THE AWESOME, TH YOU’VE GOT TO HE DIRE AND THE BE KIDDING ME!
CHRIS DUNLAVY HANDS OUT HIS AWARDS FOR THE P LAYERS AND PERFORMANCES OF A FASCINATING SEASON
Far be it from me to suggest that the fine gentlemen who play our game got it wrong. But with voting for the PFA Championship team of the year ending in March, a huge chunk of the season is roundly ignored. Let’s face it: would Watford’s Matej Vydra be the Player of the Year if votes were cast today? After nine games without a goal, I’d bet not. And what about Peter Whittingham? Majestic up to Christmas, the tiring Cardiff midfielder sat out the entire run in but still won a place in the dream team.
So with the season now at an end, it’s time to right some of those wrongs and reward the men who, like Forrest Gump, just kept on running. Men like Liam Bridcutt, scandalously ignored despite being the division’s most consistent performer.
It’s also time to hand out some other awards to the players, managers and ‘global advisors’ who made us laugh, cry and shake our heads in despair. PLAYER OF THE YEAR
LIAM BRIDCUTT – BRIGHTON LIAM Bridcutt ain’t flash. He won’t bamboozle a man like Wilfried Zaha. He won’t tear past you like Craig Bellamy. And he won’t land a laser-guided 50-yard pass on your toe. But what he will do is make any match march to the beat of his own drum, setting the tempo, making time and space, refusing to be hurried and never, ever, losing the ball. Bridcutt is the Championship’s version of Xavi, his understated excellence only apparent when you look for it. An eight out of 10 man every game, the former Chelsea youngster could line up in any Championship side and make it better.
TOMASZ KUSZCZAK – BRIGHTON LAST season, Brighton were attractive but porous. This year, they have the best defensive record in the Championship. The difference? A goalkeeper who makes fewer mistakes than a brain surgeon. Wasted at Man United, the 31-year-old Pole has showed just why he was once signed for £2.5m by producing a string of rock solid – and often matchwinning – performances. RIGHT-BACK
AHMED ELMOHAMADY – HULL CITY HULL’S player of the year and a man who makes Dani Alves look conservative. The Egyptian wingback is the instigator of countless Tigers attacks, with enough pace to trouble even the quickest opponents. As tiredness has kicked in and his form has dipped, so Hull’s goals have dried up. That is no coincidence.
MARK HUDSON – CARDIFF CITY ONCE given a tough time by the Cardiff fans,‘Huds’ has faced questions over everything from his leadership skills to his ability and positioning over the years. But in a season little short of immaculate, the 31-year-old has answered them all, dominating every striker he’s faced to give Cardiff the sturdiest of bedrocks.
WES MORGAN – LEICESTER CITY THE Championship’s best defender for years and years, and the recognition he has received with a place in the PFA team of the year was long overdue. If Leicester’s players had shown anything like the consistency of their skipper, they’d be in the Premier League by now. A class act who should be playing in the top flight.
WAYNE BRIDGE – BRIGHTON WASHED up? Don’t believe it. Bridge might have gone a bit rusty on the benches of Man City and Chelsea but a bit of South Coast sea air has reinvigorated the former England flier. Unflappable at the back with delivery to die for, the 32-year-old has strolled through the season like John Travolta at an amateur dance-off.
ALMEN ABDI – WATFORD MUCH has been made of Matej Vydra’s goals but the Czech striker is the final lick of paint to Abdi’s bricks and mortar. Slick as Sinatra on the ball but shot through with steel in the tackle, the on-loan Udinese man is the Championship’s best all-round midfielder. MIDFIELD
KIM BO-KYUNG – CARDIFF CITY PERHAPS the Championship’s most underrated player, Kim was initially dismissed as a bit of a workhorse. But as Cardiff have gone through the gears, so has the South Korean, showcasing his ability to read the game and see a pass long before anyone else. Tailor-made for the Premier League. FORWARD
TOM INCE – BLACKPOOL OK, so dad Paul’s £25m valuation was a bit daft. But considering young Tom has played the majority of his games on a pitch resembling an ill-kept allotment, his record – 18 goals, 14 assists – is astonishing. A Premier League club surely awaits.
TROY DEENEY – WATFORD THE self-confessed “transit van” to Vydra’s Rolls-Royce, Deeney could never be described as elegant, or even skilful. But without his selfless, bruising holdup play, the Czech wouldn’t be half as effective.When the Hornets’ promotion push faltered, Deeney was the man who dragged them over the playoff line. And when you consider that he was in jail until September, 19 goals is one hell of a total. FORWARD
JORDAN RHODES – BLACKBURN YES, Glenn Murray scored more. But he wasn’t in a team playing dreadful football, under four different managers with a board hell bent on embarrassing the club. Nor did he have an £8m price tag hanging round his neck. With 28 goals, the division’s most instinctive finisher single-handedly kept Rovers up. Just imagine what he could do at a good team.
