Born: 24 September 1979, Aylesbury, England
Age in 2005: 25
It's remarkable how one man can change the course of history. However, when Aylesbury United coach, Steve Greenhalf suggested that Emmerson Orlando Boyce might want to try switching from playing striker to defender he set in motion a series of events that otherwise would not have conceivably taken place. Wigan Athletic would be a million pounds better off, for one. Crystal Palace would have two less to add to their all-time goal tally. Barbados would have only beaten Aruba 4-1 in the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying campaign, rather than 3-1. The list goes on.
Yet Greenhalf, who would have done well to offer similar advice to the likes of Jozy Altidore, insisted to a reluctant young Boyce that the only way he could ever become a professional footballer would be if he stopped trying to score goals. Lo and behold, just a few years later, Emmie found himself running out onto the pitch at Kenilworth Road as a right back for what would be the first of many professional appearances and would set the precedent for the rest of his career. Luton Town lost the match 3-0.
(Above: Despite not playing as a striker, Boyce continued to score, in this instance in his own net)
Following his debut, Boycey got off to a good start with the Bedfordshire club, earning the prestigious 'Internet Player of the Season' award, with manager Ricky Hill refusing to hold back on his own praise of the defender, stating he believed the 22-year old "deserved a call up to the England under-21s squad." Meanwhile, despite strict orders not to go for goal, the young maverick did as he'd pleased, bagging three goals in 42 appearances for Luton, before inevitably catching the attention of big-hitters Crystal Palace.
Following a short trial with the club, Palace snapped him up on a free transfer in what was seen as a fair price at the time. Once again, Ems got off to a flying start, securing his place as first choice right back and twenty-fifth place centre forward. He took home Player of the Year in 2006 and scored his only league goal for the club that same season in a 2-0 win over Coventry City, a result that Greenhalf noted would have been 1-0 had he not passed on his wisdom all those years ago.
🗣️ "The #PLKicks scheme has developed my confidence and I hope my story inspires other youngsters to work hard and achieve great things."— WAFC Community Trust (@LaticsCommunity) March 12, 2018
🏆 Oliver Carrick was named the club's #KicksHero at Saturday night's Charity Ball at the @DWStadium.
➡️ https://t.co/W3gYGjNw8M#wafc pic.twitter.com/uloBMeM5RN
(Above: Emmerson photoshopping himself into a mural alongside other Premier League greats)
It wasn't long then before 'The Boyce of Reason' was wanted anew, this time by Paul Jewell's Wigan Athletic, and in the gruelling position of having to replace the outgoing Pascal Chimbonda. Nevertheless, Boyce - now a fully capped Barbados international - didn't back down from the challenge of filling such a club legend's boots, and instead picked up exactly where the Frenchman had left off by losing 2-1 on his debut to Newcastle United. However, Jewell was quick to wax lyrical about his new defender, claiming that he would "fit in well" with recent arrivals Denny Landzaat, Fitz Hall and Tomasz Cywka.
And it was with the Latics that The Absolute Boy-ce was to have the highlight of his career. Having fought off competition from the likes of an ageing Mario Melchiot, the right back wore the captain's armband as Martínez's Wigan lifted the FA Cup in May 2013, the same season they were relegated from the Premier league. Despite their relegation, the FA Cup final defeat of Man City was seen as a remarkable achievement for the underdogs, with 'Believe' the byword for the club in the lead up to the win. When asked how he felt about the success, Boyce said: "It's unbelievable."
(Above: Boyce trying to decide if he'd rather have won the Luton Town Internet Player of the Season award or the 2013 FA Cup)
Realising that his best days were probably behind him, Boycey packed his stuff and left Wigan after nine years with the club, heading to Blackpool for a go on the rides and a last chance at fulfilling his dream of playing striker.
Yet after a few goes on the teacups and a fourth relegation in as many clubs, the English-Barbadian had had enough, finally hanging up his boots at the tender old age of 36, having made 544 appearances over 18 years.
Where is he now?
If you didn't already know, he's currently assistant manager at ambitious 12th tier side, Egerton FC, who recently signed a 37-year old Nathan Ellington and a 36-year old Danny Webber.
What did he say?
"Everyone knows what an amazing player Jermaine Pennant is"