Alternative end-of-season awards: Move over Erling Haaland and Mikel Arteta, it’s time others got prizes
Awards season is upon us, and Erling Haaland, Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola and other usual suspects are certain to sweep the board when the prizes are dished out.
There are plenty of heroes, villains and moments from the season that are also worth commemorating, however, so with help from the Standard Sport team, here are some alternative end-of-season gongs.
Alternative manager of the season
Gary O’Neil. While Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Frank and Marco Silva have all, rightly, earned plenty of plaudits already, O’Neil’s job at Bournemouth remains underrated.
When he took over on an interim basis in August, the Cherries had just lost 9-0 to Liverpool and looked like an absolute banker for the drop. O’Neil, though, has confounded expectations to comfortably guide them to safety.
Interim manager of the season
Neil Warnock. If there was ever a season for this award, it is this one and, with apologies to Frank Lampard and Cristian Stellini (not really), there is only one winner.
The 74-year-old Warnock returned to Huddersfield with the Terriers 23rd in the Championship, but closed a seven-point gap at the start of March to secure safety with a game to spare. With Roy Hodgson, 75, also working wonders at Crystal Palace, who said the age of the dinosaurs is over?
Alternative player of the season
Ivan Toney. It is no mean feat to reach 20 top-flight goals, particularly in just 33 appearances (and with a betting charge hanging over you).
In most seasons, that tally would put the Brentford striker in Golden Boot contention, although Haaland, who will surely claim a clean sweep of the actual player-of-the-season awards, is obviously way out in front, leaving the League’s other big scorers in his shadow.
Owner of the season
Tony Bloom. Brighton’s main man responded to Chelsea poaching Graham Potter by appointing an even better coach in De Zerbi. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold.
Game of the season
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal. A great side on the way up against a great side (seemingly) on the way down. Thrilling drama and chaos until the last seconds and perhaps the most decisive result in ultimately deciding the title race, given how Arsenal struggled to recover in the subsequent draws with West Ham and Southampton.
Meaningless goal of the season
Eberechi Eze vs Bournemouth. Eze’s goal in Palace’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth at the weekend came in a dead-rubber between two sides who are all but safe. A breathtaking first touch was followed by a dash and arrowed finish in a timely reminder of the 24-year-old’s quality before Gareth Southgate names an England squad this month.
Joao Palhinha. Again, Haaland is the obvious answer, but Fulham’s addition from Sporting has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and been the heartbeat of the Cottagers’ superb season under Marco Silva. They might face a battle to keep the Portuguese in the summer.
Marc Cucurella. The Spaniard has been no worse than some of Chelsea’s other big-money flops, but takes the prize because of the sheer one-sidedness of the deal to take him to Stamford Bridge from Brighton. The Seagulls pocketed an initial £56m, got the superb Levi Colwill on loan for the season and replaced the Spaniard with Pervis Estupinan for £15m. Talk about top business.
Best moment on the pitch
Reiss Nelson’s winner against Bournemouth. The last-ditch goal to complete Arsenal’s comeback felt like a potentially pivotal moment in their title push and sparked wild scenes of celebration, the like of which the Emirates Stadium had never seen before.
Best moment off the pitch
Antonio Conte’s rant. The Italian’s evisceration of his Tottenham players after they blew a 3-1 lead to draw at Southampton was compelling theatre. Conte savaged his squad’s professionalism and characters in a tirade that suggested he was desperate to be sacked. Spurs duly obliged.
From a player: “This season — and forgive my language — has been s**t.” Richarlison, saying what we were all thinking after Tottenham’s Champions League elimination by AC Milan.
From a manager: “Integrity and loyalty are big things for me, and if they are the values you live by, you have to be strong. I have been all-in here and I have asked other people to be all-in, so I can’t be the first person to run away from the ship.” QPR boss Mick Beale on why he rejected Wolves, 39 days before jumping ship for Rangers.
From an owner: “Chelsea is going to win... 3-0.” Blues co-owner Todd Boehly before their 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.