It is a good thing that in the leaked Professional Footballers' Association player of the year shortlist, there are two players – in Scott Parker and Charlie Adam – who play for teams in the relegation battle. They deserve to be there and if that is partly because this season has not thrown up one obvious outstanding candidate then so much the better.
The absence of one standout name is not a weakness of the league, it is a natural part of the cycle of clubs changing players and rebuilding teams. With three sides in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the Premier League is not exactly on its knees. The absence of an obvious choice – as Wayne Rooney was last year – is not something to worry about. It just makes it more interesting.
First of all a confession. As the chief football correspondent of The Independent, my job revolves around covering the higher echelons of the Premier League, the English clubs in the Champions League and the England team. I cover two or three games a week but double-checking my archive I have to make the shameful admission that I have not reported on a Blackpool game this season. It is just the way the fixtures fall and the demands of our coverage.
Accordingly, I have only glimpsed Charlie Adam, the most eye-catching name on the list, on Match of the Day or Sky Sports. He looks like a wonderful player but it is hard to back a man whom you have never in person seen play, even if that is presumably the grounds upon which most of the PFA's members make their selection.
My player of the year is Gareth Bale, an individual whom I have watched many times this season. He has not necessarily been the most consistent performer but on many occasions when he found his best form, he has been better than anyone else. His performances against Internazionale, home and away, were of the sort that play over and over in your head as you walk to the car hours later. He was inspiring, and amid a slightly indifferent group of players, that makes him stand out.
Samir Nasri and Carlos Tevez have both been obliged, at times, to provide the spark for their respective clubs and it is a personal opinion that those two should occupy second and third. The Manchester United contingent of Nemanja Vidic and Luis Nani suffer in comparison with former winners from United like Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. They have been good but they have not been outstanding.
As for Scott Parker, he, like Adam, appeals because he has shown determination and skill at a club where it would have been easy just to give up. His goal against Liverpool in February is still the best I have seen in this calendar year.
This shortlist is just as interesting in terms of who is excluded. Vincent Kompany at Manchester City must have been a strong candidate. Ryan Giggs has been excellent again. On Saturday against West Ham he was moved to left-back at half-time and still ran the game. Luka Modric's contribution to Spurs is less dramatic than Bale's runs down the left wing, but he is probably the player they miss most when he is out injured.
There should be honourable mentions too for Roger Johnson at Birmingham City, a true hero in the Carling Cup final. One of my colleagues who covers Stoke City regularly has a theory that if Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington played for a London club with an equivalent profile – Fulham, perhaps? – they would be in line for an England call-up.
Bale will win many awards over the course of his career – as long as he can overcome this tendency to over-estimate the scope of his injuries. That is why if Adam or Parker is up on stage receiving the award from Gordon Taylor at the Grosvenor House hotel on 17 April, there will be few complaints.Reuse content