The awards season has rolled into town folks and as ever with the PFA Player of the Year awards, controversy and debate reigns supreme, with attention focused just as much on those omitted than those nominated. It all rather begs the question, are these awards pointless? It is simply irrational to get so heated about them? And finally, should their structure be reviewed to stop the same mistakes happening on an annual basis?
It’s the topic of the day, nay the week as we hastily move on from that dreadfully rotten business of hooliganism to talk about which footballers should have been nominated for a garish hunk of metal. In the context of football, which has moved from a passion-filled sport into the entertainment industry over the past decade, these awards ceremonies merely act as a conduit for tribal feuding among rival fans. It boils down to a futile playground debate akin to ‘my dad could beat up your dad in a fight’, bereft of any sort of framework by which to accurately judge and compare players who perform different roles in different teams.
Nevertheless, as ever, those footballers don’t let you down with their choice of nominees. Ignoring Michu and Leighton Baines has been portrayed in some reactionary quarters as a crime against humanity, while seeing Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck in the young player’s category is just plain bizarre considering their patchy performances and lack of first-team influence this season. The only thing these awards guarantee is shock.
The four front-runners for the main award – Luis Suarez (strangely defended by PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor despite being an obvious candidate), Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Gareth Bale – were all there, but so was the surprise inclusions of Michael Carrick and Eden Hazard. With everyone and their dog expecting Swansea forward Michu to be involved in the running, there always looked to be a spot open for a nomination straight out of left field, and the unassuming Carrick has filled it and while he’s not an immediately eye-catching player, his place on the list is no less deserved for an outstanding season for the league leaders.
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It’s when we move on to the Young Player of the Year award list, though, that we really delve into why these pots of silver occupy an odd fascination for many, myself included. Seeing 22-year-old Belgium star, 23-year-old Christian Benteke, Bale (who won the major award in 2011) and both Wilshere and Welbeck in the mix makes you wonder whether professional players can be trusted with this sort of voting system.
Do they just watch the top six play every week? What constitutes as ‘young’ these days? Isn’t it slightly ridiculous that a player who has been plying their trade in the Premier League for five years now (Bale) can still be applicable to such an award. Doesn’t that just ignore the whole point of the system? Why are players allowed to be nominated for both the main and young player awards? In terms of fairness, it’s a bum deal for the likes of Matija Nastasic and Luke Shaw. A Rookie of the Year award would surely serve a much greater purpose in future.
The timing of the voting also always lends a huge amount of bias to those that perform around the festive period and just afterwards, which saw Bale oddly handed the 2011 award. It means those that perform at either the start or end of the campaign are largely bypassed in favour of quite literally the flavour of the month. It would be ironic if in a season when he actually deserves to win the darn thing that he could be overlooked. Every Spring, each member of the association votes for two players and a shortlist of nominees is published in April. Should people really be so shocked and appalled that a collection of footballers often get things so wrong?
The awards system is a mindless distraction from the bread and butter of actually watching games, most of us know this, yet we still get so hooked. Lobotomised football fans up and down the country given new air to faux rage at seeing their favourite player not being nominated. But why do we even care so much? It’s like the voting system on X-Factor, we know we shouldn’t give two hoots about who stays and who goes, but in the end, it draws the worst out of us and we can’t help but express an opinion on it.
If all of the above sounds like I’m conflicted, warring within myself about whether to completely ignore or go apoplectic, then you’d be right, but what’s clear despite all of that is that the current rules are a bit naff and lead to the same troubling problems every single season. The subject matter is entirely subjective, yet it evokes such definitive claims from some.
From Ryan Giggs essentially being handed a lifetime achievement award in 2008-9, to Michu unfathomably being omitted this time around, the only thing guaranteed by the PFA Player of the Year awards is a lowering of the tone of widespread footballing debate, and I’ve just more than contributed to it here. I’ll get my coat….
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