The TFN Writers Awards: 2012-13


The False Nine team respond to the results of the 2013 PFA Awards with their own picks for Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Manager of the Year…

Continuing on in his quest to become Wales’ answer to Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale was last night crowned as Player’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year at the 2013 PFA Awards at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. His double win follows in the footsteps of Ronaldo who achieved the same feat in 2007.

While the main prize of the PFA Awards is voted for by the players of the Premier League, here at TFN we didn’t want to miss out on the fun and so have taken upon ourselves to put forward our own picks for Player, Young Player and Manager of the Year.

You can read the selections from each of our writers along with reasoning below, followed by a summary of the results.

What do you think of our choices? Let us know in the comment box below this article.

Greg Johnson

Player of the Year: Juan Mata

While statistically Luis Suarez has been the greater individual (at least until his biting ban brought his season to an abrupt end), his achievements should be viewed in the context of his team – almost the entirety of Liverpool’s game is channeled and focused through him, giving him more solo opportunities. In contrast, Mata has quickly become the brain and heart of a Chelsea squad full of stars and egos greedy for their own glory. This season, Mata has been as consistant, creative, dangerous and committed to the cause as ever.

Young Player of the Year: David De Gea

The clean sheets have begun to tot up again for De Gea in the second half of this season, but even early on, before and during the winter months, the Spaniard was saving points for Manchester United that would have otherwise been lost. His excellent reflexes and distribution have never been in doubt, and as he has grown in confidence as a Premier League goal keeper (and cornerstone in the ever-rotating defence ahead of him) his resilience has increased. De Gea is still a player of potential, but the rate of progression is only increasing.

Manager of the Year: Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup heads into the summer with his hands on the League Cup having evolved Swansea’s methods through excellent transfer dealings, a loosening of Rodgers’ fetish for pure possession (the Swans have offered more variety in attack this year from counter attacks and wing play) and a management style that appears to have created a hard working harmony in the dressing room.

Player of the Year: Luis Suarez

I don’t like how the media identify a handful of players who’ve scored tons of goals and basically solidify them into the conscience of every football fan in the country as ‘players of the year.’ There are many who deserve recognition – Juan Mata is fast becoming Chelsea’s ‘go to man’, and has incredulously notched over 100 appearances for his club in under two full seasons. Jan Vertonghen is almost single-handedly re-aligning our conceptions of the art of the centre-back – how Spurs purchased him without battling anyone for his signature will remain a mystery for the rest of time.

But how do you judge a player’s impact over a season? Is it who has made the difference in the grand scheme of things, or simply someone who has, over the course of a season, proven to be consistently superior? Michael Owen tweeted his musings on his choices on April 2nd, saying:

As I said, it’s not necessarily the best players that get the vote. It’s who has played consistently well for most of the season.

If consistency over the season is how you judge it – and who would argue with Michael Owen? (although he did vote for Gareth Bale, who despite his astronomic second half of the season had only scored six times before Christmas) – then it’s hard to look beyond a man who has been battling against pre-conceptions and headlines since his arrival on these shores in January 2011. 23 goals, 10 assists – Luis Suarez. He has never gone more than four games without a goal, and his form this season shows what can be achieved when his talent is allowed to flow free of off-field controversy.

Young Player of the Year: Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke is an imperious talent and he steamrollers his way to the Young Player of the Year award. Fifteen goals so far, with all but two of them contributing to winning points for a struggling, relegation embattled Aston Villa side. At just 22-years old it’s frightening to envisage how far he can develop, especially when history dictates that forwards of his stature do not mature into their best until their late 20s.

Manager of the Year: Mauricio Pochettino

Going against convention here by selecting a manager who has only been in charge of his club since January, but Pochettino has performed above and beyond expectations, guiding Southampton not just to Premier League safety but mid-table serenity by mid-March. There were serious misgivings surrounding the logic of dispensing with the universally popular and eternally optimistic Nigel Adkins. The Saints were 15th in the table and on a run of just two defeats in 11, before calling upon a man who had enjoyed limited success in nearly four years at Espanyol. But Pochettino has revitalised Southampton, surpassing Adkins’ pre-sacking form by leading the club to significant victories over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea and building a platform for the club to really kick on next year.

