Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Bale benefits as bite ban hits Suarez

Gareth Bale collected 53% of the votes to win the accolade

Luis Suarez's 10-match ban for biting cost him a chance of becoming the Football Writers' Association's Footballer of the Year.

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale landed the award, topping the poll of journalists with 53% to claim a narrow victory over Manchester United forward Robin van Persie, who was last year's recipient when at Arsenal. Suarez had also made the PFA shortlist but failed to figure in the top three, with Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata third.

FWA chairman Andy Dunn, chief sports writer for the Sunday Mirror, revealed any realistic chance of that happening disappeared when he bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

Dunn told Press Association Sport: "There is no doubting the incredible talent of Luis Suarez, and I think at one point a lot of our members believed that his behaviour was improving, and for that reason, several seemed prepared to vote for him. However, the biting incident changed all of that.

"In the end nearly every writer apart from two found it impossible to give our award to someone who had just been banned for 10 games by the Football Association for biting an opponent.

"Some people have the view that the receipt of a prestigious award can have redemptive powers, that it can make players realise they have responsibilities - clearly the two who voted for Suarez must think along those lines."

Bale's 24 goals in all competitions helped take Andre Villas-Boas' men into the quarter-finals of the Europa League and kept them in the race to secure a return to the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League.

Dunn added: "The Bale debate about diving is a valid one, and of course we as football writers are not moral guardians. The issue of simulation has not been overlooked by our members - it is clear the majority believe Gareth is either more sinned against than sinner or that he has taken steps to address the issue himself, or both."

Bale added: "It is a huge honour to receive the Footballer of the Year award from the Football Writers' Association. It means a lot to win this award when you consider the number of players that have been outstanding for their clubs in the Barclays Premier League this season.

"I have been very fortunate to be playing in such a fantastic team and I owe a lot to my team-mates and, obviously, the manager who has shown such faith in me. This award has been won in the past by some of the greatest names in football and I consider it a privilege that the FWA has selected me to be named alongside them."

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