Barclays Premier League: The Mecca of English football, probably the most viewed and perhaps the most popular league in the world. Everyday a new player is born and introduced to the world, but only a few are able to leave any impression. Here, let’s take a look at the 5 most “surprisingly impressive” players in the ongoing 2010-11 season.
- Gareth ‘Frank’ Bale
A year ago, Bale was known for his weird record of starting 24 games with Spurs without a win. And today, he is amongst the most lauded players in the world. The player who played Rugby, Hockey and ran in various cross-country races before finally settling in football is now Tottenham’s most prized asset. A precocious talent, Bale is a product of Southampton youth academy for whom he later played at the club level before being transferred to Spurs in 2007 for a fee that could go up to 10 million pounds, depending upon his performance.
Bale’s playing career at Spurs was hampered by an injury he suffered while playing against Birmingham City in December 2007 that kept him sidelined for the entire 2008 season. He again underwent a knee surgery in 2009 and was ruled out for 3 months.
On his return, he had to spend a frustrating spell on the bench, as the regular left-back; Benoit Assou Ekotto was in his prime form. Bale finally got a chance to get into the first team, following an injury to Assou-Ekotto. And since then, he hasn’t looked back, literally; and now plays as a Left-winger rather than at the Left-back position.
2010 has been a great year for the Welsh international, having scored a hat-trick at San Siro, amongst other delightful performances. Milan’s defender Maicon, who had a torrid time against Bale, described him as:
“Bale is phenomenal. He is a great player, a great champion. We have to give great praise to him. We knew what he could do, but he was impossible to control.”
Bale didn’t let fame get into his head and has remained firm on his desire to stay at White Hart Lane, at least until his contract expires in 2014. His uncle Chris Pike, a former Welsh international himself, says:
“I’ve known him for 21 years and know how grounded he is. He is not motivated by money or by fame, he just loves playing football.”
Certainly a talented youngster, at the age of 21, he is considered at par with fellow Welsh and United legend Ryan Giggs and rumors of Bale replacing Giggs, when the 37 year old veteran retires are gaining strength. Only time will tell what the future holds for Bale but one thing’s sure: he is destined to be a super-star.
2. Andrew ‘Thomas’ Carroll
A relatively unsuccessful player until 2009, when Newcastle were relegated and their star strikers; Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi left the club, Carroll utilized his more frequent first team appearances and ended the season in the Championship with 19 goals to his name, the maximum by any Newcastle player. Prior to the 2009 season, he had spent an unsuccessful loan spell at Preston, scoring just once in his 11 appearances. Carroll was given the Number 9 shirt for the 2010-11 season, the same shirt that legends Jackie Milburn, Malcolm MacDonald and Alan Shearer used to wear. A strong and tall striker, he is good in air and has been dubbed as “one of the top three headers of the ball” by Kavin Keegan.
Carroll has already scored 10 goals in his 17 appearances in 2010-11, with a hat-trick against Aston Villa.
A player with a fiery temperament on the field, Carroll has been faced with a lot of allegations and issues off the pitch too. He has already been arrested various times and on one such occasion, he was granted bail on the condition that he resides with his club captain, Kevin Nolan. He was also involved in a training ground incident with teammate Steven Taylor, who suffered a broken jaw as a result. The club has always been with Carroll and defended his every action. Though, now that they are back to the highest level, they need to keep a regular check on Carroll.
3. Marc ‘Kevin’ Albrighton
After the two “naturally gifted” players, comes a player who has turned everyone’s eyes towards him with his agility, speed, pin-point crosses and most importantly, his desire to learn. A product of Aston Villa’s academy, Albrighton is already seen as a replacement for James Milner, who left the Villa club for Manchester City earlier this season. He has already impressed many with his work rate and determination. The winger possesses a great pace along with a few tricks. Add to this his ability of delivering the ball, equally effectively from both his feet and Albrighton becomes a “player to watch out for” in the future.
A regular in the reserves, Marc had a great pre-season with the club and scored in Villa’s 3-1 victory over Feyenoord. He made his first premier league start in the first game of 2010-11 season against West Ham. He was involved in all three goals the team scored in their 3-0 win. He scored his first Premier League goal for Villa against Tottenham Hotspur on 2 October 2010. In the beginning of November, he extended his contract with the club that would keep him at the Villa Park until 2014. He celebrated his contract extension with a goal against Fulham the very next day. He also scored against Manchester United before being sidelined by an injury for 3-4 weeks. He returned strongly and created both goals for his club’s 2-1 win over their local rivals, West Brom. It may take a season or two for Albrighton to really make an impact at Villa but on initial signs it should be sooner rather than later.
4. Scott ‘Matthew’ Parker
For a 30 year old player who managed to score just 4 goals in his previous 3 seasons at West Ham, Parker’s 6 goals in 19 games for the Hammers this season has to be considered as an extraordinary feat. A player, who is famous for his never-say-die attitude and his driving midfield play, suddenly stepped up a notch and started netting the ball more frequently in the 2010-11 season. Maybe, it’s because of the confidence Avram Grant has in this veteran midfielder.
The highest paid footballer at West Ham was provided a contract extension till 2015 before the start of the season to keep away the approaches from Aston Villa and Tottenham.
He made a strong start to the season and scored thrice in the first 6 matches, also scoring against Chelsea, one of his former clubs. He started his career at Charlton and was transferred to Chelsea. He was continuously sidelined by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and was eventually transferred to Newcastle for whom he appeared 55 times from 2005-07.
A Hammer since 2007, he has already been awarded the “Hammer of the Year” twice, in 2008-09 and 2009-10. For a man regarded as “one of the most consistent midfielders” in the premier league, he has had a tough luck at International level, managing just 3 appearances for England.
5. Peter ‘Osaze’ Odemwingie
The Nigerian International, born to a Russian mother and Nigerian father was signed by West Brom to boost their attacking options in the beginning of the 2010-11 season. The versatile winger, who plays as a second striker at West Brom has also played 47 international matches for Nigeria, including two appearances in the 2010 World Cup.
He started his career at the CSKA Moscow Academy before breaking through at senior level for Nigerian hometown club Bendel Insurance between 1999 and 2002. He spent the next two seasons at La Louviere, winning the Belgian Cup. Odemwingie moved on to French top-flight side Lille for a three-year spell where his strike in a 2-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro helped Lille reach the knockout stages of the 2006/07 Champions League.
The former Lokomotiv Moscow player made a dream debut by scoring in his first start for West Brom, against Sunderland in the club’s 1-0 victory. Odemwingie scored again for West Brom as they defeated Arsenal 3–2 at the Emirates. On November 10 he scored a penalty in the 2-2 draw against West Ham United to continue his brilliant start to the Premiership season. Odemwingie scored a brace for West Brom as they defeated Newcastle United 3-1.
A total of 6 goals in his 12 appearances for the club, Odemwingie is already showing his worth at the Brom club.