The Echo's resident Man City fanatic John Dolan is sick of the lack of respect for his beloved club

The Echo's resident Man City fanatic John Dolan is sick of the lack of respect for his beloved club
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero skips past Manchester United's Chris Smalling. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

WHO will win the most absorbing English Premier League title race ever?

Will my team, Manchester City, claim their fourth crown this decade and go on to complete a historic first-ever domestic treble, or will Liverpool capture their first championship in 29 years?

As we approach the finish line of a draining race (the home straight seemed to begin in early January!), it's still all to play for.

Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. 
Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. 

However, despite this state of limbo, the garland for the PFA Player of the Year has already been hung around the winner's neck... which, when you think about it, is a bit like Lewis Hamilton being squirted with Champers with one lap of a grand prix to go, while neck and neck with his greatest rival.

On Sunday, the honour went to Liverpool's imperious defender Virgil Van Dijk. No offence to the Dutchman - undoubted cornerstone of the Kop's newly Scrooge-like defence - but surely the timing makes the PFA Player of the Year award a scandalous joke?

The English Premier League is one of the world's most watched sporting events, yet every year they cock up what should be a straightforward ballot. It's simple really. Just hold the vote after the last ball has been kicked so the players can be judged across the whole campaign. But no, they insist on doing it with the vital final quarter of the season left.

As a result, there is a flavour of the month feel to the award - how else to explain Paul Pogba getting on the Team of the Year instead of Eden Hazard? A vote cast at the season's end would allow players to see the big picture, armed with the knowledge of who lasted the course.

What if Liverpool again finish potless this season, if Van Dijk goes to pieces under pressure, and Raheem Sterling bangs in a couple of late hat-tricks to seal the deal for the Blues? Would that not affect the poll?

The timing is ridiculous, but my disdain for the PFA Player of the Year award goes deeper than its dotty voting system.

Can you name the last Manchester City player to win it? No, because it hasn't happened in the award's 35-year history.

Ok, it's hard to make a case for a City player winning the bauble in its first 25 years - although Shaun Goater was a fine goal-poacher back in the nineties...

But City are surely the undisputed Premier League team of this decade, winning three titles (thus far), three League Cups, hopefully two FA Cups and breaking goalscoring records for fun, as well as being the only club to qualify for the Champions League each year.

Yet the PFA accolade has evaded us every year; usually in favour of a stand-out player in an under-performing team.

Gareth Bale won it twice at Spurs, who mustered a single League Cup win in this entire decade.

What about City's title winning seasons? In 2014, Luiz Suarez snaffled the individual prize; last year, when City racked up 100 league points, it was Mo Salah. If City do win the league this year, Van Dijk will have made it a hat-trick of snubs at the hands of Liverpool players! A reminder: thus far this decade, the Reds have won one League Cup.

In 2011, the year Sergio Aguero so dramatically won City the title with his 23rd goal of the season, who had already bagged the players' prize? Arsenal's Robin Van Persie, who led his team to the dizzying heights of third, 19 points behind City.

What's going on? Why can't we win this damned award? Is it because we are such a tight-knit unit, rather than fancy-Dan individuals? If so, surely that quality in a team sport deserves to be rewarded, not overlooked?

Or is it down to the players voting - showing bias towards clubs they supported as kids? Are City stars seen as unworthy of the prize somehow? Or am I just paranoid?

Whatever the reason, it now looks like Premier League legends such as Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany will never win the prize, which utterly devalues its currency.

Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

It's not as though champions are neglected in other years. N'Golo Kante - a sort of poor man's Fernandinho - won it when Chelsea were champions in 2017, while Riyad Mahrez won it for Leicester the year before (oh, that he could show that sort of form in a lighter blue shirt). The year before that, Hazard won in Chelsea's title-winning season.

Yet when City win the League, Liverpool's finest player tends to bask in the glory.

Every year, when this anomaly takes place, I turn to the other major individual honour - the Football Writers' Association's Footballer of the Year.

The voting for this takes place much later, by around 400 football journalists. It's also older, dating back to 1948, if lacking a little of the lustre of the PFA award.

But here again, City have been conspicuously absent. Our last winner of this gong was 50 years ago, when Tony Book shared the prize with Dave Mackay of Derby County. Before him, City legends Don Revie and Bert Trautmann were winners.

So, this PFA farce must be a modern-day conspiracy of both media and players, then, driven by the clickbait world of social media, where Liverpool and Manchester United still reign supreme.

Ah well, I can only hope Van Dijk's gong remains all lonesome on his mantelpiece come season's end, when the medals of real value are handed out.

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