Friday, May 25, 2012

Twits on Twitter - The most 'hated' footballers on twitter

Yes, Twitter has taken the world of social media by storm over the last couple of years. It’s the new fashionable way to follow footballers and everyone seems to be getting into it at the moment.

The way in which so many footballers have embraced the social media revolution that is Twitter has been rather refreshing. Some of the players to do so include: Jack Wilshire, Rio Ferdinand, Cesc Fabregas, Stuart Holden, Ryan Babel and Darren Bent.

Rather than having to swallow the usual dispassionate, post-match quotes from a generation of players who have been media trained since their teens, now we get to hear exactly what they think straight from the horse's mouth.
Some clubs have already banned their players from tweeting altogether, while others have taken a more pragmatic approach by issuing guidelines about what can and cannot be said on their players' personal feeds.

However there are always people, in this case we are talking footballers who are a law unto themselves. Deliberately or otherwise they are controversial and disparaging about everyone and anything, whether it be current players, former players, clubs, managers, coaches, pundits or the public in general.

Sergio Busquets @SergiBusquets16 

The Barcelona midfielder was censured for his apparent propensity to feign injury.
Conversations about Busquets often centre on his antics rather than his skill. He is a recidivist diver, an alleged racist, an all-around loathsome pariah to some. An easy pantomime villain. Ask anyone who doesn’t like Barcelona why and somewhere in the first ten words is the name 'Busquets.'

In one of last year’s seemingly endless stream of Clásicos, Busquets was accused of calling Real Madrid left-back Marcelo a 'monkey.'

In January 2012 Sergio Ramos accused Busquets of feigning injury to get him sent against Barcelona and revealed that Real Madrid would appeal against his second yellow card. Ramos insisted that he did nothing wrong and believes that Busquets was guilty of play-acting.

In the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals against AC Milan last month it was Busquets who tumbled in a heap in the box to win a penalty for the goal that sent Barcelona into the semifinals. However others took to Twitter to defend the 23 year-old, who has won La Liga there times, the Champions League twice and the World Cup with Spain.

Luis Suarez @Luis16Suarez

The Liverpool and Uruguay striker was an obvious target for Manchester United fans on Twitter after he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra after a 1–1 draw against Manchester United on 15 October 2011
Suárez wrote on his Twitter and Facebook pages that he was upset by the accusation and denied the claims.On 16 November, the FA announced it would charge Suárez with "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour contrary to FA rules", including "a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra."

On 20 December 2011, the FA concluded a seven-day hearing, handing Suárez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine for racially abusing Evra. The 25-year-old cemented his reputation as a figure of hate at Old Trafford in February 2012 when he refused to shake hands with France international Evra on his return from his eight-game ban Evra himself saw his name trend on Twitter, although it appeared to be as a result of Manchester United fans defending the defender from criticism for his role in the Suarez affair.

Marlon King @Marlon_King_1 

The Birmingham City striker was a late addition to the list of hated footballers. The controversial player has 14 criminal convictions, including drink-driving and receiving stolen goods. He was also jailed for sexually assaulting and punching a woman in a nightclub in 2009.

King, whose former clubs include Wigan, Nottingham Forest, Hull, Leeds and Coventry has been trying to repair his bad boy image, through twitter.                  

Robbie Savage @robbiesavage8 

Robbie Savage was never a popular player, and it remains that way on twitter. The guy just winds up so many people on twitter, and always gets involved with other people’s business. I was someone who followed him on twitter until he began to annoy me. However I think his outspoken antics have helped him find his vocation – that of an entertaining and vibrant radio football pundit/presenter.

Joey Barton @joeybarton7

Few players have used the power of social networking to engineer a change in their public perception, as Joey Barton has. The former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder has spent time banned from football and behind bars for various acts of violence in the past. Using twitter Barton has attempted to show people another side to his character, as he has tried educate us into believing that he underneath it all he really is the ‘thinking man's player.’

But his attempt to repair his reputation were well and truly tarnished by his on and off field behaviour in the last game of this season, which saw him sent off and then use twitter as his outlet to rant at all in sundry. It did him no favours as he received a 12 match ban and a sizeable fine from the Football Association for his outrageous behaviour!

