Women's PFA Players' Player of the Year: Nominees

We take a closer look at the nominees for the Women's PFA Players' Player of the Year …

ENIOLA ALUKO

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Eniola Aluko
  • Club: Chelsea Ladies FC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 21/2/1987

Eni Aluko is a supremely educated young woman, who is a recently qualified sports and entertainment lawyer, for now, however, football his her number one focus.

Having gained her necessary qualifications, she says: “For the first time in eight years my double life as a striker and trainee solicitor will be on hold.

“Now I'm qualified, my plan is to put law on the backburner and give football my full attention. It coincides nicely with what is the biggest year of my football career.”

Aluko admits that being pipped to the title by Liverpool on the final day of last season was painful but believes the disappointment will serve to strengthen the resolve of her and her Chelsea teammates.

The former Birmingham and Charlton striker has represented the national sides at all levels from Under 17 and, at the age of 28, is well on course to winning 100 caps at senior level.

Her approach has won her many admirers, not least Faye White who says: “She has really developed over the last couple of years and for her to combine football with her legal studies speaks volumes about her character.

“She is such an exciting player, quick and direct, and gives defenders nightmares.”

LUCY BRONZE

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Lucy Bronze
  • Club: Manchester City WFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 28/10/1991

Lucy Bronze is the current holder of the Women's PFA Players' Player of the Year, having been voted by her peers as the standout performer in the Women’s Super League for the 2013 season.

The 23-year-old is a versatile and tenacious defender, who played an integral part of the Liverpool side that won back-to-back WSL titles in 2013 and 2014.

Bronze can play in a variety of defensive or midfield positions and has represented England with distinction from Under 17 to full international level.

In November 2014, following her second league title with Liverpool, Bronze signed for Manchester City WFC.

Her progress in the game comes as no surprise to former England captain Faye White, who stated: “She has a great attitude towards defending but is equally adept going forward and that versatility is one of a number of reasons why she has become an England regular, and such an important part of the group.”

KAREN CARNEY

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Karen Carney
  • Club: Birmingham City LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 1/8/1987

Karen Carney is enjoying her second spell with Birmingham City and was recently honoured by becoming the first woman to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

The 27-year-old, who is the youngest England international to earn 100 caps, was ‘thrilled’ to be added to a famous list of names and said at the time: “For me personally and women's football this is a big step.

"It is a bit surreal for me because I have been a lifelong Birmingham fan, so to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is a massive honour."

Carney, made her senior Birmingham City debut at the age of just 14 and helped them win the FA Women's Cup in 2012. She was twice named FA Young Player of the Year.

Carney then signed with Arsenal and experienced great success– winning the UEFA Women's Cup and all three domestic trophies. In 2009 Carney then joined Chicago Red Stars of the WPS, in the inaugural 2009 Women's Professional Soccer season, Carney started 17 games and scored twice. In 2011 Carney returned to her West Midland routes and re-signed for Birmingham City. 

Carney was the WSL’s top goal scorer in the 2014 campaign scoring eight goals, and fittingly she won her 100th England cap in front of a massive Wembley crowd against Germany last November. She is only the fourth English woman to reach that milestone and she is rightly proud to have played a big part in the development of the women’s game in this country.

“It is crazy how much the women's game has developed and how accepting people have been over the last ten years. It is nice that women's football is being acknowledged in that respect."

JESS CLARKE

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Jess Clarke
  • Club: Notts County LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 5/5/1989

Having been nominated for the FA WSL 1 Players’ Player of the award last November, Jess Clarke is in the mix again as a serious contender for the prestigious PFA award.

A serious knee injury to team-mate Ellen White gave Clarke, who has spent much of her career playing out wide, the chance to operate as the focal point of Notts County’s attack last season.

She did it with some aplomb too as County more than held their own amongst the top flight’s elite, and it is a just reward for a player who kept faith with the club when they were relocated from Lincoln.

The former Leeds United player, a Premier League Cup winner in 2010, has represented England at Under 15, 17 and 19 levels and currently has more than 40 senior caps to her name since making her full international debut under Hope Powell in 2009.

Former England colleague Faye White admires Jess not just for her footballing ability, but her athleticism and rates her as ‘the fittest player in the league’, stating: “She is incredibly fit and just keeps going when others are wilting. The fact she can maintain such a high work-rate for 90 minutes means she is always able to make an impact on the game.”

KELLY SMITH

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Kelly Smith
  • Club: Arsenal LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 29/10/1978

Kelly Smith may have called time on one of the most distinguished international careers earlier this year but, even at the age of 36, still has plenty to offer Arsenal in her third spell with the club.

The Gunners captain represented England 117 times during a 20-year international career and is her country's all-time leading scorer with 46 goals; an honour she took over from Karen Walker in 2010.

It was with a heavy heart that she chose to pass on the baton to concentrate on her club commitments, and she said at the time: “I have made the toughest decision of my career to retire from international football.

“I feel exceptionally proud and honoured to have played for England for 20 wonderful years. I have enjoyed every single minute of representing my country and wearing the England shirt.”

Now back with the Arsenal ‘family’, her passion continues to burn as bright as ever, and she adds: “I remain totally committed to playing for my club and continuing to develop as a coach.”

Few people in the game know Kelly better than her former Arsenal and England colleague Faye White, who says: “She is still our main player and, almost single-handedly, has won big games with her goals.

“She might be coming towards the end of her illustrious career, but she still has the same passion; still has the same drive; and still has the same impact on the team, and the players who look up to her.”

JI SO-YUN

  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year Nominee: Ji So-Yun
  • Club: Chelsea LFC
  • National Team: Korea Republic
  • DOB: 21/2/1991

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes reckons it won’t be long before her star turn Ji So-Yun adds the World Player of the Year crown to her growing collection of personal awards.

The South Korea international enjoyed a fine debut season in England after joining Chelsea from Japanese side Kobe INAC Leonessa last year.

Having been named FA WSL 1 Players’ Player of the Year at the FA Women’s Awards Last November, after helping Chelsea to second place in the top league, she is now in contention for the PFA’s own prestigious award.

And, according to her coach, the talented midfielder - nicknamed the ‘Korean Messi’ by fans in her homeland - has the potential to reach the pinnacle of women's football.

"She has only just scratched the surface," says Hayes. “She is at the development age and I think she has to get a little tougher in 1v1 battles and improve the speed of her decision-making.

"But in time I think she'll do all of that and as I’ve said before, if she keeps working at it I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she is World Player of the Year."

Ji was the joint-highest assist maker in FA WSL 1 last season but Hayes insists the best is yet to come from a talented player who was her country’s youngest ever goalscorer at 15, and has gone on to win more than 60 caps for South Korea.