SIGNING OF THE YEAR
PADDY MADDEN – YEOVIL TOWN (CARLISLE - YEOVIL, £25,000)
SEASON? Century more like. Utterly stagnant in his two years at Carlisle, Dubliner Madden scored just two goals in 32 league games for the Cumbrians, his time spent mainly in the treatment room and on the bench. Then came a loan move to Yeovil in October that yielded seven goals. At that point, Carlisle boss Greg Abbott could still have realised what he was missing. Instead, he flogged Madden to Yeovil for just £25,000 and was forced to watch in horror as the 23year-old plundered 22 goals in 35 games, firing the Glovers to fourth place and becoming League One’s leading marksman. Hailed by Gary Johnson as “one of the best signings of my career”, God knows what Madden is worth now.
MUG OF THE YEAR
WITH money to burn and no understanding of football, Singh was to agents what an open window is to a burglar. Fleeced left, right and centre, Blackburn’s “Global Advisor” shelled out millions in agents’ fees and happily sanctioned wages of £35k a week for the likes of Jordan Rhodes and Danny Murphy. Best of all was the £606,000 he handed to agent Marcos Oliveira for a job lot of Portuguese players, all of whom turned out to be hopeless.
FLOP OF THE YEAR
DARREN AMBROSE – (CRYSTAL PALACE TO BIRMINGHAM)
THOUGH they could ill afford it, £250,000 seemed a steal for a man widely regarded as one of Palace’s best players, a midfielder whose 35yarder at Old Trafford in 2011 was described by Gary Neville as the best goal he’d ever seen by an opposing player at Old Trafford. Alas, several injuries and just six appearances later, it’s Palace who are laughing all the way to the bank.
RESURRECTION OF THE YEAR
BLACKBURN could have had him.Wolves should have kept him. But in the end it was Ipswich who brought Mick McCarthy out of the managerial deep freeze and were rewarded with a stunning reversal of fortune. Under Paul Jewell, the Tractor Boys were a passionless shambles, getting smashed every other week and tumbling headlong into League One. Then “Big Mick” arrived and, 15 wins from 34 games later, Ipswich are one of the steeliest outfits in the Championship. How Wolves fans must wish they could say that.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
PHIL PARKINSON – BRADFORD
UP until last week,Yeovil’s Gary Johnson was the only contender. But when a manager takes a League Two side to a Wembley final twice in the same season, he wins by default. Fairytale wins over Aston Villa and Arsenal made Bradford the first fourth-tier side in 50 years to reach the League Cup final, where they were soundly trounced 5-0 by Swansea. But after a nasty slump, Parky has rallied his threadbare squad, snatching a play-off berth on the final day and then beating Burton in the semis to book a return to the capital. It will be their 64th game of a remarkable season. “You see the Premier League teams complaining with the squads they’ve got,” said Parky.“We’ve done it with 19 players, no loans. They’ve been tremendous.” As has their gaffer.
RETURN OF THE YEAR
EDDIE HOWE – BOURNEMOUTH
BACK after a middling spell at Burnley, Dean Court legend Howe turned the Cherries from overpaid under-performers into a side who will be playing in the Championship next year, all in seven remarkable months.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
NATHANIEL CHALOBAH – (WATFORD v LEICESTER)
NO question. No argument. It simply is not possible to hit a ball harder or truer than the Watford midfielder did against Leicester. The goal frame was practically uprooted as the ball seared past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel.
MOMENT OF THE YEAR
17 SECONDS OF MADNESS! – (BRENTFORD v DONCASTER)
BRADFORD’S win at Aston Villa was magical but, for sheer drama, nothing beats the final act of an absorbing League One promotion battle.When Brentford were awarded a 93rd-minute penalty, Donny – second by two points – were facing the play-offs. The Bees were going up. Then Marcello Trotta thrashed his kick off the bar, Rovers broke upfield and, with the final kick of the season, James Coppinger scored to clinch the title. From down and out to up as champions in 17 crazy seconds.
FORWARD - TROY DEENEY
GOALKEEPER – TOMASZ KUSZCZAK
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - LIAM BRIDCUTT
FORWARD - JORDAN RHODES
CENTRE-BACK - MARK HUDSON
SIGNING - PADDY MADDEN
RD - TOM INCE
MOMENT - BRENTFORD’S PENALTY