Reds deserve recognition



Liverpool probably won't win the title, but their re-emergence as an EPL superpower has been really refreshing.

Brendan Rodgers' brand of free-flowing, fast, entertaining football transformed the club from also-rans to genuine title contenders, and there's still every chance the Reds could breach the 100-goal mark in this frenetic season.

Back in the 1980s when Liverpool were winning everything, neutrals were desperate to see them knocked off their perch, but fast-forward to 2014 and every football fan who doesn't follow either Manchester United or Everton must secretly appreciate Rodgers' great entertainers.


Before this season, Crystal Palace had spent four campaigns in the EPL and had been relegated on every occasion.

By the end of November, the Eagles were in an all-too-familiar position at the foot of the table, but the appointment of Tony Pulis changed everything.

A dozen victories, including five in a row from the end of March, propelled Palace towards the sanctuary of mid table.

Defensively they've been much improved, as you would expect from a side managed by the Welsh disciplinarian, but offensively the likes of Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie have been allowed to express themselves freely, proving that Pulis isn't completely rigid in his approach to the game.


Paolo di Canio may not be to blame for all of Sunderland's travails at the start of the season.

According to the maverick Italian, it was director of football Roberto de Fanti who oversaw a disastrous pre-season recruitment campaign that left the club with a bunch of disinterested foreign players who would spend most of the campaign languishing in the reserves.

Gus Poyet couldn't have picked a tougher first assignment as a Premier League manager, but four straight wins secured the Black Cats' top-flight status when they looked dead and buried before the Uruguayan's arrival in October.

4. ROBERTO MARTINEZ When Roberto Martinez succeeded David Moyes at Everton, the consensus was that he was on a hiding to nothing.

Surely the Toffees, with their limited budget and lack of superstars, couldn't hope to finish any higher than seventh, and some respectable pundits even predicted a bottom-half finish for the Merseysiders.

Not a bit of it. Not only has Martinez inspired Everton to challenge the mighty Arsenal for a top-four place, their vibrant brand of attack-minded football has also been a delight to watch.


At the start of the campaign, Hull, along with Crystal Palace, were nailed-on favourites for a swift return to the Championship.

However, shrewd management by Steve Bruce has been the catalyst for securing their EPL survival.

The pre-season signings of centre back Curtis Davies and midfielder Tom Huddlestone were pivotal, and the arrival of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in January gave the club a timely boost just as their fortunes were beginning to flag.

You could argue that Bruce has improved every side he's managed.



Much maligned during his first two seasons at the club following a big-money move from Sunderland, Jordan Henderson was deemed surplus to requirements by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who was ready to listen to offers.

However, Henderson was determined to stay, and an early-season injury to Lucas Leiva and the indifferent form of Joe Allen gave him an opportunity to belatedly establish himself.

He's taken that chance with both hands, thriving alongside the brilliant Steven Gerrard, whose discipline allows the energetic Henderson to maraud from box to box as he did in his Sunderland days. An understated but key figure in the Liverpool team.


As a schoolboy, Aaron Ramsey was, along with his Arsenal youth-team pal Jack Wilshere, tipped for greatness.

However, after Ryan Shawcross snapped his leg in half during the Gunners' clash with Stoke four years ago, it appeared that the Welsh midfielder would never fulfil his potential.

Following a couple of poor campaigns, many Arsenal fans had run out of patience with the youngster, and urged boss Arsene Wenger to show him the door.

However, Ramsey's early-season scoring exploits lifted the north London side to the top of the table, and their title bid began to falter only when he started picking up niggling injuries.


A bit-part, utility player at Everton under David Moyes, the Irishman has thrived since the arrival of Roberto Martinez, establishing himself as one of the most exciting fullbacks in world football.

The tally of half a dozen goals from the right back position is no mean feat, and his marauding overlapping runs beyond the brilliant Kevin Mirallas have been a key tactical feature under the new manager.

Gareth Bale started his career as a fullback before becoming the world's most expensive player; Seamus Coleman not only plays like the Welsh wizard, but he's also the spitting image of him.


Before this season, Raheem Sterling seemed to spend more time in court than in the Liverpool first team.

However, a heart-to-heart with Reds manager Brendan Rodgers helped to change the exciting forward's fortunes.

Still only 19, Sterling looks a shoo-in for England at next month's World Cup, not just for a place in the 23-man squad, but a slot in the starting 11 is surely within his grasp after an outstanding campaign at club level.

The exciting teenager has lit up the EPL with his pace, trickery and invention, and is capable of being a pivotal figure for his country either on the wing or behind the striker.


Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper may have featured in last season's PFA Team of the Year, but he's enjoyed an even better campaign this time around in a vastly-inferior Red Devils team.

Extra weight sessions in the gym and a strict new diet has seen the 23-year-old add the requisite bulk needed to withstand the batterings that are unavoidable as an EPL goalkeeper.

The input of former England No. 1 Chris Woods, the one positive backroom appointment of the David Moyes era, has also been of huge significance for David de Gea.

This article was published on May 9 in The New Paper.

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