RUTHLESS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: STEPHEN IRELAND
He didn’t win anything or even play for anyone good, but there are plenty of reasons to crown Stephen Ireland Ruthless Player Of The Year 2009. First off, he was the best player on a Manchester City side that was somehow more shoddily and expensively assembled than last season’s, two years into their acquisition by a Sheik with too much time and money on his hands. Ireland, fittingly, cost the club nothing and has been there since he was a trainee.
Secondly, this was the first season Ireland consistently grabbed headlines for being a midfield dynamo and not lying about the death of both grandmothers, one after the other, to avoid international duty for reasons probably unknown to even himself. He’s a mad bastard prone to driving around in a pimped out 4×4 with neon pink rims and a matching My Little Pony dangling from the rear view mirror, when he’s not showing his skilful shirker of a team-mate Robinho what it means to turn up and play every week.
Thirdly, he’s due an award but hasn’t had one. He lost out on the PFA Young Player Of The Year Award to Aston Villa’s Ashley Young, who had a great season but didn’t really do anything better than Ireland other than be English and not have a terrible tattoo of a pair of wings covering his entire back.
Finally, just like Ruthless Reviews 3.0, Ireland has shown that rebirths are possible, even when the man behind it is as brilliant as he is, well, let’s be polite and say ‘flawed’. So for that, Stephen, we salute you.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AWARD FOR ARROGANCE: DIDIER DROGBA
Drogba’s outburst after his team, Chelsea, were robbed of at least two penalties and promptly dumped out of Europe by a last minute goal from Barcelona has been documented everywhere, with everyone seemingly missing the point as to why it was offensive.
In a nutshell, football fans hate Chelsea. They hated them for being racist thugs with dirty players before their shady Russian owner showed up and bought two league titles; they hated them afterwards for doing it. The sense of bewildering entitlement that their players carry around with them has, inevitably, become their undoing as managers rarely last more than a season.
When Drogba lost the plot and started swearing into a TV camera that he went and found about how fucking disgraceful their elimination was, he handily glossed over the fact that half his team had, as usual, been screaming in the face of the bollock-free referee during the game in a manner that would’ve resulted in a flurry of red cards, had the official decided to grow a pair. Also, given the 120 minutes of tedious anti-football Chelsea had consigned themselves to in an effort to beat the best passing side in the world, everyone watching should have been allowed to scream in the faces of Drogba and his fellow excuses for footballers that night.
The most surprising thing about it was that a player who’s pissed and moaned about his big money move that granted him fame, fortune, and medals every season since joining Chelsea from French nobodies Marseille actually looked like he gave a shit after the final whistle for once.
THE DEPENDS AWARD FOR SHITTING THE BED: LIVERPOOL
It was bound to happen, really. Liverpool, previously the most successful English team of all time, haven’t won a league title for two decades. In Rafael Benitez, they’ve got a manager skilled in picking his way through and punching above his weight in European club competition, but when Liverpool bossed the first half of the season all right-minded football fans watched through their fingers.
With only two match-winners in their whole squad, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, they struggle to be taken seriously as a major footballing force at the best of times these days, having to settle for a mild sense of injustice following them around when a team with donkeys like Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan can win Europe’s highest club competition, as they did when they smashed and grabbed the Champions League in 2005.
Topping the table and never having slipped below third place halfway through the season at Christmas, they kicked off 2009 by drawing nil-nil with freshly promoted Stoke, who tend to play human Battleship rather than any recognizable form of football when they’re out on the pitch. It was the latest of a string of easy matches they should’ve won, which allowed Manchester United to finally nip past them and stay there for the remainder of the season.
Just as it was all about to go gloriously tits-up, Benitez appeared at a news conference with his now-famous dossier of evidence, showing how, in his mind, Man United had an unfair advantage in the league when they weren’t faking the moon landing, assassinating JFK and inventing Swine Flu. Looking on as a still-talented manager completed his transformation into another clichéd, paranoid Scouser – presumably by osmosis – it was all a bit like watching this guy talk about wrestling:
THE JS MILL AWARD FOR SERVICES TO THE COMMON GOOD: NEWCASTLE UNITED
Unlike Liverpool fans, Newcastle supporters know that their team has been a joke for years. To illustrate this point, I shall quote a perfect explanation of a team who’ve won nothing for over 50 years but persist in calling themselves a ‘big club’ from one of their supporters, who posts in the hallowed Ruthless Kickball Forum.
Otaku Joe says:
My team, Newcastle Utd, is the team to support for the following reasons:
1. Never ever boring as something is always going on at the club.
2. That something is seen by everyone else as a major crisis.
3. Our last chairman [Freddie Shepherd] had a thing for big titted-blonde Spanish lesbians and he told the whole world about it [in a sting by one of the British tabloids]. Howz that for chutzpah?!
