Date:Thursday March 9 2006
Andrew Johnson of Crystal Palace is the third best player in the football league according to a poll in Four Four Two magazine. A selection of players, managers and pundits were asked to select their top five players from outside the Premiership. AJ finished behind second placed Steve Sidwell of Reading, runner up to Phil Jagielka of Sheffield United.
Tom Soares in 18th place and Darren Ward in 33th were the other Palace players to finish in the top 50. While the top twenty places are dominated by Championship players, Lee Trundle and Neil Danns being the exceptions, there is a fair amount of lower league talent included in the selection.
The democratic nature of the poll, rife with bias and nepotism, lends the results a wholesome aesthetic. If the electorate had been asked to select the top fifty players on paper it is improbable that we would have seen the same results. This is most definitely a census ruled more by the heart than the head. 37 year old John McDermott of Grimsby Town for example sneaks into the list while there is no place for Clinton Morrison.
As with any poll of this size collating the data must have taken a considerable amount of time, and as such the results reward pre-Christmas performances. Perhaps explaining why Soares features, and Ben Watson does not. The only Palace player who can justifiably feel aggrieved not to have been included in the list however is the consistently excellent Emmerson Boyce. Right back is perhaps the least sexy position on a football pitch, and even outstanding exponents of the full backs art can often go criminally unnoticed. Sometimes quiet efficiency deserves applause.
Several players from last year's selection have gone on to perform commendably in the Premiership. The way players such as Curtis Davies, Darren Bent and Danny Gabbidon have stepped up this season, acquitting themselves with distinction, provides a glowing endorsement for the quality to be found in the Football League. If the top clubs, so ready to cast their eyes to foreign shores, were prepared to look a little closer to home they may well find a precious stone fit to adorn the Premiership. Sadly the price of even the roughest diamond in the English lower leagues too often prohibits this practice.
2005/06 Top Ten:
Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United), 2 - Steve Sidwell (Reading), 3 Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace), 4 Lee Trundle (Swanses City), 5 Dave Kitson (Reading), 6 David Nugent (Preston), 7 Ibrahima Sonko (Reading), 8 Cameron Jerome (Cardiff City), 9 Ade Akinbiyi (Sheffield United), 10 Bobby Convey (Reading).
2004/05 Top Ten:
Steve Sidwell (Reading), 2 Nathan Ellington (Wigan Athletic), 3 Darren Bent (Ipswich Town), 4 Teddy Sheringham (West Ham United), 5 Jason Roberts (Wigan Athletic), 6 Danny Gabbidon (Cardiff City), 7 Jimmy Bullard (Wigan Athletic), 8 Julio Arca (Sunderland), 9 Stuart Elliot (Hull City), 10 Leighton Baines (Wigan Athletic).
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