PFA award nominations demonstrate total lack of imagination
The names in the hat for the PFA awards for this season inevitably raised a few eyebrows; to say it's the usual suspects is an understatement.
Three players from Manchester City – Sergio Aguero, Joe Hart and David Silva – plus one from Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United – Scott Parker, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney respectively – make up the player of the year list.
Those responsible for the nominations are other footballers – but are they guilty of tunnel vision? Surely choosing �38m Aguero is a cop-out. I know he's brilliant – I was one of many who saw his handiwork at Carrow Road – but he's surrounded by fellow luxury brand players for whom the game appears to be a pretty easy pastime.
Scroll down the Premier League and the lower you go the more regular you will see the unacclaimed, the hard-pushed, the weary-legged artisans who stretch every muscle in their body week in week out – and still find that come the end of the season, no one takes any notice of their work.
Norwich City fans will inevitably point to one or two of their players and be able to make a more than decent case for inclusion in the list of nominees. You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to ID John Ruddy and Grant Holt as contenders – but they never had a chance. It's not fashionable to vote that way – you might as well vote for the Monster Raving Loony Part at the next General Election, even if the policies do sound pretty reasonable. Does the journey from the lower leagues, via such places as Singapore and Australia, up to the Premier League, scoring, without fail, goals along the way, not count for anything? This is a, what, �500,000 player we're talking about – that's what Aguero banks every month one suspects.
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And then there's Ruddy, a goalkeeper who had more loans than the Greek government and who carried the associated stigma – he was unloved and untrusted. City signed him (I resist the urge to say 'took a chance on him' because I suspect Paul Lambert doesn't take chances) and he has got better and better to the point where he has come into serious reckoning for this summer's European Championship.
Presumably the only pros who witnessed his last-minute save from Luis Suarez at Anfield were those on the pitch – it was the save of the season.
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Once again, perhaps City are too far down the table for either Ruddy or Holt to be in the frame.
They're not alone: another goalkeeper, Tim Krul, has been brilliant for Newcastle, as has his team-mate Demba Ba and, more recently Papiss Demba Cisse.
What about Swansea's Danny Graham or their goalkeeper Michel Vorm? Or Fulham striker Clint Dempsey? Maybe Everton's Marouane Fellaini?
Sorry, they're just not as 'fashionable' although how Newcastle's superb season can be ignored is beyond me.
And the Young Player of the Year nominations are a joke. Since when has a 23-year-old like Aguero been a young player? Gareth Bale and Daniel Sturridge are 22, Kyle Walker and Danny Welbeck 21. The only nominee in his teens is Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He's 18, and has a grand total of five Premier League starts plus nine as a sub to his name. Enough, it would seem, to be judged as Young Player of the Year. Seems to me more than one player has thought, 'I heard them raving about him the other night, I'll put his name down. Don't know any other kids'.
Much like the top end of the table, it's same old, same old. Many players have performed consistently well for their team, but aren't well known outside their own clubs – but they have as much right to recognition as the big-name, top-of-the-table players who dominate our screens every night of the week.
Sadly, their fellow pros have again failed to recognise their efforts.
• REFEREE WAS SEEING THINGS - AND THAT IS THE REAL CONCERN
What worried me about the goal that never was at Wembley was nothing to do with goal-line technology, the lack of.
Of late I have switched my view of referees and, rather than criticising them too much, have taken to defending them: I have felt for some time they have had unfair criticism so set about disproving the bunkum theory that a leopard never changes its spots.
It's all down to human nature – like me, you and the players and managers they adjudicate over, they have the ability to make mistakes.
But there is a difference between a mistake, and what Martin Atkinson saw at Wembley. It's one thing seeing a tackle and making a decision on whether it is a foul or not. It's another seeing something that didn't actually happen. Juan Mata's shot didn't cross the line, but Atkinson signalled a goal. So what did he see? Presumably, he saw a football that had crossed the line. But it hadn't. It wasn't even close. Had it been closer in a Geoff Hurst, 1966 World Cup final way, it might have been more acceptable. But it wasn't – you could have driven the team coach between the ball and the goal line.
Installing goal-line technology would have proven Atkinson wrong and the game would have taken a different direction, although it may not have changed the result. But if Atkinson was capable of 'seeing' something that clearly didn't happen, then there must be doubts about his ability to officiate at matches. Judgment calls are one thing – black and white calls are very different.
Thankfully, it seems change is getting closer: the International Football Association Board, who compose the rule book, meet in July, but that may be too early for goal-line technology to be fully tested and proven to be 100 per cent ready for implementation. When it is finally approved, individual competitions can choose whether or not to introduce it.
The FA have been making plenty of noises this week, suggesting they've been up for change for a long time and that only Fifa's reluctance has held them back.
Fifa have relaxed their stance on it since Frank Lampard's goal that never was at the 2010 World Cup. Let's hope they keep up this time.
• CITY GIVEN BREATHING SPACE
I have a theory about Norwich City's new home kit.
I am no Calvin Klein, but I have always fancied myself as an armchair detective. Which is why the collars of the new strip interest me.
Take a good look and compare them with the current ones. The new ones appear to have a bit more neck room below the chin, a bit more space for the Adam's Apple to breath and move without constriction.
The current one seems like it could be a little bit tight, which would be annoying. Further proof was needed, but then I had a moment of recall I thought had long since departed – which led me to a picture of Simon Lappin, in action for City's reserves. His shirt is ripped at the lower end of the V – and I'm told it's not unusual to see City players with rips in exactly the same place.
• YACHTSMEN ARE WORTHY WINNERS
Congratulations to Wroxham for wrapping up the Ridgeons League Premier Division title.
I've not seen as many Ridgeons fixtures as I'd like this season, but I have seen the Yachtsmen a time or two: they thumped my hometown team Wisbech 4-1 in the FA Cup back in September – and in the homeland too. I was surprised afterwards how many people involved in Wisbech Town were delighted that Wroxham manager Dave Batch was doing so well. But Wroxham have been deserved winners: they haven't thrown money at players but have relied on their manager's meticulous preparation to see them to the title.
The next challenge is promotion, and whether they will be offered a place in a league that suits them. Wroxham are clearly an ambitious club, but have a sensible philosophy that embraces walking before you are able to run. We need a team playing at a higher level than Eastern Counties and, at the moment, Wroxham are the only candidates. Good luck to them.
• CRAZY CRITICISM
Ever felt like a bloke wasn't given a fair crack? Within seconds – I kid you not – of Steve Morison coming on as a sub against Manchester City, one or two Norwich City supporters sitting not a million miles from yours truly were having a go at him. He hadn't even touched the ball. He was, apparently, not keeping up with the game, standing still, slow off the mark and lazy. All in one go. Amazing. I'm all for fans having their say, however unpalatable, but this sort of stuff is just ludicrous.