BALE HUMBLED TO JOIN FWA “LEGENDS”Photography: Action Images
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Tottenham midfielder Gareth Bale revealed he felt humbled to have taken his place among the "legends" of the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year.
The Wales international, 23, topped the poll of journalists for 2012/2013 with a narrow victory over Manchester United forward Robin van Persie, who was last year's recipient when at Arsenal.
Bale's 25 goals in all competitions have helped take Andre Villas-Boas men into the quarter-finals of the Europa League and kept them in the race to secure a return to the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League.
The FWA accolade has been running since 1948, when Sir Stanley Matthews was the first recipient of a long list which includes the likes of England World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore, the Charlton brothers, George Best through Kevin Keegan, Eric Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Christiano Ronaldo.
"When you look at all of the past winners, the legends of the game, this is a massive honour, and to be on the list with them now is a massive privilege," Bale said as he received his award from FWA chairman Andy Dunn, chief sports writer for the Sunday Mirror ahead of a gala dinner at the Lancaster London Hotel on May 9.
"You always dream of things like this, whether they come true or not is another, but now that it has, it is a massive achievement for me, but one I could have not done without my team or my manager.
"The team has been fantastic this season and we have played some very good stuff, it is always easier to play in a really good team.
"The manager has been fantastic for me, playing me in different positions where I am able to find the space and actually show my stuff. "I have really enjoyed my football and been able to play well."
Bale was also named Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers' Association.
"Hopefully there is a lot more (to come)," the Wales forward added.
"I have only just started in my new free role in the middle, so there is still a lot to learn in that position for me, I still need to kind of figure out a few things which is important.
"As I say to myself every season, I want to improve again, there are still things I need to improve, there are things which need working on in more areas than others, and I can do that."
Chelsea's Juan Mata was third in the journalists poll, with Bale taking the first place with 53% of the votes ahead of Van Persie. Bale becomes Spurs' first winner of the FWA award since David Ginola in 1999, and the first Wales international to be selected for English football's oldest individual trophy since Everton's Neville Southall in 1985.
Tottenham head into the final two games of the Premier League season still hopeful of securing a top-four finish.
Bale said: "Everyone at Tottenham still believes, we know it is not in our hands, but there are a lot of funny things which can happen in football.
"The main thing is we need to concentrate on ourselves and hope that little bit of luck goes with us."
Click Here to read & watch what Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas had to say about Gareth Bale, the 2013 FWA Footballer of the Year.
FWA Chairman Andy Dunn, of the Sunday Mirror, felt Bale was a deserved winner of the 2013 Footballer of the Year trophy.
"In a contest for votes which took so many late twists and turns, this young man's penchant for the spectacular captured the imagination," he said.
"Gareth is a player who is rising inexorably towards thte rarefied levels of world stars such as Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo.
"Twice the PFA Player of the Year and now, still some two months before his 24th birthday, the 2013 FWA Footballer of the Year.
"Let's hope he lights up the Barclays Premier League for many seasons to come."
Gareth Bale: Footballer of the Year 2013
Words: Jim van Wijk, FWA National Committee