10 Things the Premiership taught us this week

1. Brendan Rodgers has a big, big job on his hands reviving Liverpool’s fortunes. A poor start to the season and a poor transfer window to boot. All is not well at Anfield.

2. Sunday afternoon saw the explosion of Arsenal fans across the country, no, not because they went and won 2-0 at Anfield, but because of events at the St Mary’s Stadium. A Van Persie hat-trick, completed in stoppage time is a painful reminder of what they’ve lost.

3. Credit to Steve Clarke who’s just led West Brom to their best ever Premier League start after beating Everton 2-0. Line him up as the next England manager!

4. Andy Carroll will fit into West Ham’s system perfectly, mark my words. Two assists on his debut before injury ruined his big day, but he’s perfectly suited to Sam Allardyce’s tactics. Not pretty, but certainly effective.

5. Wigan seem to have a few more Premier League goals in them this year, which must be pleasing for Roberto Martinez. Franco Di Santo has also scored five in his last eight games, impressive stuff for a striker at the DW Stadium.

6. Has AVB made the same mistakes at Spurs as he did with Chelsea? Clear out the deadwood too quickly and the balance of the squad alters dramatically. A draw with Norwich has ensured their worst start to a Premier League season for four years.

7. Steven Fletcher overpriced at £12 million? Not on that evidence. Nice little double to start your Sunderland career and end Swansea’s 100% record. Has Martin O’Neill done it again in the transfer market?

8. Hatem Ben Arfa really is a quality player. His brilliant goal earned the Toon Army a point and although Newcastle and Pardew may be struggling slightly at the moment, with the Frenchman in their ranks, they can always count on a few special moments.

9. Say what you like about Arsenal’s transfer policy, but Arsene Wenger might have pulled off an absolute masterstroke in signing Santi Cazorla. Once again at the heart of everything and marked the game against Liverpool with his first Gunners goal. Class act.

10. City may be unbeaten, but they really don’t look convincing at all. Clean sheets are hard to come by at the moment and Mancini doesn’t look happy with his lot, especially after the transfer window slammed shut. Champions League could be make or break.

Euro 2012: Top 10 Goals

So Euro 2012 is over and Spain are the Champions. It’s been a wonderful few weeks of glorious football and to celebrate it, the Coin Toss brings you the Top 10 goals from the tournament:

10. Sami Khedira vs. Greece – After the Greeks surprisingly levelled the quarter final at 1-1, Germany hit back immediately, Sami Khedira thumping home a volley that thundered in off the underside of the crossbar.

9. Andrea Pirlo vs. Croatia – The midfield magician was better known for his metronomic-like passing throughout the tournament, but he also opened the scoring against Croatia with a well-placed free kick.

8. Danny Welbeck vs. Sweden – England were struggling against Sweden, despite equalising at 2-2 thanks to Theo Walcott. However, they went one better as Walcott broke down the right before feeding Welbeck in the penalty area who finished with a casual backheel.

7. David Silva vs. Italy – The opening goal in the final was the perfect example of Spanish passing at its very best. Xavi and Iniesta sprayed the ball across the park on numerous occasions before Cesc Fabregas broke clear on the right before tucking the ball back for Silva to nod home.

6. Mario Gomes vs. Netherlands – The German goal machine gave his side the lead against rivals Netherlands in the group stage, sumptuously turning to fire home a through ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger.

5. Mario Balotelli vs. Germany – With Italy already a goal to the good, the Germans were laying siege to their defence before Buffon parried out a cross. The Italians broke up field before Riccardo Montolivo picked out Balotelli with a delightful pass. The striker brought it down before unleashing a rocket beyond Manuel Neuer. And what about the celebration too!

4. Rafael van der Vaart vs. Portugal – Possibly the only bright spot of the Netherlands’ entire tournament. Needing a 2-0 win over Portugal to avoid an early exit, Van der Vaart gave them the perfect start, curling home a beauty from the edge of the area.

3. Mario Balotelli vs. Republic of Ireland – Italy were 1-0 up against the Irish in stoppage time when they won a corner. Balotelli met it with a spectacular acrobatic effort, firing beyond Shay Given before rather ruining it by attempting to mouth off at the bench.