4. Last chairman [Shepherd, again] was a thieving cunt who paid for his brothel trips with my fucking season ticket money.
5. We have a new manager on average every six months.
6. Masochistic? We are definitely the club for you. See our recent games versus any of the top four scum [Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea].
7. We are the northernmost English Premier League club [not anymore, keep reading] therefore we have a “them and the rest are just wankers” mentality.
8. You can never, ever be accused of being a glory-hunter.
9. The women who support the club have the sexual voracity of Rottweilers – or so I’ve been told.
10. We are managed by a foul-mouthed cunt [Joe Kinnear] from his hospital bed [sadly not anymore, as he’s sacked/better now].
11. Fact: We have the best football strip on the planet.
12. Fact: We are a band of brothers descended from Norse rapists.
13. Due to the nature of the club you will always be on the verge of being a very pissed drunkard.
14. If you are a manic depressive -welcome home.
15. Any homosexual tendencies? We always take it up the arse, so you’ll fit right it.
16. The media hate us as they think it’s too far to come up north to watch the game.
17. The media are always talking about us.
18. Now owned by a chairman [Mike Ashley] who just lost 2 billion on the bingo.
19. You can sing “If you see a glory-hunter, clap your hands!” with gusto.
20. No matter how bad you think it can get, you’re always wrong. It gets worse.
If that sounds like a soap opera it’s, well, you get the idea…
In a new era of irresponsible spending and terrible business decisions, Newcastle led the pack in the top flight this season. A club stocked with overpaid rejects from across the globe was dragged down by a self-made man who clearly got lucky making his riches, only for it to run out in drastic fashion.
With the likeable characters and flashy, attacking football of Kevin Keegan’s (first) reign as manager in the ’90s long gone, Newcastle United stopped being everyone’s second favourite club and turned into the oikish, obnoxious problem child of the Premier League a while ago. Unsurprisingly, hiring their recently retired all-time top goalscorer, management novice and all round arrogant prick Alan Shearer, didn’t cut it and this year, every neutral football fan got one of their permanent wishes granted: to see an established top flight club get relegated. As for a ‘fire sale’ of Newcastle’s best players, it’ll probably end up resembling a jumble being flogged out of a car boot.
THE ZACK DE LA ROCHA AWARD FOR SPEAKING YOUR MIND: CARLOS TEVEZ
Carlos Tevez looks like a werewolf, runs around like he needs his shots and just might be a world class second striker. After a dodgy deal initially sent him to play for mid-table wideboys West Ham, Tevez looked to have finally got a fair shot with his move to Manchester United on loan two years ago. Problem was, they already had Wayne Rooney; a player in the same mould who is slightly younger, slightly better and a lot more English.
Having finally gotten sick of being shunted out the team by chances like Anderson and inconsistent performers like Dimitar Berbatov, towards the end of this season Tevez finally had enough. He kept quiet, stayed professional, ignored his bleating, parasitic agent and made every effort to keep working hard and sign a permanent deal at the club for the start of next season.
Man Utd responded with typical big team arrogance: no sustained starts on the pitch and dicking around and postponing new contract talks off it, in a transparent bid to run down his transfer price, something the player has no control over.
So now he’s politely told them to fuck off and is going to sign for their crosstown rivals, the newly mega-rich Manchester City. City are a shit team with an imbalanced squad and have egregious owners who won’t let the manager do his job. Still, they’ll pay Tevez £140k a week after tax and hopefully he’ll land somewhere they appreciate him as much as the blue side of Manchester will do when the shit eventually hits the fan.
THE T4 AWARD FOR AN INFERIOR SEQUEL: JOSE MOURINHO
This wouldn’t be a football article written by an English football fan if it didn’t handily ignore every other major league in the world game, so here’s a concessionary closer: Jose Mourinho transformed Chelsea into a team that pissed the league title, working for another bored billionaire owner whose ignorance and interference ultimately made his life a living hell, not least when he sided with overrated, egocentric cunts like John Terry and forced Mourinho out two years ago. This season he resurfaced in Italy and the world held its breath.
What did we get? Inter strolled to another domestic title in a race that looked like Usain Bolt vs. 17 extra-chubby renaissance pin-ups and got dumped out of the Champions League by a Manchester United team who had rings run round them by Barcelona in the final.
Sure, he managed to piss off politicians, league officials and rival managers by still being a petulant, outspoken little shit, but it just wasn’t the same. If you’re reduced to buying playmakers from third-quarter Premier league table specialists like Portsmouth as one of your closest former charges passes up the opportunity to join your revolution – Sulley Muntari and Frank Lampard, respectively – then you know you’re a big fish in a muddy puddle.
Hopefully, when he gets bored, he’ll be back.