Marian Pahars

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Marian Pahars is a former Latvian striker who was born in Chornovolia, Ukrainian SSR on August 5th 1976. Although born in Ukraine, Pahars represented Latvia at international level, qualifying through his parents. Marian began his career at Pardaugava Riga, before moving to Skonto Riga in 1995. He started his career in midfield, but was quickly converted into a forward. Pahars won his first international cap in 1996, and established himself as one of the deadliest finishers in the country, earning him the nickname 'the Latvian Michael Owen'.

In February 1999 Pahars was invited for a trial at Southampton, who were managed by Dave Jones. He had been recommended to Jones by Latvia national team boss Gary Johnson. Marian scored a hatrick for Saints in a reserve match against Oxford, which prompted the club to offer Skonto £800,000 for his services. The move was held up for weeks due to work permit problems, but these issues were resolved just before the March transfer deadline. Pahars made his Premiership debut on 5th April in a 1-0 loss at Coventry. The little Latvian played a key role in Southampton's survival that season. He scored a late equaliser against fellow strugglers Blackburn on 17th April 1999, and also hit a brace against Everton on the final day, ensuring the club's place in the top flight for another year.

Pahars continued to impress the crowd at The Dell in 1999/2000, scoring 7 times in his first 11 league matches. One of those goals came at Old Trafford in a 3-3 draw with Manchester United on 25th September. Marian nutmegged Jaap Stam before coolly finishing past Massimo Taibi. His goal in the 2-1 win at Bradford on 8th April came just seconds after he was brought off the bench, and effectively kept Saints in the Premiership that year. Pahars rounded off the campaign with a goal against Wimbledon, which consigned The Dons to relegation.

Pahars was less prolific in 2000/01, although that was in part due to the fact he was playing a deeper role under the guidance of Glenn Hoddle. On 26th August he helped turn around a three goal deficit against Liverpool by scoring a double in a 3-3 draw. After hitting the equalising goal in the dying seconds, Pahars jumped into the Archers Road crowd. Other highlights that season saw the former Skonto man score both goals in a 2-0 win over Newcastle in September, and Southampton's second in a 2-1 triumph over recently crowned Premiership champions Manchester United in May.

Marian started the 2001/02 season well, scoring the winner in a 1-0 win at Bolton on 15th September. Just over a month later Gordon Strachan replaced Stuart Gray as new Southampton manager. Strachan was already a big fan of Pahars, having previously tried to buy him at Coventry. The Latvian scored the only goal in Southampton's first ever win at St Marys on 24th November. He was in fine form over the winter months, and scored in a famous 4-2 win at Chelsea on New Year's Day.

Pahars struggled to regain his fitness in 2002/03 after a hernia operation in pre season. An ankle injury in November ruled him out for a year, which meant he missed the run to the 2003 FA Cup final. Marian scored his only goal of the campaign from the spot in a 1-0 win over Everton on September 11th. He was sent off for the first time in England on 5th October in a 2-0 win over Manchester City.

Marian made his comeback from injury on 19th November 2003 for Latvia in a 2-2 draw with Turkey. Ten days later he played his first Saints match of the year after coming on at Aston Villa. Little niggling injuries meant Pahars never quite recaptured the form of years gone by, but his long range screamer and celebration against rivals Portsmouth on 21st December will live long in the memory. His only other goal during 2003/04 came in a 2-1 home defeat to Bolton on 24th April.

Pahars didn't play a single match for Southampton in 2004/05 due to injury. There's no question he was badly missed, as Saints were relegated to the second tier of English football. Pahars made his comeback at St Marys on 28th September 2005 as a substitute in a 0-0 draw with Reading. He scored what turned out to be his last ever goal for the club on November 19th against Leeds, but injured himself shortly after in the same game, forcing him off at half time. Marian returned in January, but was back in the treatment room a month later after breaking down in an FA Cup tie at Newcastle. He returned for one final match on 17th April 2006 against Millwall. Pahars was involved in the lap of honour on the final day against Leicester on 30th April, and left the pitch in tears knowing it was the last time he'd appear in front of the fans as a player. Manager George Burley decided against renewing his contract.

In July 2006 Pahars signed for Temuri Ketsbaia's Anorthosis Famagusta. Once again injury problems constantly interrupted Marian's progress in Cyprus. He did however pick up a cup winner's medal during an 18 month spell. Pahars returned to England on 20th September 2007, as Famagusta were hammered 6-1 at Tottenham in the UEFA Cup.

In 2008 Pahars rejoined Skonto and had a decent final season with the club, helping them to a 2nd place finish. He closed out his career with a short spell at fellow Latvian outfit FK Jurmala-VV.

In 2010 Pahars became the assistant to Aleksandrs Starkov at Skonto, helping the club win the Latvian league title in his first year as a coach. Pahars was promoted to manager in 2011, and led Skonto to another championship win the same year.