The unsung heroes (Part 1)
MAY 12 — There are always heroes and they will be applauded and lauded come end of the season in the English Premier League (EPL). But the truth is that these heroes could not do without a support team and in that support team there are individuals who will barely get a mention and quite perhaps are the unsung heroes of their teams and the league.
These players do not hit the headlines but, simply put without them their teams and/or teammates would find it extremely difficult to hit the headlines anyway.
This is a crucial weekend for it will determine the future of clubs and players, never mind the managers.
So, this is my tribute to those players who have been quietly outstanding or influential and have done more than most for their clubs this season.
In Part 1 of a two-part series, here are my picks for the EPL’s unsung heroes of season 2011/12:
It is easy to pick Robin van Persie as the Player of the Season and he should deservedly win the award for his goals and excellent form throughout for the Gunners. However, Mikel Arteta has been the experienced calm head the team needed for ever so long in midfield ... and that even includes Cesc Fabregas.
The ability to dictate the tempo of a game and add incisive passing and a word or two if teammates go wrong is what could very well make the Spaniard the buy of the season.
Like Arteta, in a Villa team that has blown hot and cold more than most, Stiliyan Petrov has been Mr Consistency. Unfortunately, Petrov has got a big battle ahead against illness — he is battling leukaemia — and our hearts and prayers go out to him. He has been outstanding and a model pro.
As for the Trotters, it is Mark Davies who has been a terrier in midfield with his phenomenal work-rate and desire. He has taken on more responsibility this season and contributed much with some very consistent performances.
He is stocky and he is so tough that he could be the Incredible Hulk himself. Yes, it is none other than Branislav Ivanovic. The defender has been loyal to the blue of Chelsea and never fallen short of giving his best unlike some of his spineless teammates. A true warrior... and he is not even English! For the record, he is Serbian.
The reinvention of Leon Osman has gone unnoticed but not by this columnist. His outstanding performance from central midfield has added stability to an Everton team that could very well finish higher than their local rivals Liverpool. The diminutive midfielder has converted from a wide player with ease and this has provided much stability and freedom for the likes of Marouane Fellaini to maraud forward.
Another player who has adapted so well to a change in position is Fulham’s Moussa Dembele. Whether as a striker and playing with his back to goal, or as an attacking midfielder with vision and guile, Dembele has delighted throughout the season.
It is difficult to really pick one player from Liverpool because they have been good and bad in equal terms in the space of 90 minutes this season. But a lot of credit must go to Martin Skrtel for he has finally become the leader in defence for the Merseyside Reds.
He has become a mainstay and has been comfortable in the transition that the backline went through this past season — from partnering Jamie Carragher to Daniel Agger, or vice versa.
The Blue half of Manchester have their own heroes, i.e. David Silva and Yaya Toure, or villains, i.e. Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez, but it is Pablo Zabaleta who has impressed me most as he efficiently guards both flank back positions without batting an eyelid. His commitment and determination is second to none and his desire spurs the others around him.
The Red Devils will never admit it but Michael Carrick has had another understated but influential season. He gets on with providing calm and composure like a true gentleman and never allows possession to be squandered. Headlines, he does not seek but a true players’ player he surely is.
Rounding up my list of unsung heroes in Part 1 is Danny Simpson of Newcastle United. At right-back, he has had a great season. Almost never beaten in one-on-one situations and ever willing to help out in attack, Simpson has been immense in a team that never used to inspire confidence when defending. He could well go on to a bigger team but this season he has been the first name on Alan Pardew’s teamsheet, and deservedly so.
You might notice that I have intentionally left out Blackburn Rovers from the alphabetical list of teams above, well, watch out for Part 2 of the unsung heroes next week.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.