Pochettino PFA

David Wild

Player of the Year: Juan Mata

Likely to be overlooked in the PFA awards because of the likes of Bale and Suarez, Juan Mata has nevertheless had an incredible season.  Regardless of the competition he has delivered for Chelsea , whether providing crucial assists such as the one for Demba Ba against Manchester United in the FA cup or scoring match winning goals such as the 90th minute winner against Arsenal back in January. Even in Europe he has flourished, offering match winning pedigree in games such as the 3-1 wins at Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan.18 goals and 19 assists in all competitions, with 10 goals and 10 assists in 28 premier league games is a fantastic return for a player enjoying only his second season in the Premiership. Not only are his statistics impressive but his consistency has been unrivalled. Even when not statistically influencing a game Mata has been dangerous, consistently providing a creative force for Chelsea and outperforming arguably more skilled midfielders in the same position (such as David Silva or Eden Hazard.)Other players have performed in peaks and troughs and it has generally been an inconsistent season for many of the Premier League’s leading lights. Luminaries like Agüero, Van Persie and Bale have impressed in fits and starts but none has had the consistent brilliance and efficiency of Chelsea’s Juan Mata, which for me makes him my TFN player of the season.

Young Player of the Year: Gareth Bale

This was a close call between Benteke and Bale. Bale is beginning to find the consistency to be ranked amongst the top players in the world at last and his scoring streak at the turn of the year was the sign of a player beginning to reach his undoubted potential.With 17 goals for the season it is notable however to see that he has comparatively few assists; only 3 in the Premier League and 4 in the Europa League, and 2 of these against Maribor.To justify this flaw Bale must keep up a scoring record that is admittedly beginning to establish itself in the same way that a younger Cristiano Ronaldo’s once did. Otherwise Bale risks the future accusation of being more concerned with his own achievement than with the good of the team, as for a player who began life as a marauding full back and left winger, 7 assists is a comparatively low figure when compared with Juan Mata’s 19.Nevertheless Bale is one of those few players who strikes unbridled fear when running at a defender. It is frightening to see a player who is as fast with the ball as without and his sheer talent for striking a ball from any and all angles and situations combined with his pace and movement are rightly making him one of the most exciting young players in world football at the moment. Spurs best brace themselves for some big money offers this Summer.

Manager of the Year: Sir Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson has, not for the first time, answered his critics. Pipped to the post in the Premier League by the skin of his teeth at the end of last season the response has been emphatic. Jose Mourinho’s record points total for a season is in sight and yet another chance for Ferguson to write himself into the annals of history looms large.Had it not been for a controversial refereeing decision sapping the momentum of his side it is very possible that Manchester United would be challenging for a second treble under Ferguson’s tenure. Consistently the best manager the league has ever seen.

John Guillem

Player of the Year: Juan Mata

A surprisingly boring one this year. I was going to plump for the little nibbler until his recent miscapade, but now I’m not so sure. Carrick deserves recognition but he’s boring as hell and I’d have to force myself to vomit out the accompanying hipster sentiment, the ape has been excellent but it doesn’t quite hang together for me with him, and Tevez/Michu/Cazorla/Fellaini all deserve credit  they haven’t received (vis the shortlist) but it’s not enough for them either. I don’t even know why Hazard was nominated. The head says the Dutch skunk (who really has made the difference, despite a dry patch in the middle), but for this I’ll go with the heart. His team haven’t done much of note and he’s had some excellent partners to work with, but Mata’s scintillating combination of efficiency and vision is one I find hugely appealing – a great role model for any playmaker.

Young player of the Year: Matija Nastasic

This is a silly award. There should be a ‘rookie of the year’ award for under-21s, and then a ‘rising star’ category for the next bracket up. Benteke and Bale have been performing as if far, far older than they actually are (though Bale isn’t that young anymore) so I don’t really think of them as ‘young’ players, and Hazard isn’t far off that maturity of play either. On the other hand, Wilshere and Welbeck shouldn’t be on the shortlist at all – more stupidity. Lukaku has been very impressive and shows huge promise, but as someone who’s featured more for a harder side to break into I’d plump for Nastasic, who surely has a brilliant future ahead of him. Amazing he didn’t make the shortlist, but I suppose that’s down to a positional bias (defending is less glamorous than scoring) rather than anything else.

