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Best of the Prem: Burnley to Hull City

Brent Lanthier

Don’t get yer knickers in a bunch, we’ve got more World Cup coverage coming! But you should probably keep the Premier League in the back of your mind, since the backroom machinations are still ongoing. Several clubs can’t wait for the tournament to end to start their wheeling and dealing.

Burnley: Wade Elliott (ENG)
Burnley’s Player of the Year, At The Rails has already sung the praises of Wade Elliott. He created width down the right while adding some grit to the Clarets: he led the team in both fouls and yellow cards. A team leader on last season’s version of Blackpool.

Future: While Burnley descends back into the Championship, Elliott will likely remain behind with one of the Prem’s lesser lights. Reports say his former boss Owen Coyle will offer Burnley 750,000 pounds to bring the winger to Bolton.

World Cup-bound? No, but at least it would have been nice to see him get a taste. Alas, playing on a relegation-bound club shut him out of Don Fabio’s plans immediately.

Chelsea: Frank Lampard (ENG)
This is going to bring the wrath of my fellow ATR writers: Fat Frank should have been the league’s Player of the Year.  After a shaky start, he was the real leader of Chelsea when Captain Schtupping was busy…. um, getting busy. The axis around which the entire team rotates, Lampard had 22 goals (as a central midfielder!) and led the league with 14 assists. Rooney had a stunning season but Frank was the complete player.

Future: Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road, London, SW6 1HS.

World Cup-bound? Yes but where to play him? And who with? Barry or Gerrard?

Everton: Leighton Baines (ENG)
Last Monday’s performance notwithstanding, Baines was a model of consistency this season.  He started more games than any other Everton player and proved to be a force on the left side, defending and attacking with equal measure.  He also led in time of possession for the Toffees.

Future: A Scouser who grew up in Wigan’s system, he seems to finally be home.  Let’s hope his England experience will leave him with something to prove next season.

 World Cup-bound? No.  Apparently Baines is painfully shy… and now the whole world knows. Ugh.

Fulham: Mark Schwarzer (AUS)
The Cottagers allowed one more goal than Manchester City this season, and Schwarzer was a big part of that. The big Aussie faced a barrage of shots this season in the League, not to mention the club’s improbable run to the Europa Cup final. In fact, the last two seasons have been improbable for tiny Fulham. Guess when Schwarzer showed up?

Future: Schwarzer has one more year on his contract. But there are rumours Arsene Wenger wants to bring him to the Emirates… because Almunia is sh!te.

World Cup-bound? Yes. Pim Verbeek has built his team around Schwarzer and a strong back-four.  Many a punter has picked the Socceroos as their dark horse this tournament.

Hull City: Stephen Hunt (IRE)
Is he a bad luck charm or is he just unlucky? Hunt has been relegated from the Premier League twice… but it’s not been his fault.  The Irishman led the Tigers in scoring, even though he was injured for the last two months of the season. An intense midfielder, he was voted Player of the Year by the Hull faithful.

Future: Hull will be selling and he doesn’t appear to want to go back anyway.

World Cup-bound? Ask Thierry Henry.

Up Next: Liverpool to Stoke City

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Love for Sale: Burnley

We now know who will join Portsmouth in relegation. Hull City’s loss to Sunderland and Burnley’s drubbing by Liverpool — combined with West Ham’s dramatic 3-2 win over Wigan — means that Hull and Burnley are done.

Burnley

They were the Little Team That Could. Burnley finished sixth in the Championship last year and then dispatched both Reading and Sheffield United to win promotion.  They started their Premier League season in style — beating three-time defending champions Manchester United in a famous win at Turf Moor.  But they only won once after October and then their manager jumped ship to Bolton.  Burnley’s Premiership experiment was over.  But the following players showed their mettle and should get snapped up by other outfits.

Steven Fletcher: Burnley broke their transfer record when they paid Hibs 3 million pounds for this Scotland international. Fletcher led the team in goals and has already been linked to former Scotland manager Alex McLeish at Birmingham — and to his old boss, Owen Coyle, at Bolton.

Graham Alexander: Another Englishman-turned-Jock, Alexander spent 16 years in the lower leagues before getting promoted with Burnley. A former right-back turned defensive midfielder, Alexander scored seven goals this year — although to be fair, four were penalties. Burnley’s Ironman could get find life at another Prem outfit, if only to bring some experience to the bootroom.

Wade Elliott: Burnley’s reigning player of the year, Elliott is a speedy winger who can do wonderful things with his right foot (see here and here).  He gets stuck in, gives his team some width and can create goalscoring opportunities. In fact, this writer thinks Don Fabio would be better off with Elliott in South Africa than a three-initialed dunce who can’t see over the counter at the hotel.

Tyrone Mears: Sometimes good players have bad karma.  This is the second time Mears’ team has gotten relegated: he was a member of that dreadful Derby County team in 2008. And although he’s English, he mistakenly thought his family was from Jamaica. He ended up playing one for the Reggae Boyz — making him uneligible for the Three Lions — until the right back found out his family came from Sierra Leone.  Too bad — because deputies for the oft-injured Glen Johnson are far and few between.  Mears was a bright spot on the Premier League’s most porous defence and he should get another crack at top-flight football.

Chris Eagles: He’s been called the next David Beckham and was a United player for eight years before joining the Clarets. Eagles wasn’t a regular starter this season. But at 24 years old, he’s still attracting interest from some of the bigger clubs.  The best days may still be yet to come for this attacking midfielder.

Brian Jensen: This old Dane surprised many observers early on, providing heroics for the aforementioned victory over United — as well as helping those fantasy league owners who bought Jensen on the cheap. “The Beast” was a perpetual second-stringer for years and only got a regular gig after joining Burnley. He is their longest-serving player but could be pried away by a team who needs a quality keeper aka Wolves, Wigan or even Sunderland.

David Nugent: Actually, Nugent is not a Burnley player. He belongs to Portsmouth but they need to sell, sell, sell to pay Her Majesty’s government. Nugent was famously capped for England as a Preston North End player, scoring a 90th minute goal against Andorra. He is a boyhood Evertonian — and the Toffees could use another striker to take the pressure off the perpetually-injured Louis Saha.

Final look: Hull City

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