The Premier League Awards 2014

The red carpet has been swept.  The orchestra is tuning up.  The MC is nervously checking cue cards and sucking cough sweets.  Yes, ladies and gentleman, it is time for the inaugural annual alternativesportsblog Premier League Awards for outstanding achievement or underachievement for achievements achieved during the 2013/14 Premier League season (snappy title I think you’ll agree).  Sadly the winners of these prestigious awards haven’t as yet got back to us to confirm which date would be best for them to hold the actual ceremony (for England’s players, obviously any date from the start of the World Cup 2nd round), so while we await their responses (probably a problem at the sorting office or something) here are the winners.

Player of the Year: Luis Suarez

An extremely close call this one – the two outstanding players this season have been Suarez and Yaya Toure.  Toure is an outstanding talent, probably the most complete player in the world (I can’t think of anyone else who could hold his own so well in every outfield position), and I agree with him that he doesn’t have the status in world football he deserves.  His passing is immaculate, his energy relentless, his penalty taking nerveless, his free-kicks Beckham-esque, and the precision of his long range curler against Fulham was beautiful (  However, Suarez has that magical ability to make crowds gasp in amazement at some of his play.  This quality doesn’t necessarily make a great player (Adel Taarabt is by far the most talented player I’ve ever seen, and no-one thinks he should be player of the year), but this season Suarez has allied it to deadly finishing and some bewitching link-up play.  Yes he’s a bit of a prat, but, similar to Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal, his vision and style has lifted the performance of those around him, leading to some dazzling football from Liverpool’s front five this season.

Goal of the Year:

RDW: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal v Norwich)  There have been quite a few crackers this season –Wayne Rooney v West Ham and Jonjo Shelvey v Aston Villa both showcased quickness of thought and superb technique, while Alexander Tettey’s volley for Norwich v Sunderland was the sort of shot that ends of knocking over someone’s Bovril 99 times out of 100.  Pajtim Kasami’s homage a Van Basten against Crystal Palace was wonderfully controlled as was Morgan Amaltifano’s effort v Cardiff, and I’ve got a soft spot for Tomas Rosicky’s goal against Sunderland, a brilliant finish to a lovely move.  My favourite, though, is another Arsenal team goal, a bewildering move featuring Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere.  The speed of thought is astonishing as before you know it Wilshere is tapping a deceptively cute volley past John Ruddy following an evisceration rarely seen this side of a post mortem.  Even in slow motion, you can’t quite believe that Wilshere’s flick with the back of the heel to Giroud actually happened.

DDW: Pajtim Kasami (Crystal Palace vs Fulham)  I can’t believe there’s even a debate about this.  The way Kasami controls the ball on his chest and shoots first time without breaking stride beggars belief.  The fact that he had the audacity to even attempt such a shot from such an acute angle is a feat in itself.  Obvious comparisons will be made to Marco Van Basten’s goal in the 1988 European Championship final.  Kasami’s isn’t quite in that league but it more than deserves the incredible honour that is our goal of the season award.  (

Honourable Mentions:

Jonjo Shelvey Swansea vs Aston Villa (

Alexander Tettey Norwich vs Sunderland (

Jack Wilshere Arsenal vs Norwich (

Manager of the Year: Tony Pulis

If Manuel Pellegrini wasn’t such a nice bloke, you’d suspect he might be getting a bit irked at having won two trophies, in some considerable style too, yet being barely mentioned as a potential manager of the year, but the truth is such an achievement was the minimum requirement given the resources at his disposal.  Brendan Rodgers did a magnificent job at Liverpool, encouraging his team to produce some of the most exhilarating football ever seen in the Premier League, but he was either unable or unwilling to adapt his tactics for the crucial home match with Chelsea, where perhaps more patience was required.  Pulis took over a dispirited Crystal Palace side, seemingly lacking in any sort of ability and bereft of last season’s leading scorer (Glenn Murray) and best player (Wilfried Zaha), and turned them into a resilient mid-table outfit.  A bit like Stoke really.  He even managed to turn Damien Delaney (who I watched from behind my hands at QPR) into something resembling a Premier League defender, which is no mean feat.

