Here we are, 2016 is over and 2017 is singing on the rocks like a tantalising siren of footballing temptation. The last 365 days have been filled with thrills and spills involving the spherical object we all spend our weekends and midweeks, and the hours in between, obsessing over, so we thought we’d get in on the tradition of looking back at some of the big events to dish out our alternative awards of 2016…
Winner: Garry Monk
He was thrust into the role of being Swansea manager in fraught circumstances, adhered to the ‘Swansea Way’ and even played for them for ten years. However, the Welsh club’s new American owners decided mild-mannered Damian Lewis lookalike, Garry Monk was not the man to take the Swans to the next level. Fast-forward several months and Monk has Leeds United playing some of their best football in over a decade and sitting 5th in the Championship table. There’s every chance he will leapfrog his former employers come May.
There are many who would relish seeing Pep Guardiola scoop this award for conveniently achieving success at already well-established teams. However, unlike Lionel Messi, he did at least let his critics know whether or not he could turn it on at the Britannia (or bet365 Stadium, as it’s annoyingly now known) on a brisk and soggy afternoon. This award firmly goes to the Portugal national team, though. England were bad at EURO 2016 but were Portugal honestly that much better? They laboured their way out of a group containing Iceland, Austria and Hungary without winning a game and didn’t emerge victorious in 90 minutes until the semi-final against Wales. Cristiano Ronaldo dragged his compatriots to the final in which he limped off amid a sea of tears and giant moths and it was left to a man deemed surplus to requirements at Swansea to snatch victory and the trophy, again, in extra time. Poor team, poor performances, brilliant captain.
Winner: Bob Bradley
Bob Bradley at Swansea was never going to last, was it? Watching him at his first press conference, the move smacked of being ‘one of those.’ ‘One of those’ being a term I like to use to describe the likes of Pepe Mel (West Brom), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Cardiff City) and Brian Laws (Burnley). There were other contenders for this award, namely Nigel Pearson at Derby for being terrible and Nigel Pearson at Leicester for being brilliant. However, the fact that someone in the Swansea boardroom clearly saw the January transfer window looming in their diary and pulled the trigger at the thought of the chrome-domed American getting his paws on any sort of transfer kitty speaks volumes.
Winner: Sam Allardyce
You may be wondering why ‘Big Sam’ wasn’t in the running for The Golden P45? That’s because he is our recipient of manager of the year instead. In fact, we’d give him manager of the millennium if we could. He vacated the England post with a 100% win rate and is therefore the most successful Three Lions boss of all time. Fact.
Winner: Robbie Savage
Last year Michael Owen was the gift that kept on giving in terms of nonsensical sound bites but BT appear to have caved into the wave of criticism surrounding his ‘cutting edge’ analysis. “He looks like a footballer that Memphis Depay” he would suggest, “Usually the team who scores the most goals wins” he would muse. But with the microphone falling silent for Michael of late, the award must go to Robbie Savage. Anyone tucking into their Weetabix the morning after Wales’ historic defeat of Belgium will have witnessed Robert at his patriotic best. Love him or loathe him, watching him slur his way through an interview on half an hour of sleep was a joy to behold, during which he provided us with the greatest piece of commentary this year. On Hal Robson-Kanu turning three Belgium defenders: “One went for a cup of tea, one went for a coffee and one went for a pie.”
Winner: East Kilbride
The media are running out of hyperbole to describe Chelsea’s recent winning run but perhaps they should have saved it for when they achieve something truly remarkable like, say, East Kilbride. You may not have heard of them, but Ajax certainly have. It was their world record of 26 straight victories record – standing since 1972 – that was well and truly smashed by the Lowland League side from Lanarkshire, Scotland. The feat seems doubly impressive when you consider that a team boasting a club crest that looks like it was composed on Microsoft Paint achieved it.
Winner: Papu Gomez
Many contenders for this one: Jurgen Klopp for signing the poster boy of everyone’s Premier League 1998 Merlin Sticker swap pile; Alex Manninger, at the age of 39. Will Grigg, for inspiring the greatest fan chant since that Yaya/Kolo Toure one and forcing his way onto the ‘Team of EURO 2016’ shortlist despite playing zero minutes of football and Claudio Ranieri for winning the Premier League with a 4-4-2 formation. Despite these commendable efforts, the award must go to Atalanta’s Papu Gomez who is known in Italy for sporting an eclectic range of captain’s armbands. He outdid himself earlier this month by donning one emblazoned with a picture of a PlayStation One alongside the original (and entirely fictional) Master League line-up from the Pro Evolution Soccer games of the early noughties. Stunning.
Winner: Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere is currently in the process of rebuilding his career on the South Coast after several seasons laden with injury. When one of our award winners, Garry Monk, was appointed manager of Leeds back in June, he was the club’s SIXTH coach since young Jack last completed 90 minutes of football. A damning reflection on the reckless running of Leeds or Jack Wilshere’s injury woes? Sadly, both.
Winner: Michael Oliver
At 31-years old, Premier League referee Michael Oliver is far too old to be sporting tramlines in his hair. What he was trying to tell us with his garnish barnet remains a mystery. Was he auditioning for N-Dubz? Is he an admirer of year-7 pupil fashion trends? We think it must be a mid-life crisis. Don’t be too quick to judge, though, I’m currently sat here donning a Kappa tracksuit, a Von Dutch baseball cap and a pair of Air Jordans.