There has been a fair bit of grumbling since the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award were announced, with the list comprising:
Edwin Van Der Saar, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo (all Manchester United) and Steven Gerrard (Liverpool).
So that’s five Manchester United players and Gerrard; I have to admit, I too have misgivings. Yes, the nominees have all had really good seasons, but I would argue that playing in a team full of such talented players, you would expect them too. I would also suggest that there are players who have performed to a similar standard as those nominated but in, shall we say, less comfortable surroundings.
Thus I bring you the list of players that I would have nominated for the award. I will say briefly that I do intend on publishing some awards of my own, come the end of the season (when awards should be given out) and these are not nominees for that, but these players will probably be involved.
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Yes, I’m an Evertonian and so can be accused of bias, but to prevent such allegations I have allowed myself to include only one Everton player in this list. Jags has been truly outstanding this season, earning himself a call up to the England squad and keeping Joseph Yobo out of the Everton side all season. As an all round defender he has everything, pace, power, positioning, reading of the game, tackling, marking, and he even has a great touch and eye for a pass, a result of his having played frequently as a midfielder earlier in his career.
He has struck up an outstanding partnership with Joleon Lescott and indeed has only made one mistake all season, which unfortunately cost us a goal at home to Villa. But in a side plagued by injuries, Jagielka has been an inspirational ever-present at the heart of the defence and at the centre of Everton’s fine season.
James Milner (Aston Villa)
Much of the hype surrounding Aston Villa’s performances this season has focused on the pacemen Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor, as well as Villa’s main man Gareth Barry. However, the player that most impresses me for them is James Milner who has come on leaps and bounds since he burst onto the scene as a 16 year old at Leeds. He has changed his game and transformed himself from a winger that drifted in and out of games to a tough and skillful central midfielder with a big presence.
Playing alongside Barry he gives Villa the crunch in their midfield and deserves enormous credit for his role in preventing opponents having too much of a crack at their average defence. Combined with his tremendous work rate, the skills and dribbling ability he retains from his days as a winger and his ball playing ability when it comes to passing and set pieces and you have an English midfielder very much in the Gerrard/Lampard mould.
Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
I’m not going to be entirely petulant and leave out everyone from the initial list, because as I said, they have all had fine seasons. But for me Vidic has been extra impressive. Rio Ferdinand is a top defender, but he does have his weaknesses, mainly a tendency to drift off every now and then and so it was imperative Ferguson find him a solid partner. Vidic is more than that, strong and robust and an excellent reader of the game he is a better defender, in my opinion, than Ferdinand.
On top of that he also chips in with a few goals, I think his tally currently stands at seven, which means he’s getting close to double figures, an impressive achievement for any defender. Ultimately I think Vidic’s quality was demonstrated best by his absence. His worst game of the season saw him sent off and suspended and subsequently United entered a rocky period of form from which they have yet to fully recover. If United are serious about a quintuple, Vidic will be a major player as their season draws towards its finale.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
I wish, dearly, that Steven Gerrard had left Liverpool a few seasons ago when he was supposed to be all but signed with Chelsea. Because without Gerrard, Liverpool are an ordinary team. Torres gives them a lot up front and can win games, but Gerrard carries them through entire seasons and without him there is no doubt that they would not be challenging for the title. I can give him no higher praise than that.
We all know the strengths that Gerrard possesses, the main one being that he has so many. The most complete English midfielder for many a year, he continues to improve. The sheer inspirational power that he possesses is immense, if you could bottle it, you would be an incredibly rich man. I feel that if Liverpool had had Gerrard in their side against Chelsea the other night that fantastic match would have ended quite differently. I admire Gerrard’s performance, he is a one man team, I just hope that Team Gerrard doesn’t lift the Premier League trophy come May.
Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers)
Kevin Davies is one of a dying breed really. A good old fashioned target man, he continues to do the business for a Bolton side that changes dramatically around him every year. He’s been there for over five years now, and has been a constant nuisance to Premier League defences the entire time. The trouble is, although he’s a big strong fella’ who will put himself about for you (i.e. a Bolton player), he can also play a bit and has a real eye for goal.
