I normally save the announcement of the ‘Not a patch on…’ player of the season until later in the review process, but it can’t wait this year because I’ve got something to get off my chest. What on earth are you thinking people? Paul Scharner? Paul Bloody Scharner?
Ok, so he throws himself about, strut and preens his way around the pitch, is fairly energetic and athletic and thinks he can be the best centre half in the world. He’s got a web site that marks him out as a future “cult” player and a personality that could most politely be described as “wacky” but, and it’s a big but, when it comes down to it, he’s not much cop at this football lark is he?
I’ll have to be careful, because I’m not saying he’s awful, we’ve certainly had worse, but we’ve had and probably got better.Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t get over his inability, both this season and last, to perform in midfield and his tendency to pop up all over the pitch, right back, left back, centre midfield. Call me old fashioned but when you’re going for a draw, in the last 5 minutes against Arsenal, I’d prefer a centre half that holds his position and puts the ball somewhere safe rather than try to bring it forward into an already crowded midfield.
There are times for playing football, and that’s not one of them.
I could go on, but it would only distract from the thankless task of picking the cream from our current squad. There are plenty of them that have done alright, but in one way or another none of them have stood out consistently or delivered over the whole season.
The nearest we have on that count is Mario Melchiot, and he certainly deserves praise for having skippered the side with dignity and without fuss through think and thin this season. His reaction to Chris Hutchings’ dismissal and support for his ex-gaffer without over stepping the mark is out of keeping for a Dutch footballer and marks him out as a true gent, and yet could you really say any more of him than he’s been Mr Consistent in his performances overall?
There were a few early contenders for player of the season, with Titus Bramble looking to put Newcastle behind him and both Kirkland and Heskey pushing for places in the England squad. Despite their respective call-ups and Emile’s international re-birth both players then went on a bit of a spiral, for different reasons, as Latics’ fortunes dwindled. Although Kirkland’s rejuvenation later in the season gets him back in the running.
All the while Louis Antonio Valencia was building on his decent first season, earning himself a permanent deal along the way, but despite a few cracking performances along the way and the rumoured interest from top clubs it’s difficult to say that he’s delivered anything more than a great deal of promise (apart from the to goals that secured Premiership football for next year of course).
And then came the New year and everything changed…
You’d have been excused for wondering what Steve Bruce was up to, there he was signing a player that Birmingham had decided to let go, a young lad from a small country who was famous because his brother was being held to ransom back home. It hardly seems like a recipe for success now, does it?
It’s hard to imagine that Steve Bruce could manage a better signing than his first. For less that a million quid he got a man who completely turned around the look and feel of Latics’ midfield. Someone who could put it about, but at the same time play football. A lad who plays with a grin on his face, but is a winner all the same.
He may have only been about for half a season, but his contribution during that half was key to Latics keeping themselves in this division. He’s got many a ‘tic looking forward to August, providing that we can keep him in a blue shirt. This season’s ‘Not a Patch on Harry Lyon’ player of the season is, Wilson Palacios.
(in keeping with tradition, and stretching my brain a little, second would probably be Melchiot, followed by Kirkland).
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