The cream and the crap

What’s another year?

An end of year celebration would not be complete without the customary ‘awards ceremony’. Goddle knows it’s been a fairly pathetic year for Spurs but there is more to football than Spurs thankfully, so I’ll have something slightly upbeat to write about in this issue.

Premiership Awards 2000

Team of the year – Manchester United

The Premiership long stopped becoming a challenge for the boys from Old Trafford, but you can only begrudgingly admire the complete domination that they have imposed on the top league in the England, and as some laughably would like us to believe, the best in Europe (snigger).

When Liverpool were scoring own-goals, Leeds were fading, Arsenal were selling their best players and Chelsea were sacking their most successful manager ever, Manchester United sat pretty firmly on top of the league for nearly the entire twelve months just past, and having a good laugh at those below them. And rightly so.

The wheels of this impressive tank may not come off until Alex Ferguson retires, and the rest of the footballing world can only pray that it all comes tumbling down and we can share the success around a bit more.

Runners up: Ipswich Town, Arsenal.

Player of the year – David Beckham

Not that I rate this guy as highly as others seem to, but there is no doubt that he stands pretty much head and shoulders above pretty much everybody else in the Premiership. He is undoubtedly one of the best crossers of the ball in the world, a terrific direct passer and possesses wonderful vision which nets him some cracking goals. Personally I think he needs to add tackling to his repertoire and improve his temperament, but in the world of the Premiership he will always be the top dog.

Just don’t think of moving outside of Old Trafford pal.

Runners up: Harry Kewell, Steve Carr

Manager of the year – George Burley

Ok so they’ve only been in the Premiership since August, but Ipswich have taken it by storm, and the man at the helm deserves huge credit for it. Burley spent four years trying to get his team promoted, beaten in the play-offs three years in a row, but persistence has paid off for him, and faith has paid off for the fans and the board.

European football is a real target for Ipswich this season which is remarkable for a side built on a shoestring budget, but a top half finish will still be a terrific season for them. Hopefully they can build on it like Leicester and Derby, and cement their position in the top division.

Runners up: Peter Reid, Bobby Robson

The Premiership XI (v.2000)

Lets take a look at what my select Premiership XI would look like.

(Goalkeeper)

Fabien Barthez (Man Utd) (GK)

When Man Utd signed the French #1 in the summer, there was much surprise that they had spent the guts of 8m to secure the flamboyant stopper. But after two high-profile gaffs (Bosnich and Taibli), United finally got a consistent man to put between the sticks. Barthez has distinguished himself with some top notch saves in his time at Old Trafford. Ok, so it’s not the busiest job in the league but you can only save what the opponents throw at you.

(Right Back)

Steve Carr (Spurs)

Spurs right-back Carr is without doubt the most improved player in the top division over the last two seasons. He has earned his name as a defender of immense ability and commitment. Also notable are his half dozen goals in a Spurs shirt, most of which are completely top drawer.

(Left Back)

Silvinho (Arsenal)

The cultured Brazilian had rather large shoes to fill when he slotted in on the left hand side of the Arsenal defence – that held by Nigel Winterburn for over a decade. Well his feet are probably quite small, but he still managed to fill those shoes rather impressively.

(Central Defenders)

Marcel Desailly (Chelsea)

Desailly may not really try very hard in a Chelsea shirt but he still stands out as a world class defender with the ability to make the difficult look easy (and sometimes vice versa!). I’ll be surprised if he stays at the Bridge past this summer but he has definitely been one of the foreign import success stories.

Jaap Stam (Man Utd)

Despite suffering injury most of this season, Stam established himself in the previous year as one of the Premiership’s top central defenders. The Dutchman combines power, pace and strong tackling abilities to ward off the Premiership’s top marksmen. The jury may still be out on his ability to compete in the Champions League, but time will tell whether he can shine on that platform too.

(Defensive Midfielder)

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

A product of the Liverpool youth system, the tenacious Gerrard has already made himself an Anfield regular as well as put himself well into the frame for a starting place in the England midfield (mind you lets consider the fact that he’ll be selected ahead of international jokes like Ince, Batty and Wise). At only 20 years old, Gerrard has an amazing career ahead of him.

