Manchester United have been largely indebted to Dimitar Berbatov and Nani for providing and scoring the goals that keep them on course for a record nineteenth championship title, while Edwin van der Sar and Nemanja Vidic have largely performed solidly at the back. Across town, amongst all their expensive misfiring strikers, Carlos Tevez has continued his fine all-action goalscoring displays for Manchester City. Meanwhile, Samir Nasri has enjoyed undoubtedly his best season yet for Arsenal, while Rafael van der Vaart has proved a hit in his debut campaign for Tottenham Hotspur. Gareth Bale’s devastating Champions League performances are also sure to see him in with a shout.
But in amongst the stars are a few unexpected names, supposed lesser lights that have shone brightly for clubs that have largely struggled this season. Not since David Ginola for Spurs (circa 1999) has a non Champions League player won the award, but a number of writers have been championing the causes of Scott Parker and Charlie Adam.
Despite finding themselves embroiled in a relegation battle, both players have been crucial for their teams. Parker has had arguably his finest campaign to date, dragging a kicking and screaming West Ham United from the brink of oblivion at Christmas to being back in with a realistic shout of maintaining their top flight status. His driving displays have been underlined with a number of spectacular goals, including strikes against Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool. Arguably his finest moment of the season, however, came at the Hawthorns, where at half time he lifted his demoralised teammates with what was described as a ‘Churchillian’ speech, leading to them pegging back a 3-0 deficit to claim a draw. Although not the club captain, if West Ham do survive it will largely be thanks to Parker’s inspirational performances for his team.
Charlie Adam has been something of a revelation for Blackpool. Adam was also an inspiration in the Seasider’s rise to prominence. He was at the forefront as they confounded expectations by occupying an early season berth in the top half of the table, chipping in with a number of goals and assists with his deadly left foot. Blackpool fans breathed a huge sigh of relief in January when his move to Liverpool did not go through, and they will be praying that with his input they just manage to make it across the finish line.
While the winner of the award may go to one of the top names, it is definitely worth considering the question over what constitutes a more impressive achievement: being the best player in a title-winning side surrounded by great players, or being the key man that ensures another season in the top flight for a struggling outfit?