Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

50 winners of the Premier League season

Wayne Rooney
Stepped up to the plate in World Cup year, scoring 34 goals to fill the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo. His ankle injury in Munich gave us all a scare but that seems to be all over now. Please God!
Wayne Rooney
Stepped up to the plate in World Cup year, scoring 34 goals to fill the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo. His ankle injury in Munich gave us all a scare but that seems to be all over now. Please God!
Paul Lambert
Former Scotland international began the season leading Colchester to a majestic 7-1 opening day success at Norwich before jumping ship for Carrow Road and leading the Canaries to promotion.
Lionel Messi
The diminutive 22-year old has seemingly led Barcelona on his own for most of the campaign, foraging away in the imitable style of his and upping his goal count to 44. Destroyed Arsenal single handedly in last month's Champions League semi-final and one of the main reasons why Spain and Brazil won't have it all their own way in South Africa this summer.
Manchester United Supporters Trust
As the anti-Glazer feeling took hold and reached new levels of hatred, the Stretford End faithful took to sporting the yellow and green of United fore bearers Newton Heath as means of protest, notably the Trust-inspired scarfes. With directors aghast and stewards sacked for joining in, support at United matches became defined less for the dark red shirts and more for the Norwich-like colours. Even David Beckham got in on the look when Milan visited town... Over 30,000 have been sold by the trust.
Phil Brown
Officially still on gardening leave, the perma tanned one could yet return to the managerial hotseat at the KC in a remarkable about turn. One of the few at the club who may not be too affected by relegation, after leading the club up in the first place.
Marijana Kovacevic
Injuries prove the bane of many a footballers life and some go to extreme lengths to try and get back on the field. This season the more unlikely curation of choice was horse placenta, as players such as Robin van Persie and Yossi Benayoun flocked to the Serbian physiotherapist to try and shorten their recovery times.
Darren Bent
Likened to Sandra Redknapp by Spurs manager Harry and reduced to a laughing stock after criticising his chairman on Twitter, the 26-year-old hit the ground running at Sunderland, scoring over half their league goals with the best return of his career and only behind Rooney and Drogba in the scoring charts. Not bad.
Rickie Lambert
Maintained his Bristol Rovers form in a Southampton team that just missed out on the play-offs but tasted glory in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. 33 goals is not a bad return for £1m.
Bobby Zamora
With just two league goals last season, even the striker's mother wouldn't have put much on him being in contention for the World Cup. Celebrated early goals by shushing detractors at Craven Cottage, the 29-year-old has enjoyed a stellar campaign, leading the Cottagers to the Europa League final and strengthening his own calls for international recognition.
Jose Reina
His club may have had a stinker of a season but the goalkeeper has been one of the few to shine at Anfield this season, always proving a dependable lat line of defence and leading the way in Premier League clean sheets (16) ahead of the final round of matches.
Ian Holloway
Led unfancied and pre-season favourites for relegation Blackpool to the playoffs and just three matches from the Premier League. Oh how the top-flight will be better for his way with words.
Jermain Defoe
After a couple of seasons spent behind Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane at White Hart Lane and never quite impressing Martin Jol and Juande Ramos enough for a starting place, the bulked-up striker has flourished under Harry Redknapp this season, scoring three hat-tricks, including a five-goal showing in the 9-1 thrashing of Wigan.
Chris Hughton
Not many gave the perennial caretaker a chance of leading the Magpies back to the top flight at the first time of asking but the 51-year-old impressed enough to land the job on a full time basis and led the Toon Army to the title, reaching a century of points in the final game.
Rochdale
After a record breaking 36 years in England's fourth tier, the long suffering Dale supporters were finally able to break out the champagne as Keith Hill led the club to promotion.
Manchester scarf makers
Anfield aside, scarf wearing had been dying a slow and tortuous death at football matches since the eighties, but the arrival of Roberto Mancini as Manchester City manager changed that, with his love of blue and white neck-warmers. Soon, every Citizen wanted in as club shops sold out and merchandise sellers couldn't get them on the stalls fast enough.
Didier Drogba
For all his diving, petulant histrionics and swearing at cameras when things don't go his way, the bulky Ivorian remains one of the most forceful fearsome forwards in the Premier League, equalling his best return of 33 goals and leading Carlo Ancelotti's side to the brink of a domestic double.
Billy Davies
The former Derby man had it all to do to win over sceptical Forest fans at the start of the campaign, but he has led the Nottingham side to the brink of a return to the top-flight, due in no small part to the club's formidable home form.
Nani