Tosser of the Year: Jose Mourinho

As always, a hotly contested category, with Vincent Tan’s treatment of Malky Mackay, along with his appointment of the work experience boy Alisher Apsalyamov as head of recruitment, meaning he scores quite high on the tosser-o-meter, but Jose Mourinho has been constantly graceless, classless, hypocritical and generally obnoxious.  For some reason when he first arrived in English football in 2004, the press fawned all over him, lapping up his egotistical schtick.  This time round, however, he’s a little older, a little greyer, and even less likeable, with his post-match press conferences consisting of little more than poisonous barbs aimed at other managers, the FA, and referees.  It is little wonder that members of his Chelsea team (whether on the pitch or off) regularly lose control, if their manager is always behaving like a spoilt 6-year-old.

Best Match: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City

Obvious, perhaps, but a real feast of attacking football between by far the two most entertaining teams in the league.  Liverpool, as was customary in the second half of the season, started like a train, racing into a two goal lead, before a combination of David Silva’s invention and Liverpool’s defensive clusterfuckery (it’s a real word, honest) allowed City to equalise.  Momentum was with City, but, in what appeared to be a pivotal moment, Vincent Kompany sliced a clearance to allow Philippe Coutinho to score the winner.  Combined with the emotions involved with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, it was a truly unforgettable game.  Honourable mentions must go to Everton 3-3 Liverpool, Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal and the last 11 minutes of Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool.

Best Signing: Wilfried Bony

There have been several shrewd signings this season, but none with the impact of Robin van Persie or Michu from last season.  Everton bought James McCarthy, worth less than half a Marouane Fellaini apparently, who was the model of consistency, while a couple of loan signings, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku, were their most influential players.  Chelsea have done some marvellous business, re-signing Nemanja Matic (albeit for 7 times more than what they sold him for), while both Andre Schurrle and Willian look like they will have a more prominent part to play next year.  And Jason Puncheon, one penalty aside, has brought pace and creativity to an otherwise prosaic Crystal Palace attack.  Bony, however, has been utterly crucial for Swansea this season, scoring 30% of their Premier League goals, and being frankly a right pain to play against.  In another season, Swansea could have been one of those teams that are ‘too good to go down.’  They were lucky that this year’s league contained plenty of teams that were too shit to stay up.

Worst Signing: Ricky van Wolfswinkel

If there were few candidates for best signing of the season, then the shortlist for worst signing carried on to a second piece of A4.  Pretty much everyone that Liverpool signed in the summer was poor, particularly Iago Aspas and the rarely spotted Luis Alberto, while Cardiff signed Andreas Cornelius for a large fee before selling him back whence he came for a couple of welsh cakes and book of part-songs.  Fulham splurged £11 million on Kostas Mitroglou, who would apparently bang in the goals to keep them up.  He played for a grand total of 153 minutes and looked as likely to score as a spotty teenage chess player at the Miss World afterparty.  Marouane Fellaini cost Manchester United an arm and a leg, and then spent the remainder of the season wandering around the field looking utterly petrified in case he made a mistake.  All these players would be worthy winners, but van Wolfswinkel has been utterly abysmal – he fluked a goal on the first day of the season, and since then failed to contribute at all to a pretty sterile Norwich attack.  For £8.5 million, surely a little more was expected.

Goalkeeping performance of the season: Tim Krul (Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United)

Literally, and I’m not being hyperbolic here, one of the great performances of modern times.  The Dutch stopper has been one of the Toon’s most consistent performers in recent seasons, but this took the biscuit.  Spurs had 20+ shots on goal and 14 on target but still big Tim wouldn’t let them score.  One save from a Christian Eriksen free kick will live long in the memory.  And it all contributed to a smash-and-grab win for Newcastle. (

Pass of the season: Steven Gerrard (Fulham vs Liverpool)

I was watching this match in a bar in New York and I pretty much had to go and change my pants after seeing this pass.  The outside-of-the-foot technique, the vision to see Daniel Sturridge’s run, the perfect weight of pass so Sturridge didn’t have to break stride.  Even writing about it is getting me strangely aroused.  Thank god Sturridge managed to score otherwise Gerrard and I may have never forgiven him.  If you’re in bed with your partner tonight and the old magic isn’t really happening, forget Viagra.  This is all the aphrodisiac you’ll need. (

Own-Goal of the season: Kolo Toure (Fulham vs Liverpool)

