TEAMtalk Soccers - Player of the Season
It's the penultimate day of the TEAMtalk Soccers ceremony and Mark Holmes is on the podium to hand out the award for Player of the Season. Wayne Rooney won the PFA Player of the Year award back in April but everyone knows the trophy the players really want is the glittering TEAMtalk Soccer. We received dozens of nominations for our top award this season and it's been a hard task separating the wheat from the chaff but we've done just that to bring you our top five. There's plenty of players that can feel hard done by not to have made the list but we've picked the stars that performed week-in, week-out and did the business when it really mattered. 5. Steven Pienaar: Pienaar's importance to Everton is massively under-played by much of the media and most neutrals would probably say Arteta, Cahill or Jagielka when asked to name the Toffees' best player. However, ask any Blue and they will tell you Pienaar has edged out Leighton Baines as their stand-out player this season. He may seem a left-field choice for our top five given Everton's failure to secure a European place, but it may well have been different had Pienaar not picked up an early-season injury. The South African suffered a knee injury in the sixth game against Portsmouth and the Toffees won just one of their six Premier League games without him to slip deep into the bottom half of the table. However, they embarked on a run of just two defeats in 24 soon after Pienaar's return and the midfielder was at the heart of that with a series of eye-catching performances. He scored crucial goals at crucial times and ensured David Moyes' men never missed Arteta or Marouane Fellaini during their own injury lay-offs. 4. Roger Johnson: Joe Hart won Birmingham's official Player of the Year award but Johnson gets the nod from us, if only for the way he's surprised us. The 27-year-old had been a regular stand-out performer for Cardiff in the Championship but plenty of eyebrows were raised when Alex McLeish paid £5million to take him to St Andrew's, especially after already signing Scott Dann from the second tier. However, both players have proved huge successes at the top level and Johnson has been so impressive that he was even mentioned as a possible contender for Fabio Capello's World Cup squad. The former Wycombe star was incredibly consistent for Blues over the season and a large reason behind their 12-game unbeaten run in the Premier League - a new club record. £5million suddenly looks like a great deal for the Midlanders and there's a fair chance McLeish will have to fend off interest from bigger clubs this summer. 3. Didier Drogba: Chelsea offered plenty of contenders for our award this season and Drogba was right in the mix after walking away with the Blues' official award. The Ivorian enjoyed comfortably his best season at Stamford Bridge since joining from Marseille in 2004, and his 29 Premier League goals were a large reason behind the west Londoners' title success. He also netted in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth - his sixth goal in six Wembley appearances - and scored three goals in five Champions League games. However, there is far more to Drogba's game than goals and he proved the perfect player for the system bought in by Carlo Ancelotti, the forward doing as much work in his own box as the opposition's. His hold-up play was was also second to none - he regularly found himself alone in the final third - yet he can manage only third in our list, such is the quality of nominees. 2. Wayne Rooney: Rooney won the PFA, Premier League and Football Writers' prizes but he just misses out on the TEAMtalk gong, largely because of Manchester United's eventual failure in the league. That's harsh on Rooney in truth as his goals were the main reason United took the title race to the wire - and there's more than a sporting chance they'd have won it had it not been for the England forward's injury. However, these awards are so often decided by what players do at the business end of the season and of the final six Premier League games Rooney missed two and scored in none. That should take nothing away from his achievements over the rest of the season, though, and 26 league goals in 32 games is some record for a player that had previously been criticised for a lack of prowess. He's certainly added that to his game now and the Three Lions' big hope this summer can now justifiably regard himself as one of the world's elite players. 1. Frank Lampard: Lampard didn't even make the PFA XI this season but the TEAMtalk award is given on the back of a full season, not half of one. Florent Malouda and Branislav Ivanovic were on the list of nominees along with Drogba and Lampard but we reckon it's the latter that was the driving force behind Chelsea's title success. He was asked to play a holding role at the beginning of the season by Ancelotti and maybe that's why he was overlooked by the PFA - by mid-October he had just one Premier League goal to his name and even that was a penalty. However, Lampard's contribution in the early part of the season should not be overlooked. He openly admitted his difficulty in curbing his attacking instincts, but the difference between him and other midfielders is that he got on with the job and proved his discipline to play such an unselfish role for the team. And, as Ancelotti afforded him more freedom, the goals soon returned. He got the ball rolling with a double against Blackburn on October 24 and went on to bag 32 in total. In the process he became the first ever centre midfielder to score over 20 in the Premier League - he eventually finished with an impressive 22. And it was during the most important time of the season, the run-in, that Lampard produced the goods most consistently. He scored nine in the final seven games and it was arguably his contribution - while Rooney struggled for United - that got the Blues over the line. The 31-year-old, who also topped the Premier League's Actim Index player stats, reckons last season was the best of his career and who are we to argue? Step up Frank and collect your award.
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