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The Unsung Heroes of Football

By | 27th August 2008

In the Premiership, you’ll seldom hear talk of the players that helped win the trophies or grabbed the personal awards without the names Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or Cesc Fabregas cropping up at some point. However, behind these men who grab the headlines there are many players who give everything for their team. They don’t start every game, or play for lesser teams, but they are patient, determined and extremely strong willed. We look back at seven of the top unsung heroes of last season, and what we can expect of them this year.

Wes BrownWes Brown

Wes Brown has been nothing less than outstanding at right back for Manchester United. In the absence of long standing captain Gary Neville, Brown has stepped in with relative ease, as though he has always played at right back (he is naturally a center back), and he has became part of the most solid defense in Europe. His consistency and defensive awareness ensured United kept many clean sheets last season en route to their double. This year, expect him to start off as first choice right back and build upon his immense displays, despite Gary Neville’s return to fitness. That is possibly the greatest tribute you can pay Wes Brown’s performances last year, that he will start this season ahead of club legend Neville.

Jimmy Bullard

Jimmy Bullard only played a small part of last season. And what a part he played. Bullard made his first appearance of the season, after a two year absence, coming off the bench against West Ham. Then, in his first start of the season, set up the first then scored the winner against Aston Villa.  After missing a large part of the season due to injury, his return to the team sparked Fulham into a run of form which saw them move out of the bottom three with one game remaining, after a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City. With Fulham needing to win away at Portsmouth on the last day of the 2007/08 season to avoid relegation, it was Danny Murphy’s headed goal from Bullard’s free kick that gave Fulham the victory, ensuring their Premier League survival. His impact and contribution in keeping Fulham up was strikingly similar to Tevez keeping West Ham up the year before.

Paul Scharner

Paul Scharner was one of the major reasons Wigan avoided relegation last season. His defensive duties ensured that Wigan beat the drop, with his superb tackling and marking, Scharner proved to be one of the league’s surprise packages last season. He even contributed with a few goals, not bad at all for a center back. This year, expect more of the same. With Bruce being the manager from the beginning expect more assured performances throughout the whole season, not just the second half.

Craig Gordon

Craig Gordon has managed to draw praise from all over Europe for his heroics with Scotland. He has had a similar impact with Sunderland. His goalkeeping prowess was vital in keeping Sunderland up, and has proven that manager Roy Keane was right to break the British transfer record for a goalkeeper in order to secure his services. After a shaky start, the young Scotsman grew in stature and confidence as the season went on. Expect him to improve even further, as he seeks to stake his claim as one of Europe’s top young goalkeepers.

Bacary Sagna

If you join a club, then immediately dislodge that club’s first choice right back, you have a right to think you’re pretty good. As Arsenal’s title credentials fell short, and Fabregas was lavished with praise as he went off to Euro 2008, the club’s most consistent performer of the season sneaked off for a quiet, relaxing summer. Sagna was indispensable at right back, putting other regular right backs at other top clubs – such as Paulo Ferreira and Steve Finnan – to shame as he was named in the Premier League team of the year. This term he should have a similar impact, but he’ll be hoping Arsenal can make more of a splash in their hunt for glory.

YakubuYakubu

While Ronaldo, Torres, Santa Cruz and Adebayor grabbed the plaudits, ‘the Yak’ crept up the charts with a stunning 21 goals in his debut season with Everton. He came with a reputation of being a bit lazy, but he dispelled that reputation with his strength, pace, aerial ability and finishing skills. He has already set about doing the same this season. Already he has 2 goals in 2 games! Provided he gets the service, expect him to bag another 20 goals.

Sol Campbell

Portsmouth had a pretty successful season last year. In his first season as captain, Campbell led his side to an 8th place finish as well an FA Cup  victory. Subsequently, Portsmouth find themselves in the UEFA Cup, the club’s first foray into Europe. At the heart of the defense, Campbell was the center piece of a rock solid defense that let almost nothing past them last season. If it wasn’t a last ditch tackle, then it was a commanding header. His presence at the back inspired confidence through the ranks. This year, after the most difficult start possible for Portsmouth (away to Chelsea and then at home to Manchester United), expect Pompey to start picking up points, probably whilst keeping a few clean sheets.

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