Season End Awards 06/07
RUTHLESS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Sometimes an individual distinguishes himself in such a unique way that all previous methods of appraisal are rendered obsolete. Meet Joey Barton: too good to play for perennial underachievers Manchester City, not really good enough to play for anyone else, which handily explains his move to peerless underachievers Newcastle United this summer.
Not leaving under a cloud so much as prickteasing a natural disaster in his wake, Barton’s off-field antics this year alone include: slagging off the predictable yet galling way in which the parade of prima donnas who now pass for the English national team sold book deals on the back of their impotent World Cup campaign (“I played shit, here’s my book,” was how he critiqued their collective efforts); baring his arse to Everton – his boyhood club – fans who goaded him after his brother was convicted of murder and, finally, hospitalising his teammate Ousmane Dabo during a training session, leaving Dabo temporarily unable to see out of one eye and consulting his lawyers.
This mix of supreme arrogance, savage violence and deft critical skills sees him embody everything this site stands for, so he is awarded the Ruthless Player of the Year. God knows he’s not going to win anything next season.
THE AWARD FOR SPORT PSYCHOLOGY & AMATEUR PROCTOLOGY:
MARK VAN BOMMEL
A dirty, moaning, diving bastard of the highest order, it’s almost a shame that Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel hasn’t been able conjure up footballing highs to counteract those character flaws for some time now. Having traded the most loved team in Spain (Barcelona) for the most hated team in Germany (Bayern Munich), he explained the Kraut giants’ inability to manage their standard cakewalk to the league title this season – they finished fourth and were anonymous in European competition – thusly: “We need more arseholes,” he complained, miserably unaware that he was talking out of his own.
THE DICK CHENEY AWARD FOR SERVING THE COMMON GOOD:
Regarded as a stinking No. 2 at last year’s World Cup, Steve McClaren’s ascension to England boss was the footballing equivalent of watching a game of musical chairs go badly wrong, with the last man standing somehow awarded the main prize. Tactically inept with delusions of grandeur, he’d be a fitting addition to the Bush administration, were he currently not busy assembling a multimillion-pound first XI from the richest league in the world to draw 0-0 with a minibus full of Eastern European milkmen six times a year. The way he watched the guy directly in front of him take a bullet and escape any real censure was the stuff vice presidents’ duck hunts are made of, too.
THE AWARD FOR SERVICES TO NATIONAL STEREOTYPES:
Leo Messi might look like any other skinny South American 19-year-old with a piss-poor haircut. In fact, he’s the greatest left-winger in the game right now – a point he was happy to prove when he skipped past the bulk of Getafe’s floundering defence to score for Barcelona from a run that started inside his own half. People quickly rushed to compare him with Maradona (again), to the point where he felt obligated to punch the ball into the back of the net and get away with it a few months later, thus recreating both the best and worst goals ever scored by the Argentinean legend in a single game – against England in the 1986 World Cup. If, like me, you’re English, this second goal was just as greatly appreciated as the first, as it proved conclusively that, for all their tenacity and flair, Argentineans are all cheating bastards who shouldn’t be allowed near the game that we invented, damn it. Insert you own jingoistic cheap shot about the Falkland Islands here.
THE GUNNERY SERGEANT HARTMAN AWARD FOR MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING:
As one chin-stroking Guardian columnist said of Roy Keane’s rushed appointment as Sunderland manager, “Keane made himself a great player, but was born to be a great manager.” That’s exactly the kind of romanticised, hagiographic guff Keane has railed against with a vengeance for years.
Still, its prophecy bore truth, as he took a squad of players who were languishing at the bottom of England’s second tier and turned them into league champions in just over half a season, with minimal changes to their personnel. The fact that Keane comes with a reputation for kicking his opponents’ legs in half, telling his national manager to “stick it up his bollocks” (no, us neither, but you’d still shit your pants if he said it to you) and winning everything under the sun as club captain for Manchester United has probably instilled enough fear of failure into his players to claim a few Premiership scalps next season, following their promotion. Just look at that stare, for Chrissakes.
THE ‘BUILD YOUR OWN LAZARUS COMPLEX’ AWARD:
In an industry governed by hyperbole, it takes terrible tattoos, a new hairstyle every 8 days and a trophy wife who now looks like a 33-year-old toffee apple to make it to the top. David Beckham proved all this, then felt the sharp end of a tabloid newspaper turned into a dunce’s hat by being singled out for his shit performance at the World Cup (there were 11 of them from England, at least), being dropped from the national squad and by his white elephant of a club, Real Madrid.
That was August, anyway. Since the New Year, Beckham has been riding the horse that kicked him like it was his kids’ nanny: an injury-ravaged Madrid recalled him to their first XI and saw him play, well, well, which was enough for England’s latest shyster boss to recall him to the national team. Two games, three assists and a new, really shit tattoo later, he’s a national treasure again. Agreeing to sign for LA Galaxy during his fallow period was an almighty fuck-up, but he’s now seemingly done enough to ensure that he’ll be basking in the kudos of playing on the world stage, in between Americans’ trying to figure out who the hell he is, for a few years yet.