Eight by Eight writers and editors share their picks after a wild season winds to its end
So, this is it: the final weekend of the 2014/15 football season. Has it been a classic? Probably not. Before we abandon our footballing brains and figure out something else to with our time (yes, okay, it’s not that bad: there’s still MLS, the Women’s World Cup, and Copa America), some reminiscing is in order. Without any political decisions factoring in, or interruptions from Kanye West, Eight by Eight brings you a motley crew of awards for the 2014/15 season.
The Jerry Springer award
Awarded to the player or manager who suffered the most dramatic season
By Sam Dunning
Every football season has its share of drama—rants about facts, food fights, the odd managerial headbutting, that sort of normal thing. While this season may not have reached the dramatic highs of Kevin Keegan’s infamous “I’d love it!” speech, there have been enough sly, and some wonderfully blatant, digs and quarrels to keep us entertained while we wait for next Saturday to come around.
Special mentions go to John Terry for quietly resurrecting 2012/13’s mostly forgotten beef with Rafa Benitez, and the dramatic duo of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. This season added to their long standing feud with Mourinho dubbing Wenger “a specialist in failure” and the two literally squaring up on the touchline during this season’s game at Stamford Bridge.
However, the award for the most Jerry Springer-esque season can only go to one man, Nigel Pearson! Like all good Jerry Springer episodes Pearson’s season included a verbal bust up, physical confrontations, a dramatic late twist and of course, a happy resolution. In one season Pearson managed to juggle spats with Leicester fans (telling them to ‘go away and decease’ after defeat at home to Liverpool) and opposition players (creepily choking Crystal Palace’s James McArthur on the touchline after an accidental collision) as well as confronting many journalists, likening one to an Ostrich.
And yet despite the weird season you’ve had Nigel, it seems to have led to one of the all-time great escapes in Premier League history. So congratulations, I guess?
The Andreas Cornelius award
Awarded to the least impactful, most forgotten transfer signing
By Harry Wallace
The name of this award should make sense. Andreas Cornelius was last year’s inaugural winner, beating out Konstantinos Mitroglou on the basis that Cornelius somehow got himself embroiled in the Vincent Tan/Malky Mackay controversy.
This year, Brown Ideye was the frontrunner until a quite unfortunate spasm of form. Other notable mentions go to often injured and always ancient Matthew Upson of Leicester City, and Saphir Taïder, who was very briefly of Southampton. However, it is a former teammate of Ideye’s that will pick up the award—a certain Mr. Georgios Samaras!
West Brom signed Samaras on a free transfer from Celtic, but new manager Tony Pulis waved his transfer scythe through the club, to which Samaras was a victim. The Greek international donned a West Brom strip on a mere five occasions and didn’t hit the back of the net in any of them. Samaras did all this while earning a healthy wage packet, which is now the burden of a Saudi Arabian club.
Congratulations to Georgios! A prestigious award to go with his Scottish League titles and silky, if somewhat greasy, flowing locks of hair.
The Most FIFA-Like Goal Award
Awarded to the goal so terrible that it’s amazing
By Ian Walker
Club football in Argentina isn’t what it used to be. Between the increasing globalization of the game taking away its best players, the systematic corruption, and—to put it mildly— the poor business practices by many of the clubs, the prime of Argentine and South American club football is well in the past. At times, it can be a burden to watch.
But there are other times when it’s so terrible that it becomes amazing. Take this goal between Lanús and Arsenal de Sarandi, for example. It comes in the ninth minute of corrupti—I mean extra time, features teammates taking each other out in the penalty area, a player shooting the ball into the chest of another one of his teammates, the goalkeeper desperately trying to wade through the sea of bodies that are preventing the ball from going in his goal, and final confirmation that shambolic defending is typical of Arsenals all over the world. They say FIFA physics are ‘unrealistic,’ but those people have never watched South American club football. Congratulations, Lanús!
The Sir Alex Ferguson Award
Awarded to the most rude post-match interviewee
By Robert Priest
Has there been any football interview in recent years to match the jaw-dropping feistiness of Louis van Gaal after Manchester United were beaten by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on April 18th?
Not since the golden days of Jeff van Gundy, the mopey, raccoon-eyed NY Knicks coach from 1996-2001, has the world seen such irritable derision. Only three months before, Van Gaal had treated us to the gloriously mangled ‘Queens Park Raisins’ in his post match comments, but after the Chelsea defeat he was in no mood for such humor.
Enter BBC’s interviewer.
BBC: Louis, do you feel unlucky not to have won today’s game?
