Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Bale tipped for PFA honour

Gareth Bale has been in fine form for Tottenham this term

Tottenham's Gareth Bale is favourite to land both major awards at the PFA honours' night in London on Sunday.

Bale has been the inspiration behind Tottenham's charge for a Champions League spot and is tipped to take advantage of Robin van Persie's dip in form to claim a prize he also won in 2011.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor would not be complaining at the outcome as it would deny Luis Suarez the prestigious honour, although the Liverpool forward, who on Friday accepted his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic at Chelsea last week, is virtually certain to be included in the Premier League team of the year.

The votes were cast and shortlist announced before Suarez's latest indescretion. However, doubts already existed about the Uruguayan's worthiness as a recipient given he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra at Anfield in October 2011.

The voting structure is also likely to have counted against Van Persie, who has scored five times in his last three appearances, including a title-sealing hat-trick against Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday.

However, as voting took place in the middle of his 10-match barren streak, during which time Bale scored eight times and terrorised defences at home and abroad, it is likely to have strengthened the Welshman's support at Van Persie's expense.

Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are outsiders for the contest whilst Michael Carrick, tipped by Arsene Wenger amongst others, still struggles to convince some of his outstanding talents.

Should Bale prevail, as he did in 2011, he will be the first two-time winner since Cristiano Ronaldo. In addition, it would mean Wales had claimed the award for the third time in five years after Ryan Giggs won it in 2009.

If the bookmakers are correct, Bale will follow Andy Gray and Ronaldo as the only players to have won both the main prize and the Young Player award in the same season. Aston Villa's Christian Benteke would seem the most obvious candidate to deny him given the Belgian's outstanding form in a terrible season for the Midlands outfit. Also nominated are Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere.

To mark the awards' 40th anniversary, there is now a women's category. Scotland's Kim Little is amongst those nominated in addition to 20-year-old Arsenal team-mate Jordan Nobbs, who scored a stunning debut goal against Italy in England's triumphant Cyprus Cup campaign in March.

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