, there’s nothing to say he cannot do it this year.

2014 was a good year for Anderson. He has contributed six goals, four assists and showed composure where it really matters, with his performances in the post-season playoffs. This year will see the attacking midfielder try and do it all again and, maybe, go one step further and lift the NASL title.

English in action: 16th November

Whilst most Englishmen were waking on Sunday satisfied from England’s 3-1 win over Slovenia the night before, three players took to the field.

Italy: Pro Patria 1-2 Arezzo (Lega Pro Girone A)
Westminster-born defender Myles Anderson made the bench once for Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League and now, via spells at Exeter, Aldershot and Monza, he plays his football for Pro Patria.

The 24-year-old defender moved to the continent last season when he joined Italian fourth-tier side Monza. After eight appearances for them last season, he joined third-tier side Pro Patria this summer.

Yesterday, Anderson was making his ninth start of the season as his side hosted Arezzo, who sat eight places in the table in 10th place. The match turned out to be a disappointing one for Anderson, who played the full ninety minutes as his team lost 2-1. The defender also picked up a booking to cap a disappointing day at the office.

India: Delhi Dynamos 0-1 Kerala Blasters (Indian Super League)
44-year-old player/manager David James has defied his age this year in the Indian Super League and kept up his good form yesterday as he recorded a fourth consecutive clean sheet as his side Kerala Blasters defeated Delhi Dynamos 1-0.

The former England international goalkeeper remained solid in goal once again and yesterday’s victory saw the Blasters move into third place in the Indian Super League.

The only goal of the game came in the 61st minute when Nigerian substitute Penn Orji scored following an assist from former Preston North End forward Iain Hume.

USA: San Antonio Scorpions 2-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL Soccer Bowl)

Mark Anderson (left).

The 2014 season in America is reaching its climax and the NASL (USA’s second tier) is no different as the San Antonio Scorpions took on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the 2014 Soccer Bowl, the NASL playoff final.

The NASL season is split into a Spring and Fall championship. The winner of each makes the playoffs, as well as the two teams with the best combined records over the two championships. San Antonio qualified as the winners of the Fall championship, Fort Lauderdale qualified with one of the best combined records.

The two teams successfully negotiated their way through the playoff semi-finals to make the playoff final, known as the Soccer Bowl.

The Englishmen involved in the final was Mark Anderson, who is enjoying his third season at the Strikers. The 25-year-old midfielder from Durham, made the move to the States in 2005 to study and joined the Strikers in 2012. He started in centre midfield in the eagerly anticipated Soccer Bowl.

Unfortunately, although Anderson contributed on a personal level, he was unable to guide the Strikers to the title as San Antonio secured a 2-1 win to secure their first ever Soccer Bowl.

The Scorpions scored twice midway through the second half and despite the Strikers pulling one back through Walter Ramirez, a goal set up by Anderson, they could not score a second and fell to a loss at the final hurdle.