The Premier League season is over, and what a finale it was. Manchester City and Liverpool duked it out for the title, Burnley and Leeds United raced to the bottom and Tottenham Hotspur narrowly edged past Norwich City 5-0 to clinch the coveted fourth spot and a place in the Champions League. Players of the Season, Young Players of the Season, Golden Gloves and Golden Boot have all been handed out and will find their natural home propping open the bathroom doors of the great and the good of the Premier League.
With the proliferation of such awards, it can be hard for both players and fans to keep track. In order to stand out in the crowded award market, with the PFA, FWA and other three-lettered acronyms that sound like new strains of Covid-19 jockeying for position, I am pleased to announce The Sportsman Alternative Premier League Awards. Or TSAPLA, if you prefer. It rolls off the tongue, I'm sure you’ll agree.
Manchester United Manager of the Year
A stacked field for this award, with three men manning the Old Trafford dugout this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, owner of the most “fantastic” Manc accent Kristiansund has ever produced, was sacked after a 4-1 defeat to Watford. On the bright side, it will be Ole’s turn to manage the Hornets in around six months time. Which in Vicarage Road terms means Watford will fire five coaches before the Norwegian takes over.
Ralf Rangnick has ended the season in fine form. Not on the pitch, United look more uncomfortable than a barbecue at Hannibal Lecter’s house. But in the press room, where Rangnick is the master of pointing out problems then moaning about them without fixing them. Like if you called 999 and when the firefighters arrived they pointed at your house and said “bit warm in there” before driving away.
The clear winner here is Michael Carrick. He wasn’t much cop either, but he looked immense in a finely-tailored club suit. Nice one, Mike.
Dancing With Myself Award
West Ham United forward Michail Antonio has never been shy with a celebration. In an era where you seem to get booked for anything more enthusiastic than a Shearer-esque raising of the hand, Antonio never hesitates to go full-tilt. The Jamaica international surpassed himself last August, scoring against Leicester City before embracing a cardboard cut-out of himself. Antonio lifted the cardboard Michail above his head like a trophy, the first time most West Ham fans had ever seen any object lifted in this manner.
Least Enthusiastic Commentary of the Year
The name ‘Martin Tyler’ trended on Twitter for a good portion of last week. The reason? The veteran broadcaster’s utterly disinterested commentary on Takumi Minamino’s equaliser away to Southampton. In fairness to those on Merseyside, Tyler described Minamino’s strike with all the enthusiasm of a husband who has caught his wife cheating and been asked for a lift home by the man responsible. This being Liverpool, there is of course already an online petition to have Tyler removed from his role with Sky Sports. This means more.
He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother Award
A family affair for our next award, Louie Scott is our finest footballing brother this season. His impassioned defence of his sibling, Jesse Lingard, against “classless” Manchester United caused an almighty stir. If United could defend their own goal as fiercely as Scott defended ‘JLingz’ they’d have finished at least fifth.
"Twenty years of blood sweat and tears, four domestic trophies, three cup final goals, not even a farewell.", Louie raged. No mention of the “beans, beans, beans” video, mind.
Instant Impact Award
Everton’s Venezuelan target man Salomon Rondon came on intent on making a difference in their Goodison Park clash with Brentford earlier this month. With the club battling relegation, now seemed like the perfect time for the striker to arrest the slide of a difficult return to English football with a goal. Instead, he was sent off just four minutes after coming on for a two-footed scythe on Rico Henry. Four minutes, endless headlines. Sadly, none of them were “Salomon Rondon’t”, which is a shame.
The Sportsman Alternative Premier League Hall of Fame (TSAPLHoF)
If we’re taking the burden of handing out post-season awards, it only seems right that we pick up the reins from the Premier League’s latest innovation. While the Premier League Hall of Fame is essentially just a glossier way of igniting the boring Gerrard-Lampard debate, the catchily-named TSAPLHoF will shine a light on the characters who truly make the league what it is. So it goes without saying that our first inductee is a referee.
Who else could kick off our prestigious Hall than Mike “Box Office” Dean? Celebrating a Tottenham goal? “Off you pop”? The no-look bookings? Deano has left more of an impact on the Premier League than 90% of players have managed. No man in the middle will ever be fit to carry his whistle. Welcome to the Hall, ref.