(Attacking midfielder)

Nolberto Solano (Newcastle)

The Peruvian midfielder has been a revelation at St James Park and the attentions of Europe’s great clubs are sure to lure him away before too long. The compact playmaker is involved in everything that is good at Newcastle in recent months and his loss will be probably the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Watch…

(Right Midfield)

David Beckham (Man Utd)

There is no better crosser or passer of the ball than Mr Thong himself. Beckham has warded off the unwanted attention gained from the “Argentina Conflict” in 1998 and finally won over the public with a multitude of consistent displays. He’s been working hard to control his temperament and so far is succeeding. Is destined to be a Premiership great but I await his international move to see how he fairs in Serie A.

(Left Midfield)

Ryan Giggs (Man Utd)

Lets face it, he is the top winger in the Premiership, and only for his injury proneness would be probably the top player in the league altogether. Staggering goals, blinding runs and a surprisingly strong creative vibe means Giggs will continue to prosper for United, and mourn the day he chose to play international football for Wales. Them the breaks.

(Strikers)

Teddy Sheringham (Man Utd)

The Manchester United domination continues (hey, that’s why they walk away with the league every year). The signing of Sheringham from Spurs in 1996 was scoffed at by large amounts of United fans but the wily veteran has been a crucial cog in the United steamroller which has dominated in the last 4 seasons. At 34, Sheringham is still banging in the goals, maybe enjoying his most successful season ever. Surely this is his last? Is it?

Marcus Stewart (Ipswich)

Ok, so he didn’t cost 10m, doesn’t play in front of 50,000 supporters every week and a casual football fan may have never heard of him prior to this season. But Marcus Stewart has scored 16 goals and been the main reason that Ipswich have propelled themselves up the league at a rate of knots. We don’t know whether or not Stewart is capable of keeping up this form, as surely a dip in form by the team will result in him struggling to score (or vice versa). But as of now, when it comes to pre-match team talks, he’s the one all opposing managers are talking about.

The way they would line out

Barthez
Carr Desailly Stam Silvinho
Beckham Solano Gerrard Giggs
Sheringham Stewart

Notable mentions

And those people who just don’t quite make it:

Goalkeepers – Neil Sullivan (Spurs), Tim Flowers (Leicester)

Defenders – Dean Richards (Southampton), Jamie Clapham (Ipswich), Sol Campbell (Spurs)

Midfielders – Patrick Vieira (Arsenal), Mark Kinsella (Charlton), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Gus Poyet (Chelsea)

Strikers – Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Emile Heskey (Liverpool), Paulo Di Canio (West Ham)

Turkey time!

I’d love to praise everyone, I really would. But there are some players who just, well, don’t perform. Here are the Top 10 Turkeys of the Season.

10. Paul Gascoigne (Everton)

After joining from Middlesboro last season, not too much was expected of Gazza at Everton. But despite the obvious, you might still expect him to grab this opportunity with both hands, right? Not a chance. Gazza has shown the usual flashes of genius that brought some hilarious momentum for one brief day in the press for him to be recalled to the England squad followed by more injuries. He’s barely been on the pitch for the last 2 months. Walter Smith must be criticised for the gamble he took in signing Gazza. He could have spent 2m quid on David Thompson instead and perhaps he’d be available to select once in a while.

9. Georgie Kinkladze (Derby)

The former Manchester City wizard brought his wand back to Pride Park last season but, sadly, has failed to perform and has also suffered from injuries and conditioning problems. Used sparingly, Kinkladze can be an asset to the team, but his days as a top flight performer look numbered. Look for him to move on very soon I would think.

