by Andrew McNair… I am not for a second saying any of the players on this list are necessarily world class or should even be playing for bigger teams.
This article is simply to give some exposure to some of the league’s unsung heroes, players who consistently perform to their ability, are invaluable to their clubs, and most importantly, don’t get paid £200,000 a week.
So here goes…
Well, anybody who knows me knew this was coming so I figured I’d get it out of the way. My first underrated star is of course Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher.
The Scottish midfielder has endured a difficult career at Old Trafford despite the odd important goal and inspirational performance in the Champions league.
Last season, though, the 25-year-old came of age and played a vital role in the Red Devils’ championship season. He was, however, sadly missing for his side’s UEFA Champions League final due to suspension.
A coincidence? I think not.
Still, this season I see United fans talking about the upcoming season without even a mention for the sometimes Scotland Captain.
With 42 caps for Scotland and over 200 games for United under his belt, it is about time supporters stopped referring to Fletcher as a backup midfielder but as a first eleven player for one of the greatest sides in the world.
He has earned it.
Speaking of Scotland, I may as well get the other one out the way before people start crying foul.
Alan Hutton signed for Tottenham Hotspur just over a year and a half ago for £8 million pounds, yet has only played 21 times for the London Club.
Some would say this is because the 24-year-old was overrated, but I disagree.
He is a world class right back in my opinion, and in his day a confident Hutton would rival any right back in world football. All Rangers and Scotland fans will always remember his galloping wing back runs in the Champions League and in the European Championship qualifiers which made him look, well, quite Brazilian.
That earned him his big money move, but injury and a change of manager at Spurs have left the defender staring on the bench for another season. The recent signing of Kyle Naughton from Sheffield United seems to only confirm such a belief.
Alan Hutton is underrated by Harry Redknapp, somebody please come to his rescue as the lad needs games.
When many think of Everton they talk straight away about Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill, but what about Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman?
South African Pienaar has excellent pedigree having come through the ranks at Ajax Amsterdam following his move from feeder club Ajax Cape Town in 2001.
He is also a fantastic lively little player who can shoot, pass, tackle, and just as importantly for the English game, take a tackle.
Approaching 50 caps for his country, which he’ll likely manage during next year’s 2010 Fifa World Cup in his home country, the 27-year-old will be hoping for a stellar year.
If he doesn’t quite manage out of Arteta’s shadow this season, he won’t be too bothered. He certainly won’t be in anyone’s shadow come the summer in South Africa.
It may be a surprise to many, but Leon Osman is 28.
The tiny midfielder hardly ever gets any recognition, even when he scores, and I cannot take it anymore.
Osman is a lifelong Toffee with an eye for goal and does much of the donkey work in Everton’s much talked about midfield.
Two goals by Osman on the final day of last season saw Everton secure the fifth spot in what was another impressive season for Everton, despite the usual injury-hit small squad, a season in which Leon was vital.
But how many of you have ever stopped and said, “that boy can play a bit”?
I couldn’t believe it when long distance hard-hitting Matthew Taylor fell out of favour at Portsmouth, as I had always rated the talented midfielder.
A wicked left foot and an eye for goal (does anyone remember his 40 yard lob at Sunderland?) obviously weren’t good enough for some, and after over 200 games on the south coast he signed for Bolton Wanderers.
And what was he seen doing last season?
Scoring 10 league goals and supplying many more with that terrific left foot, and in general being a nuisance to every top player he came up against.
Sorry Harry, it appears we don’t see eye-to-eye.
Taylor is a class act.
Mark Schwarzer is the first of three goalkeepers in my list of 17 underrated players (sorry, I just couldn’t whittle them down).
The 36-year-old Aussie is going into his 20th season, probably off the back of his best year having been voted Fulham’s best player last term.
A decade at Middlesbrough had brought more downs than ups one would feel, despite a League Cup winners medal and over 400 appearances.
He felt a new challenge was needed. At Fulham, he probably plays behind the best defense of his career. His maturity showed as he played every game in 08/09, contributing with a string of shut outs (especially at home), as the Cottagers became very difficult to beat with a fantastic seventh place in the Barclays Premier League.
Schwarzer just happened to be there? I think not.
Aston Villa’s James Milner has played a whopping 46 times for the England under 21’s. I assume that’s a record.
The midfielder always stands out when you watch Villa play, just as he did when he started his career at Leeds or at Newcastle United (Oh, how glad he must be that he jumped those sinking ships).
In truth, he is very highly rated but makes this list for his under 21 caps. Just not good enough for England yet, Fabio?