Joey Barton is just hated on both the football pitch and on twitter. To be brutally honest Barton is just a loud mouth and makes comments about people and things that have nothing to do with him. He has had so many arguments on twitter it is unbelievable. He is certainly another player who needs to be careful on the site.

Nathan Eccleston @NE39

Not many people will know who this young lad is, but if you watch the news, or are on twitter, you will. The Liverpool youngster caused controversy on twitter after he posted a very ‘strange’ tweet about 9/11, On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Eccleston posted a tweet saying: "I ain't going to say attack don't let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it. #OTIS.” OTIS being an abbreviation for "Only The Illuminati Succeed." The tweet implied Eccleston was a member of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

Leon Knight @Leon Knight82

The London-born striker is more famous for his exploits on Twitter than anything he has ever achieved on the pitch.
The former Chelsea trainee has had a nomadic career that took him to eight different clubs including Brighton, Swansea and MK Dons before eventually ending up at Rushden and Diamonds. When the club sacked him for breaches of misconduct they held on to his registration, preventing Knight from joining another English club until the term of his contract had expired, or unless £30,000 in compensation was paid to the club.

Knight was set to return to English football with conference side Darlington after a successful trial, but his transfer was blocked by Rushden. Knight took to his Twitter account to unleash a tirade of abuse against his former club, saying that he has chosen not to buy-out his contract as a matter of principle.
"Rushden have said they don't want the money from Darlington, they want it from me – I refuse to pay them out of principle. If I wanted I could raise the money and pay them but I don't want to give them the satisfaction."

After brief stints in Greek and Scottish football Knight moved to Coleraine in N.Ireland in 2010.
In January 2012 however, Coleraine asked Knight to either live in Northern Ireland or pay his own travel costs, as he was still living in London and had to travel over to Northern Ireland for each game, which was costing Coleraine £1,000-£1,500 per month. An agreement could not be reached, and Knight joined Glentoran on 30th January 2012

Knight's use of Twitter in May 2012 caused condemnation after he posted remarks opposing US President Barack Obama's support for same sex marriage. Knight was suspended from Glentoran FC on 10th May 2012, pending investigation into the aforementioned remarks.

Knight now mainly uses his Twitter feed to rail against his 'haters' and to post pictures of bags of cash!

Lee Hughes

The Notts Country striker 35, was name-checked by tweeters for his conviction for causing the death by dangerous driving of Douglas Graham in 2004, for which he was jailed for six years. During the 2003/04 season Hughes was involved in a car crash in which his Mercedes CL500 collided with a Renault Scenic near the Warwickshire village of Meriden, West Midlands. A passenger in the Renault, Douglas Graham, was killed in the incident, whilst his wife Maureen and the driver Albert Frisby were severely injured. Hughes and his passenger left the scene, turning themselves in to the police the following day. Hughes was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and released on police bail.

On 9th August 2004, Hughes was found guilty of causing the death by dangerous driving of Douglas Graham, and of leaving the scene of an accident. The judge criticised Hughes for having a "callous disregard" for the four occupants of the Renault and he was sentenced to six years imprisonment and was banned from driving for ten years.

Following his release in August 2007 Hughes restarted his football career at Oldham Athletic spending time on loan at Blackpool before joining Notts County.

As we speak, Lee Hughes the footballer does not have a 'real' Twitter account.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All the Latest Transfer Gossip across Europe

The domestic football season may be all but over but the transfer rumours inevitably continue to fuel the internet and the newspapers. With the European Championships only a couple of weeks away and the Olympics to follow, it would seem that clubs across Europe are keen to do as much business as possible before these tournaments begin. It is in their interests to make their moves early and get any new players on board as quickly as possible, so the players have longer to settle in. There is also the chance that players involved in the summer tournaments may increase in value should they shine. Likewise the opposite may be true. It's a gamble but the 'bigger' clubs across Europe are keeping the sports journalists on their toes as we speak!

Here is a round up of today's latest transfer gossip:

Is your Club involved?

Manchester City, Lille, Juventus, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid, Porto, Napoli, Manchester United, San Paulo, Tottenham, Marseille, Everton, Ajax, AC Milan, Newcastle, Bolton, QPR, Aston Villa, West Ham, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Wigan, Wolfsburg, Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Wolves, Blackpool, Swansea and Sochaux..........are all caught up in transfer rumours as we speak.

