With our minds fixated on the title race that comes to a conclusion in the next few weeks, let’s turn our attention to the individual prizes at stake. In particularly, who will come away with the PFA Young Player of the year which will be a heavily contested category. Considering that since the turn of the century only two players from outside the UK have won the award (Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas), a lot of the candidates listed will be home grown. Its the trophy that every young player wants to win as it is voted on by your fellow professionals and is usually an indicator of the bright future you have ahead of you. Below are five favourites for the trophy, with the official list to be announced shortly:
Ross Barkley (20):
Barkley grew up in Wavertree in Merseyside just 15 minutes from Goodison Park and was always set for a bright future. This year under new boss Robert Martinez, Barkley has ascended into the spotlight, earning a starting spot on the opening day of the season and played a valuable role by scoring in their 2-2 draw with Norwich. He was noted as the man of the match and this would be the first of many. The talented central midfielder has been pulling the strings for Martinez and has been at the heart of the Toffee’s assault towards the top four. He’s been admirable in games against Swansea and Arsenal where his precise passing ability has been unbelievable. What makes the 20 year old such a fearful prospect is his confidence to make sudden bursts through the attack and create chances from nothing. His manager was quick to compare him to Michael Ballack and Paul Gascoigne after his outstanding solo effort against Newcastle last month. It’s believed that his season will be rewarded with a place on the plane to Brazil but it’s up to Hodgson whether he opts for young talent or experienced heads.
Raheem Sterling (19):
On the red side of Merseyside, Liverpool fans are cheering the name of Sterling as he has firmly grasped his opportunity in the first team and has delivered with results. Liverpool became the front runners for the title race as they beat Manchester City 3-2 at home on the weekend with the first goal calmly taken by Sterling, notching his tally up to eight. He was one of the stand out players against City, causing problems for their defence every time he got on the ball. The winger also put in a standout performance against Arsenal in the second encounter at Anfield which finished 5-1. His extraordinary pace has caused nightmares for defenders this year and it seems to be the more he plays, the more confident he gets. Sterling was originally known for matters off the pitch as he became a father in 2012 and was arrested for alleged assault but was found not guilty. Both he and Brendan Rodgers have found that these experiences have helped him mature as a player. He too will be looking to play at the World Cup this summer.
Luke Shaw (18):
The Saints fullback has been getting a lot of publicity recently due to his dazzling performances which have been putting pressure on Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole for the role as the national left back. Shaw has risen up through the ranks at Southampton’s academy which has already developed some of the best players around including Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Gareth Bale. He’s already drawn attention from Manchester United as they plan to re-build after a devastating season where they have recorded their lowest points total since the Premier League began. Whether or not an agreement will be reached before the international tournament this June has yet to be announced but this distraction could jeopardise the 18 year old’s chances of playing on the world stage which would be a shame after what has been a flawless league campaign.
Aaron Ramsey (23):
The Welsh midfielder just makes the cut into the category but this will be the final time that Ramsey is eligible for this prize. Arsenal’s wonder kid had an unbelievable start to the season as he romped to eight goals in the league before the turn of the year. His passing and dribbling had been impeccable up until his injury which looks to have dropped him out of the running for the main PFA award. He scored key goals at the start of the season against Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Cardiff, his former club. He had been originally tipped to break through as one of the side’s influential midfielders in previous seasons but like before, he has been tarnished with injuries.
Adnan Januzaj (19):
Possibly a controversial choice, but it can’t be doubted that he has the confidence and the ability to be one of United’s brightest stars. From Belgian and Kosovo descent originally, Januzaj has options for who he plays for internationally including England but is choosing to focus on his club career first. The ‘boy who can do anything’ has been turning a lot of heads at Old Trafford ever since his making his first team debut against Sunderland in October where he scored a double to help United comeback from a goal down to win 2-1. This game generated a lot of hype for the winger who went on to get a nomination for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year after just playing 10 games for Manchester United. Just two weeks after scoring his brace, he signed a new five year contract, increasing his wages from £1,000 a week to £30,000. Since the media pressure cooker cooled down, Januzaj has been able to express himself more on the pitch and has had a key role in many of the team’s encouraging performances. Two weeks ago, Januzaj collaborated with Juan Mata to score a goal in the side’s 4-0 away win at Newcastle – sweet revenge after the side’s earlier 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture. He won’t be the favourite going into this year’s competition but he has certainly been one of United’s brightest star this year.
Let us know now who you think will win:
Post by Richard Waterhouse