2. Jakub Błaszczykowski vs. Russia – Poland were staring down the barrel when they were 1-0 down to Russia in their second group game before the skipper saved them with a moment of magic. Picking up the ball outside the area, he skipped past one defender before curling a bullet into the top corner.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. France – Zlatan proved his worth on the big stage at last when he notched with a volley of stunning technique and power that flew past Hugo Lloris in the French goal. A truly brilliant finish that deserves the prize of goal of the tournament.

Top 10 Chipped Penalties

Andrea Pirlo’s performance in midfield was simply sensational against England, spraying his passes all over the pitch, while his chipped penalty was coolness personified. In celebration of his dinked effort that handed Italy the initiative in the shootout, here are the Top 10 Penalty Chips of all time:

1. Antonín Panenka – Czechoslovakia faced the Germans in the 1976 European Championship final and after extra time, the game finished 2-2. In the days before the Germans established their unflappable reputation from the penalty spot, the Czechs managed to hold their own at 3-3. Uli Hoeneß then blazed his effort over the bar, leaving Panenka the opportunity to win the game. Ice cool, he chipped his effort straight down the middle, winning the tournament in the process and handing the Germans their only shootout defeat to date.

2. Helder Postiga – The Portuguese faced England in the quarter finals of Euro 2004 on home soil and after an entertaining 2-2 draw, the game headed to the dreaded shootout. Despite David Beckham blazing the first one over the crossbar, England actually held their own for once, leaving former Tottenham reject Helder Postiga needing to score to keep his side in the competition. He didn’t just score, but more humiliate England, dispatching his effort down the middle before Darius Vassell later missed to send England home.

3. Sebastian Abreu – Whether or not the Uruguayans deserved to reach a penalty shootout is another question after Luis Suarez’s act of blatant cheating, but they sure enough deserved their victory. The pick of the bunch was veteran striker Abreu’s nerveless winner that he slotted past Richard Kingson to send the South Americans into the semi final.

4. Zinedine Zidane – What better time than show off your arrogance from the spot than a World Cup final. Well, we’d expect nothing less from Zizou, the magician himself. Gigi Buffon was on the receiving end of a chipped penalty that night as Zidane gave his side the lead via the underside of the bar. Unfortunately his moronic headbutt on Marco Materazzi meant he wasn’t able to repeat the heroics as Italy won the competition on penalties.

5. Francesco Totti – Another Italian shootout, another wonderfully casual penalty. Whilst it was surprising to see Pirlo pull off the trick, no-one raised an eyebrow when the ultimate maverick Francesco Totti tried it. Italy and the Netherlands drew 0-0 in the semi finals of Euro 2000 after the Dutch missed two penalties in normal time and Totti rubbed salt into the wounds, showing them how to take one properly.

6. Dwight Yorke – The smiling assassin earned himself a move to Manchester United on the back of his performances for Aston Villa, but Sir Alex Ferguson must have been impressed with his coolness under pressure. Yorke was a regular chipper from six yards, although his most memorable was an audacious effort that beat David Seaman and gave his side a 1-0 win over Arsenal. Fitting for a cheeky chappy like Yorke.

7. Thierry Henry – The Frenchman was pretty much the master at everything, so it’s no surprise that he attempted one or two chips in his time. Famous for one against Newcastle in 2003/04 when the scores were locked at 2-2, he also bagged one against Leeds when he destroyed the Whites’ defence all night. Just don’t mention the one he planned with Robert Pires…

And three that went badly wrong

8. Gary Lineker – 1992 and England faced Brazil in a pre-Euro 1992 friendly to warm up for the competition. Lineker was one behind Bobby Charlton in the England all-time goal scoring list on 48 and obviously fancied his chances of levelling in style after England won a penalty. Or maybe not. Lineker never scored for England again either.

9. Yann Kermorgant – The playoff final is apparently worth £90 million to the winner so understandably tensions were running high in the semi final shootout between Leicester and Cardiff. Perhaps it wasn’t the best time for French forward Yann Kermorgant to try his party trick then as he completely fluffed his lines, losing Leicester the game. He was quickly shipped out of the club after that effort.

