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EUROPE-BOUND

Posted on 30 April 2006  - 12:00

Martin Jol based his now fulfilled ambitions of qualifying for European competition next season on our young players delivering - and he has not been disappointed.

Martin Jol based his now fulfilled ambitions of qualifying for European competition next season on our young players delivering - and he has not been disappointed.

We can now finish no lower than sixth place with two games remaining in the campaign and, should six points be gathered from games against Bolton and West Ham, a fourth place finish will be assured.

Already, our highest placing since the advent of the Premier League is guaranteed and our current points total of 62 is ten points in advance of last season's tally. The players have achieved a commendable level of consistency, unbeaten sequences have spread over the course of the fixture list and not one back-to-back league loss has been suffered.

The Head Coach puts it down to the growing maturity of his charges.

That is development, Michael Carrick is still a young player and Jermain, JJ, Michael Dawson, Aaron and most of the others are still under 25. That was the big challenge this season, they had to come up with the goods and the big bonus is that they have done it.

I keep on saying it, but on average we have the youngest team in the Premiership.

The elegant pass-master Carrick has stood out in recent games - particularly in last weekend's derby draw where he was in the view of many the best player on the pitch - and Martin was happy to go along with that and add his own praise, but also wished to throw in the name of one Robbie Keane for a special mention.

"I have said it almost from the start, Carrick never plays hide and seek. He is good on the ball, always sees a pass and he can also nick the ball nowadays.

"You shouldn't forget the other players though, I thought Robbie Keane had probably his best match. He had to play in a slightly different role and he was always moving between the players and linking up the attack.

"Teemu Tainio played in the centre and did very well, but maybe Carrick was the best player on the pitch," added Martin, who concluded by challenging the England international to improve one area of his game.

"Carrick now realises that he can hold, start the attacks and make runs. The only thing is that he should now start scoring a lot of goals. I think five to seven goals should be easy for him."