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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Steven Gerrard is the Football Writer's Player of the Year. That's better. You see, if you want something done properly, ask a journalist. Admittedly, that saying only holds water if what you want is to have someone drink all the beer in your fridge, or spell something incorrectly, but for once I'm proud of my industry. They saw through the hype, saw through the rosy haze and they made a decision which won't look ludicrous in a few years time.

I love Ryan Giggs. He's been a magnificent player and an excellent example for the kids, but at the risk of repeating previous columns, that shouldn't be enough to make you Footballer of the Year. If it was all about longevity or moral goodness then what about the evergreen Brad Friedel, consistently the best goalkeeper in the country, and an intelligent and articulate observer of the game? Or Phil Neville perhaps? A superb captain who works diligently in his community? They've both played more games than Giggs. Not suitable candidates? Of course they're not. Good intentions and selfless contributions shouldn't mean anything when you're picking the standout player of the season. If they did, Cristiano Ronaldo would never have won last year.Incidentally, how amusing is it that he only got three votes in this poll? Who were those three? What had they been drinking? I'll try and find out.

Since Rafa Benitez's decision to finally stop trying to tie Gerrard down to a specific position, the Liverpool captain has been inspired. Look at his first goal against West Ham last weekend. Could he ever have got into that position if he was shackled to the right flank? His partnership with Fernando Torres is as effective as you'll find anywhere in the world. They seem to know instantly where the other one is and they play to their strengths. With the world's best striker constantly making runs at the opposition's backline, Gerrard is less inclined to spank a hopeless long shot into Row J. He knows that he has options. He's grown as a player, finally living up to all of that potential that we've been reading about for a decade. This has been the most effective season of his career, something which is reflected in Liverpool's position in the table.

Liverpool won't win the title this year, I think we can be fairly sure about that now. Manchester United have just had a little bit too much for them in every competition. It's no fault of Gerrard's though. He's rarely had a poor game, always led from the front and he's contributed stacks of goals to the cause. He has played above what we had assumed was his natural level, he has been the stand-out player in his team and he has very nearly ended a painful title drought on Merseyside. That's an awful lot more than a handful of starts and two league goals, as should have been obvious even to the members of the PFA

Journalists aren't the most popular of people, for good reason. There aren't many industries where you can become an 'expert' on a multi-billion dollar business simply because you can construct a sentence. The nature of daily deadlines means that sometimes your first instinct might be the wrong one, but that won't stop history, and Google, recording it. Every now and then though, journalists get something right. Just don't ask us to look after your fridge.