Watching the PFA player of the year awards the other night was about as entertaining as watching the Eastenders or Hollyoaks omnibus depending on which one it is your missus insists on watching on a Sunday.
First of all there was the live ‘entertainment’ at the ceremony, which began with Gabriella Cilmi, you know the woman who brought you, erm, well that song something about not being sweet, yeah that’s the one. Well, she performed her latest ‘hit’ entitled ‘I am a woman on a mission’ or something to like that, with a team of dancers while footage of some of the nominees scoring goals was shown on a screen behind her.
The sight of Wayne Rooney power-heading the ball past a helpless ‘keeper as our Gabby warbled ‘I am a woman on a mission’ seemed ridiculously comical. Talking of comical, there was absolutely nothing comical in Jeff Stelling’s performance as presenter. His jokes went down quicker than a skinny centre forward in the penalty box – in fact that rubbish metaphor I just used was just the type of garbage Stelling was delivering with all the conviction of confessing sex-offender. It was painful stuff which only seemed to get worse as the evening progressed.
After announcing the lower league teams of the year to applause which varied from polite to disinterested to insulting, there was another live entertainment performance this time from the rifles who underlined the bizarreness of the entire proceedings by covering Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire,’ but with a football spin, so we treated to lyrics such as ‘City cash all he said was derby clash’ while pictures of the Carlos Tevez poster and Michael Owen’s injury, sorry ,Fergie-time winner were screened. There was also references to Emmanuel Adebayor’s celebration against the Gunners, and the whole ‘handshake-gate’ episode which no football reference would ever be complete without. To be fair to The Rifles their performance was fairly good and compared to Gabby’s it was at least relevant but the evening seemed to be crying out for a Peter Kay –let’s really take the p*ss out of some footballers- type comic rather than some mildly amusing football rhymes.
Talking of mildly amusing, Stelling never quite reached the dizzy heights of that but did soldier on with a smile unlike those of us viewing this at home. Lucas Radebe was next up, who was receiving the PFA Merit award, we were shown footage of Radebe, in his Leeds United heyday as well as interviews with his managers and coaches not to mention various South Africans. The only disappointment was that Nelson Mandela couldn’t come on, repeating his line from Invictus sort of : “Lucas, thank you for what you have done for this country.” To which Radebe could have replied: “No Mr. President, thank you.” Now that would have been memorable, even without Mandela the PFA could have at least tried to get Morgan Freeman.
The nominees for PFA Young player of the year were announced and this is where we really are into pantomime season. Now I’m not saying that James Milner didn’t deserve his award, but looking at the nominees only one man seemed to fit the idea of a young player- or at least one who’s not been around for five years. With Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and James Milner having about fifteen years worth of Premier League experience between them, it seems a little unfair that any of them should win the award. Surely Joe Hart who has not only had a blinding season but was also nowhere near the Premier League, when Rooney first won the award back in 2005, would have been a more deserving recipient. Milner may be young in years but in experience he’s an old pro. To be fair to Hart at least he turned up, none of the other losing nominees did. Milner and Stelling then engaged in an excruciating bit of banter, which was rescued only when the Villa man, turned the event into an ode to Martin O’Neill’s greatness, while the little Irishman looked on like a proud Director watching his Leading Actress at the Oscar’s as she gives him all the credit while collecting her Academy award.
The Premier League team of the year was announced, and had very few surprises, although perhaps Frank Lampard may think otherwise. Then it was down to business or as Jimmy Greaves, presenting the PFA player of the year award termed it: “The biggest forgone conclusion ever.” Or words to that effect, to be honest I was barely awake by now such had been the drivel of the past hour.
Wazza came up collect his award and actually did manage to raise a few laughs. Firstly by commenting how his bigger bald patch was the reason behind his large amount of headed goals. He then ensured any ideas Liverpool had of trying to beat Chelsea next weekend went out of the window by cracking that they were “chasing a Europa League place.” To all of which Stelling cracked up with just a hint of jealousy in his eye that Rooney had outdone him in the laughter stakes- almost a more difficult task than scoring 34 goals this season.
Forget the world cup, the real football showcase starts here. Remind me not to bother next year thank you very much, unless Gabriella Cilmi’s performing again, “I am a woman on a mission, ye-eah”, it’s very catchy.
Read more of Justin’s work at his excellent blog ‘Name on the Trophy’