Once most professional footballers leave the training ground they don’t have a great deal to think about.
Shall I sleep or stay awake? Who should I buy on Football Manager? How am I going to beat Smithy on the XBox? Those are your typical afternoon quandaries.
This week it’s different. Up and down the country, players are being forced to put their thinking caps on. Yes, it’s time for them pick their PFA Player, Young Player and Team of the Year.
Sadly I no longer have a right to vote. This is because I’m old and all washed up. However, if I had the chance, these are the players I’d nominate…
MY PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM OF THE YEAR
Goalkeeper – David de Gea (Manchester United)
I’ve been converted. Initially, I wondered if he had the physical and mental strength to nail down a place as Manchester United’s number one, but this season he’s hardly put a glove wrong. I tend to judge keepers on the amount of times we laugh at their gaffes, and the Spaniard has had me stony-faced this term. I think he’s been United’s most consistent performer.
Right Back – Seamus Coleman (Everton)
This kid’s under-rated, but I suspect his peers will give him the due credit he deserves this year. Ever since I clapped eyes on him tearing up and down the right flank for Blackpool on loan a few years back, he’s continued to develop his game, and now, he could be the best right-back in the division. Going forward he’s exciting - and he can defend too.
Centre-Back – Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
It’s a toss-up between the ex-Bolton star and John Terry, so purely on the basis that I can’t stand JT, it’s his partner that gets the nod. Players are human and will swerve selecting guys they dislike. Retired footballers like me are just as petty. To be honest, Cahill deserves some acclaim. I think he’s been tremendously solid this season, and he’s someone Jose Mourinho knows he can rely upon. I’d say Cahill is England’s most solid centre-half.
Centre-Back - Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Aside from being part of car crashes at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, the lion-hearted Frenchman has been in phenomenal form for Arsenal in 2013/14. Forming a superb partnership with Per Mertesacker, the Gunners defender has been inspirational on plenty of occasions, putting his speed, aggression and reading of the game to extremely good use.
Left-Back – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Who would have thought a player regarded as Chelsea’s reserve right-back 12 months ago, would make the Team of the Year on the other side of the pitch? He deserves it though. Edging out Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw on the basis that he’s a better defender, I think the Spaniard has been a revelation this term. When has a winger got the better of him? They haven’t. And that’s why Ashley Cole is getting splinters on the bench.
Midfield – Gareth Barry (Everton)
I hold my hands up. Often slow and ponderous for Man City, I thought he was finished as a top-flight player this time last year, but a loan spell under Roberto Martinez has revitalized his career. Sitting in front of Everton’s back four, covering their adventurous full-backs, Barry has been a pillar of consistency in the Toffees midfield. It could be the best season he’s ever had.
Midfield – Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
He’s the ultimate central midfielder. When Toure first joined Manchester City we all laughed at the colossal wage packet he was receiving, but no one’s chuckling any more. The Ivorian is undoubtedly worth the money. This season he’s been just as powerful and dominant in the middle of the park as usual, but stepping up to the plate to score valuable goals, including a gallery of picture perfect free-kicks, has helped take him to the next level.
Midfield – Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
He may have only been fit for half a season, but what a few months he enjoyed in the Arsenal midfield! Scoring goals for fun, great goals too, he was the leading scorer and assist maker for Arsene Wenger’s side until injury cruelly curtailed his progress. The Welshman has shown that he has the potential to be a seriously dangerous goalscoring midfielder for many years to come.
Midfield – Eden Hazard (Chelsea) YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The Belgian’s been incredible in 2013/14. Last season I thought he was a bit too showy, but this term he’s married work rate with his magic and what a difference it’s made. Hazard is Chelsea’s top scorer and assist-maker, as well as leading the stats on key passes and shots. Nowadays, there can be no doubting that he has the end product to match his talent.
Striker – Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
When you consider the superstars I’ve left out at his expense, it tells you how far Sturridge has come under Brendan Rodgers. Forming one half of the most lethal striker combination we’ve seen in years, the 24-year-old’s shown what a skilful, intelligent and clinical forward he is. Defenders must dread coming against him. Eradicating the selfish side to his game that stained his reputation previously, he’s now just as brilliant at making goals as he is scoring them.
Striker – Luis Suarez (Liverpool) PLAYER OF THE YEAR
He was worth fighting for, eh? Liverpool’s decision to resist selling their star man last summer might go down as one of the most inspired calls of all-time. Easily the Player of the Year, Suarez has been virtually unstoppable ever since he returned from his early season ban. The Reds have had some seriously impressive number sevens down the years, but this fella might just be the best of the lot. His ability to make things happen, reminds me of Thierry Henry. He’s in that kind of company now.
Manager – Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool)
The Northern Irishman could not have done a better job this season. His Liverpool side is tactically flexible, improved in all areas, and one of the most exciting teams to watch that the Premier League has ever seen. The sooner John W. Henry ties him up to a new long-term deal at Anfield, the better. Any club in the world would now consider Rodgers, if a vacancy appeared.
Have I got the right XI? Let me know who you’d choose…
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