Burnley’s McNeil should be in PFA Young Player of Year conversation


Dwight McNeil already looks like being Burnley’s next star to earn an England cap, but he could also be a realistic contender for Young Player of the Year.

Already 2019-20 looks like being a stellar season for young talent coming through into Premier League sides with Chelsea’s latest crop getting their chances under Frank Lampard and potential future stars coming through at Arsenal and Manchester United.

But McNeil has as good a case of any of them to be shortlisted for the PFA Young Player of the Year award if he continues on his current upward trajectory.

Since he made his Burnley debut in May 2018, McNeil has quietly established himself as a first-team regular, the best corner-taker at the club and maybe one of the best left-sided wingers outside the top six sides in the Premier League.

He signed a new long-term contract in January which ties him to Turf Moor until 2023 and Burnley fans will hope that they can at least see him remain in a Clarets shirt for the next few years.

After all he is still 19, with much less experience than all the other main contenders for the young player award, such as Mason Mount (20), Declan Rice (20), Tammy Abraham (21), Joe Willock (20), James Maddison (22) Trent Alexander-Arnold (20) Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21) and Marcus Rashford (21).

They all have higher profiles than McNeil because, barring Maddison and Rice, they play for England’s elite teams and – apart from Willock – have already earned senior international recognition from Southgate.

The Burnley man doesn’t suffer too much by any statistical comparison to them either as he has contributed seven assists and three goals in his 27 Premier League appearances to date.

Willock has not yet registered a goal or an assist in his handful of Premier League appearances for the Gunners while Rice and Wan-Bissaka are more known for their tackling and positional sense so a comparison is hard to make there.

But Mount and Maddison are in positions where their attacking contributions can be set against McNeil’s and, although both are doing more at the moment, it may not be by as much as you think.

Maddison has scored once and assisted two goals in 536 minutes of Premier League action, with an average of 1.8 key passes and 3.5 dribbles per game.

Over 540 minutes of action, Mount has bagged three times, without yet assisting any others, and averages two key passes and 1.8 dribbles per 90 minutes.

And McNeil (no goals/two assists) is going at a rate of one key pass and two dribbles per match, having played slightly less than the other two with 519 minutes under his belt.

He operates in wider areas than Maddison and Mount, who are classic number tens, but his production is enough to warrant a part in the conversation over the prestigious individual honour if he can keep it up.