Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPFA Young Player Contenders - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough PFA Young Player Contenders - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

PFA Young Player Contenders

It doesn’t take a great amount of imagination on the part of readers to reach the conclusion that I might have one or two minor character flaws. As if being a football obsessive recluse who wears glasses and shaves infrequently weren’t enough to have all the ladies banging on the door day and night, a mild tendency to drink more than I should on occasion as well as gamble money that I don’t really have completes my perfect personality. Last night, three of these virtues came together neatly as, over a few too many beers, my friends and I (yes they’re real, stop asking) were discussing why Gareth Bale seems to be such a certainty for PFA Young Player of the Year. (Incidentally, the topic after this was why every one of us was single. No conclusion was reached.)

 The bookmakers seem fairly convinced that Bale is an absolute certainty for the prize with the best odds being 11/4 on. In other words a bet of £5 stands to win you £1.82.* Now bookmakers are people I very much admire because they have a skill I’ve never mastered, namely making money out of gambling. If the odds are so dramatically weighted towards one candidate you can bet your sweet ass that Welshman will be the one to be chosen come mid-April.

 Even in the cold light of day, when the empties on the table offer a grim reminder of the fact that my tolerance is lower than that of the average EDL member, the question seems pertinent. Not that the contribution of Bale to Spurs this season should be downplayed by any means. His performances have been truly inspiring at times. His role in the destruction of Inter Milan in the Champions League was mesmerising. Against AC Milan at White Hart Lane, the fear he inspired was almost palpable as Abate was forced to drop 10 yards deeper to combat the new threat. Nevertheless, has Bale really been so vital to Spurs that he is the unquestionable yoof player of the year? Has the hype gotten so much that all other contenders are merely after-thoughts?

Other potential winners include Jack Wilshire, Nani, Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. All four have had excellent seasons and it could be argued that they have contributed more to their side’s domestic success than Bale. After all, the award is for the player who has had the best season in English football. Not continental or international football, the best domestic season. Asked to name Gareth Bale’s best performances this season his European games would be top of the list every time. Games that should (in theory) not be considered when deciding who should be PFA Young Player of the Year.

 If we look at a few statistics, we see how vital the other players have been to their respective teams. Nani has contributed 9 goals and 13 assists from 25 games in the league so far this season, the major creative force for a side still competing on three fronts. Despite being out for a large portion of the season, Andy Carroll’s 11 goals for Newcastle could well be the difference between a comfortable mid-table finish and a relegation scrap, not to mention his all round performances and phenomenal transfer fee. Wilshire and Nasri have both been crucial to Arsenal’s season even if it ends without a trophy.   

 Indeed, even looking beyond the favourites there have been some excellent breakthrough players this season who could claim the award. Marc Albrighton from Aston Villa or Seamus Colman at Everton have enjoyed promising starts to their careers while both Rafael da Silva and Chris Smalling for Manchester United have been superb in some big games for the league leaders.

 I would not suggest that Bale doesn’t deserve the award. He’s been very good and his value has skyrocketed in the last 12 months. Interest from clubs like Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter Milan speaks volumes. But he has not been the most important player for Spurs this season (for my money that title goes to Luka Modric, who’s been utterly fantastic) nor will has he dragged the team to victory single-handedly in domestic games. Nani, Nasri and Carroll have all at times been the critical difference between zero and three points. The hysteria surrounding Bale has obscured the achievements of a number other excellent young players currently emerging in English football.

*Odds taken from Victor Chandler

David Alelman

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