Carlisle? Big? Funny people, football columnists

It's that time of the year, sports pickers, when we award the annual awards for whatever stuff we are going to award awards for. As usual, we begin with the one that all players are desperate to win, the one they spend most time, money and thought worrying and fretting about.

Best haircut of the season: You'll well remember Alex James winning it in l930. What a year for haircuts, all of them exactly the same. Alex was in Arsenal's FA Cup winning team that year. I was one of the judges and I'm still not supposed to divulge what went on, except to note how often, then and now, players who are in winning and/or famous teams tend to win the major awards at the end of the season. Play your bollocks off, but if you are in a rubbish and/or lowly team, then you've no chance of winning nothing, except a double negative.

Alex won it for his middle parting. The competition was intense, but his middle parting was exquisite. Only the best draughtsmen with the best set squares were ever allowed to work on it. The Brylcreem, I know for a fact, was layered on, either side, with a silver trowel.

I didn't vote for Billy Wright in 1950, who won it with his quiff, but I thought he was awfully brave, having that soppy, goody-goody, blonde haircut.

George Best was a unanimous winner for his long hair in the 1960s, derivative, yes, but highly symbolic. Kevin Keegan got it for his silly perm in the 1970s. Whatever happened to him and his perm? Chris Waddle in the 1980s showed great imagination with his, whatever it was. Sort of flat on top and flowing behind.

Becks, with Anderton and McManaman as runners-up, dominated most of the Nineties with their studied floppy look, with or without highlights, though it was a bit annoying watching them constantly pushing it back with their hands.

So much for the flashbacks. Now for the year 2000 award. Drum roll, dim lights, tarran tarran . . . No award. There, that surprised you. If I see just one more shaven head this season, I will scream.

Most improved player: Thierry Henry. I didn't think he'd hack it, certainly not as a central striker. He's been a revelation.

Players who didn't improve much: meaning young ones from whom a lot was expected back at the beginning of the season - Hendrie and Barry of Villa, Robbie Keane of Coventry, Oster and Jeffers of Everton, Smith and Bridges of Leeds, Carragher and even Michael Owen of Liverpool, Cole of West Ham, Cort of Wimbledon. Perhaps next season?

Most unimproved player: meaning a more senior player who should have been at his peak this season, but wasn't. In this category, we have dishonourable mentions for Jamie Redknapp of Liverpool, Gary Neville of Man Utd, Juninho of Boro; but the runaway winner, please lumber forward, is Chris Sutton.

I didn't think he was worth it, when Chelsea splashed out £10m to Blackburn, but dear God, who'd have thought he'd end up as the butt of every opposition crowd - even when he's not playing? I was at Arsenal last Saturday and the Arsenal fans were in hysterics at their own brilliant wit. After chanting "We've got Dennis Bergkamp! We've got Silvinho!", they then shouted at the Chelsea fans: "You've got Chris Sutton!"

Most unimproved commentator: Des. How can he improve, when he has nothing to do and only ten seconds in which to do it?

Most improved commentator: The lovely Lineker. Now he's loosened up, he's even making jokes.

Best chant: also from the Arsenal crowd,with no relevance to the game that was actually happening. "Roy Keano, Roy Keano, earns 50,000 quid. Roy Keano, Roy Keano, scores for Real Madrid."

Most interesting new football columnist: Peter Drury, the ITV commentator, now writing in the Independent. Two weeks ago, he brought me up short with a strange sentence. He was writing about the three Third Division teams then most likely to go out of the Football League: "harmless, pretty little Shrewsbury; quaint, old, ailing Chester; or big,bumbling Carlisle with a vast catchment area". I could see he was referring to perceived images of these three places, so one can't argue, if that's how he sees them. But I was astounded that anyone in the world out there could ever think of Carlisle, the city or the club, as "big" or describe its catchment area as "large", when it's full of sheep. Weird.

Best UK team: Man U. Yawn yawn. I don't mean they were boring, which they certainly were not, but they ruined the season by being so far ahead of the pack.

Best notice: written words, as opposed to a chant. "GET IT": this was spelled out by the crowd holding up cards in the main stand before the Valencia-Barcelona Euro game. In English, not Spanish. Not only were they saying "GET IT", meaning "win it", but also meaning: "Do you understand?" And what we all now understand is that Spanish club football is the best. Very clever. Unless, of course, I have totally made this up.

One to watch next season: Man City. But I do worry about Shaun Goater. Why is he wearing Carlton Palmer's ears?

Ugliest player: Jaap Stam of Man Utd is the one most judges would least like to wake up beside. Keown of Arsenal has again tried hard to impress, along with De Goey of Chelsea and Freund of Spurs. Hurrah, an award for Spurs at last.

Handsomest: Oh joy, another one. Ginola. Shame George doesn't love him any more. Where will he be next season? Romantic lead opposite Cantona.

Most sadly missed: Egil Olsen's great wellies. Gone walkies. Probably not back for some time . . .

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