The fact is, no one has ever reached such an incredible amount of junior appearances because a player gifted enough to be so important to his nation’s u-21’s is normally just as important to his country’s full international side.
Even taking into account the fact he has been around the Premier League since he was 16, it must still make tough reading for Milner who must be bursting for a full cap.
Just a quick note to Villa: Watch out, this man has been seen on many a floundering vessel.
Just in case Schwarzer was not old enough for you, it is time to look at the oldest man on my list.
Brad Friedel was definitely underrated during his spell at Liverpool but nearly a decade at Blackburn Rovers helped the American build a staunch reputation.
Just not a world class one judging by his club career.
Having retired from international duty in 2005 the 82 times capped keeper joined Aston Villa at the beginning of last season and filled what had been a troubled role in the Birmingham side.
A near-breakthrough year by Villa, which saw them at one stage fighting for fourth spot with Arsenal, was all played out in front of the veteran American who, like Schwarzer, played all 38 league games.
Another coincidence? It must have had a lot to do with Villa’s number one.
When Stoke City snapped up veteran striker James Beattie from Sheffield United in January, I thought he could be the very man to keep the Potters in England’s top flight.
I even picked him as one of my top 10 January signings.
His spell in the Championship helped him find his scoring boots after a difficult time with Everton, where a lot had been expected of him.
Seven vital goals later by the 31-year-old and Stoke are safe by miles in the dog fight that is the premier League relegation battle.
But who gets all the credit and all the publicity?
Keep your eye for Part 2…coming soon!
By Andrew McNair… What has Darren Fletcher ever done to deserve such an injustice?
The Manchester United midfielder has been playing superbly for his club all season and Tuesday tonight was no different. The hard working Scot played his part in one of the great United European performances.
Sadly, Fletcher has made the mistake of being too committed and will pay possibly the ultimate sacrifice.
Only a World Cup Final is a bigger game for a European player and we all know there is little chance of the United midfielder missing out on one of those.
But he will miss the UEFA Champions League Final after wearing his heart on his sleeve.
With Manchester United up 3-0 Darren Fletcher tracked his man into the United box and even though he knew the danger, he refused to let Arsenal score and made an amazing tackle, which the referee has deemed a foul by the last man.
The red card was swift but totally unjustified as replay’s show he clearly won the ball. The tackle was superb, the commitment was 110% but the dream is over.
This injustice will be doubled as there are no appeals.
Darren Fletcher will yet again sit out of a Champions League final after watching on as a substitute as Man United lifted the trophy last season.
Told in the summer he had to improve if he wanted more game time, the Scot has had a terrific season starting on a regular basis and has proved to everyone he does deserve to wear the red and white of United.
Those performances led him to tonight where he started in United’s biggest game of the season as a trusted and loyal servant.
Where is the appeals process?
How can the footballing world standby and let such a travesty take place. As football fans, we all dream of playing on such occasions and in all honesty there should be a way for such a terrific mistake to be overturned.
The footballing Gods have a lot to answer for as they have punished a man, who is not only honest but probably one of the hardest working professionals in the world game.
He is not world class, he is not a match winner but he is an example to millions of young boys that with plenty of heart and determination, you can make every dream come true.
Well nearly every dream, sorry Darren, we as fans, salute you.
by Andrew McNair… I wrote an article asking the world if scoring a goal was better than sex? The idea was widely received and many sided with my opinion of scoring goals being better than sex.
However, I am not a professional “shagger” and with my professional career limited to the South African lower leagues, I was unable to declare scoring goals as better than sex due to a lack of an expert’s opinion.
So you can imagine my surprise as I’m flicking through April’s issue of Four Four Two and find an interview with a porn star, who just happened to once be an England school boy international, and is the current captain of Hollywood FC.
Danny Mountain is not only a professional porn star of hits such as
To the Manor Porn, but is married to one as well—the very cute Eva Angelina. So I think we can take his word on matters involving sex. After all, not only does he have a sexy wife, but his work involves countless beauties on an almost daily basis.
Not bad work if you can get it.
Mountain’s football career came to an abrupt end as a teenager when a knee injury ended his professional dreams, but he still plays for Hollywood’s all star side most Sunday’s. So I think he is the most qualified yet to answer my year old question.
Is scoring a goal better than sex?
“Absolutely,” Mountain said in the interview. “I work with beautiful women from Monday to Saturday, but the best time of the week is the 90 minutes of football I get on a Sunday.”
Well, I can’t say I didn’t tell you so.