Manager of the Year: Mark Hughes/Harry Redknapp

Props to hipster favourites Laudrup and AVB for excellent seasons, as well as to old favourites Fergie and Moyes. Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton have both done good jobs given the conditions they’ve had to work under (Lambert in particular for being so bold in overhauling a rotten squad, though he may yet pay the price for his risk-taking), whilst Steve Clarke succeeded in making West Brom both exciting and solid for at least half a season, and Roberto Martinez took Wigan to a cup final(!) All in all a good year for managers in the top division, but I simply can’t look beyond Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp. The job they’ve done in making an extremely expensively assembled QPR side so grossly rancid is hugely impressive, and anyone who plays Clint Hill in a side with Esteban Granero and Julio Cesar is surely perpetrating satire of the highest order.

Robin van Persie in action for Manchester United

Andrew Belt

Player of the Year: Robin van Persie

Rather predictably, I couldn’t look beyond the three current top scorers of RvP, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale for the top prize. Crucially, though, it was the Dutchman’s goals which proved the difference in the title race while Suarez regularly single-handedly lifted Liverpool from the mediocrity of mid-table and Bale’s virtuoso performances have kept Spurs in the hunt for a Champions League spot. Suarez has been outstanding in keeping Liverpool’s head above water playing with unlimited reserves of energy outside of the parameters of the top Premier League places. Bale has made a mockery of the decision to award him the 2011 PFA prize for a few memorable end-of-season displays by producing a far superior campaign which has seen the mercurial Welshman conjure brilliance on a consistent basis. Yet, van Persie has scored more than anyone in the pressure boiler at the top of the league, his goals becoming a feature of Man United’s famed late wins. The warning signs were there when he left Arsenal for Old Trafford last summer. That one transfer prompted me to place my money on the Red Devils for this season’s title and, with the possible exception of Michu, a more effective signing in the top flight would be hard to find.

Roberto Mancini, who boasted an arsenal of Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez at various stages throughout the season, bemoaned the transfer for the failure of Manchester City to retain their maiden Premier League title – high praise indeed. So far, so formulaic. But then Wayne Rooney floated a 20-yard ball over the Dutchman’s head and a volley of such magnificence was executed with breathtaking accuracy against Aston Villa which must surely rank as the goal of the season and perhaps even the greatest struck since the Premier League’s inception. A sublime finish to a brilliant season. Job done.


Young Player of the Year: Christian Benteke

It would appear as if 23-year-old Bale would be a shoo-in for this category but I think it would be unfair not to recognise those not in the senior shortlist, of which there have been three star performers. If there was a category for most improved player then Rafael, 22, would surely be a frontrunner for the honour. Often maligned for his defensive sensibilities, the Brazilian has proved reliable in defence and attack and cemented his place in the United back line while brother, Fabio, has experienced a drop in progress by virtue of his place in the soon-to-be relegated QPR team. 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku has been able to express himself as West Brom’s main striker and will surely be in contention for a greater role at parent club, Chelsea, next season. Lukaku’s scored 14 goals in Albion colours and has been one of the most powerful strikers in the division.

In Didier Drogba’s absence, the most powerful striker in the Premier League is Benteke. Eyebrows were raised when Paul Lambert sidelined Darren Bent for the-then unknown Belgian but a return of 15 goals for a struggling side has more than justified the Villa manager’s faith in the 22-year-old. Should Villa go down, he will surely be fast-tracked to a Premier League club going in the right direction. Despite the Villa’s blues, another mention should go to 21-year-old Andreas Weimann, who has supported Benteke by weighing in with six goals and being another rare positive in a desperate season for the Midlands club.

Manager of the Year: Michael Laudrup

For me, there are only two valid nominees for the award – Sir Alex Ferguson and Laudrup. The relentless pursuit to reclaim the Premier League was meticulously planned by the 71-year-old and while the outcome may not have surprised too many people, the way in which it was achieved certainly was. Obliterating the challenge posed by the ‘noisy neighbours’, Ferguson’s success was effectively done and dusted a good few months before the season’s end. The Champions League defeat to Real Madrid was unlucky and galling for the Scotsman but last-minute goals and repeatedly tearing apart weaker opponents featured highly on United’s route to a historic 20th title win. With the title won, Ferguson has sent out very attacking sides and maintained his drive to achieve a huge points total which is refreshing to see from a pensioner with plenty of enthusiasm to spare. He is the unstoppable machine and seasons like the current campaign offer an insight into the make-up of undoubtedly the greatest league manager in Premier League history.