10. Neymar – Boy wonder he may be, but even the best get it wrong sometimes. The fame and adulation has probably gone to Neymar’s head, but he’d do well not to try and repeat this anytime soon. Just take it conventionally son.

Euro 2012: Top 10 WAGs

The Euros are off and underway and the players are turning in some fine performances on the pitch already. An international tournament is nothing without the appearance of the WAGs however, cast your minds back to 2006 when the English wives stole the show with their antics in Baden-Baden. So who’s been catching the eye in the stands this time around?

10. Claudine Keane – Robbie Keane – Ireland’s leading striker is used to find the back of the net on regular occasions and he’s certainly scored here. Mr and Mrs Keane are currently loving life in LA as a glamorous couple, having joined the Galaxy last year. Now who does that remind you of?

9. Aida Yespica – Mesut Ozil – Yespica and Ozil’s relationship is the perfect example of the way footballers can attract literally anyone. Despite offering more than a passing resemblance to Gollum, Ozil has still bagged himself this Venezuelan beauty.

8. Alena Seredova – Gianluigi Buffon – You can only be jealous of a man like Buffon. Not only is he the captain of Italy, devilishly handsome and the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, but he is also married to Alena, a stunning Czech model. Some people have all the luck.

7. Kayla Collins – Ashley Cole – Ashley Cole has lost his touch somewhat recently. In fact, he’s now third behind Ryan Giggs and John Terry in the race for ‘football’s biggest love rat.’ This might something to do with the fact that he’s now dating Kayla Collins. Whether she’s better than Cheryl or not, you decide.

6. Yolanthe Sneijder Cabau – Wesley Sneijder – The Dutch version of FHM has voted Mrs Sneijder as their sexiest women three times, so perhaps going bald in your early 20’s isn’t so bad after all. She’s also an actress and a television host, starring in the Dutch equivalent to Footballers’ Wives. Maybe her looks are better than her acting then…

5. Sarah Brandner – Bastian Schweinsteiger – Brandner is often seen in the stands wearing a German shirt cheering on her beloved. Let’s just say she’s the best thing to ever wear a German shirt.

4. Sidoni Biemont – Adil Rami – You’ve got to hand it to Mr Rami, he certainly knows how to pick them. This French sizzler certainly sets the heart racing, even more so than Rami’s dodgy defending!

3. Shakira – Gerard Pique – What could be better than being a World Cup Winner and a member of one of the greatest club teams of all time? Well, dating one of the world’s most famous female singers for a start. Shakira and Pique started seeing each other in 2011 after meeting at the 2010 World Cup. Not a bad tournament all round then eh Gerard?

2. Sylvie Van Der Vaart – Rafael Van Der Vaart – You can’t make a WAGs list without featuring Sylvie somewhere in the article. Her and Rafa are often described as the ‘new Beckhams.’ In other words, they live a normal life and aren’t caught cheating every other week.

1. Irina Shayk – Cristiano Ronaldo – Moments like these make you love Lionel Messi even more. Because if it wasn’t for him, Ronaldo would have literally everything in the world. Irina Shayk isn’t bad for starters; her modelling CV is longer than John Terry’s ‘teammates wives who I’ve bedded’ list. The only redeeming feature is that she’s sure to be on the market soon given Ronaldo’s reputation for short relationships.

Euro 2012: Ten to Light up the Tournament

There’s just a couple of days to go until the start of the tournament and the excitement is building. Will the Spanish sweep everyone away? Will the Germans play with their usual ruthless efficiency? Will we inevitably get knocked out on penalties? While you’re mulling over all of that, here are ten names to keep an eye on this summer:

10. Antonio Cassano The Italians may be going into this tournament under the cloud of a match-fixing scandal once again, but despite facing the Spanish in their group, they will fancy their chances of seeing off Ireland and Croatia. Imperative to their hopes is Cassano, the AC Milan forward who has just recovered from heart surgery that was thought to be career-ending initially. Cassano has been something of an enigma throughout his career, never quite hitting the heights that his obvious talent deserves, especially in international colours. Cesare Prandelli’s side are not as strong as previous Azzurri outfits and they will therefore look to the returning Cassano to provide a threat in the final third.