Manchester City are ready to pull the plug on their proposed move for Lille playmaker Eden Hazard, 21, unless the player and his agent lower their financial demands - The Times

Belgian international Eden Hazard (right) admits Chelsea's Champions League victory has made a difference to his plans - Daily Mail and

Juventus will turn their attentions to Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, 26, as they prepare to pull out of the race to sign Arsenal forward Robin van Persie, 28 - Daily Mail and The Guardian

Manchester City are set to take advantage of Juve's move by stepping up their interest in Van Persie, while the Italians could bid for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, 25, as well as Dzeko - The Guardian

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has given Liverpool a boost by distancing himself from any move to Real Madrid or Barcelona - Daily Express and Daily Mirror

Manchester City face a battle to retain the services of playmaker David Silva who will be offered the chance to return to his native Spain by Real Madrid - Daily Star and The Guardian

Barcelona are set to make a £10million bid for Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta, as a replacement for Dani Alves - The Sun and The Guardian

Top of Chelsea's shopping list this summer is the Atlético Madrid striker Radamel Falcao (right). The Columbian  will cost a cool £50m. Other options include Porto's Hulk, Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuaín and Napoli's Edinson Cavani - Daily Mirror and The Guardian

Chelsea have given Arsenal a deadline of next week to make a decision on whether they want to sign on-loan midfielder Yossi Benayoun, 32, on a permanent basis - The Metro and

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Moura, 19, who currently plays for Sao Paulo, is another target for the European champions, although Manchester United are also interested - The Times

Tottenham want 25-year-old Marseille striker Loic Remy and could swap Luka Modric, 26, for Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra, 27 - , Daily Mirror and The Guardian

Modric is determined to join a Champions League club ahead of next season, although Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is thought to be holding out for a fee of £50m - Daily Telegraph

The Tottenham chairman Levy also travelled to Holland on Monday in an attempt to close a deal for Ajax's Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen (right), who is also wanted by Arsenal and AC Milan - Daily Mail

Louis Saha has made it clear that he is not looking to leave Tottenham in the summer - The Sun and

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri is adamant Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva will not be sold this summer. Both have been linked with Manchester City.

American star Landon Donovan has reiterated his desire to return to Everton -

Newcastle have been told they need to increse their offer in order to sign Bolton midfielder Mark Davies. The Magpies have made an offer about £3.5 million pounds for the player - Evening Chronicle

QPR are hoping to make the most of the uncertainty at Aston Villa with a move for goalkeeper Shay Given, 36, who played under Rangers boss Mark Hughes at Manchester City. West Ham's 31-year-old Robert Green could also be a target - Daily Telegraph and

Adel Taarabt could be on his way out of Loftus Road with Wolfsburg reviving an interest in the £8m-rated 22-year-old playmaker - Daily Mail and The Guardian

QPR boss Hughes is also plotting a move for Wigan Athletic forward Victor Moses, 21, (right) - Daily Mirror and The Guardian

Joe Cole insists he has unfinished business at Liverpool despite being linked with a return to boyhood club West Ham this summer. However Lille are thought to be open to taking him back for another 12 months - and Daily Mail

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is plotting a triple swoop on Sunderland for Kieran Richardson, Craig Gordon and George McCartney - Daily Mirror and The Guardian

West Ham have completed the permanent signing of Portsmouth goalkeeper Stephen Henderson, 24, on a three-year contract, for an undisclosed fee - and

Crystal Palace midfielder Stuart O'Keefe has signed a new three-year contract. The 21-year-old, who broke into the first team this season, has committed himself to Selhurst Park until the summer of 2015 - and

Stoke City have been told they must increase their offer to a figure in the region of £10 million if want to sign Wolves' Matt Jarvis, 25 -

Thomas Ince (right) insists he is committed to Blackpool despite their Championship play-off final defeat to West Ham -

Blackpool want to turn 29-year-old Swansea forward Stephen Dobbie's loan into a permanent deal - Daily Mirror

Sochaux have signed the deal extension of the striker Cedric Bakambu (21), until June 2015 -

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is Joey Barton quite possibly the worst role model in the history of football?

Joseph Anthony Barton has had a chequered career both on and off the pitch. Only yesterday the Merseyside born footballer was sent off for QPR, sparking outrageous scenes during his teams final and most important game of the 2011/12 season.

