One of the most sought-after awards, the Young Player of the Year is often a close-run race. But this year, as James Marshment explains, we witnessed our biggest-ever landslide winner of a TEAMtalk Soccer…..
Unlike the PFA equivalent, our Young Player of the Year contenders have to be 21 years or younger when the season started, ruling the likes of Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Jack Butland and Philippe Coutinho out of our equation.
5 – Chancel Mbemba
It’s perhaps somewhat surprising to see a player selected from a team who suffered relegation make a top five of any TEAMtalk Soccers awards, but the contribution Mbemba made to Newcastle this season cannot be underestimated.
The DR Congo international joined the Magpies in an £8.4million deal from Anderlecht last summer and went on to make 35 appearances in not just a struggling side, but also – for much of the season – a struggling defence.
Don’t let that fool you, however. Mbemba was a rare ray of light in a United side that bumbled its way through the first half of the season and but for his heroics, could have been left far further adrift before Rafa Benitez came in.
Much has been said about Benitez’s arrival coming just too late to save Newcastle from relegation, but had Steve McClaren played both Mbemba and his eventual partner Jamaal Lascelles earlier, then the chances are that not only would Newcastle have survived, but so too would have the bumbling former England coach.
4 – Hector Bellerin
A player who just appears to get better and better, the 2015/16 season was another stellar season for the Spaniard, who took his place in the Spain squad for Euro 2016 following injury to Daniel Carvajal.
The fact Bellerin – who made 44 appearances for Arsenal – was overlooked by the PFA awards while John Stones was included – befuddled plenty in the game, although it’s clear TEAMtalk’s readers can at least spot a good player when they see one.
In those 44 games, Bellerin scored once, was booked just three times and was a model of consistency throughout. Barcelona born and raised, it only seems a matter of time before the Spain cap takes that well-trodden path back to Catalonia – the fact that he’s done little to discourage these rumours too only adds fuel to the fire.
3 – Eric Dier
It may have been his Spurs team-mate Dele Alli that most of the plaudits this season, but Dier’s contribution to Spurs’ campaign cannot be overstated enough.
Starting the season as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, the 2015/16 season really was the year that Dier came of age. Having operated mainly as a fill-in centre-half and right-back in his first year at Spurs, the Cheltenham-born player was converted to a holding midfield role by manager Mauricio Pochettino last summer.
It was an experiment that reaped rich rewards, with the player proving an excellent shield to the men behind him, earning England recognition and a new deal to boot, as Spurs went from top-four hopefuls to genuine title challengers.
Dier was not to be seen on the PFA’s Young Player of the Year shortlist, but he can at least take solace from a well-deserved third place in the TEAMtalk Soccers equivalent.
2 – Anthony Martial
One of those players whose bios in years to come will inevitably start with “eyebrows were raised when…”, Anthony Martial really did enjoy a stellar debut campaign for Manchester United.
When you think of the money that was spent on the then relatively-unknown Frenchman, adding to the fact that he was living in a new country, playing in a new league, and simultaneously thrust into Manchester United’s attack, it would have been easy for Martial to fold and go missing.
But 52 appearances in his debut campaign (not to mention 17 goals) made him not just an immovable object in Man Utd’s line-up, it also made him their chief goals threat – certainly before the emergence of Marcus Rashford (who bizarrely failed to pick up any of your votes, by the way!).
He also, indirectly, forced Wayne Rooney into a positional re-think, and all those critics who’d originally questioned United’s wisdom to spend such money on the player, to eat their words.
Another overlooked by the PFA, Martial was a deserving runner-up in your vote for our Young Player of the Year.
1- Dele Alli
He’s already scooped the TEAMtalk Soccers Goal of the Season award, but now Dele Alli can add your Young Player of the Year to his CV.
Playing at first as a holding midfielder, before then being unleashed in a more advanced role, Alli sparkled in a Spurs side that, but for the Leicester fairytale, would have enjoyed a title dream of their own – and few would have contributed more towards that than Alli.
If a new Spurs deal, a regular place in the England side, being dubbed as the country’s natural heir to Steven Gerrard and PFA recognition wasn’t enough, Alli will do well to keep his feet on the ground upon learning he scooped an unprecedented 92% of your vote in this TEAMtalk Soccers category – our biggest-ever winner in this, or any before-seen award.