9. Robert Lewandowski As the host nation,Poland expects. Which means the pressure is placed firmly on key man Lewandowski’s shoulders. He starred for Borussia Dortmund this year, scoring 30 goals in all competitions, helping his side to a first league and cup double and Manchester United are now reportedly having a closer look. The Poles may fancy their chances in a weak looking Group A and therefore their talismanic striker has to deliver on the international stage.

8. Alan Dzagoev As with Poland, the Russians will fancy their chances of progressing from Group A. Their best hopes lies with the wide players, one being familiar to English fans already and the other not so much. Andrey Arshavin is well known at this level, but watch out for Dzagoev, who at 21, will provide the main attacking thrust for Dick Advocaat’s side. Superb at club level for CSKA Moscow this season, Dzagoev could help the Russians on their way to another superb campaign.

7. Sokratis Papastathopolous The 2004 Champions Greece were well-known for their solid defence so it is no surprise to see the 23-year-old centre back tipped as the man to make the difference for them. Papastathopolous captained AEK Athens at the age of 19 and has subsequently tried his hand elsewhere inEurope. Although spells at Milan and Genoa didn’t pay off, he found his form on loan at Werder Bremen this season, marshalling their defence to good effect. As with everyone else in Group A, the Greeks will fancy their chances and with Papastathopolous at the heart of their back four, expect their challenge to be built on solid foundations once again.

6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Everyone remembers the Theo Walcott disaster of the 2006 World Cup when Sven picked him as an untested teenager. Oxlade-Chamberlain will hope to avoid comparisons to his Arsenal teammate and the early signs are good. He showed some promising touches in the two warm-up games and his Premier League displays so far indicate the youngster isn’t afraid to mix it with the big boys.England could use his pace and trickery out wide in the latter stages of games to run at tired defences and therefore the former Southampton man could provide England with a secret weapon in their campaign.

5. Nelson Oliveira You could be forgiven for thinking Portugal are taking to the field with only one man this summer, but in reserve they have a player who is looking to follow in his idol’s footsteps. The 20-year-old may only have three caps to his name, but he made the cut for the final squad, having demonstrated the sort of ability that Ronaldo displayed at the same age. Oliveira may not be a regular for Benfica yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t feature for Portugal this summer. He could prove very handy as an impact sub in the Group of Death and the Portuguese will hope he can replicate the form he showed at last summer’s U21 European Championships. Step aside Ronaldo, the young pretender is here.

4. Fernando Llorente Having to wait in the shadow of David Villa and Fernando Torres for the initial part of his international career must have been frustrating for Llorente, but the Bilbao frontman is ready to show the world what he can do this summer. With Villa injured and Torres woefully out of form, Llorente will lead the Spanish line and hopefully add the firepower to the wonderfully gifted midfield behind him. 29 goals in all competitions this season suggests he has the ability to do so and Spain need him to find his best form if they are to retain the trophy.

3. Kevin Strootman The Dutch are raving over the prospects of this 22-year-old and considering some of the great central midfielders they’ve had in their time, Strootman must be something special. Once again, Manchester United have been linked, though understandably, PSV are reluctant to sell given the impact Strootman can provide. Could prove to be a key cog in the Dutch side, though his place in the starting XI depends on the tactics coach Bert van Marwijk decides to employ. If the flamboyant Dutch are unleashed at this tournament, expect Strootman to be at the heart of it.

2. Christian Eriksen Although the young Dane went to the 2010 World Cup, he was simply too young to make much of an impact. However, two years later, at the age of 20, Eriksen is ready to announce himself to the rest of Europe. The Danes are in the proverbial ‘Group of Death’ with Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal and therefore they will need something special to qualify. Eriksen could be the man to provide it, many of Europe’s top clubs already have their eyes on him and the Ajax man has the skill set to ensure Denmark could cause a few surprises.

