Getting voted by one’s peers as the best in your field is something to be really proud of.
Becoming recognised for the hours of hard work, training and commitment put into maintaining a consistent level of great form, makes it all worthwhile. Yes, so too do the sweet pay cheques, but to be raised on a pedestal and celebrated by those who know what it’s like to be a professional footballer must be a thrilling honour.
End-of-season championing can sometimes be a little tedious and grating but the PFA awards ceremony is a veritable joy to drink in most of the time, and one of its most fascinating categories is the Young Player of the Year because it draws all of the Premier League’s most promising and exciting starlets together, aged 23 and under.
Most of the time, the winners are more than worthy of their accolade and often go on to enjoy hugely fulfilling careers, spurned on by the confidence of taking home such a prestigious trophy. A select few, however, have really failed to build on their early success and it has been a disappointment to behold.
Let’s take a look at five previous winners who have flopped following their trophy-snatching heroics.
Mention Craig Bellamy to most football fans and it’s likely images of the former Wales international intimidating ex-team-mate John Arne Riise will spring to mind.
Throughout his time in the professional game, Bellamy earned himself a reputation as somewhat of a contentious chap, to put it lightly. Often grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it might come as a shock to some that the now-retired star actually took home this particular award.
He was a maverick, a bit of a madman and a loose cannon. He was a player many loved to hate. He lit the game up with his lively attitude, but sometimes his frenzied behaviour got in the way of his really excellent football skill.
On his day, he was a tremendously nifty technician who could ghost past defenders with the drop of his shoulder and a burst of killer pace, especially when he was a fresh-faced dribbler.
He won a lot less silverware than he was probably expected to when he was voted the PFA’s choice youngster in 2001/02, but that probably had something to do with the fact he was often battling personal demons and real anger issues. Still, he never quite hit the heights he could have and that will remain a disappointment to so many.