With the greatest sporting competition in the world only a couple of days away – that’d be the World Cup 2010, North America – it seems only right that we deliver our customary end of season Ruthless Awards. With about 48 hours to spare. Proper journalists who get paid for this shit and bloggers with no lives – we’re somewhere between the two and doing just fine, since you ask – did theirs months ago, but hey, it’s not like you’re paying for it.
Now, on with the show. And the winners are…
RUTHLESS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DARIUS VASSELL
This year, Lionel Messi was busy winning everything by redefining what can be done with a ball at your feet – alright, he basically dribbled past everyone who tried to tackle him and scored lots, but he did it really well – and Wayne Rooney dragged an ailing Manchester United team to within a point of the Premier League title, artificially inflating every gullible Englishman’s hopes for the World Cup in the process.
This year, Darius Vassell moved to Turkey. A top flight squad player for Manchester City and Aston Villa best known for putting in a couple of decent international shifts for Sven Goran Eriksson, except for that one where he shanked the penalty that led to their elimination from Euro 2004. Still, you can’t criticise English footballers for missing penalties: that’s like criticising them for being thick, racist and/or rapists. It’s just who they are.
Somehow, Vassell is still only 29. It turns out that’s when the midlife crisis alarm goes off if you’re a footballer. So, rather than start the slide into moving from one top flight relegation candidate to another during his autumn years, Vassell packed his bags and left for Ankaragücü, who no one knows anything about – him included, it turns out. They’re a Turkish side who aren’t Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray or Beşiktaş, basically. Yeah, we were surprised to remember three teams we’d actually vaguely heard of, too.
What followed was the kind of existential breakdown a normal person might read about in novels by depressed Frenchmen when they’re at university, or involuntarily suffers when they try to watch reality TV. He kept a blog, which contained such revelations as them speaking Turkish in Turkey, no one running a football club knowing what the hell they are doing and him living out of a hotel, from which he was summarily evicted after the club didn’t pay his rent. He arrived to a hero’s welcome and became a fan favourite, for those obvious but slightly demented reasons. Last time we checked he was hoping to stick around, but for a different club. Because that still beats earning £20k a week and living in the Midlands, apparently.
Michael Owen, for throwing away what little credibility he had left by signing for Liverpool’s biggest rivals, looking out of his depth in top-two side and getting injured. The footballing equivalent of holding a hand grenade in your mouth and pulling the pin, he somehow managed to make even that look boring.
THE PFA AWARD FOR BEING A CUNT EVEN BY THEIR STANDARDS: JOHN TERRY
In undoubtedly the most fiercely contested award, it takes a special kind of obliviousness and arrogance – in place of drive and determination – to take the prize. John Terry managed it by shagging his teammate’s gold digging whore baby-momma, giving her 20 grand to cheer herself up after he made her get an abortion and accepting Fabio Capello’s subsequent decision to strip him of the England captaincy with no dispute only so as not to lose his place entirely. Then lifting the Premier League and FA Cup trophies by playing in a back four with three players markedly better than him.
Granted, if you give anyone with no functioning left side brain cells millions of pounds and blow smoke up their arse for having very well co-ordinated feet their entire adult life, you’re going to end up with at least a few physically fit and very rich psychopaths on your hands. Still, Terry continues to bring a little extra to the table: accused by everyone who could lip read and everyone in the press with a pair of bollocks (that’ll be no one, then) of being sent off for racially abusing Ledley King two seasons ago, he now gets to partner King in defence for the duration of the World Cup, with everybody acting like it never happened.
His other victim, Wayne Bridge, refused to do the honourable thing and deck him, preferring not to shake his hand when he lined up against him for Man City and withdrawing from the England squad until further notice. Still, at least Terry apologised to him in writing, even if he didn’t realise it.
THE LIVERPOOL AWARD FOR SHITTING THE BED: LIVERPOOL
Following last year’s award for throwing away the title, Liverpool improved on it the only way they knew how: finishing seventh.
The trouble arguably started last year, when now-sacked manager Rafael Benitez tried to replace one half of their midfield fulcrum, crack long-ball passer and German substitute teacher lookalike Xabi Alonso, for the older and shitter Gareth Barry, on account of the fact that their narcissistic loon of a captain quite liked Barry and, well, he’s the second-best defensive English midfielder in the world right now, provided you don’t count Owen Hargreaves – easy not to, really, seeing how he’s actually Canadian – and the aforementioned Steven Gerrard, who wouldn’t do anything as uncouth as hold the line or put in a few tackles these days, now that he can race down the middle and punt shots, passes or whatever the fuck they’re supposed to be over Fernando Torres’ head and into the stands.