1. Mario Gotze Considering how many young talents the Germans have to offer, being described by Matthias Sammer as ‘one of the best talents that we’ve ever had’ is quite something. Gotze has everything in abundance though, pace, skill and creativity, that helped his club side Borussia Dortmund to glory this season. All the top clubs are vying for his signature, but his price tag is already at a hefty level. Performing at Euro 2012 would increase this even more and with Germany expected to go well this summer, Gotze could well light up the tournament.

Top 10 European Cup Finals

The moment Fernando Torres rounded the goalkeeper and completed Chelsea’s unlikely path to Munich, all eyes in West London were firmly fixed on the big day. Forget the issues over home advantage, forget the suspensions and injury concerns and forget the fact Chelsea only came sixth in the table, this will be the biggest night of Roberto Di Matteo and his side’s lives. Hopefully the game can live up to the billing and just to remind you what a treat you’re in for, here are 10 of the best Champions League Finals:

10. Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1, 2011

Think back to last year, when Manchester United dreamt of winning the trophy on home soil against a side widely regarded as one of the greatest ever. The odds were stacked firmly against them and the first half showed why, as Pep Guardiola’s men enjoyed 67% of the possession. Pedro gave them a 27th minute lead, but Wayne Rooney’s equaliser gave United a glimmer of hope. It wasn’t to be though, as second half goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa secured Barcelona’s fourth Champions League title.

9. Borussia Dortmund 3 Juventus 1, 1997

Little fancied Dortmund had the opportunity to prevent Juventus sealing a second successive title in a row on home territory in Munich and after their semi-final win over Manchester United, nobody could rule it out. Sure enough, Karl-Heinz Riedle scored twice in the first half to give the Bundesliga boys the lead and despite Alessandro Del Piero pulling one back in the second half, local Dortmund lad Lars Ricken fired home in the 71st minute, just 16 seconds after coming on a substitute. The result was a surprise as Juve were a side packed with talent, including French superstar Zinedine Zidane. However, Zidane barely featured in the final thanks to the close attentions of a certain Paul Lambert, now in the dugout at Norwich City.

8. AC Milan 4 Barcelona 0, 1994

With Milan missing some key players through injury and suspension including Dutch legend Marco Van Basten, Barcelona went into the final in Athens as firm favourites. However, the Italian outfit produced one of the greatest ever displays by a side in a final, destroying their Spanish opponents on the night. Two goals from Daniele Massaro set them on their way, before Dejan Savicevic and Marcel Desailly sealed the triumph with second half goals. The Milan coach that night? None other than Fabio Capello.

7. Manchester United 1 Chelsea 1 (United won 6-5 on penalties), 2008

United and Chelsea met in the first all-English final in Moscow having battled each other all year for the Premier League title, a battle that the Reds came out on top. Inevitably, Cristiano Ronaldo was the man to open the scoring, nodding past Petr Cech after 26 minutes. However, on the stroke of half-time, Frank Lampard snatched an equaliser and that’s the way it remained for the rest of the game. Didier Drogba got himself sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic though and the Blues went into the shootout minus their best striker. However Ronaldo’s miss left Chelsea captain John Terry needing to score to give his side their first European Cup win. The rest, as they say, is history. Terry slipped, sending the ball cannoning into the post and after a couple of successful penalties, Edwin Van der Sar dived right to keep out Nicolas Anelka’s spot kick, sealing another victory for United.

6. Celtic 2 Inter Milan 1, 1967

Celtic became the first British side to pick up the trophy after a pulsating 2-1 victory over Italian giants Internazionale in Lisbon. Jock Stein’s side outplayed their Italian counterparts with a brand of attacking football that set the tournament alight. Despite going down to an early penalty, Celtic fought back and Tommy Gemmell levelled things up on 63 minutes. The greatest moment in the club’s history was completed when striker Stevie Chalmers pounced with seven minutes remaining to send the European Cup back to Scotland for the first and only time.

5. Liverpool 3 Borussia Monchengladbach 1, 1977

Liverpool became the second English side to pick up the trophy after seeing off their German rivals in Rome. Terry McDermott opened the scoring after 28 minutes and although Danish midfield Allan Simonsen’s equaliser threatened to spoil the party, nothing could stop the Reds lifting the cup. Tommy Smith headed his side into the lead, before Bertie Vogts brought down Kevin Keegan in the area. Phil Neal tucked away the resulting penalty and Liverpool began the run of six consecutive victories in a row for English sides.

