Premier League surprise packages

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The definition of over-achievement; to do better than is expected, through excessive dedication to the attainment of success in one's work.

As we prepare to enter the penultimate month of the 2011-12 campaign, it's time for a doff of the cap to those who have entertained, excited, and continued to defy the footballing odds.

There has been no shortage of success stories this year, with numerous clubs and individual players playing above and beyond their means. GiveMeFootball considers four of the Premier League's surprise packages...

4. Norwich City

Condemned to relegation before the season had even started, Paul Lambert's Canaries were in fact predicted to finish rock-bottom of the Premier League this term, following back-to-back promotions from League One to the top-flight.

Currently sitting in a comfortable 11th place in the table, one point away from the magic total of 40, Norwich have turned in performance after performance, showing a level of consistency that many would have thought is beyond them.

Lambert was frustrated during the January transfer window, after proving unable to attract the players he wanted to sign, on the basis that the club could not compete with the wages on offer at rival clubs.

However, after adding former Leeds United captain Jonny Howson to his astutely assembled squad, made up of players with the majority of their experience coming from the lower leagues, Norwich have gone from strength to strength.

The spirit and determination instilled at the club delivered an impressive set of results during the first-half of the season, with positive results extending further than Carrow Road, with four wins and four draws recorded on their travels.

Club captain Grant Holt has been a revelation when leading the line for the Canaries, netting 12 goals in his debut season in the Premier League.

3. Tottenham Hotspur

Despite their recent dip in form which has dropped Tottenham to fourth place in the Premier League table, the north Londoners have been by far and away the most exciting team to watch this season, with their array of free-flowing, attack-minded football.

After back-to-back losses at the start of the campaign, Harry Redknapp's side made a charge for the summit, with many touting them as genuine title contenders.

However, three consecutive league defeats against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton ended all talk of a first domestic crown for Spurs since 1961, and consecutive draws against Stoke City and Chelsea has allowed the Gunners to overtake them in third place.

Redknapp recently claimed that Tottenham would be punching above their weight if they were to finish in the top four, and return to the Champions League next year, but remains confident of achieving the club's ambitions.

"If we finish in the top four I think we overpunched our weight really to be perfectly truthful with you," he said in the build-up to last week's FA Cup quarter-final clash with Bolton. "But I think we will finish in the top four.

"The priority is to get to the Cup final and to get to a Champions League place. That's where we are at really - we want to go to Wembley if we can this year, certainly."

Redknapp is the overwhelming favourite to become the next England manager, which is testament to his overachievements at White Hart Lane.

2. Swansea City

Nine years ago, Swansea were at the very bottom of the English football pyramid, lying in 24th position in the old Division 3. As we speak, the Swans now sit proudly in 10th place on the Premier League ladder.

Brendan Rogers has facilitated a style befitting the gradual phasing out of blood-and-thunder football, in lieu of a more delicate, possession-based approach, and it's worked wonders in the club's debut season in the top-flight.

A team made up of relative nobody's from front to back, the team from S=New South Wales have been wonderful to watch in their respective capacities.

Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm has proved one of the signings of the season, as the Liberty Stadium stopper continues to turn in performances of the highest order.

Welsh international duo Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor have been the leading lights in the Swansea defence, and midfield trio Leon Britton, Joe Allen, and Gylfi Sigurdsson have also impressed in the middle of the park.

The pace of widemen Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer have complimented lone striker Danny Graham well in attack, with an emphasis placed on attractive and entertaining football.

1. Newcastle United

Sixth in the Premier League table, and level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea, Alan Pardew's Toon Army have been the overwhelming surprise package in the top-flight this season.

A former English heavyweight, that has for so long been a serial underachiever, the Magpies are flying high once again and are well and truly in the mix in the race for European football.

The £35million sale of homegrown talent Andy Carroll back in January 2011 was met with dismay by the St James' Park faithful, but the way in which the club has invested that money has been nothing short of remarkable.

Newcastle are playing an exciting brand of 'champagne football' to keep the locals happy, and have a squad that is brimming with talent having raided the French first division, for value-for-money signings.

Relegation to the Championship in 2008-09 was the best thing that ever happened to Newcastle. The hard work and graft to oversee the rebuilding project has worked wonders for a club that is currently riding on the crest of a wave.

Anyone we've missed? Who do you think has been the biggest surprise package in 2011-12...? Share your thoughts below.

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Tottenham Hotspur
Norwich City
Premier League
Newcastle United
Swansea City

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