Every year sees an influx of exciting talent into the prestigious Premier League. But for those new recruits and established home grown talent there is no trait more immediately endearing to supporters than that of effort and hard work. If reports are to be believed the languid Dimitar Berbatov has turned a corner by running more and working on his body language. This is a terse analysis but one which demonstrates a British fixation with effort and activity on the pitch. Below are ten of those who can be relied upon to put in a shift.
The newly installed Manchester City captain is industrious and arguably the hardest working forward in the league. Yet to master the English language, the rationale for handing him the armband is the example he sets to his team-mates. With the look of a brawler it is unsurprising that goals are often gained through harrying casual defences. This tactic may have sealed Ben Foster’s fate at Manchester United last season.
Although regularly fielded on the right wing, Kuyt’s defensive work often receives more attention. The tireless Dutch runner resisted the overtures of his former manager at Inter Milan this summer. The Anfield crowd’s fears were allayed and few forwards work for the entire team with his relish and determination.
Nearby Goodison Park harbours another of the league’s hardest working professionals. Cahill’s work rate can be attributed to his decision to leave Australia at just 16-years old in the hope of finding success in England. The former Millwall midfielder is a combative, strong-willed player who is indefatigable on the pitch. His unyielding commitment is shown by his desire to leap highest and score countless headed goals despite being 5ft 10in tall.
Tevez’s former team-mate is arguably equally determined and aggressive. The immensely talented forward can be seen tracking back, fighting for possession and making strong challenges. This can be to the detriment of his game, taking him away from goal and accumulating needless bookings. Sir Alex Ferguson has attempted to focus his attention on offensive matters but he still helps out defensively for club and country.
Park Ji-Song is often touted as United’s hardest working midfielder but that title should reside with the imperious Fletcher. The Scotland captain has become an integral part of Ferguson’s team in recent years, even convincing a once sceptical Roy Keane of his abilities. Fletcher had to live up to some commanding predecessors but is now a firm favourite. This is a testament to the midfield dynamo’s boundless energy, shoring up the midfield and making surging forward runs.
In comparison Parker is another all action midfielder who frequently gets through the work of two players. His hairstyle and industriousness would allow him to fit effortlessly into a West Ham team of the 1950s. He was predictably superb last night in the Carling Cup, controlling the midfield, making last ditch challenges and supplying through balls. Pundits can be forgiven for mistakenly labelling the fan favourite as the club captain.
After a long injury lay off Carlo Ancelotti has described the impact of Essien’s return as better than that of a new signing. The Ghanaian is keen to make up for lost time which should strike fear into his rivals. Despite being dogged by injury, Essien has honed his reputation as a midfield enforcer. He charges around the pitch, never shirks a challenge and has supreme quality on the ball. The player is all over the pitch and can pose a goal threat, netting two headed efforts against West Ham the other week.
Few players can claim to cover more miles than this former Lazio utility man. The West Ham and Switzerland midfielder ceaselessly runs at opponent like a hungry terrier. He has an admirable appetite for the game but has been described as playing like a headless chicken by the fans. His tenacity to retrieve possession means he treads a fine line with officials.
Last season’s PFA Young Player of the Year award went to recent Manchester City recruit James Milner. The scale of their outlay suggests the club are investing in the midfielder’s considerable talents which have seen him become an England regular. But on his City debut, he was quick to the ball and put Liverpool’s players under much pressure. Content to play across the midfield, Milner couples technique and tenaciousness.
The Chelsea defender is routinely cited as the best left-back in the world but should receive greater praise for his exceptional work rate. Understandably an attacking full back with is similarly fastidious when defending will work harder than most. Occasionally the target of fans’ vitriol, Cole’s ability can mask the speed and dedication in which he contributes in the final third and ensure the team’s defence remains watertight.