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10 players who never won PFA Player of the Year
« on: April 26, 2015, 07:55:33 PM »

With the PFA Player of the Year award set to be announced on Sunday, here are 10 players who never won the top prize, which was introduced in 1974.

10. Andy Cole

"I haven't paid attention to the selections for Footballer of the Year since 1999 when we won the treble and David Ginola of Spurs was given Player of the Year," said Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, displaying that he certainly isn't shy of holding a grudge, but he also had a reasonable point, despite Ginola's brilliance that season. Presumably one of the reasons a United player didn't win that year was that their vote was split, with too many outstanding performers to pick out one. Dwight Yorke was the runner-up that year ("Frankly I felt robbed," he wrote in his autobiography), but his strike partner Andy Cole was another strong candidate, scoring 24 goals in that utterly extraordinary season. Cole won the young player of the year award in 1994, but despite being the Premier League's second-highest goal-scorer with 187, behind only Alan Shearer (although Wayne Rooney should overtake him before the end of the season), he was never recognised by his colleagues.

9. David Beckham

Another candidate from that great United team is David Beckham. There is a sense that Beckham was an overrated player in the wider world, given that he's probably still the most famous footballer on the planet, but perhaps underrated within football, for more or less the same reason. His celebrity was always viewed with suspicion within the game, but for long spells during his career it was certainly difficult to question his professionalism and ability. No more so than in the treble season, coming back from his red card at the 1998 World Cup and the associated opprobrium from the British press and public, which may have cowed some players but it seemed to inspire Beckham, putting in probably his best single season performance. Even apart from that, he almost deserved an award just for that astonishing crossing and dead ball ability, the like of which we've rarely seen before or since.

8. Neville Southall

It's not easy to win individual awards when you're a goalkeeper. Only two have won the PFA top prize -- Pat Jennings in 1976 and Peter Shilton in 1978 -- while only Lev Yashin has the Ballon d'Or, Oliver Kahn won the World Cup Golden Ball in 2002 and no keeper has ever won the FIFA World Player of the Year. However, for a while in the mid-1980s, Neville Southall was rated by many as the best glovesman in the world, and certainly the best in the First Division, particularly in Everton's title-winning season of 1984-85, when he was voted as the Football Writers' Association's top man, but not the PFA's. "When you've got a keeper like that in your team you can gain an extra fourteen points," said Everton captain and central-defender Kevin Ratcliffe, and while one wonders where Ratcliffe conjured that slightly arbitrary number from, it's difficult to argue with the general point.

7. Ian Wright

English football tends to go through phases with players and positional strength in depth. The early 2000s saw a surfeit of central defenders, with the likes of Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and John Terry, while a few years later central midfield saw plenty of candidates for multiple caps, in Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes et al. In the early/mid-1990s, it was strikers. At another time, Robbie Fowler would have gained more than 26 caps, Andy Cole over 15 and Ian Wright more than 33, were it not for Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham. Wright scored 184 goals for Arsenal, their record-holder for a spell until Thierry Henry came along, but his peak years coincided with Paul McGrath, Eric Cantona and Shearer again. His general, shall we say "divisive" demeanour may have contributed to this, but on his day there were few more exciting players to watch.

6. Frank Lampard

In years to come, people may look back and wonder why Frank Lampard wasn't even more lauded than he already is now. While numbers alone are a rather dreary way of judging a man's quality, Lampard's are something to marvel at: In five years of his pomp, Lampard scored 20 goals or more in every season, including an astonishing 27 in 2009-10, as well as 19 in 2004-05 and 17 after he was supposedly well past his best in 2012-13. These are scoring records that, quite obviously, a striker would be pretty pleased with, but for a midfielder like Lampard they are astounding. Of course detractors might say his statistics are inflated by penalties, but there's a reason he was entrusted with them for Chelsea -- he was pretty good at them. If Lampard was going to win it would've been in 2005, when he was top-scorer in Chelsea's title-winning side (as he was the following season) and won the FWA award, but his fellow players gave John Terry the nod that time.

