Premier League's Player of the Year shortlist a player short
Last week the Professional Football Association nominated their candidates to vie for the title of Players’ Player of the Year, perhaps one of the most prestigious individual awards a player can win in football.
The magnificent seven were as follows: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Charlie Adam (Blackpool), Samir Nasri (Arsenal), Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham), Scott Parker (West Ham) and Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United).
All the above are excellent footballers but seriously, have any of them had a campaign to match Manchester United goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar? This season, his last in the Premiership, the 40-year-old Dutchman has been a consistent force, a model professional and when he’s needed to be, simply sensational.
It amazes me that his fellow professionals are so blinkered when it comes to the art of goalkeeping. Then again, no goalkeeper has won the award since Nottingham Forest’s Peter Shilton back in 1978, so I guess it shouldn’t come as that much of a shock.
Still, one wonders what he has to do to be recognized as the undisputed master of his profession. With 18 clean sheets in all competitions, another Premier League title in the bag, an FA Cup semi-final forthcoming and the chance to win a third Champions League medal, it’s a resume without peer.
I’m wondering if he’s been overlooked because the nomination and crowning process is done in early April instead of at the end of the season. With the Internet age well and truly upon us, it is puzzling why the PFA awards for Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year ballots are handed out in early March. Surely there must be an online voting mechanism that players can use to cast their votes, because in my view, it’s towards the last few weeks of the season that real form counts and where Van der Sar is currently shining.
Without the Dutchman, the list of nominated players seems a tad lightweight, incomplete and wrong. Don’t get me wrong, they all shone early in the campaign but who has dazzled at the business end? A few of them haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory or performed with the consistency required to be known as the best player in England.
Carlos Tevez has only just discovered how to score goals again despite playing for the most expensively assembled team in the world. He also sulked and pouted his way around Eastlands demanding a transfer while making a fool of his manager, Roberto Mancini. Not exactly what you’re looking for from a captain.
Gareth Bale has been breathtaking in spells, particularly against Inter Milan, but does he bring that dynamism week in and week out to league play. Despite 39 appearances in all competitions, it feels like Bale has missed too many matches.
Charlie Adam has had the hallmark of consistency tattooed to him but in a side that is fighting relegation, he can’t provide inspiration every 90 minutes. He also lost his way slightly after the January transfer window as a move to a bigger club was denied him.
Samir Nasri was a good shout for the majority of the campaign but then came the matches that mattered and he disappeared, along with Arsenal’s season.
The same could be said for the best buy of the season, Rafael van der Vaart. The Dutchman was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived in England but then he let his attitude get in the way. Storming down tunnels upon being substituted is hardly the demeanor of the Player of the Year.
Scott Parker is in the same situation as Adam in that his club is struggling at the wrong end of the table. I do think Parker has been magnificent driving his club on and if they did survive, he should fight it out with Van der Sar for the award. But with the voting mechanism we have now, he won’t get that opportunity.
Which leaves Van der Sar’s club mate, Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian has been the rock for Manchester United in the absence of Rio Ferdinand but for my money he’s also had more than a few off games. The rumor mill is hinting that he will win the award and I’m hoping he heads back to Manchester and hands it straight to his goalkeeper.
The PFA award should go to the great players who carry their clubs through thick and thin. This year Edwin van der Sar has been called into action far more than in previous campaigns and yet you can count the mistakes he’s made on one hand.
Two years ago his United colleague Ryan Giggs was given the award for what amounted to his services to football. It should have happened again this season.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclay's Premier League and the English national team.