If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being interested in football for all these years is that football award shows are both unbelievably played out but mainly just a bit predictable. The same people competing for the same awards year in year out. Try sitting through the Ballon D’Or ceremony, its agony. So in the aftermath of the PFA awards I’m going to analyse the league a bit differently. Instead of criticising the various wrong selections of our footballers in the PFA XI, here’s my XI made up of some of this year’s more interesting, unsung and cult hero players. Now some of the players may not have even played particularly well this season but each in their own wonderful ways contribute in making the Premier League as brilliant as it is. Here goes.
Goalkeeper- Robert Green. What I love about Rob is the false hope he brings to his team and to himself. A man who can pull of some spectacular saves which can leave you speechless and he’s definitely kept QPR in many games this season. Yet around every corner there’s that Rob Green howler thrown in almost exclusively in the biggest of games. You have to feel for the man, his worn, grimaced face lays testament to the years of mistakes he’s produced from Clint Dempsey to the present day.
Right Back- Phil Bardsley. By day he kicks lumps and bruises out of left wingers for 90 minutes across the nation by night he knocks out Wayne Rooney in his own kitchen. From lying on the floor, money draped across him, pissed off his head in a Newcastle casino a couple of years ago, Phil has brought much comedy to the league. This year’s Rooney knockout might just top the list though.
Centre Back- Mamadou Sakho. The classic defender who hates the ball at his feet. Big Mamadou treats the ball as if he’s never seen the thing in his life. Touches go astray and passes tend to go 5 yards to the player next to him. Yet his pass percentage since he’s joined the club unbelievably stands at near 90% and every now and then he pulls off the odd moment that leads you to question whether football is broken. His rugby tackle on Moussa Dembele after a trademark touch for me is the defining moment of this year’s Premier League.
Centre Back- John Stones. Now the opposite to Sakho. What makes Stones so good is his remarkable composure and willingness to play out from the back. Still just 20 Stones is a wonderful prospect and his style of play is reminiscent of Barcelona, not his hometown of Bradford. And yet Stones struggles to cement his place in the England side. Both the ageing Jagielka and Cahill as well as Smalling and Jones continue to limit his chances with Stones not selected for the last squad. For me, Stones’ absence sums up all that is wrong with the English national team’s selection
Left Back- Aaron Cresswell. Regular watchers of West Ham will tell you one thing, Cresswell has been the one glimmer of light and exuberance in a stale, familiar side. Cresswell brings pace, quality and a constant threat down the left for West Ham and his purchase from Ipswich last summer looks a masterstroke. Unfortunately for him England seem to have a never ending amount of left backs at the minute but how Danny Rose was selected above him I will never understand.
Right Midfield – Erik Lamela. You have to hand it to Erik, he’s doing his best to keep that old stereotype of the hugely talented but massively inconsistent foreign winger in check. Lamela’s talent is obvious. His rabona goal earlier in the season was a moment of absolute brilliance. Yet those moments are few and far between. He regularly has to watch Andros Townsend start ahead of him and when he does feature he can often be woeful. Yet every now and then he does something of exquisite ability which leads Spurs fans to wonder if he was finally living to the price tag. The man brought in to help replace Bale has brought with him so much false hope and ultimately disappointment to Spurs fans. Thanks Erik.
Central Midfield – Lee Cattermole. Lee is a throwback to the old, dirty midfielders of the English game. Cattermole has games when he looks like the illegitimate lost son of Roy Keane. His shirt firmly tucked in and his boots 50 of black, Lee belongs in a different time. Lee with 7 Premier League red cards to his name and by the age of 25, the second highest in Premier League history. Yet, Lee has games when he is just magnificent, Chelsea at home earlier in the year when his Sunderland side were the first side to stop Chelsea from scoring.
Central Midfield- Charlie Adam. Charlie Adam is the anti-modern footballer. He doesn’t have the looks of many of his counterparts, his fitness and weight has to be questioned and he isn’t particularly quick nor skilful. But my word what a left peg he has. From his Blackpool days onwards screamers and Charlie Adam have gone hand in hand. And screamers don’t come much better than that Chelsea goal.
Left Midfield – Yannick Bolasie. Yannick just had to be here. A man who one minute is the heir to Garrincha and the Brazilian greats and the next a man released by Plymouth Argyle. Yannick is probably my favourite player to watch in the league. Impossible to defend against, how can defenders predict a man who himself doesn’t know what he’s going to conjure up. Bolasie has every skill you can think off and his flick over the head against Spurs has still left me speechless. A true entertainer, Bolasie is a joy to watch.
Striker – Diego Costa. A true wind up merchant to the extreme. Costa’s game thrives on kicks, elbows and stamps to get himself motivated and to frustrate defenders. There’s not been many games I’ve seen him play in which he couldn’t have been sent off in and he’s managed to make Luis Suarez seem like a saint. His battle-hardened and face aged beyond his year’s shows the impact of life on the streets of Brazil. And his eyes. His eyes which if you look closely show a man who has probably killed another man with his bare hands. Diego is a lunatic and I love him.
Striker – Glenn Murray. How can I leave Mario out? Well Glenn deserves his spot more than anyone on my alternative XI. You see every now and then the billion dollar franchise that is the Premier League has a habit of throwing a Glenn Murray up. A man who wouldn’t look out of place on a Sunday morning at the park as opposed to a Super Sunday game at Old Trafford. Murray is the sort of man you can imagine if he wasn’t playing football would be at the Red Lion having a few pints and watching Soccer Saturday. And that’s why I love him. He is everything the Premier League aspires not to be. A polar opposite of the style of Aguero, Van Persie and co. Glenn looks bang average and pops up with a scrappy tap in. Following the likes of Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert, Glenn is a relatable figure to all average Joe’s across the country in an increasingly distant and overly glamorous league.