Eden Hazard and Harry Kane were the respective winners of the PFA Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards, also managing to finish runner up in either category as well, something that marks an essential flaw in the system.
If Hazard won PFA Player of the Year by the virtue of being the best player in the league, beating Kane in the process, in what world does that make the Spurs striker the Young Player of the Year, for which the Belgian was nominated for as well?
It seems there is an obsession with rewarding players with awards that, although may not have been the best, did play really well, and just so happen to be British.
Scott Parker famously pipped Gareth Bale to the Football Writers’ award in 2011, and whilst age is just a number, the 30 year old midfielder was no way near the young Welshman, who had in fact already been voted PFA Player of the Year, and was undoubtedly so that season.
Nevertheless, just as a sob story is just as important, perhaps more so, than the talent on the likes of X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, it seems given that Parker was in the twilight of his career, the Football Writers were obviously moved enough to reward him with first place, rationalising it in a sort of ‘he’s not going to have another season like that’ kind of way.
It seems the same has happened again, albeit slightly differently. Rather than what could be boiled down to simply a difference in opinion between the two different awarding bodies, this year a conflicting result has come about, and has done so within the same organisation.
RONALDO, BALE - WHY NOT HAZARD?
Both Hazard and Kane, as mentioned, were nominated for both awards. This was far from a new phenomenon, with players not only being nominated for both in the past, but also winning them.
Cristiano Ronaldo did so at the end of the 2006/7 season, whilst not even Scott Parker could stop Bale from achieving the same feat in 2013.
It seems bizarre that by definition of the award Hazard was the best player in English football this season yet still managed to find himself behind Tottenham’s Kane in a far less competitive category.
I am not trying to belittle Kane’s achievements this season, far from it, my point is that no matter how impressive he has been, Hazard has been perceived to be more so, so why on earth has the Chelsea forward not walked away with both awards in his arms?
The contradiction in the result shows a national tendency to feel obliged to reward native talent. Even though Hazard was clearly more deserving, the very fact Kane is English and has played so well seems to have forced the hand of many, thinking it would be unfair for Kane to end up empty handed.
This desire to make the most of an English player playing well is one of many contributing factors to the weakness of our game. Showering a player with praise anytime they play well can cause complacency. Kane may well have played well this season, but the very fact he has been given this award suggests to me that there may not be a lot of faith placed in his ability to do so next year.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO?
There needs to be clarification on the criteria for each award, as by my understanding of it, the Young Player of the Year is the best player aged 23 or under. The very fact the best player in the league, regardless of age, managed to come second in this category makes so little sense.
It is almost funny how desperate we seem to be to continue deluding ourselves England can produce world class talent, or at least players that can go toe to toe with the best.
If we are so hellbent on wanting to reward English talent with awards that they may or may not deserve, then create a PFA English Player of the Year. One, it will appease those who feel the need to perpetuate the myth that English players are worthy of such awards.
It will also give them the platform to continue to deify any player with a modicum of talent, rewarding them with something tangible in an attempt to make reality of their warped perspective of the English game in relation to Europe’s elite.
Whether it’s clarifying the criteria, removing the possibility of being nominated for both, or even creating this solely English category, something needs to be done to avoid baffling results, the likes of this year’s awards have produced, from ever happening again.
If anything it is unfair on Kane, the award is pretty much made redundant by Hazard winning the top prize. If Hazard weren’t to have won it, then Kane’s award would perhaps be just. But giving him an award almost out of sympathy is cruel and even perhaps harmful to his development, distorting his perception, and that of others, of his actual ability.
If I were him, I would definitely take this award with a little more than a pinch of salt.