Football FanCast columnist Mark Bryans continues his search into finding the outstanding players of 2008, by looking for the best striker of the calendar year.
It is early January and therefore it is that time of year to heap praise on those who made 2008 a memorable 12 months for football fans. Over the next few days I will be arguing the cause for a number of candidates for each position on the pitch, as well as attempting to find manager, unsung hero and goal of the season.
These lists could easily become a parade of players from the perceived ‘top 4' clubs, so, wherever possible I have looked to include players from outside those teams.
I want you to get involved and vote each day for the player you believe deserves the award for their respective position, or leave a comment on who you think should have made the list. Now it is the turn of the midfield maestros, and who deserves to be named ‘striker of the Year 2008?'
Gabriel AGBONLAHOR – Aston Villa
2008 saw the raw talent of Gabriel Agbonlahor change into a Premiership-quality forward and his performances throughout the calendar year have been nothing but impressive. He has formed a great understanding on the pitch with both fellow striker John Carew and winger Ashley Young.
Agbonlahor score the second-fastest Premier League hat-trick in seven minutes on the first day of the 08/09 season, completing a ‘perfect' hat-trick of left-footed, right-footed and headed goals. He also signed a long-term contract extension and towards the end of the year he received his first full England cap when Fabio Capello named him in the starting line-up against Germany.
Fernando TORRES – Liverpool
If it weren't for the goalscoring and general performances of Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo it is fair to say Fernando Torres could have collected a clean sweep of Player of the Year awards from across the globe. But at Football FanCast he has the opportunity to win just such an award. His goalscoring feats throughout 2008 were vital in Liverpool's development into a genuine title-challenging team.
He became the first Liverpool striker since Robbie Fowler to score more than 20 goals in a Premier League season and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. He also took the accolade of the most goals in a debut season by a foreign player away from Ruud van Nistelrooy. The 08/09 campaign saw ‘El Nino' struggle with injury, but when on the pitch he continued to deliver the goods.
Dimitar BERBATOV – Tottenham Hotspur & Manchester United
2008 started superbly for the Bulgarian striker as – in February -he collected his first trophy in English football, scoring the equalising goal for Tottenham in a 2-1 Carling Cup Final victory over Chelsea. His hunger for more trophies saw him earn a summer move to Premier League and European Champions Manchester United.
He ended the 07/08 campaign with the exact same goalscoring record as the previous season, scoring 23 goals across all competitions. He was criticised in some areas of the press after seemingly deserting Tottenham in order to force a move to Manchester United. The signing was completed on transfer deadline day, despite interested from newly-rich Manchester City. His performances for United have been impressive and goals continue to come.
Emile HESKEY – Wigan Athletic
Possibly the moist surprising inclusion of any nomination in the FanCast awards so far is Wigan frontman Emile Heskey. But it has to be said that 2008 was a good year for the player so often ridiculed and put down in the press and by fans alike. His equalising goal at Stamford Bridge in April will be remembered fondly by both Wigan Athletic and Manchester United fans as it gave the advantage in the title race to the Red Devils.
His consistently high standard of performances did not go unnoticed by the man at the highest echelons of the English game, Fabio Capello. The Italian called him into his first squad and Heskey subsequently played a key role in the World Cup Qualifying victories over Andorra and Croatia. Other managers have started to take notice of the bustly striker and Heskey has been linked with a move away from the JJB to the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool.
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