Quite a few contenders here.  In terms of volume, own-goal specialist Martin Skrtel did his utmost to get the award.  Vincent Kompany also threw his hat into the ring with a finish of pinpoint accuracy and finesse that most strikers could only dream of, Fulham the beneficiaries again (  But it was Kolo Toure, good old trusty Kolo, who wins the year’s most coveted award.  And what a goal it was.  It had everything.  A daisy-cutter of a cross, absolutely no pressure on the defence, the classic comical sliced clearance that seemed beyond the realms of physics leaving the goalkeeper no chance.  Clinical Kolo.  Everything one could want from an own-goal and more.  Toure has the sort of malco-ordination that makes Bambi look like she could take on Torvil & Dean in their pomp, and god bless him for it.  He provides Premier league audiences with hours of entertainment and long may it continue. (

Worst decision of the season: Raheem Sterling offside Manchester City vs Liverpool

Not that I’m biased, but as a Liverpool fan, this was an absolutely atrocious decision and obviously completely affected the final outcome of the title.  Had Sterling not been flagged offside when he was clearly two yards onside, Liverpool would have (probably) at worst, drawn the game, Steven Gerrard wouldn’t have slipped against Chelsea, and Liverpool would have won the league at a canter.  All the fault of some poxy linesman. (

Worst haircut of the season:  Sergio Aguero

It’s tempting to give the award to Olivier Giroud because, unlike Aguero, he doesn’t have the footballing talent to back up such an outrageous barnet which made him look all the more ridiculous.  But for the short-back-and-sides-comb-over, our winner is the little Argentine striker.  As the season went on, the sides got shorter and the comb-over got more luscious – and given he spent a proportion of the campaign on the sidelines, he had plenty of time to sack his barber.  Alas he didn’t, and it seems Aguero recommended him to Southampton trio Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw.  Oh for the days of Jason Lee and his pineapple.


Relegation finally becomes reality for Wigan Athletic

How can a team who wins the FA Cup by beating the reigning Premier League Champions in the final still be one of the three worst teams in the league?  Wigan Athletic can.  The Lancashire club finally ended their 8 year stay in the top flight with an abject defeat away to Arsenal on Tuesday night.  It concludes a mad, topsy-turvy season where Wigan have been utterly terrible one week (witness the 4-0 defeat at home to Liverpool on March 2nd) and then outrageously brilliant the next week (the 3-0 victory away to Everton in the FA Cup 6th round).  In reality, Wigan aren’t the 18th best side in the Premier League; for the style of football they play and the exceptional performances they are sometimes capable of producing they should be at least three or four positions higher.  They are a much more talented side than Stoke City and Sunderland, both of whom play diabolical route-one shite, yet still manage to retain their Premier League status every year (I’ve got my fingers crossed both go down next season).  Ultimately, football is a results-based business and Wigan haven’t got enough positive ones; hence they can look forward to delightful away trips to the likes of Milwall and Doncaster.

During their 8 seasons in the Premier League, Wigan have only failed to be involved in a relegation scrap three times, the last of which was in 2008/09 – Steve Bruce’s final season in charge.  Their current manager, Roberto Martinez, is feted all over the country as one of the best young managers around, yet his team are consistently in the bottom 5 of the table every season.  Is this a performance of an outstanding young manager?  True, Martinez has a very limited budget with which to operate and has had to deal with an alarming turnover of players, but surely the club had a plan to improve long-term instead of just aiming to scrape survival every season?

One of Wigan’s major problems is their supporter base, or lack of it.  In an area with Liverpool, Everton, both Manchester clubs, Blackpool, Preston North End, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Rochdale, Oldham Athletic and Stockport County within a 40 mile radius, they are up against some stiff competition for fans and consequently, they struggle to contend with the more established clubs.  Moreover, Wigan is predominantly a Rugby League town whose team, the Wigan Warriors, have rich history of success and a wider, die-hard support.  Throw in the mix the fact that Wigan is not exactly the most affluent of areas and you have a very difficult climate in which to compete.  Money talks in the game of football and Wigan understand their status as one of the smaller teams so they struggle to attract the top-level players.  Often they have to wheel and deal ‘Arry Redknapp style to build a squad.  Credit must go to the owner, Dave Whelan, a local man who has built up this Wigan side since the early days when they were playing in the old Fourth Division to crowds of less than a thousand.  Whelan is an astute businessman and will not overspend and put the club at serious financial risk.  This is all well and good but to guarantee safety in the Premier League, you have to at least spend some money.  Since their arrival 8 years ago, Wigan have consistently had to over-achieve just to stay in the top flight.  Sooner or later, the team will simply ‘achieve’ their potential or under-achieve – like the current season.  The players have made too many mistakes, the team has been consistently inconsistent and their defence has been leakier than a colander.

