With Robert Earnshaw having swapped Cardiff for Tel Aviv and Emile Heskey off Down Under in the same week, are our footballers finally ready to spread their wings? We look at five unlikely trailblazers who've turned their back on Blighty to sample the alternatives a life overseas presents
By Alex Dunn - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsaldunn
Last Updated: 21/09/12 2:53pm
Kris Boyd - Portland Timbers
If ever a footballer was born to play for Portland Timbers it's our man from Irvine. Middlesbrough fans would throw their parmos (a Teesside delicacy of deep-fried chicken in bread crumbs topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese) at him were he ever to return to The Riverside, but there's no disputing the Scottish Mick Quinn knows where the goal is. The SPL's all-time leading goalscorer pitched up in the US' capital of alternative cool in January after failing to agree terms with MLS rivals Houston Dynamo. After Boyd's miserable sojourn at Turkish Süper Lig club Eskisehirspor upon leaving Boro, which saw him play all of 76 minutes and complain of not being paid, it would have been a case of once bitten twice shy for most Brits abroad. Boyd is nae cissy though and as Portland's Designated Player (the one who earns all the cash) he has bagged a solid if unspectacular seven goals from 27 starts. Boyd was brought to Oregon by fellow Scot John Spencer, but the former Chelsea man was relieved of his duties earlier this year after a slow start to the season.
Adam Eckersley - AGF Aarhus
The footballer who most sounds like he should be a Coronation Street character currently earns his crust in Denmark. After failing to make the grade at hometown club Manchester United he moved to Port Vale but after just a year in the Potteries the wanderlust that saw him encompass loan stints at Antwerp and Brondby while at Old Trafford resurfaced again. By all accounts he's done very well for himself in Scandinavia. He suffered the drop with his first club Horsens (managed by Jan's cousin Johnny Molby) but won an immediate return to the Danish top flight as 1st Division champions. Next up was a stint at AGF Aarhus. In his first term in Aarhus he won his second 1st Division title in as many years and last season again excelled as AGF finished fifth on their return to the big time. Salford-born Mark Howard, who also started out at Manchester United, was until recently a team-mate. Adam's older brother Richard currently plays for Toronto. Whether he's a fan of Nordic Noir is unconfirmed.
Neil Emblen - Waitakere United
Despite being the wrong side of 40 the Bromley-born midfielder was still lacing his boots last season in New Zealand. It went largely unnoticed that former Wolves favourite Emblen coached the New Zealand national side at London 2012, where they lost 1-0 to Belarus, drew 1-1 with Egypt and lost 3-0 to Brazil. As player-coach of Waitakere United he's quietly made a name for himself as an astute tactician but now finds himself in limbo as his club are not happy for him to combine both roles. Emblen made the move Down Under in 2007, when after finishing a more than decent career in England he joined the now defunct New Zealand Knights from Walsall. Both Neil and his brother Paul, also a professional footballer, began their careers at Tonbridge Angels, who sound as though they should be Byker Groves' arch rivals.
Julian Gray - Nea Salamina Famagusta
A player blessed with the quintessential cultured left peg Gray moved to Cyprus last year upon the expiration of his deal at Walsall. While Famagusta remains a bit of a political hot potato of a city (it's complicated and we're not experts on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus of 1974) it looks like a perfectly pleasant place to live with its picturesque walled centre. It certainly didn't do Chris Dickson's career any harm when he pitched up there in 2010. Having plundered 18 goals in just 27 games the former Charlton man earned a move to Cypriot heavyweights AEL Limassol. Word on the street with regards how Gray is getting on is thin on the ground but if he stays away from Ayia Napa he should be fine. Even in the twilight of his career the man Theo Walcott might become should he learn to cross a ball should be able to put in a decent shift in the more languid pace of Cypriot football.
Kenny Pavey - Ljungskile SK
Sweden gave us Ikea, we gave them Kenny Pavey. Much as we love their meatballs and bookcases unnervingly named Billy we reckon our Scandinavian neighbours might just have got the better deal. The now 33-year-old midfielder began his career at his beloved Millwall but left before making an appearance. He made the bold move to join Swedish second tier side Ljungskile SK in 1998. It's fair to say Kenny doesn't mind putting his foot in and his robust playing style quickly earned him a cult status on the terraces as he found himself voted the dirtiest footballer in the Allsvenskan. After more than 100 appearances for Ljungskile he earned a move to AIK Stockholm. Pavey proved just as popular in the Swedish capital as he helped his new club to a league and cup double in 2009. He's since returned to Ljungskile but not before stitching his name into AIK folklore by coming off the substitutes' bench in the penultimate game of the aforementioned season and scoring the winner at Hammarby to keep his side on course for silverware. His subsequent bat-s*** celebration (search YouTube) is one of the wonders of the modern world. Pavey was brought to the attention of British audiences via the excellent Football Ramble podcast.
What do you make of our picks? Have we missed an old favourite currently plying their trade in Azerbaijan or Benin? To have your say and offer other alternative suggestions for our Brits abroad fill in the feedback form below...