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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
Too much too young?
Mervyn Day at West Ham
Day dreamer: Mervyn's career flagged after West Ham
Winning the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Young Player of the Year award is not always good for your career, discovers BBC Sport Online's Frank Keogh.

You've got a place in the first team, made the national squad and signed a lucrative boot deal.

The sponsored sports car is about to be delivered, and now it's time to really celebrate - your fellow pros have voted you the best young footballer in the country.

Life just does not get any better, you might think. And in several cases, you will be right because the Young Player of the Year award appears to have cursed some players.

Take young West Ham goalkeeper Mervyn Day, who collected an FA Cup winner's medal as well as the PFA award in 1975.

Yet despite appearing destined to emulate the likes of Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence, his career stuttered and he never established himself as one of the game's top players.

Some winners have flattered to deceive - their burgeoning style winning over the voters, but not boasting quite enough to fully fulfil their promise.

  Previous players' player winners
1974 Kevin Beattie Ipswich
1975 Mervyn Day West Ham
1976 Peter Barnes Man City
1977 Andy Gray Aston Villa
1978 Tony Woodcock Nott'm Forest
1979 Cyrille Regis West Brom
1980 Gary Shaw Aston Villa
1981 Gary Shaw Aston Villa
1982 Steve Moran Southampton
1983 Ian Rush Liverpool
1984 Paul Walsh Luton
1985 Mark Hughes Man Utd
1986 Tony Cottee West Ham
1987 Tony Adams Arsenal
1988 Paul Gascoigne Spurs
1989 Paul Merson Arsenal
1990 Matt le Tissier Southampton
1991 Lee Sharpe Man Uid
1992 Ryan Giggs Man Utd
1993 Ryan Giggs Man Utd
1994 Andy Cole Newcastle
1995 Robbie Fowler Liverpool
1996 Robbie Fowler Liverpool
1997 David Beckham Man Utd
1998 Michael Owen Liverpool
1999 Nicolas Anelka Arsenal
2000 Harry Kewell Leeds

One example is Southampton's gifted midfield maestro Matt le Tissier, a master of sublime free-kicks.

Eleven years after winning the young player award, he is nowhere near the England squad and out-of-sorts at the Dell.

But their troubles are little compared to the alcoholic woes of Tony Adams and Paul Merson who won the award within two years of each other while at Arsenal.

Both later admitted drink problems, although they successfully recovered to enjoy long and rewarding careers.

Others have burned brightly thoughout, and this year's shortlist will hope to do the same.

It boasts Liverpool pair Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey, West Ham duo Joe Cole and Michael Carrick, plus Alan Smith of Leeds and Liverpool's Emile Heskey.

Heskey is also nominated in the PFA Player of the Year award, and would not be the first to win both.

For example, Aston Villa striker Andy Gray did the double, while Ryan Giggs and Robbie Fowler both won the young player honour in successive years.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said this year's shortlist provided great encouragement for the future.

"With Alan Smith in the young player short-list, it is nice to see a reflection of the great season that Leeds have had and the way their young players have come through," he said.

"The entire short-list, in fact, shows what we hoped would happen with the quality of youngsters coming through the academy system.

"Any manager would be pleased to have those players in his team and it is appropriate that the England coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, will be a guest at the awards dinner."

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