End of season grades – Who takes the crown of ‘Player of the year’?

Few would have predicted at the start of the season that Burnley would be in the Premier League next season, but here we are, safe!

Sean Dyche masterminded a remarkable campaign, which saw the Clarets finish 16th on 40 points – some achievement for a little mill-town!

With the smallest budget in the league, the Clarets were only ever in the bottom three after the first round of fixtures, and from there on in, Burnley were never really in serious danger of facing the drop.

Credit must also go to a remarkable group of players. Written off at the start of the season, they pulled together and proved everyone wrong.

Here, I will take a look at each player who contributed this season, rating them on an alphabetical scale…

Tom Heaton: A+ – Ever dependable. Whenever he was called upon, he was there, and some of his saves this season were out of the top drawer. At times when we’ve needed him the most, he’s been there. I think back to Southampton at home; 1-0 up in the dying minutes, Heaton produces a world class double save to preserve the points. Not forgetting Old Trafford, where he single handedly kept United at bay, with a series of unbelievable saves, including a save which Peter Schmeichel dubbed “One of the best in Premier League history”. He really has been priceless this season. Captain fantastic.

Game of the Season – Manchester United (Away)

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Paul Robinson: B – When needed, he was there to step in, which is a credit to his professionalism. He made some key saves against Manchester City at Turf Moor, and on the day could’ve done nothing about the two lucky goals that City scored. The former England international clearly has a big influence off the pitch, guiding Heaton and Pope on the training ground, and for that reason, I would keep him on for another year.

Game of the Season – Manchester City (Home)

Matt Lowton: A – Lowton started off the season slowly, and many people questioned whether he should be playing, but how he proved everyone wrong. After being dropped against Stoke in December, Lowton was immediately reinstated into the side, and he’s never looked back since, producing performance after performance of the highest level. Like every member of the back four, Lowton would throw himself in front of anything for the points, and he epitomises everything that Burnley are about. Defensively, I don’t think I would swap many full backs for Lowton and we really are fortunate to have him.

Game of the Season – Liverpool (Away)

Jon Flanagan: B – Didn’t really get a lot of chances this season, which wasn’t really a problem on his part, just the fact that Lowton and Ward have been playing out of their skin. There was high expectations of Flanagan when he joined, but unfortunately the move hasn’t quite worked out the way he would’ve hoped. However, when he has been needed, he has more than produced. He has been subbed on in high pressure games against Everton, Manchester United and Crystal Palace, delivering great performances in them all, which is a testament to his character. If circumstances had been different this season, who knows what he could’ve achieved.

Game of the Season: Crystal Palace (Away)

Michael Keane: A+ – Where to begin. What a player. To have seen Keane play all season has been a pleasure. A Rolls-Royce of a centre half, Keane has had an exceptional season at the heart of the Burnley defence, which also earned him international recognition. Without him, I dread to think where we would be, and on so many occasions, he has saved us. Alongside, Ben Mee, he has excelled and grown into a player that could walk into most of the top teams, and whatever he chooses to do in the window, I, along with all Burnley fans, wish him the best of luck.

Game of the Season: Everton (Home)

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Ben Mee: A+ – Like Keane, Mee has been phenomenal this season and again, without him, Burnley would be a far weaker side. The right-left partnership he has at the back with Keane is exceptional, and barring maybe Tottenham and Chelsea, I would argue we have the best centre back partnership in the league. Like so many Burnley players, Ben Mee would throw himself through a brick wall for Burnley, and that sort of commitment is invaluable, and something that cannot be taught. Heart of a lion.

Game of the Season: Middlesbrough (Home)

James Tarkowski: B+ – Only played a bit-part role this season, but when called upon, he has stepped in to good effect. Early in the season, he was stepping into midfield and looked competent. Dyche knows that if needed, ‘Tarky’ can step in there and be more than comfortable. With injuries to Keane, the ex-Oldham man has had his chance at Centre half, and he hasn’t done bad. With a full pre-season under his belt, and regular football, I think Tarkowski could be a very good replacement for Keane in time.