His behaviour yesterday as the red mist descended was by no means the first time he has been sent off in his career, but his behaviour off the pitch is equally disturbing. He has a catalogue of criminal offences to his name, and it will be interesting to see how the football hierarchy propose to deal with this latest bust-up as Barton seemingly ‘lost the plot,’ and tried to angrily confront anyone and everyone on the pitch in a display of hooliganism of unbelievable proportions!
He then went onto twitter that same evening ranting at ex-footballer and TV pundit Alan Shearer.

Here follows a list of his inexcusable misdemeanours that simply begs the question: Is this man of sound mind and judgement?

At Manchester City FC:

Feb 2004 – In an n FA Cup match against Tottenham Barton receives the first red card of his career in unusual circumstances: At half-time, with his club 3–0 down, he argued with the referee and received a second booking resulting in his dismissal, although the match was not in progress at the time

July 2004 - Barton sparked a ten-man brawl in a friendly match against Doncaster Rovers after "hacking" at an opposition player.

Dec 2004 - In an incident at the Manchester City Christmas party Barton stubbed out a lit cigar in youth player Jamie Tandy's eye, after he had caught Tandy attempting to set fire to his shirt. Barton subsequently apologised for his actions and was fined six weeks' wages (£60,000).

Summer 2005 - Violence continued with Barton after he was sent home from a pre-season tournament in Thailand after he assaulted a 15 year old Everton supporter. The boy provoked Barton by verbally abusing him and kicking his shin. Richard Dunne was forced to restrain Barton from attacking the boy anymore. He underwent anger management therapy at the order of City manager Stuart Pearce and paid £120,000 in club fines.

Sept 2006 - His behaviour appeared to improve after his participation at the Sporting Chance clinic. However, on 30 September 2006, television cameras captured Barton exposing his backside to Everton fans, following City's injury-time equaliser in a game at Goodison Park. Barton had received abuse from Everton supporters throughout the match and the gesture has since been described as "light-hearted" and "inoffensive" by people involved in football. Barton was fined £2,000 for bringing the game into disrepute and warned about his future conduct by The Football Association

Dec 2006 - In December 2006, Barton received the second red card of his career, for a late two-footed tackle on Bolton Wanderers player Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye

Feb 2007 - Barton openly criticised certain members of the England squad for releasing autobiographies after an unimpressive 2006 World Cup. He suggested players had ‘cashed in’ on the national team’s lack of success. He wrote: "England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out? 'We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here's my book.' Who wants to read that?" - Joey Barton

April 2007 - Barton displayed his outspokenness once again when he publicly criticised City's performances during the 2006–07 season, and described some of the players the club had signed as "substandard". Following his comments, City's manager Stuart Pearce banned him from speaking to the media. May 2007 - Barton was fined £100,000 and suspended by City until the end of the season following an incident during training when he assaulted his team mate Ousmane Dabo. Dabo said that he had been hit several times, was left unconscious and had to go to hospital after suffering injuries to his head, including a suspected detached retina. Dabo requested that the police press charges against Barton, and as a result, Barton was arrested and questioned by Greater Manchester Police. This altercation effectively ended Barton's time at City, Barton was bailed until August and was later charged with assault, to which he initially pleaded not guilty. He later changed this to a guilty plea and on 1 July 2008 was sentenced to a four-month suspended prison sentence plus 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay £3,000 compensation and Dabo's court costs. Barton was also charged with violent conduct by the FA. Barton pleaded guilty and on 1 September 2008 was banned for six games with a further six game ban suspended for two years and fined £25,000.

At Newcastle United FC:

Nov 2007 - In his first Tyne-Wear derby for the Toon against Sunderland, he appeared to dangerously raise his foot in a challenge with Dickson Etuhu with headlines following the game being ‘Ban Him’.
The FA were unable to charge Barton for the incident because match official Martin Atkinson did not witness the act take place; Barton later apologised for the tackle.

Dec 2007 - On 27 December 2007, Barton was arrested on suspicion of assault in the Church Street area of Liverpool city centre following an incident at around 5:30 am. He remained in custody on 28 December since the offence was committed while he was on bail for two prior offences.
CCTV showed Barton punching a man twenty times causing him to lose consciousness, and attacking a teenager; breaking some of his teeth.

