The award for worst sox goes to Villa's Jack Grealish (R). Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Worst sox, duelling aeroplanes and the pull of the affluent south: it’s the year in football again

Next season, I hope for the return of gigantic sideboards, like what George Best and Malcolm Macdonald used to have.

It’s that time of the year when it’s that time of the year, so here goes . . .

Hats off for Chelsea
But come on, if they’re so brilliant, running away with the League, what does that say about the League? And most of all what does it say about the performance of Chelsea when it mattered, ie, in Europe? They were useless against a moderate PSG team who played most of the game with a man down. The rest of England’s so-called Premier giants were equally feckless and got knocked out early doors. Shame on them.

England in the World Cup
Yes, I know that was last summer, but I’m still in mourning.

Best fun
So let’s all cheer ourselves up again by remembering Dave the Aston Villa supporter telling us that his team was, er, now I do know this, no don’t remind me, yes, West Ham. Best laugh of the season.

Most Worrying Trend
The haves and have-nots in English football are now reflecting real life in England. It’s not just the foreign money that has put Chelsea and Arsenal where they are but their geographical position. Bournemouth and Watford coming up is another sign of the affluent southern influence – historically small clubs that are now benefiting through the pull of the south.

Poor old Newcastle and Sunderland, old megaclubs with massive crowds, can no longer attract decent players or managers. Who wants to go there? Not any foreign players who have a choice. Or their wives. They look at the map, never having heard of Newcastle or Sunderland, or Bournemouth and Watford, but notice that the latter are near London. They’re only passing through for a few years, so being near London is a huge attraction. Bugger the north. Sad.

Best Quote from a Manager
“Listen, lads, basically you’re shit. Try and enjoy the game. You’re probably going to get beaten. But just enjoy being shit” – Roy Keane at Sunderland, remembered by Danny Higginbotham in his memoirs.

Best Quote from a Hack
Barney Ronay in the Observer on Man United’s Falcao: “Performing a well-groomed variation on the basic idea of standing around quite close to some other people playing football.”

Best Quote from a Commentator
John Motson has been allowed a few of the more boring Match of the Day games this season, the 0-0 ones kept to the end, but he’s been on sparkling form. “It’s gone for a throw-in!!! No, it’s stayed in play!!!!! Goodness me . . .”

Fave Player
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard won the Player of the Year award but I preferred watching Sánchez of Arsenal – always in the game, always energetic and hopeful, running his little heart out. Even though I always want both Chelsea and Arsenal to lose.

Worst Sox
Jack Grealish of Aston Villa has had a fine season, coming good in the second half despite wearing his socks at half-mast. I bet coaches have been screaming at him all his life. Pull your bloody socks up, it’s bloody dangerous, we don’t play football that way. He reminds me of Just William, so I always smile when I see him.

Harry Kane
Was the Young Footballer of the Year, one of our own, so hurrah for Harry. But at the end he faded, just as Eriksen did. Hard luck for them being in such a mediocre team.

Plane-spotting at Liverpool
Their own fans hired a plane, which pulled a banner saying “Rodgers Out Rafa In”, while at Newcastle rival supporters, from Sunderland, had a plane pulling a banner mocking the Magpies.

We’ll soon have a game where both home and away supporters have hired a plane with a suitably rude banner. It could end in a dogfight over the pitch, planes looping the loop, dive-bombing, trying to damage the rival – just like the Luftwaffe did during the war, creating a cunning knife-edge on the tip of their wings which cut the cables on our barrage balloons. Could prove a better spectacle than watching the game down on the pitch.

Best Play
[Scene one] Van Gaal arrives, breath of fresh air, saviour of Man United, what a record, just look at what he’s done. [Scene two] What a mistake, doesn’t know what he’s doing, nor does anyone else, so arrogant, with his awful red face. [Scene three] Our saviour, why did we not trust him, he does have a plan and goodness, he’s handsome. [Scene four] Er, the jury is out.

Really Handsome Manager
Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, so young, so handsome, so yummy – and English. How often do those four things happen all at once?

Best Hair
No awards this season, so disappointing, why can’t someone do something really stupid? Next season, I hope for the return of gigantic sideboards, like what George Best and Malcolm Macdonald used to have.

Surprise of the Season
Seeing Emile Heskey still alive and playing for Bolton. Could have sworn he was in a home.

Delight of the Season
Carlisle United surviving in League Two. For another season, anyway.

What we’ve learned this season That Queen of the South is the only football team mentioned in the Bible. (“The Queen of the South shall rise up . . .” Matthew 12:42.)

Adverts Burnley has graced the Premiership with a large advert that says “CWR Scaffolds – For the Perfect Erection”. They will be missed.

Next Season
Will Bale return? Tragic, his loss of confidence and form. Will we even notice if he does?

Meanwhile, I’m off to Loweswater for the summer. Back in September.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 14 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory triumph

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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