Derided in the early stages of his United career as Ronaldo-lite, the petulant step-over lover took time to settle into his new role on the wing after his countryman's departure last summer but has made it his own since Christmas, almost leading United to a fourth successive title. Cristiano who?
Gareth Bale
His substitute appearance in Spurs' 5-0 win over Burnley in September brought the Welshman his first top-flight league win in 25 attempts and, with that monkey off his back, the fleet-footed left-back cum winger has gone from strength to strength, terrorising defences and seeing his transfer value rise as he became one of the first names on the team sheet and gave Spurs' Champions League push added impetus.
Walter Smith
Yes, the Scottish game is as weak as it has been for a number of years, but the league still has to be won, and the legendary manager steered Rangers to a second successive title, his ninth, with ease.
Hull shirt makers (Vennegoor)
While other relegation candidates signed the likes of Fox, Diop, Brown and Cork, Hull did the clever thing and brought in Dutch royalty. Only two goals all season for the relegated Tigers, but oh how club shop workers must rub their hands with glee when fans ask for the 20 characters of his name to be plastered on the back of their shirts.
Cesc Fabregas
Another fine campaign for the young maestro often left to fight the Gunners cause for himself as others shirked their duties. Injury ended his campaign early, but his goals, assists and all round genius led the Gunners unlikely title charge until late in the campaign. Now for another summer of Barcelona guessing games...
Owen Coyle
Lauded for taking little old Burnley up into the top flight and giving the Clarets every chance of staying up, the Scot surprised many by jumping ship to Bolton mid-campaign. Stopped the rot at the Reebok to keep them afloat, whilst his former side slumped without trace in the second half of the campaign.
James Milner
Emerged as the main creative fulcrum for Martin O'Neill's side and provides Fabio Capello with a number of options should the versatile 24-year-old make the World Cup squad as expected.
Aruna Dindane
One of the few at Fratton Park to emerge with an increased reputation after Pompey's horrendous campaign. Always a threat from midfield and hit a hat trick against Wigan to give the club a glimmer of hope of staying up. Dropped in fear of evoking a bonus clause in his contract, the Ivorian returned to memorably help the side reach a second FA Cup final in three seasons.
Roy Hodgson
The 62-year-old has become the overwhelming favourite for manager of the season after leading Fulham to an unlikely European final. Joined the Craven Cottage side with the club in the bottom three but has performed minor miracles alongside the Thames.
Carlos Tevez
Unwanted and seemingly unloved by the men who matter at Old Trafford, the Argentine has been taken to the supporter's hearts at Eastlands, scoring 29 goals and impressing all with his hearty, giving-it-all playing style. Still sure you made the right decision, Fergie?
Jermaine Beckford
The striker has been ripping it up in League One for a couple of seasons at Leeds, but the Yorkshire side's FA Cup run this season brought him into the wider consciousness, scoring the winner at Old Trafford and a brace at White Hart Lane. A big money move beckons in the summer.
Sven Goran Eriksson
Much criticised for his time with England, but still managed to lead them to a trio of quarter-final appearances at major tournaments, which is further than those before him (Hoddle, Keegan) and after (McClaren) were able to manage. Surprisingly popped up at Notts County before leaving with a handsome pay-off, and now preparing an unlikely World Cup campaign with Ivory Coast, his seemingly untarnishable reputation emerging untarnished.
Sol Campbell
Only last September the former England captain was turning out for Notts County at Morecambe in League Two. Come January, his career had done a remarkable u-turn, Arsene Wenger opting to re-sign the veteran centre-back for Arsenal to provide some much needed big game experience. Impressed enough to inspire talk of staying for a further season.
Alex McLeish
Endured a tricky first 18 months in charge at Birmingham but has greatly impressed this campaign, leading the Brummies to the brink of Europe and comfortably avoiding relegation worries. Unbeaten in 12 games over Christmas.
United old guard (Ryan Giggs/Paul Scholes/Gary Neville)
As Federico Macheda, Nani, Darron Gibson, Jonny Evans et al continued to impress, the old guard appeared, to the casual observer, to be on their way out. Think again. Following on from his player of the year form of last season, Giggs has again proved valuable to United's trophy hunt, while Scholes and Neville have also benefited from Indian summers this campaign.
Steve McClaren
The Wally with a brolly left these shores a laughing stock two years ago to take up a job at FC Twente, with few giving him much chance of success. Fast forward two seasons and the former England manager is being courted by a number of European sides after leading the Tukkers to their first ever title.
Mike Ashley Looked to have been hounded out of St James' following last season's relegation, but the rotund millionaire rode the storm and took more of a back seat in the Championship, allowing Hughton to steer the Magpies back into the big time. Suddenly his stock has risen again.
Frank Lampard