May 2008 - Barton was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty for his part in the assault in Liverpool city centre. Barton admitted to being an alcoholic and served 77 days of his prison term before being released on 28 July 2008.

May 2009 - Following a spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury he made his first appearance in over three months at Liverpool on the 3 May. Barton was sent off late in the 3–0 loss at Anfield for a sliding challenge on Xabi Alonso. The red card ruled Barton out of Newcastle's remaining three games of the season, with the club in danger of relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle manager Alan Shearer raised doubts about Barton's future at the club, saying: "I think it would be wrong to discuss his future now, but I'm not very happy."
On 5 May, Newcastle United announced the suspension of Barton indefinitely, and Barton was told to stay away from the club. As a result, Barton's future at Newcastle United was put in doubt. The club suspension was widely reportedly to have resulted not directly from the red card, but from a dressing room confrontation with Shearer and assistant manager Iain Dowie following the game.
Shearer said he made a mistake putting Barton back into the team, and that his tackle was "a coward's tackle", to which Barton replied that he was "the best player at the club," and Shearer had to play him. Shearer said that Barton wasn't, that he was "sh*t." Barton replied that Shearer was "a sh*t manager with sh*t tactics". When Dowie intervened, Barton called him "a pr*ck."

Nov 2010 - In a 2–1 defeat to Blackburn, Barton again acted violently, punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest. He was not punished during the game as the officials did not see the incident, but after reviewing the evidence, the FA again charged Barton with violent conduct. Barton apologised, accepted the charge, and was banned for three matches.

Dec 2010 - Barton courted controversy once again during Newcastle's 3–1 win over Liverpool on 11 December 2010, when he appeared to direct homophobic remarks and a lewd gesture at Fernando Torres.

Feb 2011 - He was involved in an altercation with Arsenal’s Abou Diaby which led to a straight red card for Diaby. Diaby took offence to Barton's strong challenge and retaliated by grabbing Barton by the neck and shoving him to the ground.

Aug 2011 – On 13 Aug Barton was involved in an altercation with Gervinho of Arsenal, which got Gervinho sent off on his debut. Then, Alex Song stamped on Barton, for which Song received a three-match ban. Barton later revealed he was on a verge of joining Arsenal but his incident with Gervinho ended his hopes of a move to the Emirates and instead, he joined Queens Park Rangers on 26 August 2011.

Arsenal's Gervinho and Barton square-up!

At Queen Park Rangers FC:

Sept 2011 - He was handed the captains armband on his debut with the club in August and scored his first goal on 17 September against Wolves. Following the goal, Barton was involved in a physical confrontation with Wolves player Karl Henry. The pair had clashed before when Barton was at Newcastle and Barton claimed Henry "tries to hurt people," while Henry said Barton was "embarrassing."

Jan 2012 - Barton scored the opening goal against Norwiich but was given a straight red card after head-butting Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson

13 May 2012 - On the final day of the season, with QPR requiring at least a draw in their match away at Manchester City or for Bolton Wanderers to lose or draw to guarantee their Premier League safety, Barton was sent off in the fifty-fifth minute for violent misconduct after elbowing Carlos Tévez in the face. Immediately after being shown a red card, Barton kicked Sergio Agüero in the back of the knee and attempted to head-butt Vincent Kompany. Barton had to be dragged from the pitch by former team-mate Mica Richards as he rowed with Manchester City players and staff and attempted to square-off with striker Mario Balotelli.

QPR's Joey Barton 'loses the plot' in Sunday's crunch match v. Man City.

After the game Barton posted the following on the social networking site twitter:

"Shearer's still on my case.....I know I f***ed up Alan, thanks for stating the obvious.”
"Whilst were both stating the obvious about each other, can I just say for the record what a great player u were. Well better me......”
"But I have a better hair (which is not hard), wear well better shirts on TV and have a personality (something u lack).”
"P.S. My final point, ur a s*** pundit/manager......”
"I really don't like that p****, in fact I honestly despise him......Goodnight."

