Monday, 26 April 2010

Lampard and Gerrard are not among the best midfielders in the Premier League. Who says so? Their fellow professionals!

FRANK LAMPARD is not one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. Neither is Steven Gerrard. Who says so? Their fellow professionals.

When the Professional Footballers’ Association named their team of the season today, neither Chelsea stalwart Lampard – who scored twice in the 7-0 demolition of Stoke yesterday – nor Gerrard – who produced a rasper for Liverpool against Burnley – were included.

And if England manager Fabio Capello needed a further blow before he names his provisional World Cup squad of 30 on May 11, John Terry wasn’t included either in a side which featured Irishman Richard Dunne of Aston Villa and Arsenal’s new find, Belgian Thomas Vermaelen, in the heart of defence.

There was no place either for Ashley Cole, generally considered the best left-back in the country, though he can blame injury for the lack of faith shown in his compact talents by his colleagues. That’s fair enough, but how United’s Darren Fletcher gets a place ahead of Lamps or Gerrard, I’ll never understand.

Cesc Fabregas? Fair enough, though he was far less influential than either Lampard or Gerrard this season. Still, I'd love to see the side named in London last night compete in the World Cup under a Premier League flag!

The team picked by the PFA (listed in full below) will generally depress Capello. There are just three Englishmen included: young Joe Hart in goal, the inspirational James Milner in the middle of the park and, of course, Wayne Rooney up front.

But the good news for Capello comes in the individual awards. As expected Rooney, top scorer in the Premier League with 24 this season, gets the nod as the Players’ Player of the Year, while Milner, who replaced Rooney as the youngest scorer in the top flight when he scored for Leeds at 16 in 2002, earns the Young Player accolade.

Rooney, twice a winner of the Young Player award, continues a bit of a Manchester United tradition: Ryan Giggs won it for his ageless talents last season while Cristiano Ronaldo won it in 2007 and 2008 before decamping for Real Madrid.

All the talk of course, is of Rooney’s gluteus maximus injury, also known locally as “the pain in the Arsenal.” United say he’ll be out for the last two games of the season but Rooney himself insists he will try to make himself available: another reason to be uncheerful for Capello.

Rooney, interviewed by Sky’s superb analyst Jeff Stelling after winning his award last night, said: “I voted for Didier Drogba for the senior award and Cesc Fabregas for young player.”

Asked if he thought he was the best in the world, Rooney grinned modestly: “It's nice that people put me up there, but for me I think Messi is the best in the world.”

He insisted his knee and his backside WILL be fit for the World Cup, as Stelling sympathetically said: “The whole nation gets in a panic when you’ve got a runny nose.”

Rooney added: 'You rely on the support and service of your team-mates. Without the support of people like Antonio Valencia (who has effectively replaced Ronaldo at United and was also named in the Premier League team of the season), I wouldn't be scoring goals. A lot of what I think I've achieved personally this season is down to that support from my team-mates.”

Rooney’s stats this season – assuming he doesn’t play in those last two games against Sunderland and Stoke – are: 230 shots, 82 on target, 34 goals in total, 18 with the right foot, an unprecedented 10 with the head, six with the left foot.

He has scored 20 at home, 12 away – and those two at Wembley. Thirteen goals came in first half, 21 in the second half. Some season.

But in the Premier League at least, he could be over-taken by Didier Drogba, who is one behind him on 24, with Liverpool and Wigan to play.

The Premier League team of the season, as selected by the Premier League players: Joe Hart (Birmingham, on loan from Manchester City/England), Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea/Serbia), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal/Belgium), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa/Republic of Ireland), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/France), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United/Ecuador), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal/Spain), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United/Scotland), James Milner (Aston Villa/England), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United/England), Didier Drogba (Chelsea/Ivory Coast).

My view? Dunne is a poor man’s Terry, Fletcher can’t compete with Lampard in terms of goals or presence, Sunderland’s Darren Bent deserved a shout ahead of Drogba. He’s scored one less goal for Sunderland who have scored 47 goals to Chelsea’s 93.

Apart from that? I'd suggest Arsenal's Bacary Sagna ahead of Ivanovic at right back but I'd be showing my bias!

Otherwise, this combination, boasting players from nine nations, would be capable of taking on just about any other League Select XI in the world. Except, perhaps, for La Liga.

But then that English v. Spanish debate could dominate the World Cup at all levels this summer.

Who the hell is Neal Collins (nealcol on Twitter)? See or .

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