However, an enormous amount of credit must go to Laudrup and what he has done to Swansea. A largely unheralded appointment, many, like myself, felt the Swans wouldn’t survive their second season in the modern top flight. However, the shrewd capture of Michu, as well as recruiting the likes of Chico Flores and Jonathan de Guzman have been masterful acquisitions as his side built on the foundations laid by Messrs Martinez, Sousa and Rodgers. Relegation has never come into question for the Welsh club who, no doubt, will relish the opportunity to play a Premier League South Wales derby next season. To lead Swansea to their first major cup win was a fantastic achievement, overcoming an early round banana skin at Crawley Town before beating Chelsea over two legs and be rewarded by playing serial giant-killers, Bradford City, in the final. Where he goes from here now, nobody knows, but 2012-13 was a vintage campaign for the classy Dane and resurrected a managerial career plagued by fits and starts in various different countries. Wales appears to be the unlikely destination for Laudrup to realise his aims and, like Michu, his surprise aptitude in the division was a breath of fresh air for football.

Simon Smith

Player of the Year: Luis Suarez

Everything good that happens at Liverpool goes through Suarez, and while that isn’t enough to justify him as player of the year alone, it is when you bear in mind how many goals he has scored while doing it.  Has had to adapt to a number of positions – out wide, in the hole, the lone striker or alongside Sturridge – and yet managed to outscore all the league’s serial poachers while doing so.  Has that special ability to make something happen out of nothing.

Young Player of the Year: Aaron Ramsey

A controversial choice, I know. Surely the best player in the age group is Gareth Bale, but is that what the award is for? I don’t think it can be given to anyone contesting the actual player of the season. Fans have lost patience with Ramsey because they expect him to do more than a young player reasonably can, and he has masterminded Arsenal’s recent run of form with a series of game controlling performances that justify the tough love. Has finally added a steely pragmatism to his obvious creativity: no other player has completed more than fifty successful tackles from as few attempted tackles as Ramsey has.

Manager of the Year: Alex Ferguson

How many times has Ferguson been manager of the season and it felt like default choice? Then again how many times have Manchester United won the title because nobody else turned up, by default. If Manchester United had trod onto a twentieth league title by a few points this season because City slacked off, Fergie would deserve credit for getting a league title out of a frankly average Manchester United team: the fact that the second half of the season they have been outstanding and, derby aside, blown Manchester City away cannot be seen as anything but a managerial miracle.

Baines PFA

Elko Born

Player of the Year: Leighton Baines

When it comes to POTY nominations, it’s always a difficult call: the most solid defender or the highest scoring/assisting attacker? Indeed, central midfielders never get picked. This year a very attacking left back – who, for anyone watching an Everton match for the first time in his life, might appear to be a left winger – deserves the glory. First and foremost because he’s a fantastic footballer. But also because he’s more than that. Leighton Baines is an icon, in the literal sense of the word. A semiotic signifier showing the world that even in times of economic malaise, English culture can be beautiful.

Young Player of the Year: Gareth Bale.

We already knew that Bale was good. But we also knew that he was immature. During the 2011/2012 season, for example, Bale was still a regular diver, sometimes resorting to sneaky one-up-man-ship in a way you would only expect from players of lesser quality.
This year, Bale vanguished those demons. Remember that goal he scored against Norwich in january? He could have dived around the halfwayline, but he didn’t. He showed us all that he is now able to rock the Premier League relying on pure skill alone.

Manager of the Year: Sir Alex Ferguson.

I must admit that I bore even myself by nominating Sir Alex Ferguson for manager of the year. But it must be said: what Ferguson did this year was nothing short of amazing. With a squad arguably lacking in quality in certain areas of the pitch, he managed to snatch back the championship from one of his clubs main rivals, seemingly relying on pure willpower and cultlike personality alone. Sir Alex Ferguson might just be the best manager there ever was.

Kyle Hulme

Player of the Year: Luis Suarez

For me, the player of the year has to be Luis Suarez. When he isn’t verbally abusing defenders he terrorises them in other ways, with his great dribbling style, impressive range of shots and dynamism that fans love. Consistently brilliant throughout, Suarez has been instrumental for Liverpool and I for one can’t wait for him to join Juventus in the summer.

Young Player of the Year: Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku is a freak of nature, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The 19 year old has absolutely battered defenders with way more experience than himself and it’s refreshing to see a former Football Manager prodigy come good for once (Bojan, take note). This, coupled with the fact that he isn’t that smug-faced, stupid heart-celebration advocate Bale, means he gets my nod for the award.

