Don’t get me wrong, based on the rules for eligibility I have no problem with Raheem Sterling winning. My problem is the rules are stupid.
The Young Player Of The Year award goes to the player aged 23 or younger at the start of the season who is adjudged to have been the best in English football.
Twenty-three. 23! That number sounds nice and young but in a sport where players typically break in between 18-20 it’s an eternity. This is Raheem Sterling’s SEVENTH season in the Premier League.
He’s so old that he’s already played two seasons with Liverpool, made a £50 million move to Manchester City, and played four more years. Hell, he’s already appeared in not one but two World Cups.
The Young Player of the Year award is supposed to be about recognizing up and coming players. Sterling isn’t up and coming, he’s long established as already being here.
(Note: There is a guideline in the rules that players should vote for the player who improved the most from this year to last year but that’s never followed. That’s evidenced by Sterling’s 17 goals/12 assists actually being down from last year’s 18 goal/15 assist tally).
Again, Sterling was by far the best player on the shortlist of nominated players this year, but how are we still allowing him to be nominated?
This award continues to get dumber and dumber every year. Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney each won it in consecutive years. That makes sense because if someone is the best 23 and under player at the age of 18, it stands good reason that they’ll still be the best at the age of 19. In fact, it’s almost more incredible that no one has won it three years in a row.
The fix is simple, make it a rookie of the year award.
Obviously the definition of ‘rookie’ isn’t clear cut in the European football world. Some players get plenty of exposure off the bench or in cups one year, before being full time contributors in the year the next.
Take Trent Alexander-Arnold for example. Would you consider him a rookie?
Last season Alexander-Arnold proved to be an integral part of their team that went to the Champions League final. But he didn’t establish himself as a first choice player until February. He made 34 appearances in all comps, 19 in the league, but 14 of those league appearances came after January. He’s hardly a rookie but it’s also hard to say this isn’t his first full season as a first team player.
Eligibility for this award should be based on appearances. Any player aged 23 or under who has made fewer than 40 appearances at the start of the season is eligible. That allows players who were bit-part players for two or even three years to remain eligible for when they have their first full season as a first choice player.
Additionally any player who is signed from outside of England has to be younger than 21 when he’s signed, otherwise he’s ineligible. Finally, if you somehow win the award and still have fewer than 40 appearances, you’re inelgible to win it again.
Boom! I just fixed the young player of the year award. Will the PFA listen? Of course not and their award will continue to be ignored because it’s dumb.
PS: Kudos to Sterling for winning the FWA Player of the Year award. It’s well deserved but let’s not laugh at the fact that it’s blatant ‘sorry we’ve been completely unfair and racist in our coverage towards you – see we really value you’ move by the writers.