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10 of the best Football League January signings

28 January 2014

With January's transfer deadline day fast approaching, we've picked out 10 of the best January signings made by Football League clubs in years gone by...

Lenny Johnrose - Bury to Swansea City (free) - 2003:

It is hard to imagine now but on the final day of the 2002/03 season, Swansea City were one bad result away from dropping out of The Football League.

They were at home to Hull City, now alongside them in the Premier League, and had to match or better the result of Exeter City to stay up at the Grecians' expense.

They did the business courtesy of a 4-2 win against Hull with their third goal coming from January signing Lenny Johnrose - the experienced midfielder had also netted on two other occasions after his arrival from Bury.

Colin Murdock - Hibernian to Crewe Alexandra (free) - 2005:

Colin Murdock may have only played 16 times for Crewe but he was inspirational in helping to keep Dario Gradi's side in the Championship in 2004/05.

He had made a good career for himself as a solid defender with Preston North End and Scottish side Hibernian before joining the Railwaymen.

Gradi handed him the captain's armband and was rewarded as the Northern Ireland international led the team to safety by the narrowest of margins - a solitary goal better off than Gillingham, who went down instead, after Crewe climbed out of the drop zone with victory on the final day.

Jimmy Bullard - Peterborough United to Wigan Athletic (£275,000) - 2003:

Spending not much more than a quarter of a million pounds on Jimmy Bullard in 2003 proved a bargain for Wigan Athletic.

The Latics, in their 25th season as a Football League club, were looking set for promotion to the second tier for the first time and added Bullard in the January transfer window.

He helped them win the Division Two title with a club record 100 points and, by the time of his departure to Fulham in 2006, the charismatic midfielder had become one of the most recognisable figures in the English game.

Leon Osman - Everton to Derby County (loan) - 2004:

Derby County were struggling in Division One under George Burley when they swooped in January 2004 for Leon Osman - at the time a promising 22-year-old midfielder from Everton.

Osman remained with the Rams until the end of April and scored three goals in his 17 appearances - those coming in two wins and a draw - while putting in some sparkling performances.

He returned to Everton before Derby's survival was secured but remains fondly remembered at the club.

Richie Barker - Mansfield Town to Hartlepool United (£80,000) - 2007:

Six English clubs had enjoyed Richie Barker's goalscoring talents prior to his move to Hartlepool United in January 2007.

Having previously netted 12 League 2 goals for Mansfield that season, the big striker joined Hartlepool's ranks with the club looking for promotion to League 1 - and he delivered the goods.

Barker scored nine more times before the end of the campaign to finish as League 2's joint-top scorer alongside Izale McLeod, and his team went up as runners-up to Walsall.

Dean Windass - Bradford City to Hull City (loan) - 2007:

Dean Windass was already a hugely popular figure at Hull having started his professional career there and had been a big hit at Boothferry Park in the early 1990s.

By the time he returned to his hometown club, the KC Stadium was the Tigers' home and his eight goals in 18 games during an initial loan spell helped consolidate Hull in the Championship in 2006/07.

He penned a permanent transfer from Bradford that summer and a year later his fairytale was complete as he scored the Play-Off Final goal that took Hull into the Premier League for the first time.

Steve Fletcher - Crawley Town to Bournemouth (free) - 2009:

Steve Fletcher's place in Bournemouth's history was already secured after his 15-year spell with the club came to an end in the summer of 2007 but, following a year with Chesterfield and a few months in the Conference with Crawley Town, the Cherries were in big trouble when they went back for their legend in January 2009.

A 17-point deduction for going into administration for the second time in a couple of years had left them in serious danger of dropping out of The Football League.

But Fletcher's return, coupled with the management of Eddie Howe, saw Bournemouth slowly but surely drag themselves out of trouble and they eventually secured their survival with a game to go - Fletcher netting the winning goal.

Stephen Dobbie - Swansea City to Blackpool (loan) - 2010:

Stephen Dobbie was signed by Ian Holloway with Blackpool genuine contenders for promotion to the Premier League in the 2009/10 season.

Dobbie helped guide the Seasiders to the Play-Offs where he scored in the Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest. The attacking midfielder then played his part in the victory over Cardiff City in the Final at Wembley, before returning to South Wales after scoring six goals in his spell.

Just for good measure, he then scored in the Play-Off Final as Swansea went up a year later and he was back at Wembley again in 2012 with Blackpool, having re-joined on loan, though this time they lost to West Ham United in the showpiece match.

Billy Sharp - Doncaster Rovers to Southampton (£1.8m) - 2012:

There were plenty of suitors for Billy Sharp after his prolific spell at Doncaster Rovers and it was Southampton who won the battle to sign him in the January 2012 transfer window.

The Saints were in their first season back in the Championship but were eyeing a second successive promotion back to the Premier League, so signed Sharp to provide extra attacking edge.

They were repaid with nine goals before the season was out as Sharp carried on wearing his shooting boots and Southampton met their top-flight target.

Kevin Phillips - Blackpool to Crystal Palace (loan) - 2013

Kevin Phillips had been a highly-regarded goalscorer throughout his career before moving to Crystal Palace on loan from Blackpool last term. He was viewed as a vital piece of the jigsaw at Selhurst Park with the Eagles gunning for promotion to the Premier League - and so it proved.

The now 40-year-old scored seven goals for Palace, but his most vital act came in the last game of the season in the Play-Off Final against Watford.

With the score at 0-0 and the clock approaching half-time in extra-time at Wembley, Wilfried Zaha was brought down in the box by the Hornets' Marco Cassetti and a penalty was awarded.

Phillips stepped up and readied himself to take what could turn out to be the most valuable kick in world football.

He fired high past Manuel Almunia from 12 yards and Palace's Premier League return was complete.


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