Following the huge success (umm) of my 2009 end of season thoughts, it's rapidly come around again to that time to choose my 2010 players of the domestic season. Same rules apply - those who've impacted on my impression of the season, and those who've exceeded expectations.
Simply the outstanding player of the season ( domestic, not world, there was some lightweight Argentinian who also had a decent time ). I've little more to add to the plaudits already passed out, but still a worthy if unimaginative inclusion. Ronaldo was history, and 'Our Wayne' filled the void. Here's hoping he has something left in the tank for June.
The season's most improved player. Around January, I started to think that I was seeing something that everyone else had missed, but by the season's end Fulham's journey to the Europa Cup final ensured that everyone who follows football could see the impact Zamora has had. Unfortunately, he had a sad end to the season with an achilles injury which stopped him performing effectively in Hamburg, and scuppered a probable training squad call-up from Fabio Capello. A talented goalscorer in his Brighton days, he never managed to put his whole game together regularly at West Ham or Tottenham, but it came together spectacularly this term. A target man with a superb first touch, a strong teamwork ethic and calmness in front of goal. What are you waiting for, Mr Wenger?
Last year, I noted how Burnley's Chris Eagles had stood head and shoulders above his Championship opponents whenever I had seen him. I expected him to make a fair impact in the Premier League. He didn't. This year's 'head & shoulders' award goes to Dorrans, an attacking midfielder whose 13 goals pushed West Brom towards automatic promotion back to the Premier League. An unsung £250k purchase from Livingston, Dorrans ended his second season in England as a Scottish international, for whom West Ham ( if not their then manager, Zola ) were prepared to offer £4 million. I'll suggest that you keep an eye on Dorrans, although I'll not go as far as tipping success.
Maybe it's my age, but I occasionally reminisce about a time when footballers were real people, rather than astronomically paid automatons whose whole existence is controlled by dieticians, fitness coaches, media trainers, agents and business managers. Step forward, Andy Carroll, local hero. Old fashioned nightclub punch-ups - Carroll's your man. Teammates stepping out of line in training? Give 'em a whack! And despite his tendency to aim for the front rather than back page of the local rag, Carroll managed to score nineteen goals for his hometown club in Newcastle's promotion charge to the Premier League. Playing for a team where the number nine shirt will always be associated with Shearer, Milburn and MacDonald, Carroll's style is probably closer to another Newcastle front man, Duncan Ferguson. At 21, Carroll is a potential big improver - his style of player is often more effective at 30 than 20. He will have to make another big leap next season to be a success at the top level.
It was Chelsea's season. But it wasn't always straightforward. The major teams rely upon a solid core of top class players around which play revolves. As Liverpool found, when that core isn't in place, everything goes awry. Yet Chelsea found their previously indestructible skipper having a shocker of a season, and their goalkeeper regularly looked like his form and confidence had deserted him. Keeping it all together was Lampard. He scored twenty seven goals, including twenty two in the league, from midfield, performing consistently whilst the remaining midfield positions were chopped and changed due to injuries. I've always been on the red side of the 'Lampard/Gerrard' debate, but it was Frank's season.
Chelsea won the title scoring 103 goals. Hull City and Portsmouth were relegated after scoring 34 each. Doesn't sound illogical. Yet Birmingham City scored 38 goals and finished in 9th place. They did this with a tight and well-drilled team, two excellent central defenders and the finest loan signing of the season, Joe Hart.
Hart was consistently outstanding, and leaves Manchester City with a difficult decision for 2010/11. Sam Allardyce had a big moan about the omission for Paul Robinson from the World Cup squad, but in my view Hart and James are the country's outstanding keepers, and Robert Green is Capello's current number one and has yet to let his country down. So who does Sam think Robinson should have replaced?
And the bozo award goes to :
I noted Clarke's appearance on Channel 4's 'Countdown' here. Sadly, from that moment Burnley's season fell apart, as did Clarke's form for a short spell, including conceding two penalties in one game. He was dropped by Burnley manager Brian Laws shortly afterwards. In addition, his intellectual antics didn't go down too well with the Burnley fans when he had a dig at them on his personal blog after crowd trouble at the game versus Blackburn. Advice - stick to playing football, and stay quiet.