“Scoring a goal, to me, is simply the most satisfying rush on earth. I could even argue it’s better than sex,” he said. “If you have to work as hard for sex as you do to score a goal, then my friend, you are with the wrong woman.”
“It doesn’t matter which level you play at or even who you’re playing against, but there’s something about scoring a goal that just feels fantastic. Scoring a goal is arguably the best feeling, even better if you are a striker. We live on goals, with a goal on Saturday boosting us all the way till next weekend. It doesn’t even really matter how it goes in—top corner or deflection—that feeling of relief, mixed with absolute pleasure is simply unequalled in my opinion.”
by Andrew McNair… Scoring a goal, to me, is simply the most satisfying rush on earth. I could even argue it’s better than sex.
If you have to work as hard for sex as you do to score a goal, then my friend, you are with the wrong woman!
It doesn’t matter which level you play at or even who you’re playing against, but there’s something about scoring a goal that just feels fantastic.
Scoring a goal is arguably the best feeling, even better if you are a striker! We live on goals, with a goal on Saturday boosting us all the way till next weekend. It doesn’t even really matter how it goes in—top corner or deflection—that feeling of relief, mixed with absolute pleasure is simply unequalled in my opinion.
Yes, I have many more feelings to feel in the future—fatherhood for instance—but oh boy, I’ll love it just as much if not more, when my lad hits his first goal.
I’ll leave the daddy talk there, before my girlfriend has heart palpitations or gets too excited.
My latest goal came after two matches sitting on the sideline watching my team draw and lose. I can’t even describe the feelings that came across me as I scored inside 15 minutes on my return.
A rebound off the keeper, but it didn’t bother me and the satisfaction and sheer joy was immense! We went on to win 5-1 that day, and my goal may have been overshadowed, but not for me.
Inside me, I know I made the greatest contribution I could make! Nothing will change that!
I’m not going to claim I live from goal to goal or even from game to game, but when I’m lucky enough to get that feeling—I treasure it!
Here’s to scoring goals, one of life’s true pleasures…
by Andrew McNair… The number of foreign players in the Barclays Premier League has been an issue over the last few years with many people suggesting that the amount of foreigners in England was hampering the national team.
I had been inclined to think that way myself until I stumbled on the Inter Milan squad list while researching another article. It was flooded with foreign players and it got me thinking, does England really have too many foreign players and is this actually hampering the national side?
For my research, I took the top four sides (judging by league tables as of the morning of the 7th February 2009) from Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and England’s Premier League and worked out how many foreigners they had as individual clubs and national leagues. I chose the top four as these are the players likely to be representing each country in next years UEFA Champions League.
The Stats: Italy
Having first got the idea for this article while looking at Inter Milan, I’ll start by looking at Serie A. The current top four in Italy are Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and the surprise package of 2008/2009, Genoa.
Inter Milan’s squad is 75 percent foreign and includes only seven Italians.
AC Milan’s squad is 55 percent foreign.
Juventus’s squad is 56 percent foreign.
Genoa’s squad is 64 percent Italian, with only eight foreign players on their current first team squad.
Overall, the look at this sub section of Serie A shows that 56 percent of players in Italy’s top flight are foreign.
The top four in Spain is Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia.
Barcelona’s squad is 54 percent foreign.
Real Madrid’s squad is 64 percent foreign with only nine Spaniards in the first team.
Sevilla’s squad is 70 percent foreign and they have only eight Spanish players.
Valencia with all their well documented problems have a mainly Spanish squad with only 29 percent of the first team being foreign.
Overall, the look at this sub section of La Liga tells us that 55 percent of players in Spain are foreigners.
The top four in England is Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa.
Manchester United’s squad is 64 percent foreign.
Liverpool’s squad is 77 percent foreign and only have seven English players in their current first team.
Chelsea’s squad is 80 percent foreign and have only five Englishmen in their top squad.
Aston Villa are 64 percent English and have only nine foreign players.
Overall, the look at this sub section of the Barclays Premier League tells us that 57 percent of players in England are foreign.
Does England really have too many foreign players?
England does have the side with the least amount of domestic players (20 percent) in Chelsea but they are hardly dominating in England right now. Italy’s worst is Inter Milan with only 25 percent of their squad being Italian and they are looking at four league wins in a row. Surely then Italy has more of a problem with foreign imports?
England’s most English squad is Aston Villa according to the stats used and that is on a par with Italy’s most Italian team Genoa at 64 percent. Valencia are even better with 71% of their players born in Spain. Proof that you don’t need a foreign side to be successful.
