AND THE MAN OF THE MATCH IS...
The rights, wrongs and ROB BRADLEY examines taken for the star player unpredictable decisions
TO US mere mortals you’d imagine it must be marvellous to be marked down as the main man and get the Man of the Match memento. Or the ‘Lass of the Grass’ version in the women’s game.
Sometimes, though, this special award can go to someone no-one expected or can even be a bit of a curse.
Most home clubs will, without fail, announce their team’s winner as the final whistle is about to be blown, even if they are several goals down to a rampaging away side.
The poor guy, having already had a bad day, then has to suffer a barrage of boos from thousands of disgruntled fans. Even if things are going well, the award can go to completely the wrong player, when, as usually happens, it’s a group of well ‘refreshed’ match sponsors who make the decision.
The Man of the Match award was cause of particular embarrassment to Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal. He was being interviewed live on Sky straight after the match against QPR and clearly thought the trophy his interviewer was holding between them was his reward for a solid display.
“If you could pass this to Alexis,” said Ray Stubbs as he finally handed it over – and the poor guy’s dismay was clear for all to see. Sometimes being chosen as top dog can be more unexpected than usual. Striker Matt Harrold had been at Crawley Town for quite a while but hadn’t received the honour once. In a match against MK Dons, he took over in goal in the 39th minute after an injury to their keeper. Harrold performed heroics and only a goal in the 96th minute prevented his side getting all three points. He was duly chosen as Man of the Match for the first time as a Crawley player.
In the televised FA Cup tie between Man United and Arsenal in March, the BBC ran a Twitter poll for Man of the Match. Gunners midfielder Francis Coquelin emerged the winner with over 3,000 tweets. Running him a close second only a few hundred behind was… the referee. Michael Oliver officiated superbly and even the one or two decisions he made that the pundits had adjudged to be dubious were proved to be spot on when shown later in slo-mo replays.
In 2013, Dutch club NEC announced that their Man of the Match each game would, for politically incorrect reasons known only to them, have his car washed by a group of bikini-clad girls.Victor Palsson was the first winner who, presumably out of earshot of his wife, declared that,‘It beats getting a bottle of champagne’.
After the award was carried out, possibly this time with his less-than-impressed wife listening, he said meekly,‘My car has never looked cleaner’. In reality, most fans aren’t too bothered about who wins the Man of the Match award. More important, of course, is getting three points and where their club is in the league.
However, at my club (Lincoln City) I have the good fortune to spend the post-match period in the bar area where the presentations are carried out.
The winning player is interviewed briefly and each time the recipient seems genuinely pleased to have won it.
So if, for example, a young lad making his way in the game is chosen as the best player in a game he’ll gain some confidence from it. Having a Man of the Match works for most players and, for some of them, it’ll be something they’ll remember in the future.
We mustn’t forget, of course, those boozy sponsors and their role in the Man of the Match process. It’s something for them to enjoy, too... although whether they can remember it the next day is another matter!
Yes, I’ve won! Victor Palsson and, above, the bikini-clad girls cleaning his car
Super stand-in: Matt Harrold in goal Er, sorry, it’s not yours – Flamini’s awkward moment