Mark Draper

#1039405 / gettyimages.com

Mark Draper is a former English central midfielder who was born in Long Eaton on 11th November 1970. Draper began his career with Notts County, making his debut in a 0-0 draw Wolves in 1988. He helped the club to back to back promotions, which meant they were playing top flight football in 1991/92. Draper scored just once that season against Oldham, but netted 11 the following campaign after the Meadow Lane club were relegated back to the second tier. He was one of the countries brightest prospects at this time, having lined up for England U21's 3 times in 1991. Draper was an excellent passer of the ball, but also possessed the ability and desire to get stuck in. He helped Notts County reach the 1994 Anglo-Italian Cup final and also lined up against Forest in a derby day win on February 12th 1994.

On 22nd July 1994 Brian Little signed Draper for freshly promoted Premiership outfit Leicester City. He performed well despite The Foxes relegation, scoring 5 goals in 39 games. Draper bagged an equaliser in an impressive 1-1 draw at Arsenal on 11th February 1995.

On 5th July 1995 Draper moved to Aston Villa where his former Leicester boss Brian Little was now manager. He made his debut in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United on 19th August 1995, a match more famous for Alan Hansen's 'United will never win anything with kids' quote. Draper also scored in that match, his first of two goals for Villa that season. He helped the club to a League Cup win in 1996, and was also part of the Villa setup that finished 4th in 1995/96 and 5th in 1996/97. He received his first red card for the club on 30th September 1996 in a 4-3 defeat at Newcastle. Villa dropped a few places during 1997/98, as Brian Little was replaced by John Gregory. Despite a difficult season for the team, Draper still performed reasonably well, scoring a brace against Tottenham in a 4-1 win on Boxing Day. Villa led the Premier League table during the early months of 1998/99, by which time Draper was appearing as a substitute more frequently. He still contributed with goals against Chelsea, Southampton and Nottingham Forest. Draper fell out of favour at Villa Park during 1999/2000, and also had his fair share of injury problems. He made just one cameo appearance against Chelsea on 21st August 1999 before joining Rayo Vallecano on loan in January 2000.

On 17th July 2000 Draper signed for Glenn Hoddle's Southampton for £1,250,000. He made his debut on 19th August 2000 in a 2-2 draw at Derby. Draper's performances at Saints were largely disappointing. Injuries had taken their toll and he was the shadow of the player he once was at Villa. He scored his one and only goal for the club in a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough on 24th February 2001. Draper was plagued by fitness problems once again in 2001/02, making just 3 appearances all season. His final match for the club came on 20th October 2001 against West Ham. That game was also Stuart Gray's last in charge. His replacement Gordon Strachan had no plans for Draper. The former Leicester man remained on the clubs books until December 2003 when he retired from football.

Draper was involved in property development after leaving football. He made a brief playing comeback with Midlands based non-league club Dunkirk in 2009 before returning to Notts County as kit man the same year.