LVG: It doesn’t matter how I feel, I think.
BBC: But on possession, and on the amount of time you spent in Chelsea’s half, would you say that you were at least as good as they were?
LVG: Huh. (shrugs) I don’t have to say it. In football it’s only counting the goals and they scored one goal. It is their first shot on the goal and, against, I believe, Crystal Palace, it was in the 90th minute, so they did it better today.
BBC: Are you frustrated by what you’ve seen?
LVG: (shocked) I am not frustrated, I am very proud of my team. Why do I have to be frustrated?
BBC: Just at losing the game…
LVG: We played the best match of the season.
BBC: Is that how highly you rate the performance, yeah?
LVG: Yeah, you don’t? (with a penetrating stare)
BBC: No, I’m just interested in how you see it…
LVG: That’s good (sarcastically)… that you are interested.
BBC: You changed things around today because you had to. Did it work as you intended it to, with Wayne Rooney back in midfield?
LVG: When I say that we played the best match of the world, and is this a rhetorical question, I think.
BBC: What about the incident at the end? Should you have had a penalty?
LVG: Then, when you want to evaluate the referee, then also you have to evaluate the first goal. And in my opinion that’s the main decision of the referee.
BBC: Are you taking issue with what you feel maybe is a foul on Falcao?
LVG: Maybe you can watch on television. A repetition. Maybe.
BBC: Do you think it was a foul on Falcao in the build-up?
LVG: Soooooo! (smiles sarcastically) You know that? (shrugs) Okay.
BBC: Thanks, Louis.
The Striker Whisperer Award
Awarded to the manager who seems to know his forwards
By Justin Block
The glory of the beautiful game is largely reserved for its goal-scorers. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge combined for 55 goals last season, but manager Brendan Rodgers surrounded his two frontmen with eight outfield players who’d get SAS the ball whenever they demanded it. Rodgers, the Premier League’s one-time expert in the way of the forward, has had his title usurped this season by an unlikely fellow: Tim Sherwood.
Appointed manager of relegation-threatened Aston Villa in February, Sherwood has rejuvenated the goal-desperate Birmingham club. Prior to Paul Lambert’s sacking and Sherwood’s hiring, Villa had managed 12 goals in 25 league games, and entered February in the midst of a ten hour match goal drought. With Sherwood at the helm, Villa have scored 18 times in 11 matches (14 from strikers), largely on the back of Belgian center forward Christian Benteke, who’d been dreadful since coming back from an achilles tear in October. Benteke’s roared into form to notch 10 goals this spring, not unlike how Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor caught fire and bagged 11 goals to end last season after (surprise!) Sherwood replaced Andre Villas-Boas as manager. Whatever the man’s sneaking into his forward’s breakfast is evidently working. (Care for a squirt of Sherwood’s Secret Stuff?) Beyond the award, this is a reality television series just dying to happen: Tim Sherwood: Striker Whisperer.
The Trend Setter Award
Awarded to, well, what it sounds like
By Robert Kehoe
You probably assume the current trend of black boots was set by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose cobalt black custom CR7s, with embedded holographic black diamonds excavated from the inner sanctum of the Playboy mansion, creating the image of Ronaldo’s face when exposed to the sun, and flexed pecks under low light. But no: It was Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi who rocked, during the 2014 World Cup, the original Adidas “World Cups,” circa 1990, all murdered out.
Next thing you know, all these posers are wearing black boots again.
The Kieran Oxlade-Chamberlain Award
Awarded to season’s cases of mistaken identity
By Jackson Culley
Of the 22 men on the pitch, there is only one man above question. One man who has absolute authority, a man whom to impugn is a punishable offense. That man is the referee, the one who wears the black (or sometimes hi-viz yellow). Like an infallible vicar of football, the referee strides the field of play dispensing true justice. He admonishes the wayward and late, punishes the sneakily wicked, benevolently plays the advantage, and to protect his flock he will banish those reckless and violent cynics who deny a goalscoring opportunity.
During the course of a season there is usually only one referee who stands above the rest as a stalwart defender of The Laws of the Game. This season the English top flight was blessed with two such men, Neil Swarbrick and Roger East. Both are gifted officials, honest enough to see through the deceptions of the mob shouting at them, attempting to sacrifice an innocent in order to protect the true and awful offender. They know what evil lurks in the hearts of men and they are prepared to do what is necessary to drive it out.
So for the sendings off of Wes Brown of Sunderland and Gareth McAuley of West Bromwich Albion we give the Kieran Oxlade-Chamberlain Award to Messrs. Swarbrick and East.