Eikrem, de Laet and Gill nominated for Reserve Player of the Year
Posted by nickogs20 on March 18, 2010
United reserves boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and assistant coach Warren Joyce have chosen Magnus Eikrem, Ritchie de Laet and Oliver Gill as the three nominees for this year’s Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award.
Voting is now open on manutd.com for fans to make their choice, with the winner set to be revealed at the annual Player of the Year Awards on Tuesday May 4th. Whoever gets the nod will be following in some illustrious footsteps, with previous winners including Nicky Butt, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Giuseppe Rossi, as well as last year’s victor James Chester.
All three nominees have shown great ability to get to where they are and earn this recognition, but perhaps what stands out most to me is that all three have shown terrific resilience and dedication to overcome setbacks and obstacles in their short careers so far. Eikrem arrived from Norway in 2006 as a diminutive 16 year-old seriously lacking the necessary physique to impose himself in English football and has since had to deal with long-standing breathing problems and being diagnosed as diabetic, but over the last year to 18 months the midfielder has established himself as the creative lynchpin of Solskjaer’s reserve side and one of the most promising talents in the ranks at Old Trafford.
De Laet meanwhile has experienced a distinctly atypical route to United’s reserve setup and the fringes of Sir Alex’s first-team squad, having just over a year ago been languishing in Stoke City’s reserves after failing to make a breakthrough with the Potters. The Belgian defender had struggled to even make an impression on loan at Conference side Wrexham and seemed to be heading towards an uncertain future, with his Stoke contract expiring, until United threw him a career lifeline last January. In the fourteen months since, de Laet has earned himself a long-term deal in Manchester, made six first-team appearances for the Reds and even made his international debut.
Oliver Gill has perhaps had a relatively straightforward progression through the ranks in comparison, but he’s not had it easy. Being the son of the United chief executive has brought with it inevitable claims of nepotism and favouritism, and in his first eighteen months or so as part of the U18 side, the teenage centre-half struggled. Plenty of criticism was directed his way for some unconvincing performances, but what many failed to take into consideration was that Gill Jr wasn’t training full-time like most of his team-mates and opponents, due to the continuation of his studies. Since completing those and throwing himself fully into his football, the improvement has been hugely noticeable, particularly this season as he has stepped up to the reserves.
I find it hard to disagree with Ole and Warren’s choices, although if you’d asked me last week to pick my three nominees, I think I would have almost certainly found room for Corry Evans – who has been an absolute mainstay of the reserve side this year and was unfortunate not to take the award last season – and perhaps Matty James, who deserves consideration for consistently strong performances over the first half of the campaign. With that said, I couldn’t tell you which of the three official nominees I would have overlooked to include Evans or James, which should say all that needs to be said about how deserving the nominated trio are.
As for picking a winner from those three… it’s a tough one. If Eikrem hadn’t suffered with injury for the last few months I suspect he would be the overwhelming favourite, as his form over the first half of the campaign was outstanding. The fact his early-season contributions – particular the spectacular goals – were so eye-catching probably still gives him an edge, but his recent absence has perhaps opened the door to one of the two defenders winning – Gill’s improvement in particular almost sways me in his direction, as it would be a great story for him to go from a much-maligned academy player to Reserve Player of the Year.
Voting doesn’t close for another few weeks, so I’ll refrain from making my choice now and instead see how the next few busy weeks pan out for the reserves and the nominees. Fingers crossed that by the time of the deadline, we’ll be voting for a member of the Premier Reserve League North-winning squad.