Bale collects another accolade
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Tottenham forward Gareth Bale underlined his desire to bring UEFA Champions League football back to White Hart Lane after he picked up his FWA Footballer of the Year award on Thursday.

Bale collected his Football Writers' Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year award at a star-studded ceremony in central London.

Less than two weeks ago, the Spurs star won the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year gongs after scoring a remarkable 30 times for club and country.

Bale first burst on to the scene two seasons ago with two stunning performances against Inter Milan, but he has had to settle for UEFA Europa League football ever since.

Wednesday night's 2-2 draw at Chelsea left Spurs one point short of the top four with just two matches left, but Bale insists his team can edge out either Arsenal or Chelsea before the end of the season.

Shortly after collecting his award from FWA chairman Andy Dunn, Bale said: "When I first moved to the club six years ago, they showed me the plan for the club and it has obviously been a progression since then.

"The whole club wants to move in the right direction. We all want Champions League football, that's our target and it is something we can still do."

Bale's two performances against Inter may have made the world stand up and take note of his talents, but this season he has gone on to a completely new level.

The 23-year-old has flourished under manager Andre Villas-Boas, who gave a speech on stage last night in which he showered praise on his star player.

The Portuguese has allowed the former Southampton youngster to operate in a much freer role this term - something which has helped him double his previous best tally for a whole season.

More personal silverware
Bale claimed 53 per cent of the votes from Britain's football writers, pushing Manchester United marksman Robin van Persie in to second.

The FWA award has been running since 1948, when Sir Stanley Matthews was the first recipient of a long list which includes the likes of England FIFA World Cup™-winning captain Bobby Moore, the Charlton brothers, George Best through Kevin Keegan, Eric Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"It's a fantastic honour," said Bale on stage at the London Lancaster Hotel.

"It's such a massive award. I don't think it will sink in. The FWA has been fantastic. It has been a great season for me.

"I couldn't have done it without my team-mates and the manager. They have been fantastic. They have made it easier."

Bale paid tribute to his dad Frank, a school caretaker from Cardiff, who used to drive his son to Southampton's satellite academy in Bath, where he started on a journey that has now taken him to the top of the game.

Bale's excellent performances this season have led to speculation that he could join Real Madrid in the summer, although Spurs are understandably keen to keep hold of their prize asset.

When asked about his feelings towards the Premier League, Bale said: "It's the best league in the world...the pace and the physicality of it.

"I think when the foreigners come in they are surprised by how quick it is. It's one of those leagues where it excites every fan that watches it and some of the football that is being played here is the best in the world and that is why everyone watches it."

The young forward may have grabbed all the headlines and accolades this term, but he insists he is yet to reach his peak.

"Hopefully there is a lot more (to come)," the Wales international said.

"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."