TEAMtalk Soccers: Young Player of Season

Date published: Tuesday 23rd June 2015 9:38

Firstly, let’s make clear what the parameters are for this award. The nominees had to be 21 or younger when the campaign kicked off last August, which means that the likes of Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho, David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois were never in contention.

So let’s get on with your top five.

5. Ayoze Perez

The 21-year-old won the Breakthrough Player and Best Attacking Midfielder awards with Tenerife in the Spanish second division in 2013-14 before joining Newcastle in June last year.

Perez reportedly rejected moves to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Porto to move to St James’ Park and enjoyed an impressive first season in England, scoring seven Premier League goals in a struggling side.

The Spanish U-21 star scored his first goal for the club in his first league start, as the Magpies grabbed a 2-1 win at Tottenham in October, and was quite often handed a lone striking role due to injuries to Papiss Cisse and Siem de Jong.

Perez was a shining light in what was otherwise a dismal campaign for the Toon and he could certainly be one to watch under Steve McClaren next season.

4. Jack Grealish

The 19-year-old winger made 17 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa last season and was an ever present in their run to the FA Cup final.

The Birmingham-born player impressed many with his pace and trickery, prompting boss Tim Sherwood to wax lyrical about his charge: “He can open teams up, he has good awareness and he plays with wing mirrors. He’s got a massive future at this club.”

He may have a big future with Villa but it’s where he will be playing his international football which has created a few headlines.

Grealish has played at youth and Under-21 level for the Republic of Ireland but his displays towards the end of last season prompted England to confirm their interest in getting the Villa youngster on board. He certainly has a tough decision to make, one he shouldn’t take lying down.

3. Saido Berahino

If Berahino had carried on his form of the first half of the season then he would arguably have been top of the pile in this category, but his level dipped after talk of a January exit from West Brom clearly went to his head.

The 21-year-old scored in five successive games for the Baggies in September and October and was immediately labelled a £25million striker, with Liverpool and Tottenham said to be keen on his services.

Berahino then earned a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia and the friendly against Scotland in November 2014 but failed to earn his first cap.

After that he went off the boil, although he exploded back into the headlines when he bagged a brace as the Baggies thumped champions Chelsea in the penultimate game of the Premier League season.

2. Hector Bellerin

Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy shared the right-back role in the first half of last season but come the end of the campaign it was Bellerin who owned that position.

The 20-year-old Barcelona-born star, who is renowned for his tremendous pace, was outstanding for Arsene Wenger’s men from January onwards and even chipped in with a couple of goals against Aston Villa and Liverpool.

Bellerin made 28 appearances across all competitions for the Gunners in 2014/15 and, having been capped by Spain at all youth levels, it would appear that a senior spot is only a matter of time away.

1. Harry Kane

Plenty has been said about the rise of Harry Kane and as a Tottenham fan I can’t even begin to comprehend quite how he managed to break the 30-goal barrier in his first full season as a Spurs regular.

I remember watching him a couple of years and thinking that he was very ordinary and would probably end up playing for a lower end Championship club by the age of 21. Well I got the 21 part right as that, remarkably, was the number of Premier League goals he scored last season.

The rise of the ‘new Shearingham’ is quite astonishing. However, I suppose we should have seen what was coming when he banged in a hat-trick against Asteras in the Europa League and then went in goal and let a back-pass of a free-kick dribble through his clutches for one of the howlers of the season. The footballing fates had decreed that Harry was always going to be in the headlines in 2014-15.

His confidence is one of his biggest assets and once again it was inevitable that he would score on his England debut within 80 seconds of coming on at Wembley.

He did have a couple of lean patches after that header against Lithuania, and the biggest test for Kane now is to repeat his prolific form of the season just gone. If he does then Daniel Levy might start warming up those ruthless negotiating skills of his.

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