With the PFA player of the year awards only a few weeks away the whole country will be waiting with baited breath to see just what suit Wayne Rooney wears as he collect his gong. While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Wazza will be walking off with the top prize, there’s also the small matter of the Team of the Season to announce. It will hardly be a surprise to see such names as James Milner, Aaron Lennon and Cesc Fabregas on the list. However for every player who’s dazzled us with his skill and ability there’s at least two more who’ve frustrated us with their ineptitude and incompetence. For every Didier Drogba there’s a David Ngog, for every Rio Ferdinand there’s an Anton. So here’s a list of my choice for the worst XI of the season, I’ve tried not to use more than one player from each team – otherwise it would be a bit unfair on Portsmouth, but on the whole it is eleven players who throughout the year have stood out for being that little bit less good at football than those around them.
Goalkeeper- Ben Foster- Manchester United-It takes an effort of almost Massimo Taibi-esque proportions to go from being England’s first and Manchester United’s second choice keeper, to being nowhere near either in just five games but that’s what Foster achieved. Poor displays against the likes of Sunderland and Arsenal were one thing but the death-knell for Foster was thinking it was a good idea to try and take on Carlos Tevez in his own area in the Manchester derby.
Right back- Jonathan Spector- West Ham-Although the American can play –or not play- depending on how you look at it –in a number of positions along the back four, it is his stints at right-back which have caught the eye this season, for all the wrong reasons. Woefully complacent at times, the fact that one West Ham fan described his recent inept display against ten man Arsenal as one of his best, speaks volumes.
Left back- Emilio Insua-Liverpool– To be fair the young Argentine has time on his side as he is only 20 years old so perhaps deserves to be on a Young Premier League Worst XI, but there can be no denying his performances this season have been remarkably poor. Even against lower league opposition such as Reading his lack of pace, timing and general footballing ability was painfully obvious. He may have time on his hands in life span but just whether he’ll still be at Anfield next season is doubtful to say the least.
Centre back – Andre Bikey– Burnley-At the beginning of the season the big Cameroonian looked like being one of the reason’s Burnley could stay up. However as the season has progressed Bikey’s performances and work-rate has rapidly declined. Started off the season as a Centre back but has been deployed in a holding midfield role, new manager Brian Laws has left Bikey out the last few games as he seems to be unsure what to do with him. Perhaps making the half-time drinks would be a more appropriate position.
Centre back- Ricardo Rocha -Portsmouth-Spurs fans must’ve chuckled when they saw that Portsmouth had signed the Portuguese defender. His time at WHL was something of a disaster, mind you compared to his time at Pompey it was an unmitigated success. To be fair to Rocha he was thrown in at the deep-end with his transfer from Standard Liege to the crisis-hit club, but to be even fairer 2 red cards in your first 3 games is hardly helping matters. When he’s not getting sent off, Rocha’s busy watching players go past him. Yet another player who would never have gotten near the Premier League-again- were it not for Pompey’s dire straits.
Right Midfield- Rory Delap– Stoke City- At first this may seem like a joke, after all Delap’s throw-ins have been a big part of Stoke’s success in the Premier League. Well, while there can be no denying that Delap and his throw-ins have given Stoke something different from almost any other club, when it comes to performances, I’d argue that Delap is actually not a very good footballer. Like a golfer with a huge drive who can’t putt or chip, Delap seems to go through most games simply waiting for the opportunity to prove his worth from a throw-in. American Football teams have a player whose only job is to come on and kick the ball, unless the Premier League adopts a similar approach to throw-ins, Delap may one day find out that throwing alone is not enough.
Left midfield– Kieran Richardson– There have been occasional flashes of, let’s not say brilliance, but at least ability from one of those footballers who seems to be disliked by nearly everyone for no discernible reason. Earlier on in the season Steve Bruce claimed that Richardson could make the England left back spot his own, presumably if every left footed English player simultaneously retired. Richardson’s ‘flashes of ability’ are becoming rarer and rarer. Another player that is often moved around- with equal results of mediocrity- it’s as a left-sided midfielder that he’s best known. A single goal and an assist all season show just how ineffective Richardson has been. Funny how a man who scored two goals on his England debut has fallen so far so quickly- although for some reason not entirely saddening.
Centre midfield– Steve Sidwell– Aston Villa-There are many mysteries in life, the Bermuda triangle, do UFO’s exist, who chooses the guests on MOTD2 and just what on earth Sidwell is doing at Aston Villa. The ginger-haired one probably thought he was on to a good thing moving from Chelsea-where Jose Mourinho had inexplicably bought him- to help Villa push for the Champion’s League. The problem for both him and Villa is that he’s bereft of any football skill and about as likely to help you in a bid for fourth spot as Iain Dowie would as manager. This season he’s been used sparingly, though probably not sparingly enough for most Villa fans.
Centre midfield- Jermaine Jenas -Spurs- In 2003 Jenas or ‘JJ’ as he’s known to his mum, was one of the brightest young stars in the Premier League. Bought by Bobby Robson at Newcastle he won the young PFA player of the year award and broke into the England side. A move to Spurs seemed like a step up for the former Nottingham Forest man. After several indifferent seasons 2009/10 has seen Jenas become something of a pariah at WHL. When he plays it often seems easy to forget he’s there, in fact I’ve heard rumours that several times this season Jenas has stayed in the dressing room at half-time and nobody’s even noticed.
Striker- Craig Fagan– Hull City-What can you say about Fagan that hasn’t been said already? He’s prolific? He leads the line well? He seems like a thoroughly decent chap? Fagan is one player who you actually do notice when Hull are playing, not because he’s any good but just due to the fact he constantly seems to be arguing with everyone and anyone and moaning about everything and anything. One of the more distasteful characters in the Hull side but he’s on this list purely on merit and the facts speak for themselves. 2 goals all season, which is half the amount of yellow cards he’s received, is a paltry return for a player who’s started almost 20 games. If Hull do go down he will be sorely missed- mainly by goalkeepers.
Striker- Johan Elmander– Bolton Wanderers-For a somewhat financially cautious club such as Bolton to fork out around £9 million for a player like Elmander is particularly shocking. The Swedish striker has a decent record for his national side, however for his club side the word ‘decent’ is not something that springs to mind. The physical strength of an old lady combined with the effort of an even older asthmatic one, make Elmander exactly what Bolton don’t want in a relegation battle. His three goals this season is actually a good return for such a dire footballing non-entity.
So that’s my Premier League Worst XI. Any glaring omissions? Or have I been particularly harsh on someone?
Read more of Justin’s work at his excellent blog ‘Name on the Trophy’