Game of the Season: Manchester City (Home)

Kevin Long: A- – Considering the Irishman had never played in the Premier League since Newcastle away in 2015, when he was cruelly struck down by injury, Long looked comfortable. A forgotten man around Turf Moor, Long grabbed his chance with both hands and in the last three games, he was brilliant. It says a lot about Long as a player that he patiently sat and watched on for most of the season, but when his chance came, he was ready to step in. With Keane looking set to leave in the coming months, I would retain Long at all costs. He is a very underrated player!

Game of the Season: West Hame (Home)

Stephen Ward: A++ – Stephen Ward, what a season this man has had. For me, the most underappreciated player in the squad. The passion he shows on the pitch and his commitment for the shirt is second to none. Ward has been solid defensively this season, but more than that, he offers willingness to get forward too. We do need to recruit a left-back in the summer, but whoever comes in will be hard pushed to replace Ward. For me, Ward takes the Player of the Season award, and in a team that has been so good this season, that is great credit to the Irishman.

Game of the Season: Middlesbrough (Away)

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Scott Arfield: B – All in all, the Canadian hasn’t had that bad of a season. Arfield has taken a lot of stick from fans at times, but over the course of the season, Arfield has been fairly reliable. On the wing, you know what you’re getting from him, hard work, grit and desire. If you were to define a Sean Dyche winger, Arfield would be it, and it is a shame that things haven’t quite worked out for him this season. He scored the crucial winner against Everton, which is the grand scheme of the season, was a HUGE goal.

Game of the Season: Everton (Home)

Johann Berg Gudmundsson: B+ – This season for Gudmundsson is a case of ‘what could’ve been’. His season was cruelly halted by injury on two separate occasions, the first of which, the killer blow. When the Icelandic winger limped off against Man City, he was flying, and he won November’s player of the month. If he hadn’t have picked up this injury, I have no doubts that he would’ve been a huge player over the course of the season, as he was doing so well at the time. Given a full pre-season, in which he can get some game time and get back to full fitness, he could be a huge player for us next season.

Game of the Season: Crystal Palace (Home)

George Boyd: B+ – If there’s one thing you know you’ll get from Boyd, it’s hard work, and that was certainly at the forefront of his game this season. The Scot has scored some important goals at Turf Moor this season, none more so than the winner against Stoke, when Burnley were so desperate for a win. Boyd, again, has taken a lot of stick from fans this season, but given the fact the gives 110% on the pitch, some of the criticism has been a little harsh on Boyd. There is some uncertainty over whether Boyd will be at Turf Moor next season, but one thing is for sure, if he has played his last game for Burnley, he will be adored by the Clarets faithful for everything he has done.

Game of the Season: Stoke (Home)

Robbie Brady: B – The club-record signing didn’t have a lot of time to make an impact on the Clarets first team, and I think next season will be when you really see the best of him. Brady has shown glimpses of what he is about so far, but this is only the beginning for the Irishman in a Claret and Blue shirt, there is much more to come, that is for sure. We were all in awe of his free-kick against Chelsea, which showed us what he is all about, and that is something I’m sure we will see much more of next season.

Game of the Season: Everton (Away)

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Joey Barton: B+ – The King. Upon his return, his impact was instant, coming off the bench to net the winner against Southampton back in January. Not just that, his battling and ‘body on the line’ mentality makes him arguably Burnley’s best centre midfielder over the last decade. I look back to the victory over Leicester. Barton didn’t score the winner, or even set it up, but he put his head on everything, and won every tackle. He single handedly dragged us through that game – it was the epitome of a Joey Barton performance.

Game of the Season: Leicester (Home)

Steven Defour: B- – Defour proved to be a bit disappointment to the Burnley fans, who had such high hopes for what he could achieve at Turf Moor. The Belgian struggled to make himself the first name on the team sheet, and he was blighted by injury throughout the season. I don’t really feel Sean Dyche’s play suits his game, and we only saw the best of Defour when Dyche stepped out of his comfort zone and played a 4-5-1. If we had played that system all season, who knows what he could’ve achieved, but I don’t believe we will see Defour in a Burnley shirt again, unfortunately.

