James the surprise name on PFA list

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David James is the surprise name on the short-list for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award.

The Portsmouth goalkeeper is unlikely to need an acceptance speech – Cristiano Ronaldo is the overwhelming favourite – but his nomination confirms the renaissance of his career at the age of 37.

James has had an excellent season, regaining his place in the England team and helping Portsmouth reach their first FA Cup final since 1939. He is the only player outside the "big four" to make the shortlist and, should he win, would be the first goalkeeper to do so since Peter Shilton three decades ago.

The other nominations are split between Liverpool and Arsenal with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor making up the sextet. No Chelsea player has been included, reflecting their early season difficulties. Votes for this award are cast significantly earlier than the older Football Writers' Association award, the Footballer of the Year, which will be polling until the end of the month.

Not that there is much doubt that Ronaldo will win the writers' award too, earning him back-to-back successes in both honours. This would match Thierry Henry's achievement early this century.

The Manchester United winger has scored 37 goals this season, 27 in the Premier League. That he is the only United player chosen is unusual: normally the season's dominant team has several contenders. In 1999, to Sir Alex Ferguson's ire, the United vote was so split David Ginola won both the players' and writers' awards.

Ronaldo, Fabregas and Torres are also nominated for the young player of the year award, along with Aston Villa's young England pair, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, and Manchester City's Micah Richards.

Ronaldo is also the reigning young player of the year. Should he win again he would follow team-mates Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, back in the dim, distant, early Nineties, in being back-to-back winners. Robbie Fowler also achieved the distinction. No one, however, has won both awards in successive years. Ronaldo is also an early contender for Fifa World Player of the Year. Add to that his selection, yesterday, for the fourth time, as Barclays player of the month, and it is clear the Portuguese will need an extension to his mantlepiece. One suspects his house is big enough.

More pertinent is whether the 23-year-old's ego can cope with all this adulation and commemoration. Ferguson said he believes Ronaldo will remain grounded despite the flow of honours.

He said: "Success can affect people, no question of that. We see it time and time again. But I do not see any signs of that in Ronaldo. The boy is intelligent and sensible enough to realise what football is about.

"The great quality is to keep your ability and your feet on the ground. Yes, he will go and express himself in a way that is extravagant at times. But that is a measure of his courage and real ability."

Ferguson had an award of his own yesterday: he was named manager of the month, the 21st time he has received the award in the Premier League era. Not that Ferguson will be interested – the only prizes the Scot cares about are the ones handed out at the season's end.

PFA nominees

Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United

Cesc Fabregas Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor Arsenal

Steven Gerrard Liverpool

Fernando Torres Liverpool

David James Portsmouth