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Blackburn Rovers striker wins Barclays gong for December

Roque Santa Cruz has claimed his first award in English football after being voted the Barclays Player of the Month for December. In what was a mixed month for Blackburn Rovers, Santa Cruz shone as he scored six goals in six Barclays Premier League appearances during the month.

The 26-year-old became the first player in over 10 years to score a Barclays Premier League hat-trick in a losing cause as Blackburn Rovers were defeated in an eight-goal thriller at Wigan Athletic (5-3).

Santa Cruz continued his goalscoring form with a brace in a draw at Eastlands which ended Manchester City's 100% home league record (2-2), before scoring in the win against Derby County at Pride Park (2-1).

The Paraguayan international becomes the first Blackburn Rovers player since Chris Sutton a decade ago to win the Barclays Player of the Month award, as he took his goalscoring tally to 10 goals in 20 Barclays Premier League appearances this season.

The decision was made by the Barclays Awards Panel, which includes representatives from football's governing bodies, the media and fans.

Roque Santa Cruz Fact-File

*Roque Santa Cruz was born on the 16th August 1981 in Asuncion, Paraguay.
*Santa Cruz joined the youth division of Olimpia Ascuncion as a nine-year-old. He made his professional debut for Olimpia Asuncion in the Paraguayan Super Clasico in July 1998.
*A transfer to Bayern Munich followed in the summer of 1999, where he scored 31 goals in 155 games in all competitions for the German giants.
*He joined Blackburn Rovers in July 2007 and made his debut as a substitute on the 11th August 2007, scoring in the win at Middlesbrough.
*Santa Cruz has scored 14 goals in 26 appearances in all competitions this season for Blackburn Rovers, 10 of those goals coming in the Barclays Premier League.
*He made his international debut as a 17-year-old at the Copa America and appeared in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Santa Cruz has 57 caps for Paraguay, scoring 18 goals.



Gunners boss receives monthly Barclays award

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has won the Barclays Manager of the Month Award for December after guiding his team to the top of the table at the half-way point in the season, having lost only one league game since August.

The award comes at the end of a month that started with a 2-1 away win over Aston Villa and ended with a convincing 4-1 victory at Everton, during which the Gunners scored 11 goals and conceded just six.

This is the tenth Barclays Manager of the Month award for Wenger, who last won the accolade in September 2007 following Arsenal's unbeaten start to the season. He previously scooped the Barclays Manager of the Season Award in 2004 after leading his team of "invincibles" to the Barclays Premier League title; a feat he will be hoping to repeat in 2008.

Arsene Wenger Fact-File

*Arsene Wenger OBE was born on 22nd October 1949 in Strasbourg, France.
*He was appointed First Team Manager of Arsenal FC on 28th September. 1996, following spells in club management at AS Monaco and the Japanese J League team Nagoya Grampus Eight.
*In 11 years at Arsenal he has amassed three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and four Charity/Community Shields, including League and Cup "doubles" in 1998 and 2002.
*He is the only Gunners manager to have won the FA Cup more than once and the only manager to take the club to a Champions League Final, while he was also the first manager in English league history to complete an entire 38-game season unbeaten in 2003/04.
*This is the tenth time he has won the Barclays Manager of the Month award and the second time the Frenchman has won the award this season.
*At the end of December, Arsenal remained two points clear of nearest challengers Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League after winning 14 of their first 20 matches
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