Who is the biggest Zero to Hero?

by Gavin Caney

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Some pundits have been calling it the season that makes no sense. Chelsea and United have both stumbled at separate times and neither have truly capitalised leaving it all down to the final weekend. Arsenal have finally faded away despite being written off on countless occasions. The fight for fourth is going right to the wire. Liverpool have had a stinker of season and were expected to challenge on all fronts. Fulham are our only team left in Europe following a marathon campaign and Portsmouth, who nearly went bust, still have a cup final to look forward too, albeit a domestic one. It has been a strange season indeed. Yet the weirdness doesn’t just end there.

Countless players have turned their season and or careers round and are now much more hero than zero. Many who were barracked and booed by their own faithful are now receiving praise across the media and Internet forums alike. Some are even outside bets to make their countries squads for South Africa this summer, ideas that a year ago would have seen you dragged away by the men in white jackets.

There are almost too many players to mention so I will attempt to pick out some of the main ZTH’s (Zero-To-Hero) and I’ll leave the rest of you to discuss away……….

Chelsea may walk away with their first ever Double but not so long ago it seemed Florent Malouda was heading for the exit door at Stamford Bridge. Since his arrival in West London the French midfielder has played under five managers and never really fulfilled his potential. In January he was quoted as saying: “Finding another club is not a problem,” as he worried about his lack of games. Yet since the turn of the year he has been in scintillating form and has now bagged 15 goals this season. He’s finally showing what a quality winger he can be on his day.

Manchester United veterans Paul Scholes and Gary Neville have been criticised for being too old and off the pace. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I caned Scholes earlier on this season, one of my favourite ever players, but both have been vital in the run-in. Their experience, drive, determination and ability have been decisive factors in keeping United in it until the final day. Scholes has improved as the season has gone on and Neville may be taken to South Africa as cover, even if what pace he had has now gone.

Yet the main ZTH at Old Trafford has been Nani who finally may have convinced the Old Trafford faithful that he is a decent player. Much like Ronaldo, (despite being nowhere near as good) Nani had an indifferent start to his Old Trafford career. Promise, skills and goals were followed quickly by poor games and diving accussations as well as being  labelled a show-pony. Yet while Ronaldo has turned into one of the world’s greatest players his Portuguese counterpart seemed certain to follow him out of Old Trafford after slamming his manager in the press.

Nani said: “Ferguson is a very complicated man. He’s tough. If things are all right, then they are all right. But when he thinks something is wrong, everything is screwed. He can go from complimenting you to just plain trashing you in a matter of minutes. Has it happened to me? Hell, yes! He’ll say ‘Nani, how could you miss this or this’? He shouts at players in front of everyone. No one escapes, everybody is the same. Giggs and Neville suffer most, because they have more experience.”

Nani looked certain to be shipped out yet his transformation since the Arsenal game has been remarkable. His fantastic turn that bamboozled Gael Clichy seemed to fill the wideman with confidence and belief that he is good enough. He’s had a settled run in the side, probably his longest since his arrival, and is now playing like everyone hoped he could. An impudent chip against Spurs was maybe the largest indication that the real Nani has finally landed.

Tottenham have had three big ZTH’s this season with Gomes, Bale and Pavlyuchenko having fantastic spells. Pav couldn’t hit a barn door but went on a great run scoring eight goals in six games in late January, early February. The goals have dried up since but he’s still keeping Crouch out of the team for now. Bale, who just seemed to be a curse, has finally scored goals and been on a winning side for Spurs. Although his defending needs to be improved he has been incredible going forward and ripped Arsenal and Chelsea to shreds with his pace and work-rate. Gomes was called a clown but this year has been more like the star act at the circus. Three tremendous saves against Arsenal stand-out but his improvement has been ten-fold after numerous clangers last campaign.

Across the city Bobby Zamora has had a remarkable season for Fulham, so much so that he might sneak onto that plane to South Africa. Often celebrating goals by directing anger at his own fans the man has truly gone from zero to hero this season, scoring 19-goals along the way. Even though some of the 19 were in the Intertoto Cup and Europa League it is his overall link-up play that has stood out and he’s lead the line superbly for the Cottagers. He’ll be wrapped up in cotton wool in the hope he can feature in the Europa League final next week the least his mammoth efforts deserve.

Other players that have rejuvenated their flagging careers and lives this season are (in no particular order); Steve Carr, Lee Bowyer, Barry Ferguson, Sol Campbell and away from the Premier League the latters team-mate at the start of the season, Lee Hughes. Many of these may never be idolised by anyone, let alone their own fans, but who would have thought their seasons would have turned out so well.

Yet perhaps the biggest ZTH is the ‘wally-with-the-brolly’ over in Holland. Steve McClaren has worked absolute miracles with FC Twente and deserves all the praise he can get for landing them their first ever Eredivisie title.  Some have called him the Messiah. Hero status indeed. Just a shame then however that he’ll probably only ever be a zero in his own country.

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  • Reece

    um wtf no Nicklas Bendtner. He’s always been one of my favourites but he has a habit of scoring vital goals. Why he’s not on your list is a mystery to me

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    From an Arsenal perspective then it’s got to be Bendtner, booed by his own fans but somehow managed to win them over by scoring some vital goals, it’s just a pity we can’t defend and have crap goal keepers.

    For me though and I hate to admit it, it’s surely got to be Gareth Bale, The Spuds didn’t win a league with him in the side for 29 games or something like that. Then they pushed him forward and he became the most feared winger in the country alerted some of Europes top sides the process

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