Surprisingly overlooked for the team of the season by his peers, the influential midfielder has had another fine campaign, consistently producing the goods and scoring 20+ goals for a fifth successive season to provide added impetus from midfield for the Blues title challenge.
Carlo Ancelotti
After the uncertainty of five managers in three seasons, Chelsea needed some stability at the club and the eye-browed one has provided it, expertly guiding the Blues to the brink of a domestic double with the minimum of fuss.
Harry Redknapp
Followed Portsmouth's FA Cup triumph of two seasons ago by furthering his reputation at Spurs, leading the club to the the Champions League and within a whisker of a first FA Cup final in 19 years. After years spent at West Ham and Southampton, it's a mystery why no bigger club thought it worth taking a gamble on this Englishman sooner.
Scott Parker
There hasn't been much for Hammers fans to smile about this season, but the bustling midfielder has continued to impress, giving his all week in week out at Upton Park and ultimately helping Gianfranco Zola's side stay up. No surprise when the owners said he would be the one player not up for sale in the summer.
Florent Malouda
Took a season to settle at the Bridge, but the Chelsea midfielder has come into his own this season, tearing up and down the flanks week in and week out and joining Lampard in providing added goals from midfield, scoring 12 this season.
David Moyes
Oh for a fully fit squad. The fiery Scot has again impressed on a budget at Goodison, leading the Toffees to the brink of Europe with an often threadbare squad. Overcame the loss of Lescott and a poor opening three months to take the club on an unbeaten run.
Heurelho Gomes
Fumbling a cross into his goal at Fulham last season, the hapless Brazilian's career in English football seemed destined for a premature end. After improved showings in the second half of last campaign the likeable goalkeeper has had a fine season, his much-improved displays between the sticks one of the main reasons behind Spurs' fine season.
Jose Mourinho
The Italian press hate him and he hates them, but does he care? After securing the league title in his first year at the San Siro, Jose may yet go one step better and lead the blue and blacks to a first European crown isince 1965, eliminating Chelsea and Barcelona en route.
Aaron Lennon
Always a lightning quick dribbler, the winger has been maligned for the quality of crossing - until this season. Began the campaign in electric form, weighing in with his share of goals and zipping up the Spurs wing to supply ammunition for the likes of Defoe, Keane and Crouch. Injury curtailed his season halfway though, but he returned last month to reignite claims for a World Cup place.
Xabi Alonso
Has not exactly had an outstanding campaign at the Bernabeu after leaving Liverpool for Real Madrid last summer, but the influential 28-year-old's stock has risen here after each Reds defeat as the Kop grew to increasingly mourn his departure.
Darren Ambrose
With all about him at Crystal Palace seemingly on the point of collapse all season, the unheralded 26-year-old has had a fine campaign at Selhurst Park, scoring 20 goals and attracting suitors from across the country. His free kick against Aston Villa will live long in the memory.
Fulham's plane/coach driver
Hardly used before this season, the club's elongated European campaign has had him working overtime, travelling to Lithuania, Russia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Italy (twice), Ukraine and Germany (three times). One more win for the Cottagers and he could be driving an open top bus around SW6.
Nicklas Bendtner
Long chastised as everything that was wrong with Wenger's thinking at the Emirates, the not-so-great Dane stepped up to the plate when needed this season, leading the frontline with passion hitherto unseen in the absence of Adebayor and Van Persie. Wenger often had little option but to play the lumbering forward, but the goals have slowly started to come and Nicklas has turned into something of a cult hero in N5.
Avram Grant
Saddled with the unthinkable task of trying to keep the good ship Pompey afloat, the redoubtable Israeli took to the task with courage, dignity and humility, winning plenty of plaudits with his straight talking honesty and never say die determination. His call to arms on the pitch last weekend only added to his reputation and increased the affection in which the Fratton Park faithful now hold him.
Paul Robinson
Slowly but surely rebuilding his career at Blackburn, the amiable goalkeeper has played a crucial part in the club's steady campaign, including losing just three games all season at fortress Ewood Park.
Mick McCarthy
Chastised for his decision to rest 10 players for December's defeat at Manchester United, the 51-year-old has been more than vindicated by subsequent results, keeping the Molineux club in the division with ease, despite the club being one of the pre-season favourites for the drop.

It's been a memorable campaign for all concerned: a genuinely intriguing title race, the first Premier League team to go into administration, unlikely cup runs, the usual giant killings, supporter protests and some truly outstanding individual performances.

>>Click on the image to launch our guide.

To celebrate such a cracking year, we cast a mind back across the season and pick out the characters who came out of it all on top, with our 50 winners of the season.

Source: Independent

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