Beyond the Top Four: The Unsung Heroes of the 2008/09 Season
And so as another season draws to an end, Manchester United are crowned champions of England, and may well win a league and European cup double for the second year in a row in Rome.
Liverpool have mounted their best title challenge in years, whilst Chelsea, despite a season of turmoil, came within seconds of the champions league final, and may well lift the FA Cup at the end of the season.
Arsenal's young guns, meanwhile, have once again faltered to deceive.
But in this article, I am going to be looking beyond the top four, at the stars of smaller teams, who may not be picking up medals at the end of the season, but certainly deserve credit for their performances this season
Goalkeeper- Mark Schwarzer
The Aussie has been key to Fulham's transformation from relegation strugglers to Europa League challengers, whilst his former club Middlesbrough surely regret letting him go, as they now languish in the relegation zone.
Fulham have the best defensive record of any team outside the top three, and that is in no small part down to Schwarzer's reassuring presence at the back.
Right Back- Glen Johnson
After an unhappy spell at Chelsea, Johnson has rebuilt his career at Portsmouth and broken into the England squad.
The raiding full back has had arguably his best season to date, and having helped Pompey escape from relegation, he is now being linked with a summer move to Liverpool or Tottenham.
Centre Back- Brede Hangeland
Eyebrows were raised last January when Roy Hodgson signed unknown centre back Hangeland to try and boost Fulham's hopes of avoiding relegation, but he quickly won over those who doubted him with his assured performances at the back.
He has carried that form into this season, forming a formidable partnership with Aaron Hughes at the heart of Fulham's defence. Hangeland was linked with Arsenal in January, and it would not be surprising to see him move to a "bigger" club in the summer.
Centre Back- Phil Jagielka
Jagielka and central defensive partner Joleon Lescott have been the foundations on which Everton have built a successful season in which they have reached the FA cup final, and currently sit fifth in the table, with Europa League football guaranteed for next season, and a challenge for fouryh place even looking a distinct possibility at one point.
Left Back- Luke Young
Young may naturally be a right back, but he has spent most of this season at left back, and it is here that he slots into this team, just edging West Ham's Herita Ilunga.
He has been solid defensively and has contributed well to the attack from an unfamiliar position. Everton's Joleon Lescott may have made the team, but he has spent a large portion of this season at centre back.
Right Midfield- Antonio Valencia
A talented, hard working winger who is surely destined for greater things, with Real Madrid reporting bidding £20 million for him, and Manchester United also interested.
Wigan lost Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January, but Valencia stuck around to ensure the club were not dragged into a relegation battle, and will almost certainly be rewarded for his performances this season with a big money move in the summer.
Centre Midfield- Stephen Ireland
City have splashed the cash this season, spending tens of millions to assemble a talented group of players, including Shay Given, Robino, Shaun Wright-Philips and Elano.
However, the indisputed star of the show this season has been the previously unheralded Stephen Ireland. Last season, he seemed nothing but trouble, but this season he has been causing more trouble to opposition defences than he has his manager, netting nine goals as well as racking up nine assists.
Centre Midfield- Stiliyan Petrov
Petrov had a troubled first couple of years in the Premiership after arriving from Celtic as he struggled to adapt to the English game. He has reinvented himself this season, however, and had his best season to date.
One of the key players in Villa's challenge for fourth place, and although Young and Agbonlahor grabbed all the headlines, Petrov's contribution was just as vital.
Left Midfield- Ashley Young
Young was sensational during the first half of the season as Villa took the top 4 by storm. His form has petered out since then, however, but he still earns a place in the team ahead of Bolton's Matt Taylor.
Was linked with a move in January, but after his form in the latter stages of the season, his progression may be better served in Martin O'Neill's talented young Villa team.
Striker- Kevin Davies
Davies physical style may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is a hero with the Bolton fans, and this season he has added goals to his game. Took the captains armband after the departure of Kevin Nolan, and has improved even further since then, clearly relishing the responsibility of leading the team out.
Striker- Peter Crouch
One of Pompey's big-money summer signings, it was hoped he would form a deadly "little and large" partnership with Jermaine Defoe. Defoe departed in January, and Crouch may well follow him in the summer, but his 11 goals this season have been vital as Pompey secured their Premiership status for another season.