Looking at things in the cold (stiflingly hot to be strictly factual) light of summer puts a different spin on this type of plaudit. It gives you time to reflect on the real achievements and makes you think about whether the actions of players since the end of the season have affected your choices. In April one or more of Bullard, Chimbonda and Roberts would have made many people’s top three, come the middle of May, not. I’d like to think they’re not in mine for football reasons rather than something more petty.
I suppose that the party line on the player of the season would be that no one player deserved to be singled out, that the achievements of last season were first and foremost down to the team. To some extent that would be true, but why break with tradition when it’s more fun that way?
First up we have a player who has never quite lived up to the potential his early days at the club suggested. Regardless of what level he’s been playing he’s had his critics, inconsistency is his mission statement and yet he was rewarded with a new contract when we were promoted to the Prem. Despite this he was widely expected to be a flop in the top flight and to disappear from Jewell’s plans altogether.
This season has been another mixed bag but he seems to have improved his all round game. When on form, he has confounded expectations and looked every bit at home in this division. Along the way he’s given international full backs on end of problems and has ended up with the international recognition he had snatched from him by a Stoke defender a couple of years back. If he continues to build on his performances next term then he’ll be a shoe in for a third contract at the club. In third place I give you, with no apologies Gary Teale.
I wouldn’t imagine that my second choice will attract as much laughter. The first Latics player to received England U21 recognition has done enough, for many, this season to warrant time with the senior squad, but no, or at least not whilst he’s playing in Wigan. For such a young lad to have established himself in the first team is one thing but to have established himself as one of the best in this division is something else entirely. The only criticism you could maybe level at him this season is that he could have been more of a force going forward, but he has been before and if he continues to learn at the rate he has so far, that will come back into his game soon enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, in second place, our best left back, Leighton Baines.
Our winner was a Latics hero long before he signed from Pompey this summer. They say you should never go back, that past glories can never be recaptured. I doubt that he thought that this season would ever be as good for either himself or the club, but his presence at the back has filled both fans and team-mates alike with more confidence than was necessarily appropriate. He was a shoe in as captain and the foundation of our season. If there was any doubt over his position in the Latics hall of fame before there can be none now. His plans for a career in medicine have been put on hold and the option of a second year at the JJB taken up. Things may be harder next year but with this man around you know we won’t in down without a fight. I hope you agree when I say that the Not a Patch on player of the season is Arjan de Zeeuw.
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