4. Manchester United 4 Benfica 1, 1968

A year after Celtic became the first British side to win the competition, United subsequently picked up the honour for the English teams. Ten years on from the Munich air disaster and Sir Matt Busby led his side out at Wembley looking for European glory. Bobby Charlton gave them the lead, but they were pegged back by Jaime Graca’s strike for the Portuguese side. Extra time then followed and United ran out comfortable winners followed goals from George Best and Brian Kidd, before the skipper Charlton put the icing on the cake, slotting home to seal a famous victory.

3. Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3, 1960

In terms of quality, this game is considering one of the greatest ever played as Real Madrid dismantled Frankfurt at Hampden Park in front a massive 127,000 crowd. The Germans took an early lead, but the rest of the game became a showpiece for two of the greatest players to have walked this planet. Alfredo Di Stefano bagged a hat-trick and Hungarian Ferenc Puskas scored four as the Spaniards went onto to lift the trophy for the fifth successive time since the competition begun.

2. Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1, 1999

Fergie’s side headed to Barcelona looking to complete a fabled treble having secured the Premiership and the FA Cup already. Without suspended talisman Roy Keane and midfield maestro Paul Scholes, United had to shuffle their pack and this looked evident early on as Mario Basler’s sixth minute goal gave Bayern the perfect start. The Germans then dominated throughout, hitting the woodwork twice and they looked certain to pick up the trophy as the game headed into stoppage time. As Peter Schmeichel headed into the opposition’s penalty area, United were clutching at straws, but Ryan Giggs’s mishit shot was turned in by Teddy Sheringham to the amazement of everyone inside the Nou Camp. 30 seconds later, United won another corner which Sheringham headed downwards, leaving Clive Tyldesley to scream the immortal words ‘AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT.’ The Champions League couldn’t get anymore dramatic until…

1. Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 (Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties), 2005

For a club enriched with European history, Liverpool had endured a pretty baron spell since the 1980’s. However, they travelled to Istanbul looking to rectify that against a strong AC Milan side. Milan showed just how strong they were though, scoring with the game just a minute old after veteran skipper Paolo Maldini volleyed in a free kick. Two further goals, both from Hernan Crespo, left Liverpool staring down the barrel at half-time. Instead of capitulating altogether, they put together one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Skipper Steven Gerrard grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, nodding home the first, before Vladimir Smicer’s ambitious effort from range somehow beat Dida in the Milan goal. After Gattuso brought down Gerrard in the box, Xabi Alonso stepped up to level the game. His penalty was saved, but he smashed home the rebound, completing an astonishing recovery. Neither side could find a way through for the rest of the game, though Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek pulled off an astonishing double save from Andriy Shevchenko. And Dudek proved to be the hero of the hour again, saving from first Andrea Pirlo and then Shevchenko to hand Liverpool their greastest victory of all.

Top 10 Championship players set to make the step up

The regular Championship season is done and dusted, with just the playoffs to come. Reading and Southampton are celebrating successful returns to the Premiership, while West Ham,Birmingham, Blackpool and Cardiff are looking to join them.England’s second division is always a hotbed for talent though and any Premiership side willing to take a punt could have a potential star on their hands. With a busy summer of transfer activity expected, here are ten players in the Championship who could make the step up this summer:

  1. Robert Snodgrass – Despite Leeds’s dreadful season, the Scottish winger impressed everybody with his displays in the white shirt. He won both the Player of the Year and Fans Player of the Year awards at Elland Road, recognition for his consistent form. Snodgrass has been the best player at Leeds for a couple of seasons now and earned a call up to the Scotland squad in 2011. Norwich offered £5 million for his services last summer and with Leeds failing to win promotion once again, Snodgrass could well try his hand in England’s highest division to further his international career.
  1. Marvin Emnes – The Dutch winger initially joined Middlesbrough in 2008 for £3.2 million from Sparta Rotterdam while the Boro were still in the Premiership. He proved disappointing to start with and was used mainly as a substitute under Gordon Strachan. However, a loan move to Swansea kick started his career and Tony Mowbray put his faith in Emnes when he came back to the Riverside. 18 goals in all competitions proved a decent return and with Middlesbrough just missing out on the playoffs, Emnes could be set to move up a level. Swansea could be interested again.
  1. Jay Rodriguez – Although Burnley were mediocre in the Championship, consolidating and rebuilding under new boss Eddie Howe, striker Jay Rodriguez proved one of the highlights of the season. 15 league goals and 21 in all competitions earned the frontman an England U21 call-up whilst catching the eyes of Premiership scouts. Burnley are keen to hang onto their latest star, but any substantial bid could see Rodriguez plying his trade amongst the big boys next year.
  1. Jacob Butterfield – Barnsley just avoided the drop, missing the trapdoor thanks in part to Portsmouth’s point deduction. However, the Tykes were in decent form in the early part of the season, undoubtedly due to Butterfield’s presence in the centre of their midfield. He became the club’s youngest ever captain and some superb displays saw him linked with a January move to Aston Villa. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending injury on New Year’s Eve that contributed to Barnsley’s demise and manager Keith Hill expects him to move on to better things in the summer.
  1. Peter Whittingham – Although Whittingham tasted Premier League experience during his younger days with Aston Villa, the midfielder has been a victim of Cardiff’s failure to get out of the playoffs year in, year out. His loyalty has seen him stay in Wales for five years and eleven goals this year has again proved his ability at this level. If the Bluebirds fail to get promoted out of the playoffs this year, it could well be that Whittingham makes the switch into the top flight, as there will be no shortage of suitors for a man of his talents.
  1. Wilfried Zaha – The Crystal Palace youngster has attracted significant interest already, with Bolton rumoured to have offered £5 million for him in January. Although the 19-year-old is still raw, he has a star quality about him that makes him a notch above the rest in the Championship. Nine goals in all competitions is a good start and he is sure to improve on that figure next year if he chooses to stay at Selhurst Park. Rumours emerged that Barcelona and Bayern Munich were keeping tabs on Zaha, but it is more likely the player will stay in England and he could be one of the most contested signings of the summer.
  1. Nathaniel Clyne – The second of Palace’s starlets Nathaniel Clyne, unlike Zaha, has proven himself to be a consistent performer in the Championship. The right back is a regular in the Eagles’ side and he was strongly linked with Manchester United in the last transfer window. It is unclear whether the Red Devils will come back in for Clyne in the summer, but Palace will have to stave off serious interest as Clyne is seen as one of the hottest properties around.
  1. Matt Phillips – Ian Holloway faces the tough task of battling through the playoffs to get back into the Premiership, but if he fails, he will face the tough task of hanging onto Blackpool’s brightest star. Phillips initially signed last year from Wycombe, but didn’t feature much in the Tangerines’ top flight campaign and went out on loan at Sheffield United in October. Five goals in six goals propelled him into Ollie’s plans and he hasn’t looked back since. He went on to bag another seven at Bloomfield Road and Cardiff looked to sign him in January. Several Premier League sides are reported to be interested and Blackpool could struggle to hang on to Phillips come June.
  1. Kasper Schmeichel – He may not be as famous as his dad but Kasper is making a decent fist at his own career. Everyone was surprised when Leeds sold him to Leicester last summer as the 25-year-old impressed between the sticks at Elland Road. He carried on in a similar vein for the Foxes as well despite their disappointing season and Harry Redknapp is eying Schmeichel as Brad Friedel’s long-term replacement at Tottenham. The American can’t go on forever and Spurs may poach Kasper this summer to prepare him for the rigours of the Premier League.
  1. Chris Gunter – The Welsh right back has already earned a big money move to the Premier League before in his career after he left Cardiff City to join Tottenham to 2008. He only made five appearances at White Hart Lane though and he failed to make his mark on the first team. A move to Nottingham Forest followed and Gunter has slowly, but surely rebuilt his reputation. He is now dependable on both flanks and would be a good bet for any Premier League manager looking to bolster his squad. Since Forest endured a miserable campaign last time around, Gunter could be prepared to move on and return to the Premier League a more confident player.