Wigan’s lack of financial clout has resulted in their star players being tempted elsewhere.  Key players such as Antonio Valencia, Wilson Palacios, Leighton Baines, Lee Cattermole, Emile Heskey (stop sniggering at the back), Titus Bramble (I said stop sniggering!), Hugo Rodallega and Mohammed Diame to name but a few have all left the club, the majority of which still had their best years ahead of them.  It is therefore very difficult to build a team around key individuals if said individuals keep leaving every year.  Martinez especially has had to work with almost a blank canvas at the start of every season.  With such a high turnover of players, it takes time for the team to gel which explains Wigan’s pedestrian starts to almost every Premier League season.  Consequently they have to turn it on in the second half of the season against teams who are desperate for points at both ends of the table.  This season it has just proved beyond them and ironically it is probably their finest moment which has contributed the most to their downfall.  Winning the FA Cup is a terrific achievement and to overcome the superstars of Manchester City in the manner they did in the final is a testament to the team’s ability (which has been all too absent this season) but like Middlesborough, who were finalists in 1997, it has come at the expense of their Premier League status.

After 2012’s Great Escape, I genuinely thought Wigan were going to be OK this season.  They seemed to have a (relatively) settled side which played attractive, penetrative football and crucially, a home-nations spine to the team in the shapes of Scotsmen Gary Caldwell, Shaun Maloney and James McCarthur and Irishman James McCarthy.  The likes of Ali Al-Habsi, Emmerson Boyce, Antolin Alcaraz, Caldwell, Maynor Figueroa, McCarthur, McCarthy, Maloney, Jean Beausejour and Franco Di Santo had been at the club for a good two years or more and there was a sense that they could really kick on and finally establish themselves in mid-table security.  They acquired a true goalscorer in Arouna Kone from Levante after a productive season in La Liga and with the likes of exciting young winger Calum McManaman coming through the ranks, the future looked bright.

Instead what happened was an unmitigated disaster, winning only four league matches before Christmas, collecting a mere 15 points with half the season already gone.  Wigan’s defence was wonderfully accommodating if you were an opposition striker and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi was giving away goals like he was having a yard-sale.  January and February were an improvement but again the defence was the problem conceding four against Manchester United and Chelsea and three in a painful home defeat to Sunderland.  Crippling injuries played a key part because there was never a settled back four (or three depending on the system Martinez played) and often they looked like they had just met each other five minutes before the match.  At various points in the season, Spanish centre-back Ivan Ramis (who looked very promising) and Alcaraz were sidelined for significant periods of time and Martinez had to sign the Austrian utility player Paul Scharner on loan for his second spell at the club to provide cover.

By the beginning of March it was clear that Wigan needed a revival of Lazarus proportions to stay in the Premier League, but they just left themselves with too much to do.  They were relying on the fact that they had done it the previous year but calamitous mistakes at key points in the season proved too costly.  Drab performances against Liverpool and more recently at QPR provided them with a mountain to climb meaning that they effectively needed to win at least three out of their last four games.  Ultimately, this metaphorical mountain was insurmountable but all is not lost for the discerning Wigan supporter.

The team is in a healthy financial position; at the helm is a promising, if slightly overrated manager and vitally, the club will not have to sell too many of its first-team players.  If the club can hold on to the likes of McCarthy, McCarthur, McManaman and do some shrewd business in the transfer market (preferably with a name beginning with Mc), a rapid return to the top flight is not out of the question.  I expect Kone, Figeuroa and Maloney and maybe a few others to leave in order to trim the wage bill and free up some extra funds but the basis of the football club is there.  Wigan have a clear footballing philosophy and in Dave Whelan, they have a chairman who has the best interests of the club at heart.  Plus there is the added bonus of European football for the first time.  I really like Wigan Athletic and I hope to see them gracing the Premier League again.  Preferably at the expense of Stoke City.  Or Sunderland.  Or West Ham.