Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
The PFA Young Player of the Year is an award handed out every season to the best individual performer who was 23 or under at the start of the relevant campaign.
The winner is chosen by vote taken among the members of the professional players union and it is among the highest individual accolades a young footballer can receive.
Premier League legends Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo all won the award in the early stages of their career, before going on to become dominant forces in the division.
More recently, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Dele Alli topped the Young Player of the Year polls, with Manchester City’s Leroy Sane the most recent winner after his stellar performances for the champions last season.
Sane, who only turned 23 last month, is among the favourites for the award again this year, but there are several other prime contenders hoping to challenge for the German international’s PFA Young Player of the Year title.
Let’s take a closer look at some of them below.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) – 11/10
Having turned 24 in December, Raheem Sterling just about made it past the cut-off point for this year’s award, and the rapid Manchester City attacker is the bookmakers’ early front runner to go on and win it.
Sterling has started 21 of City’s 25 Premier League fixtures this season, and even though he has racked up 10 goals and 9 assists in the process, critics still like to take swipes at a perceived lack of end-product.
In terms of his overall influence on City’s play, only the insanely creative David Silva can match Sterling for average key passes played per game this season (2.3), and Sterling is out on his own for average dribbles completed per game for the Citizens with 2.7.
At slightly better than evens, Sterling certainly looks a safe bet to be crowned Young Player of the Year, though some of the Premier League’s other burgeoning talents are muddying the waters for the England star.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – 5/2
Like the vast majority of his Manchester United teammates, Marcus Rashford has looked like a player reborn under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Regularly criticised and marginalised in the early parts of the season by Jose Mourinho, Rashford has emerged from the funk to establish himself as Manchester United’s first choice centre forward ahead of Romelu Lukaku.
Players who hit a rich vein of form around Christmas time and the turn of the New Year are always good bets to feature heavily in the voting for both the Player and Young Player of the Year awards when the polls open in February, and Rashford certainly falls into that category.
The 21-year old has rattled the net 6 times his last 7 Premier League starts, and Rashford has produced some jaw-dropping pieces of skills and close control along the way. If Rashford can maintain his momentum over the next month, then his 5/2 price might start to look extremely good value.
Richarlison (Everton) – 16/1
Like all players his age, Everton’s 21-year old Brazilian Richarlison is prone to bouts of inconsistency and ineffectiveness, though his overall impact since moving from Watford has undoubtedly been positive.
Despite being moved along Everton’s front line and switched from the centre to the left every other game by their under-pressure Marco Silva, Richarlison has managed to bag himself 10 Premier League goals this season – a total that puts him ahead of Gylfi Sigurdsson as Everton’s top scorer.
The bookmakers think Richarlison is firmly in the running for the young player’s gong, though he will have to find his scoring touch again soon to maintain his relevance. Richarlison has scored just 2 goals in his last 9 Premier League appearances.
At 16/1, Richarlison is priced at a potentially lucrative position, but for now at least, he looks slightly behind his competitors in the race to win the award.
Interesting Outsider: James Maddison (Leicester City) – 25/1
Creative midfielder James Maddison has been a revelation in the Premier League this season for Leicester City, having moved to the Foxes from Norwich City last summer for £20m.
The 22-year old has amassed 5 goals and 4 assists in 22 Premier League starts for Leicester, and Maddison might have had more of the latter to his name had his teammates been more clinical with the opportunities he has consistently created for them.
Maddison has averaged 2.5 key passes per game in the league this season, a Premier League total only bettered by Chelsea star Eden Hazard (2.7) in 2018/19.
Playing for one of the league’s less fashionable clubs could count against Maddison however. With the spotlight firmly trained on clubs in the top 6, Maddison could conceivably be overlooked for some of the more high-profile young players.
The last 8 winners of the Young Player of the Year Award played for clubs from the aforementioned “Big 6” – Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Kyle Walker (Spurs), Gareth Bale (Spurs), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Spurs), Dele Alli (Spurs) x2 and Leroy Sane (Man City).
Nevertheless, at 25/1 Maddison is a great outside shot to sneak in ahead of some of his more illustrious counterparts.
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