Manager of the Year: Michael Laudrup

Laudrup has done what not many managers have been able to do; that is, take an impressive model of playing football and make it even better. Giving Swansea more of a killer instinct whilst retaining their fluid style of play is a real achievement given their lack of resources so this, as well as the foresight to take a chance Michu and guiding Swansea to the cup, means Laudrup is my manager of the year.

lukaku pfa

David Dodds

Player of the Year: Juan Mata

The main man at Chelsea. Very little would happen without him, and he manages to stand out even though he’s surrounded by some of the league’s best other attacking players. That’s the part I can quantify and qualify properly, but I also have a sort of visceral love of Mata’s style of play and how he does things that reflects everything I love to see in players.

Young Player of the Year: Danny Welbeck

I’ve become slightly annoyed with the regular criticisms of Welbeck, which usually cite his goal/game ratio in spite of the fact that he’s being playing pretty much everywhere in attack but up front this season. There are probably better candidates, but my selection is a reaction to the misguided criticisms directed at him over the past year. Unfortunately, unless he’s going to be able to play his preferred position on a regular basis at United, his development might be hampered. There’s also the problem that clubs where he could secure a starting position can’t afford him with his high wages and the inflated value of any young English player, let alone a young England international.

Manager of the Year: Andre Villas-Boas

AVB will always be special to me because he is part of the legacy of the great Sir Bobby Robson, and I think what he’s done at Spurs is quite spectacular. Taking a team from fourth/fifth to third (that’s if he can do it!), for me, is a more impressive step up than taking a team from 20th to 10th. Despite Spurs being labelled as a one-man team this season, I think that’s far from true. Tottenham have been equally impotent when Bale is missing as they have been when Lennon has been missing. All he’s done has been achieved despite having no reliable striker, an over-abundance of central attack players and nowhere near the best defence in the league. Best beard in the league too (loses out on World Beard to Xabi Alonso).

vilas boas pfa

Paddy Spicer Ward

Player of the Year: Leighton Baines

I am a man of stats, and believe Baines being left out of the POTY nominations was really harsh. Solid at the back, Baines has also given Everton creativity from the back, reflected in their league position. The local lad chipped in with 5 goals, and assists, but his consistency is another asset that I like. If it weren’t for Ashley Cole, I would imagine he would have a lot more than his 15 England caps.

Young Player of the Year: Ben Davies

Another left back, and not the glamourous choice, but I think Davies has done really well this season and deserves the recognition. The 20 year old Welshman has stepped  comfortably into the big boots that were left to be filled when Neil Taylor’s injury ended his season. Davies has been consistent in the league, chipping in with a few assists and a goal after making his debut in August. Taylor may find it difficult to get back into the Swansea and Wales team when fit again, with Davies cementing his place in both in his debut season.

Manager of the Year: Michael Laudrup

I was among many that thought the opening day 5-0 win away at QPR wouldn’t reflect Swansea’s season, and that they would struggle after a summer of reshuffles. Laudrup has proved us wrong though, looking set to land Swansea in the top half, and having qualified for Europe with the League Cup success. The Dane has stepped up, replacing Brendan Rodgers and losing Joe Allen was never going to be easy, but Laudrup has got them playing some great football, and deserves the plaudits.

Scott Jenkins

Player of the Year:  Robin van Persie.

 His goals decided the most important matches for Manchester United. Suarez and Bale have both scored lots of brilliant goals but the importance of match winners with Liverpool, Arsenal, City etc are unparalleled.

Young Player of the Year: Gareth Bale.

Brilliant. Relishing the new free role he has and becoming increasingly devastating as each match progresses.

Manager of the Year: Sir Alex Ferguson.

Honourable mentions to Michael Laudrup, David Moyes and Sam Allardyce. However Sir Alex has once again risen to meet and then surpass the challenge of his nearest rival to prevail to such an extent that at the time of writing, an all-time Premier League high points score is still available.



TFN Player of the Year: 1st Juan Mata (4 votes)

Runners up: 2nd Luis Suarez (3 votes), 3rd Robin van Persie/Leighton Baines (2 votes each)


TFN Young Player of the Year: 1st Gareth Bales (3 votes)

Runners up: 2nd Christian Benteke (2 votes), 3rd place is shared


TFN Manager of the Year: 1st Michael Laudrup/Sir Alex Ferguson (4 votes each)

Runners up: 2nd and 3rd places are shared

Do you agree with the choices and opinions of our writers? Let us know what you think of our alternative PFA award picks with a comment below.

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