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Monday, April 28, 2008

PFA Player And Young Player Award And Team Of The Season

Season's selections pick top players and highlights from the campaign

The 2007-08 season is drawing to a close and the team have been making their selections from another thrilling campaign.
Over the coming weeks, our journalists will be picking from a range of categories. We'll also be giving you the chance to comment on our choices as well as selecting your own team of the season.
Our readers' choices will be revealed as part of a special Sky Sports end-of-season review entitled Premier League - Team of the Season to be broadcast at 6pm on 14th May on Sky Sports 1.
Ahead of the PFA Player of the Year ceremony, reporter Chris Burton reveals his selections.

Despite the continued abject failings of the national team, I have found room for no less than five English players in my team of the year.
The first of the quintet fills in between the sticks, with Portsmouth's irrepressible keeper David James enjoying a fine season down on the South Coast. The England international may not be to everyone's taste, but there can be no denying that he is a top class performer when he has his head screwed on.

It will then come as no surprise that the tightest defence in the top flight this season has two representatives in my back four. Manchester United have looked solid throughout the 2007/08 campaign and much of the credit for that must go to the ever-reliable Rio Ferdinand. The former Leeds and West Ham man has been a colossus at times, and both United and England look weaker when he is unavailable.

The other Red Devils star to be handed a role in the side is Patrice Evra. Having initially taken time to settle at Old Trafford, the French full-back appears to have found his feet in England and has become a classy operator in both halves of the field. While Evra provides an attacking threat down the left, Glen Johnson will fulfill a similar role on the opposite flank. The Portsmouth defender has rediscovered his confidence, and form, since moving to Fratton Park and his consistent displays have been rewarded with a recall to the international set-up.

The final member of the backline, and the fourth Englishman, is Everton's free-scoring centre-half Joleon Lescott. The former Wolves star has adjusted well to life in the Premier League since his step up in 2006 and has become an integral part of the Toffees starting XI, as well as a regular member of the national squad.

Moving into midfield, there was only ever one man who could fill the number 7 jersey. Cristiano Ronaldo has been a revelation, again, and could now rightfully claim to be the best player on the planet. Virtually unplayable at times, no team would be complete without the Manchester United winger. The Portuguese superstar would then be ably supported in tearing open opposition defences by Everton's Mikel Arteta. The Spanish playmaker has become the heartbeat of the Toffees' attacking unit and is often at the centre of much of the Blues' best work.
With bags of tricks on the wings, the centre contains the steel. Liverpool's inspirational captain Steven Gerrard appears to churn out outstanding performances year on year and has led by example once again, while Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas has fulfilled his considerable potential sooner than anyone could have imagined.

As if the goal threat provided from midfield is not enough, my two strikers have also found the target with unerring regularity this season. Fernando Torres has proven to be the deadly hit man the Anfield faithful have been crying out for, and the Spaniard will only get better while Emmanuel Adebayor has stepped out of Thierry Henry's considerable shadow at Arsenal to lead the young Gunners' forward line.

Player - Cristiano Ronaldo
Scoring over 30 goals in a season would be a remarkable achievement for any striker, but to do it from the wing is simply sensational. The Portuguese trickster is already destined to go down in Old Trafford folklore, but every football supporter in the country must be hoping that he continues to ignore the overtures of Real Madrid.

Rising star - Joe Hart
After seeing Kasper Schmeichel handed the No. 1 jersey by Sven Goran Eriksson at the start of the season, Hart must have thought that he was destined for a bit-part role this season. However, he quickly staked a claim for a starting berth of his own and has been a virtual ever present since. He is also the first choice for England's U21 side at present and is already being discussed as the long-term solution to this country's goalkeeping crisis.

Best buy - Fernando Torres
Much was made of the Spaniard's failure to score 20 league goals in a season for former club Atletico Madrid when he arrived on these shores, but the Liverpool striker has silenced those critics in spectacular fashion. Quick, good in the air and a lethal finisher, Torres has all the attributes to become a star on the world stage for years to come.