8. David James (Aston Villa)

To call James an enigma would be to do enigmas a disservice. After distinguishing himself with a series of howlers at Anfield, the born again goalkeeper has managed to repeat the feat at Villa Park. The jewel in the crown was his stunning faux pas which all but handed the FA Cup to Chelsea last May. There’s been others this year and despite John Gregory’s best intentions, his defending of the accident-prone keeper is not fooling anyone. And as for that “transfer request” earlier this season, please…

7. Winston Bogarde (Chelsea)

He’s Dutch! He’s free! He used to play for Barcelona! It doesn’t matter because the last player to be signed by former Chelsea manager Luca Vialli, looks like he’ll be one of the first out the door. He’s barely played since signing and it is obvious that he is over the hill at the relatively young age of 31. What is it about Dutch players prematurely losing their ability….?

6. Denis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

Speaking of which… Bergkamp has failed to feature much in Arsenal’s starting XI this season so it was a shock when he signed a new, lucrative 3 year deal just a few weeks ago. Arsenal fans have acknowledged that the strikers best days are behind him (rather oddly at only 31) and they may not be too pleased to see him being made one of the best paid players at the club when the money might be better spent on developing the youth players. But Denis will be laughing all the way to the bank no doubt.

5. Sergei Rebrov (Spurs)

The Ukrainian hot shot was rated as one of the best in Europe prior to his £11m move from Dynamo Kiev. Now a lot of people have probably forgotten who he is. He lit the Champions League up season after season, now he partners 22 year old former Dulwich Hamlet striker, Dave McEwan, up-front for Spurs. A move away from Spurs looks likely at the end of the season and no doubt he’ll begin to play again at that point.

4. Sylvian Wiltord (Arsenal)

He made his name in Euro 2000 by coming off the bench to save the French in the last minute of the final. Roll forward a few months and Arsene Wenger was suitably impressed to spend £13m on him. So far he has not made his mark, but Arsenal players are famous for taking time to settle in (Henry, Bergkamp). But needless to say it’s a lot of money to spend on someone who is going to sit on the bench 50% of the time.

3. Benito Carbone (Bradford)

So just how many clubs can Carbone get kicked out of – Sheffield Wed, Villa and now Bradford. Chairman Geoffrey Richmond called Carbone “the most exciting transfer in the history of the club”. Exciting for Carbone who has made about three quarters of a million pounds from his short stay so far. It’s not that Carbone hasn’t got talent, he just doesn’t have as much as he thinks he does.

2. David Ginola (Aston Villa)

The Spurs hero was shoved out unceremoniously by then-manager, George Graham. The 33 year old took an unrequested and unwanted move to Aston Villa for £3m pounds with John Gregory promising to build his team around his mercurial French star. But since then, the world has turned, and Ginola has been accused of being “fat and unfit” by his manager followed by being called “a laughing stock” after putting in an embarrassing performance at home to Liverpool last week. Ginola needs to do what he hasn’t done for 18 months – perform well and work hard. Otherwise he’ll find himself playing 2nd division football in his home country.

1. Stan Collymore (Bradford)

Haven’t we been here before? Collymore can’t settle in at Forest, moves to Liverpool. Can’t settle in at Anfield, takes the trip to Villa Park. Has a nervous breakdown, moves to Leicester for a nominal fee and scores a hat trick. But starts demanding more money and gets shipped out to Bradford. For free. Moans some more about not being paid enough and is about to move on again. I frown on any club which spends money on this utter joke of a player. Go to hell, Collymore!

And finally…

After watching Sunderland v Bradford today (the second best team in the country against the worst team in the top tier), I could only shake my head. The Premiership has been called the best league in Europe but it clearly is far from that.

As Man United run away with the league once again, the poor standard of the chasing pack was highlighted today by second place Sunderland’s inability to break down the team who are by far the worst in the league. It’s this lack of competition that has led to the league becoming boring and predictable. Most of the recognised high quality players play for either United or Arsenal with Liverpool, Leeds and Chelsea sharing a smaller number of quality players, and more than a fair share of filler material.

On a related note, apparently giving 100k a week to Beckham is worth it as it makes the Premiership a better place? Well that’s not true. Ship out Beckham, sell Keane, exchange Stam for Breen. Lets level the playing field a bit and make the Premiership a more interesting place to be.

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