My Team of the Year: Michael Coxon
Edwin van der Sar: Ah yes, start with a United player (I promise I won’t fill the team with them). But in his last season of an illustrious career Edwin van der Sar has been nothing short of sensational. The 40 year old’s form has been akin to that of a man ten years younger and I doubt there is a United fan in the land who is happy to see him retire. As part of an excellent defence, van der Sar is the calming influence that has really helped the likes of Smalling & the Da Silvas develop. A United legend on a par with even the Great Dane.
Gary Neville: Well, it had to be didn’t it? Played 4 times, each time worse than the last, before doing the smart thing and retiring. Looking forward to him getting into fights with Jamie Redknapp on Sky next season, at least I won’t be able to include him in my next team!
Russell Martin: Slightly out of position but kudos to the Norwich full-back (who also happened to go to school with my girlfriend, I’m nothing if not nepotistic). Two years ago Russell Martin couldn’t get into a struggling Peterborough team languishing in the basement of the Championship. Now he’s on the verge of the Premier League with Norwich, having performed solidly and consistently all season and earning the nickname “The Norfolk Cafu”. Topped off an excellent season with a goal in the demolition of Ipswich, fingers crossed he’ll get his chance at the highest level next season.
Michael Dawson: The rock at the heart of the ever changing Tottenham defence and a truly under-rated footballer. Dawson has really stepped up this season, looking at home in the Champions League and answering the critics who claimed he needed a leader like King or Woodgate alongside him (indeed he has become the leader, earning the captaincy in Ledley King’s absence). Now an England regular after long being a trivia question about call-ups without caps, another big season next year could see the bigger boys circling (sorry Spurs, but you’re not quite there yet…).
John Terry: I hate him, I hate him, I hate him…but at the heart of the Premier League’s strongest defence John Terry has quietly gone about what he does best (and I don’t mean he’s succeeded in keeping his affairs out of the press). Terry has been consistently excellent at the heart of the Chelsea defence and like it or not is now our national captain again.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Far more at home as a support striker now but I’m going to play him on the wing for old times sake. Many people think Lionel Messi is head and shoulders above the rest, if not in height then in ability. Wrong. 74 goals in 81 games since joining Madrid (including 29 in 29 in La Liga this season) have firmly closed the door on all those who claimed he wouldn’t be able to cut it in La Liga. A successful Champions League season may earn him another Ballon D’or, oh what we wouldn’t do to have him back at Old Trafford.
Gareth Bale: Presuming this team is only playing one game together I’ll have Gareth Bale, San Siro, second half vs. Inter Milan. The rest of the season has been good, if not Player of the Year worthy. But still, a hat-trick against the European Champions isn’t bad for a left-back who a year earlier looked to be on his way to Nottingham Forest. A replacement for Ryan Giggs? Well, no one is…
Ryan Giggs: …And that’s why Giggsy is at the heart of my midfield, y’know to help Bale out (and not at all because I’m a United fan with a somewhat limited knowledge of the Football League…). 38 in November and still Ryan Giggs plays like he’s 23, but the best thing about Sir Ryan (it will happen eventually) is the way he’s adapted his game and lifestyle to prolong his career. While Gary Neville is warming the sofa next to Redknapp and Paul Scholes is hacking at the opposition Giggs has shown why he was recently voted United’s greatest ever player.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Ok, ok I’ll put in a lower league player Jim, I can already here you moaning (honestly if you guys didn’t go on about Gillingham so much maybe I’d take more of an interest!). Oxlade-Chamberlain has burst onto the scene this season, scoring goals and breaking into the England Under 21 side in a resurgent Southampton side. He surely won’t be at St Marys for long as comparisons with previous Saints including the aforementioned Bale and Theo Walcott persist. Oxlade-Chamberlain claims however he’s better in the middle of the park, and his pace and power would no doubt do a world of damage at the highest level.
Kenny Miller: It says it all that Kenny Miller left Rangers in January and is still the top scorer in the SPL. Often seen as failing to fulfill his obvious potential, it’s no surprise that when Miller left Rangers have allowed Celtic back into the title race. Now at Bursaspor, 6 goals in 9 games have shown that he’s been able to adapt. Just hope he doesn’t behave like the Scottish lads I met on holiday in Turkey a few years ago.
Fernando Torres: Well…he’s provided me with a lot of laughs this season. And give the kid a break, he deserves something for becoming the most expensive player in English football and it can’t be easy falling behind Salomon Kalou in the pecking order at Chelsea. Could go on to prove all the doubters wrong next year, or could end up in Italy where his loss of pace might not be so noticeable. Somehow was nominated for PFA Fans Player of the Year (won by Raul Mereiles…I ask you), proving that all the fans who claim they should have more of a say in the game might not be completely correct.