And so, another season gets consigned to the history books. While shoddier organizations like the PFA and the Football Writer’s Association hand out their own boring end of season awards, Backpage Football offers you a somewhat alternative assessment of the English Premier League’s talking points over the last 9 months of action.
Game of the season
Winner: Manchester United 4:3 Manchester City. No surprises here really, exciting and all as the season was, no other games were able to come close to matching this one in terms of drama, importance and excitement. Michael Owen achieved hero status early in his United career with a beautifully applied finish deep into injury time to break City hearts after their team battled back from going behind no fewer than three times.
Rumours of Gary Neville trying it on with Owen in the showers afterwards remain suspiciously unquashed by the Old Trafford press office.
Runner Up: West Ham 3:2 Wigan Athletic. No clear options for this one really, The 4-4′s of Arsenal-Spurs and Liverpool-Arsenal last season were sorely missed. In terms of what was at stake, this was a big win for the Hammers with Scott Parker’s late goal prompting a massive sigh of relief all around the Boleyn Ground, not least in the dugout. Apologies for lack of footage, it seems the Premier League has clamped down on my usual sources lately. Bastids.
Goal of the season
Runner-Up: Maynor Figueroa (Wigan) vs. Stoke. Touch of the Beckhams about this effort. Take a bow son. God, I hate that phrase.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Huddlestone vs Bolton, Ashley Cole vs Sunderland, Steven Gerrard vs Burnely, Nani vs Tottenham.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Heurelho Gomes. Although green shoots of recovery were appearing in his Spurs career last season, Gomes’ form this this time round has been nothing short of excellent and he is no longer anywhere near being the weak link and easy media target like he used be. Some of his saves over the course of Spurs run in against Arsenal, City and Chelsea were sensational.
Runner-Up: Gareth Bale. Like Gomes, Bale enjoyed a torrid beginning to his career in North-London. The butt of one of the most popular stats in Premier league history (so popular I won’t even repeat it one more time) his form this season, especially toward the business end has been outstanding, setting alarms ringing in some of the top club offices of the country before signing a new deal at White Hart Lane last week.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Zamora. When the ball hits your head, as you sit in Row-Z, it may no longer be Zamora. The one time donkey has played his way into World Cup contention this season with a string of fine performances and a sackful of goals.
Weirdest moment of the season
Winner: The John Terry – Wayne Bridge handshake saga. Never before has there been such frenzied build up to the usually most boring of pre-game formalites. Newspapers, websites, TV shows and news channels speculated all week in anticipation of the briefest of encounters between the pair and for some reason, almost everyone, me included, was captivated by it all. It all seems a little pathetic now and probably should have done more so at the time.
Runner-Up: The Liverpool beachball fiasco. What the hell was that doing there? An already bizarre event was made even stranger when news broke that the offending item was bought as part of the £15 Official Liverpool FC beach set in the club shop and tossed on merrily by a soon to be infamous young scouse scoudrel. Pool fans must have known there and then that it wasn’t to be their season.
Honorable mention: That guy brushing his teeth in Stamford Bridge during the Chelsea v Manchester United game. No idea. Not a clue.
Winner: Mick McCarthy. It took an awful lot of stones to send out a reserve team against Manchester United and make no bones about saying that your focus was on the impending six-pointer against your relegation rivals. While Alex Ferguson wasn’t complaining, the bosses of rival clubs certainly were.
McCarthy endured a torrid few days of news coverage, criticism and finally a suspended fine from the FA but his side’s victory over Burnley justified every bit of it.
Had his side lost, who knows if their survival would have been as straightforward and Micko’s seat not filled by someone else?
Runner-Up: Alex McLeish’s moves to persuade Mark Hughes to part with Joe Hart for the season proved inspired. Although the young goalkeepers qualities were well recognised there was still some uncertainty as to whether Hart, in conjunction with an awfully shaky looking back four would be the right choice for a club whose sole ambition was to stay afloat. How did that work out then? Hart should realistically be England’s number one off the back off this seasons performances.
Winner: Hull City appointing Iain Dowie as “management consultant”. In Hull’s defense, they didnt have much cash to bandy around but surely there were better options out there than serial relegation artist Dowie.
How bad a job must Phil Brown have been doing?
Runner-Up: Burnley appointing Brian laws as manager. Okay, Owen Coyle screwed them over but Burnley’s choice to bring in Deloitte and Touche to carry out an audit to see what available manager had the best results to money available ratio smacked of cheapness. Proof, if even needed, that accountants should not be allowed run football clubs.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Yorke (presuming he dressed himself). Even in the 70′s that suit/shirt/tie combo would have been seen as as being a little much. It hurt my eyes.
Handbags of the season
Winner: Tony Pulis v James Beattie, Location: Emirates Stadium showers. How could there be any other winner after reports of the generally mild-mannered Pulis landing a naked noodle buster on Beattie over a cancelled Christmas party?!
No picture here readers, it’s for everyones good.
Runner-Up: Jimmy Bullard v Nick Barmby, Location: Local Park, attendance: 50-100 Members of local Women’s institute. Nicely done fellas.
Surprise Performance of the Season
Winner: Birmingham City. No place for Fulham here, (seeing as this is a Premier League look-back) so the place goes to the other team whose performances have taken every one by surprise. As Alex McLeish cracked out his cheque book last summer to sign two championship centre-halves many could have been forgiven to predict a swift return for messrs Johnson and Dann when Birmingham would inevitably belly flop back down 10 months later. Instead the pair formed a rock solid partnership and played no small part in turning St. Andrews into a fortress of sorts as the Blues cruised to a top half finish.
Runner-up: Luis Nani. Afer coming out of retirement, Stephen Carr’s performances for the afore-mentioned Birmingham City were mightily impressive but as comebacks go has there been anyone to so conclusively play himself out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s bad books (and transfer list) quite like Nani? Coming out and slating Sir Alex seemed like career suicide for the young Portuguese man and few United fans could have cared less. Somehow however, Nani began to find some of the form that brought him to United in the first place and finished the season with three goals (two of which were hugely important) and ten assists and is now generally like by all around Old Trafford. His position is safe for long more it seems.
Flop of the season
Winner: Stewart Downing. Maybe a little harsh but with 24 appearances and only two goals and one assist to your name, one may find it hard to justify a £12m price tag. Its not so much that Downing does much wrong, it’s more that he just seems to do nothing at all.
Accusations levelled at Martin O’Neill that he signed the wrong Middlesbrough left midfielder (for more money) seem more accurate every time Adam Johnson takes to the field for Manchester City.
Runner-Up: Jason Scotland. I don’t care that he only cost £2m. A striker signed in July that gets his first league goal the following April (it was a mis-hit as well from what I can remember) is the definition of a flop.
One of the few players in the Wigan squad who may have enjoyed relegation, just so he could fit in with his championship standard opponents once more.
“Honorable” Mentions: Liverpool Football Club, Dimitar Berbatov (I really didn’t want to have to say this one, but the last few months were actually a little sad to watch), Maxi Rodriguez, West Ham United.
Winner: There may not be a single person out there who hasn’t seen this yet, but Chris Kamara missing a sending off at Fratton Park while covering the game for Soccer Saturday remains top quality viewing. Gets me every time.
Runner-Up: To be honest, I’m kind of stuck here. Good job Kammy’s was so funny. If you can think of any leave your suggestion in the comment box below!