And he’s having a fantastic season. Megson spent a lot of money (was it twelve million?) on Johan Elmander in the Summer, and Davies may have wondered what he’d done wrong. However, the Swede hasn’t really ever got going, but Davies is currently the fourth top scorer in the League, playing for Bolton, who got him on a free. So while I respect the goalscoring exploits of Torres and Ronaldo, I reckon Davies deserves more recognition than them, because scoring goals for Bolton is much more difficult than scoring for a team that cost hundreds of millions to construct.
Stephen Ireland (Manchester City)
Ireland did get nominated for a PFA Player of the Year award, but it was the Young Player award. Fair enough, he’s still only 22, but Ireland has had a storming season and is worthy of a full nomination in my opinion. He has been about the only consistent performer for Man City this season and whenever they have done anything well, he has been at the centre of it. Outshining Ridiculous Robinho, Ireland’s passing, dribbling and goal scoring ability has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and he has ensured this season that no matter who City throw bags of money at, he will remain a key part of their team.
It must be a despairing feeling for him to be part of this Man City side because he is doing his job so well. City have scored plenty of goals all season, especially at home, and the creative spark behind most of them is he. But he has been let down by consistently shambolic defending and so is undeservingly part of one of the most bemoaned teams in the League.
So there we have it, those would be my nominations for the Player of the Season gong. Of course, what I have to say doesn’t mean anything to anyone really, but I have to say that I feel that many football fans out there would agree with me. Take nothing away from those who were nominated, they’ve played well. But it is easy to look great when surrounded by great players – those above have managed to look great in more humble surroundings.
To do the thing properly, lets have a quick look at the Young Player of the Year Award nominees. The official nominess are: Gabby Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Jonny Evans (Manchester United), Stephen Ireland (Manchester City), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Rafael (Manchester *yawn* United) and Ashley Young (Aston Villa).
All these players have performed commendably this season, but I disagree again with some of them, so here’s my list:
Maruaone Fellaini (Everton)
The Belgian giant is still only 21 but in his first season in the Premier League he has shown he is not to be taken lightly. Receiving headlines for the wrong reasons at times, Fellaini is awkward not dirty and has been unfairly targeted by referees, but has still managed to score an impressive seven goals despite billing himself as a defensive midfielder, and shown his adaptability by playing as a striker during Everton’s striker shortage.
Ashley Young (Aston Villa)
Young has had a very impressive season for Villa, though gone off the boil in recent matches, he is certainly a player of great promise. As an Evertonian I’ve suffered at his hands twice this season, but while the first time he was exceptional at taking the game to us, in the second he showed a darker side with persistent simulation, and so almost found himself left of this list. If he concentrates on playing fairly, he could have a big future at the highest level.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Plagued by injury at times, this season has been the one where the prodigious talent that Walcott has has really started to become evident. Becoming a key player for Arsenal and putting in some memorable performances for England, Walcott has added an end product to his devastating pace and trickery. Arsene Wenger rarely makes mistakes and so we knew he was destined for the top when he signed him, but now the world is beginning to see just how good Walcott can be.
Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur)
Like Milner, Lennon burst onto the scene at Leeds as a youngster but has had to work hard to begin fulfilling his promise. For Tottenham this season though he has been a constant danger and outlet down the right wing and his delivery, while not perfect, is improving. One of the real positives of Tottenham’s season, Redknapp has him playing well and Capello has recognised that with England caps. If he can keep improving he, Lennon, Walcott and Rooney could give England an attack to give defenders nightmares.
West Ham were really struggling when Zola first threw Collison into the first team mix, but the youngster really stood up and paid off for the Italian. He has scored a couple of goals but mostly impressed with a calm head and great vision in the midfield, and proven that West Ham’s production line is still going strong. Along with the likes of Sears and Tomkins, Collison gives West Ham a bright future to look forward to and has given mature performances well beyond his years to drive West Ham to a successful season against all the odds.
Those then, would be my nominees for the Young Player of the Year Award. Of course, these awards are voted for by the Players themselves and the nominations cannot therefore be blamed upon a snotty panel of judges who favour the big four (i.e. referees). However, I still feel that the players I have listed are more deserving of the recognition than those established superstars who have been nominated.
What do you reckon? Am I right or am I talking rubbish? Who would you like to see considered for the award? Please leave me your comments to let me know what you think :)
Thanks for reading.