Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gareth Bale in 'Team of Year'

Gareth Bale, the Tottenham Hotspur and Wales international and current PFA Footballer of the Year has received another accolade by being named in the prestigious's 'Team of the Year'.  He described being included in the team as a 'special honour'.

Gareth Bale - Tottenham's Super Star
Gareth Bale - selected in 'Team of the Year' for 2011
Liverpool have Steven Gerrard, Manchester United have Wayne Rooney but it's been a long time since Spurs have had a player of such stature who is capable of turning a game with a moment of brilliance.  Now, however, they have Gareth Bale's and his inclusion in the 'Team of the Year' is another step in the remarkable turnaround for the young player since his arrival at Tottenham.  A little over two years ago there were rumours and suggestions of him leaving Spurs as he struggled to live up to the high praise which accompanied his transfer from Southampton in  May, 2007.

Bale, then eighteen years of age, was another player from the successful Southampton Academy to make the step up to a Premier League club and cost Spurs £5 million with the potential to double with appearances and success.  His initial appearances in Martin Jol's side were encouraging.  He made his debut in August, 2007 at Manchester United in a single goal  defeat and a week later scored his first Tottenham goal in a 3 - 3 draw at Fulham when he received the ball from Robbie Keane to race down the left wing and score - a sight which through time would become the norm for watching Spurs fans and opposing defenders.  He scored with a free-kick in the north London derby with Arsenal and then scored in a Carling Cup tie against Middlesbrough giving him three goals in the first four matches he had started for the club.

Spurs' overall results, however, were poor and Juande Ramos replaced Jol in October but in only his second game for the new manager Bale was injured in a Premier League game against Birmingham in December and was to miss the rest of the season.

At the start of the next season Bale alternated between left back and the left side of midfield but the team was struggling and Bale's performance at Stoke in October, 2008 summed up perfectly his own time with Spurs and the club's situation at the time.  The club were bottom of the Premier League with two points and the 1 - 2 defeat in their eighth League match was to be  Ramos' last game in charge in a Premier League match.  In the seventeenth minute, playing at left back, Bale gave the ball away with a poor pass out of defence and as he tried to retrieve the situation he committed a foul to concede a penalty and was dismissed as Stoke scored their opening goal from the penalty spot.

As Bale started his three match suspension, a new manager came in and Bale found it difficult to reclaim his place as Harry Redknapp's team battled to avoid relegation with Benoit Assou-Ekotto playing regularly at left back for the rest of the season.

As season 2009-10 commenced Bale was recovering from surgery during the summer and had an unenviable record weighing heavily on his young shoulders - he had never played on a winning Spurs' team in his two years at the club.  That burden was eventually lifted at the end of September, 2009 when he appeared as a late substitute in Spurs' 5 - 0 win over Burnley - after a record twenty four Premier League matches without a win.

Assou-Ekotto continued to hold the left back position and there was talk that Bale might go out on loan while some clubs were considering putting in a bid for the young player during the January transfer window.  However, an injury to Assou-Ekotto was to give Bale his opportunity for an extended run in the team.  When Assou-Ekotto returned to fitness after a two month absence, Bale moved to left midfield with Luka Modric playing a more central and as the end of the season approached with Spurs looking to grab a Champions League place, Bale scored in consecutive wins at home over Arsenal and Chelsea.

Gareth Bale was now an established member of the Spurs team which played in last season's Champions League and he had established a good understanding with Assou-Ekotto on the left wing. In the first Premier League away game at the Brittania Stadium Bale had a point to prove and did so in style with the two goals which earned Spurs the three points.  He set aside the ghost of his previous problems at Stoke and provided the winning goal with a wonderful left foot volley.

It was at the San Siro Stadium against Inter Milan that Bale announced himself on the world stage.  With Spurs Champions League campaign looking doomed as they faced a four goal deficit with only ten men after thirty five minutes it was Bale who restored some pride for the team with a second half hat-trick with goals of unbelievable quality.  He ran at the Inter defenders with pace and left them floundering on three different occasions as Spurs staged a remarkable comeback to lose by only one goal to the reigning Champions.  By the end it was the Inter fans who were baying for the final whistle.

In the return game a fortnight later as Spurs won 3 - 1, the lasting memory is of Bale once again racing from his own half, down the left wing as chants of "Taxi for Maicon" rang from the White Hart Lane stands with the Inter defender lying prostrate on the ground.  The Inter defender and his colleagues failed to prevent Bale putting in a perfect cross for Roman Pavlyuchenko to score Spurs' third goal of the evening in the final minute.  Then, he had just repeated what he had done less than thirty minutes earlier when Peter Crouch had scored the second goal.

There was now no way that Bale would be leaving White Hart Lane - he was a vital part of the team that Harry Redknapp was developing to challenge the top four teams in the country.  It wasn't easy for Bale as defenders looked for ways to prevent him having an influence on the game and at times he was subject to heavy tackles and finding two or three defenders waiting in his way.

As last season drew to a close the high expectations and number of matches took their toll on all the players and Bale was finding it more difficult to be as effective as he struggled with niggling injuries.  His season finished early following a heavy challenge against Blackpool but refreshed at the start of this season he has shown added qualities in his game by playing from the right as well as the left and by having more freedom to play across midfield.  This was best illustrated against Norwich City over the Christmas period when he scored the two goals which kept up Tottenham's title challenge.  The first came as he supported Emmanuel Adebayor almost as a second striker in the penalty area and the second was the result of  a powerful run from the halfway line to out pace the defenders and lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

At present, much of what is good about Spurs often centres around Gareth Bale.  He has scored seven goals this season and has numerous assists as the team have risen to third position in the Premier League with 46 points from their last 19 matches.

Bale appears to be a very settled young man and he is always the last Tottenham player to leave the pitch at White Hart lane as he acknowledges the supporters on all sides of the ground before leaving the field.

Gareth Bale has played a leading role in the revival of the Wales international team and it is widely expected that he will appear in the Great Britain football team in the London Olympics later in the year. 'Team of the Year'
It is the first time a Spurs player has made it into the Team of the Year since its inception in 2001 and Bale is the only Premier League player in the 2011 team and becomes the first Welshman to named.
He was up agains the likes of Lille's Edin Hazard, Manchester United's Ashley Young and Chelsea'a Juan Mata for the left midfield position.

Gareth Bale was quick to praise his team mates at Tottenham for the part they played in him receiving this accolade.  Luka Modric was also on the shortlist in central midfield and Gareth is one of only three players not based in Spain's La Liga to make the cut.


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