29 Dec 2013

The January transfer window is open, so let the club-hopping begin! These days, it’s unusual to see a player stick it out with the same club for more than a few seasons. But it hasn’t always been like this. As agents and chairmen across the continent thrash out deals to move footballers on to pastures new, we asked Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox to give us the lowdown on five players who remained loyal to one club for the duration of their careers…

Tom Finney, Preston North End
A small, slight forward, Finney demonstrated tremendous loyalty to Preston throughout his career, despite regularly being coveted by more established clubs both home and abroad. With his career delayed by the second world war, Finney started playing professionally at the relatively late age of 24 – but his talent was so obvious that he received his first England cap less than a month later. He remains joint sixth on England’s all-time goals list, level with Alan Shearer and Nat Lofthouse, two men who played much closer to goal. Finney was famously a highly sporting individual, and avoided the spotlight off the pitch. Sadly, success evaded him – he was only a runner-up in both the FA Cup and First Division, and his major achievement was helping Preston back up to the top-flight as Second Division champions in 1951, having stuck with them after relegation.

Jack Charlton, Leeds United
His younger brother Bobby became more famous because of his time at Manchester United and his England goalscoring record – but spent a season at Preston, ruling him out of this list. The older Charlton still holds Leeds’ appearances record, and was a fixture in the side throughout their glory days – winning two Fairs Cups, one FA Cup and one First Division title, although he was a league runner-up on five further occasions. Charlton was a late developer: all these trophies came after his World Cup victory in 1966, by which time he was 31, having only made his international debut a year beforehand. He spent his final season battling to be fit for the 1973 FA Cup final, but failed a fitness test and instead announced his retirement – taking the Middlesbrough managerial job three days later.

Bob Paisley, Liverpool
In the one-club stakes, Paisley deserves extra marks for remaining loyal throughout both playing and managerial careers – and winning the league title with both. Paisley was a tough-tackling defender and another whose career was delayed by the second world war – he played a part in the liberation of Rome – and his sole title came in 1946-47, the first full season following the war. He made over 250 appearances for the club, before working his way up the ranks as a physiotherapist, reserves manager, coach and finally manager. He led the club to six league titles, and remains the only coach in history to have won three European Cups.

Nat Lofthouse, Bolton Wanderers
Another whose one-club status extends to both his playing and managerial career. Lofthouse’s peak was in 1953, when he opened the scoring in the Matthews Final, putting him into the record books by scoring in each round of the FA Cup. Bolton lost that final, although Lofthouse was named English Footballer of the Year that season. He finally won the Cup five years later, scoring both goals in a 2-0 final victory over Manchester United – famously barging goalkeeper Harry Gregg over the line for the second. After an injury-enforced retirement, he took a variety of positions at Bolton: assistant manager, first-team coach, manager, chief scout, administrative manager and finally president. Earlier this year, a statue of Lofthouse was unveiled outside the Reebok Stadium, two years after his death.

Ryan Giggs, Manchester United
Giggs is yet to retire from the game, but it is highly unlikely he’ll appear for another club. Now 40, Giggs has been a key part of the first team since making his debut aged 17. His longevity is remarkable during an era where football has changed significantly, on and off the pitch. In particular, his success in adapting his game when he could no longer rely upon his pace – his major attribute as a youngster – is remarkable. The statistics sum up his career: more than 1,000 first-class appearances (including international caps), plus an unmatched 13 league titles. The Welshman has already started his coaching career at United, and it’s difficult to see him at another club.

Who wore your club's crest with pride for their entire career? Let us know in the comments section below.

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