Anyway, Alonso was sold to Real Madrid for £30m last summer, Barry went to Manchester City and Liverpool fans spent this season implicitly empathising with Arsenal supporters by trying to delude themselves that whatever lightweight replacement trotted out in place of their talisman would come good any day now, as soon as he learned to pass, run and tackle better and gain 20lbs.
Add to the mix two clueless owners who hate each other and have saddled the club in unmanageable debt, some decent players aging past the point of effectiveness and David Ngog and you’ve got the inevitable trainwreck of this season. The low point was arguably them getting dumped out of the FA Cup by a Reading team fighting for their lives in the second tier, but in truth there were quite a few to choose from.
Still, short of getting relegated next season they probably won’t bag this award three years in a row.
THE OFFICE SPACE AWARD FOR WORKING SMART, NOT HARD: CARLO CUDICINI
A few years ago, Carlo Cudicini was one of the top three goalkeepers in the Premier League and had the Opta stats to prove it. Then Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea, gave him and new signing Petr Cech each a blank slate and… well, it was shitty luck for Carlo that Cech turned out to be amazing, despite only being in his early 20s at the time. Typically, goalkeepers don’t peak until about 10 years after that. Or, if you’re David James… actually, we’ll get back to you on that one. Anyway, Cudicini’s response was simple: realise I’m not number one anymore, get bribed into taking millions to sit on the bench by my new billionaire boss, and stop caring or trying.
After a few years of mysteriously being injured every time Cech was ruled out, leaving Portuguese chancer Hilario to dick about in their place, he confusingly stopped the money-grubbing on the eve of his eligibility for a testimonial and moved across town to Spurs. They’d just signed a lemon in the form of Heurelho Gomes, a man who couldn’t catch a cross if you gave him a supersized lacrosse racket and all afternoon. Needless to say, this was all the incentive history needed to repeat itself and Gomes suddenly found some form. Cudicini, meanwhile, took things to a new level by crashing his motorbike, breaking both his wrists in the process. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but in all fairness he could’ve probably been declared fit with his two broken wrists for all the actual playing he does these days.
THE SPORTSWEAR GIANT AWARD FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS: EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR
Only rich people, the mentally disabled and the very lazy have never had a job they hated. Emmanuel Adebayor just might be all three, which makes it an extra special credit to him that he’s won this award.
‘Adey’ ditched Arsenal in the summer – the club that discovered him, nurtured his talent by playing him alongside Thierry Henry in his prime and, most importantly, saved him from playing his club football in fucking France – for the mercenary revolution going on at Manchester City. He did this not because he’s an avaricious bastard, you understand – oh, wait he did. Apparently on being told he wasn’t going to get parity with Henry’s final pay day at the club – y’know, the one he got after becoming their all-time top scorer – he cried foul and stormed out in a huff.
This led to a bad-tempered reunion when Arsenal visited Man City early in the season, where he somehow managed to come off as briefly inspirational. In addition to almost scalping former team-mate Robin van Persie – he of unproven rape allegations and glass ankles fame – by trying to tackle his frontal lobe, he inevitably scored as Arsenal capitulated and Man City granned an upset. His goal celebration was to run the length of the pitch and celebrate in front of the away support, getting himself pelted with hamburgers and mobile phones and nearly sparking a mini-riot.
It doesn’t matter that he was entirely in the wrong, totally delusional and that he’ll probably be put out to pasture by City when they sign someone better this summer: who hasn’t ever wanted to stick it to a former employer like that?
THE KRAMER VS KRAMER AWARD FOR TEAMWORK: REAL MADRID
Never ones to dodge our politically correct, quota-filling duties, the last award of the night is a concessionary trinket tossed off to someone not playing their club football in the Premier League. This year it goes to the people’s fascists’ club, if you’re a Spaniard: Real Madrid.
This season, Real took a year off from being lamentable bullies who strongarm millions of taxpayers’ money out of the local government to concentrate on spunking hundreds of millions of Euros in the transfer market instead. Kaka was the most expensive player for a few days, then they signed Cristiano Ronaldo, who was followed by Xabi Alonso for £30m and some full-back from Liverpool who us and them have already forgotten. Oh, and French striker Karim Benzema for €35m, who scored eight goals. The last player Madrid had who was so blatantly surplus to their preferred starting XI, Wesley Sneijder, this year had to settle for being the heartbeat of the Inter Milan team who won every major club competition they entered.
Anyway, back to what Real Madrid did: second in the league, no Copa del Rey and dumped out of the Champions League before the quarter finals for the sixth year in a row. Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín were their two top scorers, but had combined for only three goals at the time of their Champions League elimination. The owner still picks the team, the manager has no job security and the star players have their egos overinflated by the pomp and ceremony of it all. It just goes to show that if you throw enough cash at a wall, none of it will stick. Tune in this time next year for how they fucked up having Jose Mourinho as manager.
That’s all, folks!