Aston Villa are holding off Arsenal (a side with virtually no English players) and are proof that Englishman are capable of holding their own against sides full of the worlds best players. In Italy, Genoa are the Villa, holding off the Fiorentina’s and Roma’s of this world with a pretty much Italian squad.
In Spain, Sevilla have as many foreigners as Valencia have Spaniards but Valencia are right there behind them, despite being practically bankrupt.
Therefore, I don’t believe England has any more of a problem than Spain or Italy.
Is the foreign invasion hampering the national side?
There is certainly not enough evidence to say England can’t win a major trophy because of the foreigners in the Premier League.
Spain are European Champions and have a league with just 2 percent less foreigners across their top clubs.
Italy are the World Champions and have a league with just 1 percent less foreigners amongst their top four sides.
The above totally blows any such claims by the English out of the water.
Whatever/ whoever is to blame for England’s failure to qualify for EURO 2008, it simply isn’t too many non English players in the Premier League but I do believe that it could be the fact England has only one player in Italy or Spain (David Beckham) while top Spanish and Italian players ply their trades in England and Spain or Italy showing their diversity and ability to adapt.
It appears England players need to get out more as it is no surprise England’s greatest global triumph wasn’t global at all, it happened in their own back yard.
The world is still undecided on Andy Murray’s Australian Open fait but people being undecided shows just how far the 21 year old Scot has come.
It wasn’t so long ago that people said, the now world number four and British number one would never win a slam with Rodger Federer or Rafael Nadal on tour.
Now it is widely accepted that Andy Murray will win slams and maybe even this year.
Murray’s first round tie in the heat of the Melbourne sun was cut short when Romanian, Andrei Pavel retired hurt mid way through the second set with the Brit a set and break up but one doubts that he would have been too worried.
The young Scot may not have got the run out he was hoping for but he did avoid the sweltering sun and with tonight’s match played under lights, the question of fatigue brought up by many Murray doubters is at this moment, a non issue.
It has also been mentioned that Andy, “lacks some control over his mental game” by a fellow writer but do the facts agree? He is undefeated this season, has defended his Qatar Open crown and won four of his six tournaments since losing that US Open final to Roger Federer. Do they think he should win every tournament in order to show his mental control?
Funny how he was told he’d never regularly beat Nadal and Federer but now that he has proven he can, it apparently doesn’t prove anything.
Spaniard Marcel Granollers-Pujol was Murray’s second round opponent but they had to wait a long time to get on court after Venus Williams shock three sets defeat at the hands of Spain’s Carla Suarez-Navarro.
The match finally got under way at 10:30pm with Murray initially getting the hard match he was hoping for. Murray took the first set 6-4 after a good work out by the Spaniard. It was mainly Murray from then on in however and the Scot will surely be happy with his first full match of the Open.
6-4, 6-2, 6-2 saw the fourth seed turn the screw as the match went on and did so despite never playing anything like his best tennis, he didn’t need to.
Despite the lack of a proper first round match which saw Murray take a while to get into his flow today. It was only to be expected that his momentum coming into this event along with his high level of consistency was going to make Murray’s presence in the third round a mere formality.
Andy Murray is currently tennis’s Mr consistent and nothing I saw today changes my opinion.
Next up is Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, bring on Saturday.
News Flash: Juventus wouldn’t sell Alessandro Del Piero for £100 million pounds.
Of course not “Old Lady“, you like to hold onto your sparkling old gems.
Del Piero is one of my favourite all-time players and I can remember watching him in his sprightly youth on Channel Four’s Italian football show of a Sunday afternoon.
The now 34-year-old has been called “past it” by many but the facts don‘t add up. In each of the last three seasons, the 91 times capped Del Piero has hit the 20 goals mark, that would be the three seasons between the ages of 31 and 33.
Not exactly past his best.
This year he has 13 goals to his name with half the season left, I wouldn’t bet against him making it four in a row.
Maybe Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli has a point. Other than his sparkling 1997-98 season that produced 32 goals, the Italian is in the form of his life.
254 career goals and all but one of them for Juventus. The other came for Padova, before being plucked by the mighty Juventus and with his tally of 29 international goals, it all backs up the fact that Alessandro is a class act.
So if I was Juventus, would I sell?
My heart says no, my head says yes in a heart beat.
It won’t happen of course, Gigli was just taking the chance to have a go at AC Milan but it brought up a talking point all the same.
Would you want your team to sell its soul?
Del Boy is Juve through and through, his soul will always be black and white.