Biggest flop - Claudio Pizarro
Following in the footsteps of Mateja Kezman and Andriy Shevchenko, Pizarro is the latest high-profile striker to flop at Stamford Bridge. The Peruvian arrived with a good pedigree having enjoyed considerable success with Bayern Munich, but has looked woefully short of match fitness and could find himself on the move again this summer. I understand that he arrived at the Blues on a free transfer and that the club had nothing to lose by signing him but for an international forward, who earns a reported £2.5million a year, he has been a big disappointment.

Best match - Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2
The final installment of a highly anticipated trilogy between the two sides provided more entertainment in 90 minutes than the previous two games had combined. With a place in the last four of the UEFA Champions League up for the grabs, the match swung from end to end, with the result not made certain until the dying seconds. Emmanuel Adebayor had appeared to have booked the Gunners a semi-final date when he levelled the game up at 2-2 with only six minutes remaining, but just 60 seconds later Steven Gerrard rifled home a penalty to break Arsenal hearts, and Ryan Babel rubbed salt into their wounds with a fourth deep into stoppage time.

Season lowpoint - England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008
This summer's European Championships will not feel the same without England in attendance, but ultimately there can be no complaints. We were simply not good enough, and Steve McLaren's dismal tenure as national coach must now act as the wake up call the country needs to ensure that such failings are not allowed to happen again. On a more positive note, at least there will be no penalty shoot-out heartache to spoil our summer this year!

Best goal - Luke Young v Tottenham
A drab affair at the Riverside in November was brought screaming to life when the England international unleashed an absolute thunderbolt seven minutes into the second-half. After squandering numerous opportunities to clear their lines, Spurs were eventually made to pay when Boro midfielder Gary O'Neill laid the ball off for Young to bury an unstoppable 30-yard drive past a stranded Paul Robinson.

Ronaldo pride at recognition
United winger insists the best is yet to come

Cristiano Ronaldo admits that he is honoured to be named PFA Player of the Year for a second time.
The Manchester United winger has now been voted the best player in the country by his peers for the past two seasons, the first player to claim back-to-back titles since Thierry Henry managed the feat back in 2003 and 2004.
The Portuguese superstar has enjoyed a fantastic season in front of goal, netting 38 times, and could yet fire the Red Devils to a domestic and European double.
He scooped the prize ahead of Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas and Portsmouth's David James.
He revealed that he feels privileged to have seen his talents recognised once again, and hopes that he will get the opportunity to claim the award again in the future.
"It's obviously a very important award for me," he told Sky Sports.
"I have played in England for five years and I have won two times, so it's a fantastic moment for me.
"I feel very proud to win this ward again and I want to carry on and win more."
Worryingly for the opposition defences which he has terrorised on a regular basis this season, Ronaldo insists that he is still learning and feels that he is yet to reach his full potential.
"I try and improve every year," he said.
"Not just this year and last season, every year I think I learn something and I want to keep going like that, I want to learn more.
"I think I am at the right club, with the right people, with the right players to learn more and improve myself, and I want to carry on."

Cesc dedicates award to fans
Gunners star proud to be named best youngster

Cecs Fabregas feels that his PFA Young Player of the Year award is recognition of a team effort.
The Arsenal midfielder was honoured as the best youngster in the country by his peers at the awards ceremony in London on Sunday night, but insists that his fine season has been down to being surrounded by talented team-mates.
The Spanish international scooped the award ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Micah Ricards, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fernando Torres.
He admits that he is flattered to have been handed such a prestigious title, and hopes that his personal success will help to east the pain of a trophyless season for the Gunners.
"I am very proud because it is always satisfying for yourself, but all the team worked really hard this season and it's been disappointing at the end," he Fabregas told Sky Sports.
"But at least someone can get something.
"But this is for all the team, and all the fans, because all together we have had good season even though we haven't won anything at the end.
"This is thanks to them as well."

Source - SkySports, Author - Chris Burton