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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
How Fleet Street chooses its man
By Alex Trickett

FWA FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
2005: Frank Lampard
2004: Thierry Henry
2003: Thierry Henry
2002: Robert Pires
2001: Teddy Sheringham
2000: Roy Keane
1999: David Ginola
1998: Dennis Bergkamp
1997: Gianfranco Zola
1996: Eric Cantona

The PFA Player of the Year is often hailed as the award that means most, voted for as it is by the victor's peers.

But history tells us that the Football Writers' Association (FWA) Footballer of the year - the oldest award of its kind - is the slightly more reliable and credible prize.

Chelsea's Frank Lampard joined a long list of fantastic players to pick up the FWA award on Friday, following in the footsteps of the likes of Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona, Kenny Dalglish and the first winner Sir Stanley Matthews.

But who voted for him? And how?

The FWA comprises around 400 journalists (the number varies slightly from year to year), all of whom must spend at least 75% of their job writing about football.

It was set up on 22 September 1947 by four journalists returning by ship from Brussels, where they had seen England beat Belgium 5-2 in a friendly international.

They included England international Charlie Buchan and set membership at five guineas for the first year and two guineas annually thereafter, with an FWA tie included.

Today, that fee has gone up to 25 for the first year and 20 for subsequent years and members hail from the national and evening newspapers, news agencies and television and radio.

It is about behaviour as well as ability and Lampard is a fantastic advertisement for the Premiership
Henry Winter
Daily Telegraph journalist

They all have the opportunity to cast one email vote for Footballer of the Year and take pride in picking the right man.

"It is voted for by people who go to more than 100 games a year - it is respected and topical," said Henry Winter, of the Daily Telegraph.

Although his vote went to Lampard's team-mate John Terry - the PFA Player of the Year - he believes that Lampard has all the qualities befitting a Footballer of the Year.

"It is about behaviour as well as ability and Lampard is a fantastic advertisement for the Premiership. He is a role model and plays with a smile and the FWA likes that.

"People think that us journalists get together and say 'let's vote for X or Y'.

FWA OBJECTIVES
To maintain the prestige of football writers
To obtain higher standards of facilities
To maintain a friendly liaison with all football associations, leagues and clubs - and Fifa
To welcome and entertain overseas writers carrying out their duties in this country
To be a medium for grievances in London and the provinces
To promote social intercourse

"But that's not how it works. You can vote for any player and our press is diverse. And it has nothing to do with a player being accommodating with us.

"If it was about that, then Gareth Southgate would win every year."

In 2005, 14 players received votes, according to FWA executive secretary Ken Montgomery, a retired Sunday Mirror journalist.

Lampard and Terry polled by far the most followed by Liverpool's Jamie Carragher.

Winter believes the big strength of the FWA award is its "topical" winners and runners-up.

Whereas PFA votes are cast months before the end of the season, FWA's deadline only passed at midnight on Thursday.

MAJOR AWARD WINNERS
FWA: Frank Lampard
PFA: John Terry
World: Ronaldinho
European: Andriy Shevchenko
African: Samuel Eto'o

And this allowed Carragher to gain FWA recognition for his superb late-season form, despite him being overlooked entirely by the PFA.

There have been more extreme examples of this in the past.

In 1996, Manchester United won the double, but Les Ferdinand scooped the PFA award.

Ferdinand's Newcastle had looked to be storming to the title when those votes were cast, but the Red Devils made a late charge led by Eric Cantona, who took FWA honours and then showed why by scoring the winner in the FA Cup Final.

This year's gala ceremony takes place - as usual - on the Thursday before the Cup Final.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will be at the top table and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is being coerced into making a short speech to the assembled writers, guests and former award winners.

After a series of near-misses at major awards, it is unlikely any of them will begrudge Lampard his moment of recognition.


SEE ALSO
Terry claims player of year award
24 Apr 05 |  Premiership
Ronaldinho wins Fifa player award
20 Dec 04 |  Football
The wonder of Ronaldinho
21 Dec 04 |  Football
Eto'o retains African award
15 Feb 05 |  African


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