Whilst it is impossible to condone any criminal activity or behavioural issues involving Joey Barton I feel it is only fair that I should try, however difficult I find it, to attempt to understand what makes Barton such a volatile character. In no way does it make his behaviour acceptable, but his family and so called friends may be a factor, or have had a bearing or influence on why Barton behaves in such a despicable manner.
I am not making excuses for Barton, simply putting forward my thoughts!

Barton as a professional footballer is in a very privileged position, one which he has chosen to abuse.
He had a good schooling, but Barton's brother Michael, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the racially motivated murder of Anthony Walker in 2005.  In December 2007 when Barton was arrested on suspicion of assault, Barton's cousin, Nadine Wilson and his brother Andrew Barton were also involved and both also pleaded guilty to their part in the assault.

You have to wonder if the behaviour of his family and friends or the environment in which he was brought up in affected him more than he or anybody else ever realised! However we all have major set backs in our lives and we try and overcome whatever is thrown at us by becoming bigger and better people as a result.

Also remember that although Barton has committed some vile and unacceptable crimes he is not is not a murderer, sex offender or a child abuser, but more a bully and a thug..….and a repeat offender at that, it has to be said.

On a more positive note Barton is involved in charity work and is patron of the Tamsin Gulvin Fund, a charity set up to support people who have addiction problems and no financial support. . He is also a part of the 'Get Hooked on Fishing' campaign, designed to keep children out of trouble by encouraging them to take up fishing. And in 2011 he began writing a regular column in The Big Issue, a street newspaper sold by the homeless and vulnerably housed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Unsung Premier League players of the 2011/12 season

They may not be superstars yet, but they are important players who perform consistently away from the glare of the spotlight. This is not an article about the 'stars' of the Premier League, this is about those 'unsung heroes' - players who more often than not are plying their trade at the less glamours clubs in the Premier League.

However week after week these players put in stirling performances for their clubs, often performing above and beyond expectations, but failing to receive the acclaim or recognition they deserve, in comparison to many of their fellow professionals at the Premier League's more high profile clubs.

No doubt some of the players about to be mentioned will go on to grace a bigger stage, but in the meantime let us take our hats off to those up and coming footballers who this season have produced the sort of displays that have made fans from all across the league sit up and take notice. With just one weekend of fixtures remaining I have compiled a list of my 'unsung' Premier League players of the 2011/12 season:

1/ Michel Vorm - Swansea City

Vorm has had an outstanding season for the newly promoted Welsh side. The Dutch international was signed by the Swans on the 10th August 2011 from FC Utrecht for a fee of £1.5 million. This season Vorm has kept 13 cleen sheets. His debut for the club against Manchester City on the 15th August 2011 yielded in a 4–0 defeat. Although Vorm conceded four goals, he also made eleven saves - more than any other Premier League goalkeeper, in a single game, in the whole of the 2010/11 season. So far this season Vorm has made 123 saves, second only to Wayne Hennessey of Wolves, but his saves to shots ratio is a staggering 73%. Vorm has also just been named in the Netherlands' 35-man provisional squad for the Euro's 2012.

2/ Anthony Pilkington - Norwich City

Norwich’s very own wing wizard has been in fine form this campaign, notching up 8 goals from the left of midfield. Signed from League One side Huddersfield on the 6th July 2011 for an initial fee of £2million, not many were expecting the the Blackburn born 23-year-old to take to the Premier League so quickly, but Pilkington has established himself as a key player in Paul Lambert’s squad.

3/ Stephane Sessegnon - Sunderland

The 27-year-old midfielder joined Sunderland on the 29th January 2011, and although the ex-Paris Saint-Germain man struggled in his first season in the Premier League, this season he has been a revelation. Playing in his favored role just behind the lone front-man, he has been a key member of Martin O’Neill’s resurgent Sunderland squad, and the Benin born midfielder has produced the sort of displays that his reputation promised. He has scored 7 times and provided 9 assists so far this season.

5/ Tony Hibbert - Everton

Everton’s mister reliable has played a key role in the Toffees’ 2011/12 campaign. Robust and adept in a number of positions along the defensive line, the 31 year-old Merseyside-born full-back has been central to another successful PL campaign, under the stewardship of manager David Moyes, who continues to work wonders on a shoe string budget and a paper-thin squad. Hibbert is Everton's current longest-serving player, and the only player who has been at the club throughout the entire reign of David Moyes. Hibbert also has 3 assists to his name this season.

