We are delighted to announce that Philip Leake, 20, has won Barclays Aspiring Football Writer Competition.
Philip’s entry, titled “A Half-Decent Player”, takes a look at the career of Manchester United legend Paul Scholes and his recent form in the Barclays Premier League.
The winning article was selected from over 700 entries submitted by budding football writers from across the UK. Thank you to everyone who sent in an article or match report, the standard of entries was extremely high.
Philip has won a trip alongside a top football journalist to watch Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City, including a tour of the press gantry. He has also won one week’s work experience at competition partner Mail Online to experience what life is really like as a professional football writer.
A Half-Decent Player
By Philip Leake
What an incredible Barclays Premier League season is unfolding, defined by vibrant, attacking football. Players have had us on the edge of our seats – whether it be the relentless Robin Van Persie, the irrepressible Gareth Bale, or the seemingly ageless Ryan Giggs. However, it is the rejuvenated Paul Scholes who could arguably make the difference in this year’s title race.
When Scholes decided to pull on the red shirt again in early January, he was expected to be a bit-part player, but he has been the cornerstone behind Manchester United’s recent good form. Having called it a day last summer after collecting his tenth Premier League winners’ medal, Scholes was summoned by Sir Alex Ferguson following an injury crisis which had ravaged the United midfield. With Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Tom Cleverley all facing lengthy layoffs; as well as the absence of several key defenders forcing Michael Carrick to play in central defence during the home defeat to Blackburn in late December; Ferguson felt the call to Scholes was a necessary one.
At the time, this was seen by many as a desperate measure from United as they fought a losing battle against their ‘noisy’ neighbours Manchester City. However, the little maestro has been a revelation. His performances have been at times exceptional, particularly in the home game with fierce rivals Liverpool where he gave a midfield master class in a match overshadowed by the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair. Moreover, since Scholes’ return, United have negotiated a tricky run of fixtures to remain within two points of leaders City, who are the only side in the top seven that United still have to play.
Yet should we be surprised that Scholes has been so impressive despite six months out of the game? He has always said that he is not interested in sitting on the sidelines. To that end, he has adapted his game immeasurably since he came onto the scene as a fresh faced teenager. His entire career, up until the last five years or so, was defined by his late surging runs into the box and his thunderous long range shots which made him a goal scoring midfielder.
However, age has meant that he has had to alter his approach to the game. He now sits at the base of the United midfield, where he receives the ball and sprays it to all areas of the field. There are few more beautiful sights in world football than one of Scholes’ low ranging cross field balls.
Barcelona’s very own pass-master Xavi has described Scholes as a ‘role model’, describing him as ‘a spectacular player who has everything’. In an era when players are prone to moving from club to club in pursuit of personal glory, Paul Scholes has been a vital cog in the Manchester United machine for almost two decades. It’s hard to believe that he once said that he would be happy to call himself ‘a half-decent player’!