Game of the Season: Watford (Home)

Jeff Hendrick: A- – In what was his maiden season at Premier League level, Hendrick took to life in the top-flight very well. It did take him a while to adapt, but once he got settled in, he was a very consistent performer. After his goal against Bournemouth, the Irishman went from strength to strength, turning in top performances week in week out. But for a poor refereeing decision at Watford which saw him get sent off, Hendrick could have been a candidate for player of the season, he was playing that well at the time. At the end of the season when he paired up with Ashley Westwood, we saw what Hendrick was about again and I have high hopes for him next season.

Game of the Season: Bournemouth (Home)

Dean Marney: B – His influence in the Burnley team often goes unnoticed, and the stats would show we are a weaker side without him in it. Since Marney picked up a cruciate knee injury against Arsenal, Burnley only won three more games in the entirety of the season. The tough tackling midfielder has captured the hearts of many Burnley fans for his rough style of play and willingness to give 110%, which is exactly what fans like to see, and this is why he is so successful in a Sean Dyche team. Once he gets back to full fitness some time next season, he may well turn out to be a key player for the Clarets.

Game of the Season: Liverpool (Home)

Ashley Westwood: B+ – Westwood arrived from Aston Villa in January and was thrown straight into the first team mix against Chelsea. Considering he had little time to adapt to a new way of playing, the former Villa man adapted to Dyche’s way of playing seamlessly. Next year will be the year for Westwood where he really kicks on I believe. Alongside Hendrick he looks to have struck up a solid partnership, and one that will only improve the more they play together.

Game of the Season: Crystal Palace (Away)

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Aiden O’Neill: N/A – A youngster who we caught a brief glimpse of this year and showed great promise. The Aussie is tidy in possession and has the eye for a killer pass. O’Neill had a good loan spell at Oldham, and I’m sure that in the next year or so, he will get his chance to impress at first team level at Turf Moor. Looking back to Chelsea away, O’Neill came on into a high pressure situation and looked competent against some of the world’s top players. I’m not saying he’s at that level yet, but in time, he could be a great player.

Dan Agyei: N/A – Another youngster who was presented with a first team opportunity this season. Albeit, Agyei only had limited game time, but he has shown signs that he has a lot to offer the team. The striker is big in frame, but also quick and good with his feet, making him different to any other option we have upfront. Next year could be the year we see Agyei really step up at Burnley, and what a player we could have on our hands.

Andre Gray: B+ – Gray has taken a lot of stick from fans this season, which has clearly impacted upon him personally after his celebrations against Swansea and Crystal Palace. This doesn’t seem to have affected him on the pitch though, as his performances would show. Gray is a good player to have upfront for his pace alone, which makes teams drop 10 yards when defending, but his goal scoring prowess has been on show this season. He scored key goals against Middlesbrough and Sunderland over the Christmas period, which in the grand scheme of the table have been crucial

Game of the Season: Sunderland (Home)

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Sam Vokes: B – For most of the season, Vokes has been limited to chances from the bench and the odd start here and there, but on the whole, he hasn’t been a regular. In the run in, Vokes has shown his knack for scoring goals, netting five in five, to finish the season as top scorer. Vokes has come big at times during the season and scored some crucial goals, including strikes against Liverpool and Everton. With more game time, I firmly believe the Welshman would’ve netted more than he did.

Game of the Season: West Brom (Home)

Ashley Barnes: B+ – Barnes had a very good season for Burnley, netting six times, but his unselfish attitude is the main attribute he brings to the team. For someone who isn’t actually that big in frame, Barnes is willing to put himself about upfront, making him a defenders nightmare. Barnes has proved a handful for everyone he has come up against, and if he could add more goals to his game, then he would be a very good striker for the Premier League. He has also popped up with some big goals this season, none more so than his late, late strike against Crystal Palace to seal all three points.

Game of the Season: Manchester United (Away)

Individual Awards

Player of the Season – Stephen Ward

Goal of the Season – Jeff Hendrick v Bournemouth

Moment of the Season – Tom Heaton’s late double save v Southampton

 

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