The annual PFA award nominations were announced this week, and were again showing a distinct lack of originality and imagination, further questioning the integrity of both the Player of The Year gong and its little brother, the Young Player of The Year.
After Ryan Giggs was honoured as the player of the 2008/09 campaign, despite just two goals and twenty-eight appearances, many questioned are the awards there to honour the best players, or are they just to wipe the boots of the aging legends and top four stars (eight Manchester Utd player, including Giggs, named in the Team of the Year). Realistically, the Giggs of this season has generally performed better then that of last, even going through a rich spell of six assists and a goal in the space of four games.
The awards have become a public relations centre, where the biggest names from the biggest clubs gets to don the tuxedo and accept the award in front of their peers, before posing for the cameras.
But on to this season, where the usual six-man shortlist has been cut to four. Nominated are: Wayne Rooney, who’s name is presumably scribed on the award already, Arsenal dalisman Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea powerhouse Didier Drogba and Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez.
God forbid one of the less likely names were included in the shortlist, which at four would be extremely difficult to achieve. No Roger Johnson, who has established himself as one of the most commanding centre halves in the league as part of one of the best defences. No Michael Dawson, who despite having Jonathon Woodgate and Ledley King to contend with for places has been another defensive revelation. Even Pepe Reina, who has stood out as one of the best goalkeepers in the league if not in the world over the last twelve months. I won’t even mention the likes of Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe, who have been scoring Premier League goals regularly.
However the award’s junior, the PFA Young Player of the Year, is even more shambolic. At 24, Wayne Rooney in no doubt dead on favourite to take the award on the night. Yes, 24! The youngest player on the shortlist is Joe Hart, at 22, showing some bit of originality from the voters to pick the Birmingham stopper.
How about cutting the age down to 21? According to the PFA you can be in your mid-twenties, and have more hair on your chest then Ryan Giggs and still be regarded as a youngster. An age limit at even 22 would allow the formidable Alex Song to be within a shout, or maybe Jordan Henderson of Sunderland. Or perhaps the voters could look outside the box and notice some of the superb young players who have come to fruition late on in the campaign, like Gareth Bale and Adam Johnson.
There is very little we can do to change it, but the least the organisers of the event could do is to raise the amount of names shortlisted, and lower the age restrictions into the Young Player’s nomination, and bring some integrity back into winning the gong. These awards are the end to a magical campaign, given only to the best, so at least look beyond the big names and big teams and realise there are other players in the league, just as good in their own way.
Who would you have nominated?