Heroes & Villains: Featuring, for once, some REAL heroes

The usual Premier League bouquets and brickbats from Mark Booth – but first, something far more important...


The medical profession and football family
Heroes and Villains is a light-hearted round-up of Premier League action, but serious mention must be made of this weekend's events in the FA Cup tie at Tottenham. When Bolton's Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane, he immediately received priceless medical attention and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he continues to be given round-the-clock care as he fights for life.

It is easy to take for granted that football players are healthy; that volunteers from St John Ambulance will continue to attend every professional game without charge, despite frequently remaining unpaid when clubs going into administration pay off 'football creditors' instead; that the increasingly overstretched NHS will be there to cater for us all, player or fan, if the worst should happen.

It is also easy to assume, in an era of internet anonymity allowing "banter" to spiral into spurious spite and hatred, that football is irrevocably compartmentalised into tribalist factions. The reaction to Muamba's collapse disproves the assumption beyond all doubt. Inside the ground, horrified Spurs fans gamely tried to inspire Muamba by chanting his name, before respectfully acquiescing to Howard Webb's inevitable decision to postpone the game. On Saturday night, Bolton Wanderers forums were flooded with genuine well-wishers from San Jose to Sofia, as fans gathered to hold a virtual vigil.

Muamba is a very long way from recovery, but he is also very lucky to be alive. As football fans, we are lucky that despite all the hype and bluster, when something of true importance happens we can come together as one and hope for the best.
– Gary Parkinson, FourFourTwo.com Editor

Gylfi Sigurdsson
David Silva and Robin van Persie will probably fight it out for the league’s individual awards this season but if there was a prize for best loan signing or unexpected breakout star, Gylfi Sigurdsson would be a shoo-in.

His second brace in three games gave Swansea a hugely impressive 3-0 win at Craven Cottage on Saturday. A good dribbler, an expert crosser and a deadly finisher, the Icelander will have created quite the queue for his signature the summer.

Where last season’s fêted newcomers Blackpool faded after an eye-catching start, Swansea only seem to be gathering momentum as the season progresses and have moved into eighth place.

If there has been a criticism of Brendan Rodgers’ men this season, it’s been their inability to replicate their home form on the road, so this was a real statement of intent. They made 169 more passes than Fulham in this match – and the Cottagers aren’t shy of stroking the ball around themselves.

A late charge for Europe in their first Premier League season?

Jonny Evans
Once a figure of derision at Manchester United, Evans has been a solid presence since Nemanja Vidic picked up his season-ending injury. In truth, it wasn’t just his improving defensive abilities that see his name featured among the weekend’s heroes: he was the only scorer when the teams were at 11-a-side and set the champions on their way to their 5-0 rout.

United are not only putting breathing space between themselves and their neighbours with points, they’ve also eaten into the commanding goal difference advantage City once held. There are now just three goals between the clubs and the pressure is back on City ahead of their awkward looking match against in-form Chelsea on Wednesday. Over to you, Roberto.

Wolves’ South Bank
Gallows humour was the order of the day for the home support as they watched their side slip to the bottom of the table. The 5-0 scoreline was probably harsh on United, such was the champions' dominance, but the South Bank never stopped singing in support of their beleaguered team.

The fans' chants undoubtedly showed more doggedness and creativity than their players, with “It’s just like watching Bilbao” the pick of the self-deprecation. There were a few mumbles of “Moxey out” in reference to the CEO's decision to remove Mick McCarthy from the hot seat – but perhaps it should be “Sky out”: Wolves have now conceded five goals in each of their last three televised games.

Jonas Gutierrez
Jonas seemed to be revelling in his new position at left-back for the Magpies in their 1-0 win over Norwich City. There were some eyebrows raised when it was announced that the Argentine international would replace Davide Santon at full-back but he defended well and managed to overlap on the left-wing with distinction, earning him the man of the match champagne. This switch was the latest evidence of just what a progressive manager Alan Pardew is: with nine games to go, Newcastle already have one more point than they accumulated all last season.


Wigan Athletic
Roberto Martinez will still be scratching his head wondering how his team didn’t pick up all three points in this latest frustrating afternoon at the DW stadium. Wigan have won only once at home all season – back in August Ã¢Â€Â“ and no team in the top five tiers have scored fewer on their own patch. In many ways, this match epitomised the Latics’ season with their lack of a reliable goal scorer again costing them points.

Although Martinez has displayed a commendable commitment to playing good football, the club have only defied gravity thanks to Dave Whelan's handouts, making their position look increasingly perilous. As former Wigan player Paul Scharner said after equalising for West Brom: "I would be a bit worried if Wigan left the Premier League. Whether they ever came back depends on Dave Whelan. He would have to put in a lot more money for them to have a chance."

Mahmadou Diarra
Martin Jol took a real punt on the Mali international who seems to have had “once cost Real Madrid £22m” attached to his name since he landed in England. There was no evidence that this punt is about to pay off for Fulham during their 3-0 home loss to Swansea. It just wasn’t Diarra’s day, as proved when he went careering into the advertising boards and suffered a deep cut to his head. He bravely carried on but his performance was poor as he failed to surpress the attacking overtures of the rampant Welsh side.