By Pete O’Rourke
Arsenal striker Robin van Persie has been named the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
Van Persie took the honour ahead of Manchester City trio Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Joe Hart, Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
Holland international van Persie has scored 27 Premier League goals this season for the Gunners – his most fruitful campaign for the club – and was humbled to be recognised by his peers.
“If other people are saying it, it is special, but it is even more special if your opponents are saying it,” he said.
“It is very special because you are playing against them week in week out and every single player does everything to win and in the end if they make up their minds that I’m the best player it is a big honour.”
Van Persie may have picked up the top individual honour but he was quick to point out it would not have been possible without his team-mates.
“Without them I could not have achieved it,” he said. “For example Theo Walcott, he has given me more than 12 assists and I do really appreciate that.”
Van Persie was utilised mainly as a second striker, and occasionally out on the wing, in the early stages of his Gunners career after being signed by manager Arsene Wenger from Feyenoord in 2004.
But he has flourished since switching to the centre-forward role – despite initially not having been convinced he could make the transition.
He said: “Now I am (confident). To be fair, when I first went there I wasn’t really as confident and I wasn’t really sure I could do it. It took a bit of time but after a couple of months a slowly realised I could do a good job there.”
The PFA Merit award was presented to Preston defender Graham Alexander in recognition of his services to the game, dating back to his debut as a Scunthorpe player in 1991.
The Scotland international went on to play for Luton, Preston and Burnley before returning to Deepdale in 2011 and was humbled with the award of the trophy.
“To get recognition for what you have done in your career at any stage is great,” he said. “I’m coming towards the end of my playing career and I’m privileged to be recognised by the people who I have played against for the last 20-odd years.”