4/ Yohan Cabaye - Newcastle United

The 26 year-old French international signed for Newcastle on 10th June 2011 from Lille for an undisclosed fee, and has had an immediate impact on what has been a fantastic season for the Magpies. The no nonsense midfielder is the Premier League's top tackler with 111 and a 70% success rate. Cabaye also has 4 goals and 6 assists to his name in 33 Premier League appearances this season.

6/ Jonas Olsson - West Bromwich Albion

Powerful and dependable, West Brom’s Swedish centre-back has been putting in some big performances this season. The Baggies currently lie in a respectable 10th position in the Premier League, and have conceded 49 goals in 37 games so far. Without their 6'4" former NEC Nijmegen man this stat would have been far higher. Olsson also has 2 goals and 2 assists to his name in this seasons campaign.

7/ Ashley Williams - Swansea City

The Tamworth born 27 year-old defender is the 2011/12 Premier league's top passer with 2,474 and an outstanding completion rate of 85%, in his 36 appearances for the South Wales club this season. Although much has been made of Swansea’s fluid attacking approach, their back line has been just as crucial this season. Williams’ physical presence and reading of the game have been key for the Swans defence, which has been breached significantly fewer times than most of the sides around them. Williams has also represented the Wales national team on 32 occasions.

8/ Victor Moses - Wigan Athletic

Fleet-footed winger Victor Moses was signed from Crystal Palace in January 2010 for a fee of £2.5million. A product of the well oiled Palace academy, Moses career at Wigan began slowly. However following the departure of Charles N'Zogbia last summer, Moses became a regular starter for Wigan this season. He has been in 'electric' form and is statistically the Premier League player to have completed the most number of runs/dribbles in the 2011/12 season. His form had without doubt contributed to a fine end of season for the North-West club, who looked in danger of being relegated only a few months ago. His direct attacking style of play has seen him get on the score sheet 6 times this season.

9/ James McLean - Sunderland

The Northern Ireland born Sunderland winger was signed by Steve Bruce on the 9th August 2011 for just £350,000 from Derry City. Although McClean did not make his first-team debut until Martin O'Neill's first game as manager of the Black Cats in December 2011, he has since become a regular at Sunderland. On the back of some impressive performances for the Teesiders the club offered him a new three year contract in March of this year, just three months after making his first start. He has gone on to represent the Republic of Ireland, making his debut against the Czech Republic back in February and Giovanni Trapattoni has just confirmed that McClean is to be a part of the Irish UEFA Euro 2012 squad. Since his move to Sunderland, Mclean has chipped in with 5 goals and 3 assists in the 22 league games he has featured in.

10/ Grant Holt - Norwich City

On 24th July 2009 Holt joined the Canaries from Shrewsbury Town for a fee thought to be in the region of £400,000. He was voted Norwich City's Player of the Year in 2009/10 and 2010/11 and helped them gain automatic promotion to the Premier League last season as he hit 21 league goals for the Carrow Road outfit. In his first PL season Holt has netted 14 times and helped Norwich finish their season in a very respectable mid-table position. He is now pushing for a place in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the up and coming Euro Championships.

*These statistics are courtesy of Opta Sportsdata and ESPN Soccernet.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Babe of the Month - Queen of the Long Jump

Darya Igorevna Klishina was born 15th January 1991, in Tver, Russia. Having spent most of her childhood in Tver, a small town in Russia, Darya moved to Moscow to pursue athletics.

The 21 year old is known for her technical finesse in sprinting and jumping, which is remarkable given her tender years. She has become a popular figure for her ability to balance her carrier with the media attention she attracts owing to her good looks.

Darya achieved star status when, in June 2010, she leapt an incredible 7.03 meters in a long jump event in Zhukovskiy, Russia, setting a new Russian junior record. She has won gold in the European Junior Championship for long jump twice. The first was at the Novi Sad European Junior Championship in Serbia in July 2009, and the second was in Paris at the European Indoor Championships in March 2011.
Her long jump personal best stands at 7.05 metres, which she set in July 2011 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

With the Olympics only months away, her focus is now firmly on London 2012. A fit Darya Klishina is within range to wrest the coveted gold medal from her rivals.

You can follow Darya on twitter and facebook