AND THE MAN OF THE MATCH IS...

The rights, wrongs and ROB BRADLEY ex­am­ines taken for the star player un­pre­dictable de­ci­sions

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - AWARDS -

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

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