5. Robbie Fowler

When people talk of unfulfilled talent, it's usually names like Paul Gascoigne, or Stan Collymore, or Billy Kenny that spring to mind, but you could make an argument that Robbie Fowler tops them all. A man still called God at Anfield, Fowler's natural finishing ability was astonishing; he was able to find a way to score in the most implausible ways and with either foot, although that left peg was truly a thing of wonder. He should have been an undisputed great, but instead he is "merely" a deity at Anfield. So good was Fowler that he probably hastened Ian Rush's departure from the Liverpool first-team and eventually the club, something that at various points would have seemed unthinkable, but because of Fowler's remarkable ability, it didn't seem like much of a big deal. Perhaps Fowler would have been more successful and gained the sort of plaudits beyond Merseyside that his talent merited if he'd been born 10 or 20 years earlier -- his lack of pace possibly a hindrance at a time when English football was becoming faster and faster. He won the Young Player of the Year award in 1993, and at the time it looked like a mere formality that he would lift the main award at some point, but it wasn't to be.

4. Glenn Hoddle

There was of course always the impression that English football didn't quite 'get' Glenn Hoddle; that this languid aesthete, too hard to pin down, too flaky, especially in the 1980s when a little more graft, rough and indeed tumble was required. Peter Reid winning the PFA award in 1985 would seem to confirm this, although admittedly that was the season he won the league with Everton. This apparently extended to his fellow professionals too, who never gave Hoddle the requisite votes to be honoured by their association, nor did the gentlemen of the press agree with Tottenham fans' assessment that he was "The King of White Hart Lane." Hoddle moved to Monaco in 1987 in the hope that his talents would be more appreciated, and that turned out to be quite correct, as after winning Ligue 1 under Arsene Wenger in his first season, he was voted the top foreign player in France.

3. Graeme Souness

There's a case to be made that Graeme Souness is one of the most underrated players of the last 40 or so years. In seven years at Liverpool he won the league five times and the European Cup on three different occasions, and was the driving force from the middle in most of that time, a muscular and relentless presence who perhaps suffered a similar fate to Roy Keane, namely that his physicality perhaps overshadowed his technical gifts. But those technical gifts were considerable, excelling at basically everything you could ask a midfielder to excel at. "There are not many players who come up to our standard," said Bob Paisley shortly after Souness was signed by Liverpool in 1978. "Graeme can pass a ball, he's got vision and he's got strength. He'll play in central midfield, which is his position, and we'll sort out the rest from there." And sort it out they did, but not enough to win Souness any individual awards, despite teammates Kenny Dalglish, Terry McDermott and Ian Rush all picking up the PFA gong during Souness' time at Anfield.

2. Paul Scholes

The number of former players who rate Paul Scholes as the best they have either faced or appeared alongside has almost become a running joke down the years, and his status as an underrated player disappeared some time ago. Still, he never won an individual award of any particular note, until the Football Writers' Association's "Tribute Award" (shared with Gary Neville) in 2012, which smacked of a post-hoc appreciation of his general talents rather than a genuine award. Scholes's "problem", if you want to call it that, was that his career was one of sustained, relatively understated excellence, and he didn't really have one stand-out, brilliant season. Some parts of his career were obviously better than others, but the lack of a real "career year" probably cost him individual gongs.

1. Gianfranco Zola

You can argue over who was the best player on this list, but Gianfranco Zola is surely the most surprising. You have to check the names of the PFA award winners a few times just to make sure your eyes aren't playing tricks and that his fellow professionals never deemed him worthy of their approval -- such was his standing in the game as one of the first truly brilliant foreign stars to play in England after the Premier League explosion of cash and hype. Chelsea players of that era go moist around the eyes and almost glaze over when they recall what an astonishing talent he was, and legend has it that when John Terry got his '26' squad number, it was because the Chelsea dressing room seats were arranged in numerical order and he wanted to sit next to No.25, Zola. It's also surprising Zola never won the POTY because he was perhaps the nicest bloke in football, a friendly character with few enemies. So in the world of professional footballers where being someone's mate goes a long way, it seems extra strange that his affability, combined with his remarkable skill, didn't get him the top award.

Nick Miller is a football writer for ESPN FC, The Guardian, Eurosport and a number of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

Offline fari

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Re: 10 players who never won PFA Player of the Year
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2015, 01:53:31 PM »
  i just checked wikipedia and Zola was named the FWA player of the year in 97.   i can't believe this man never win POTY, that man was a football god