The fan - Hunter Davies welcomes Delia to the Premiership
A big welcome to Delia. At last, a woman of substance in the Premiership
It's the time of the year when we say it's this time of the year. So step forward, the season's triumphs and disasters, and if you can keep your head when all about you are trying to read the manager's motto on the dressing-room wall, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
Most Successful Team: Arsenal, sans doute.
Most disappointing team of the season: Arsenal, bien sur. So talented, so entertaining, so consistent, yet when it really mattered, they failed. Europe was vital to them, however much they might now rationalise losing it. And they were no nearer to it this season than in previous ones. Football, like life, is pyramid-shaped: the higher up the slopes you get, the fewer remain, but the bigger the disappointment if you fall off.
Newcomer of the Year: Who has come from nowhere, shown great skills off and on the ball, scored when it mattered and run rings round David Beckham? Rebecca Loos.
Newcomer of the Year with the Best Name: Kaka of AC Milan and Brazil. He's got such skill, and so handsome, but it's his name that endears him to all in our household, as in our house it means poo, shit, wee-wee. "Kaka is on the ball," the commentator just has to shout, and all my children collapse.
Haircut of the year: Not awarded. First time in ten years that no player has won the tonsorial prize. Becks does not count, as he's wearing a retread. Players must show more imagination next season.
Baldie Heed of the Year: Goes to a ref, the Italian Pierluigi Collina, who is making even more money than Ms Loos, now that he's appearing in all those adverts.
Where are they now?: Ron Atkinson, departed, early doors.
Nice phrase of year: "The landing gear is up" - Billy McNeill, describing a player getting ready to dive in an Old Firm game. Also from Scotland, from the Dunfermline manager after they beat Rangers for the first time in more than 30 years: "That gets the monkey off our neck."
New word of the year: "Casterstrophic" - Bobby Robson after Newcastle let in a late goal.
New meanings of the year: "Cynical!" when a foreign player commits a foul. "Honest attempt," when an English player does the same.
Team on the wane?: Man United. Still so many great players, but this could be the season we saw them start to slide.
Supporters of the Year: Carlisle United's. Imagine, 9,524 fans turning up to watch them go down.
Good players with poor seasons: Supposedly at their height, yet they did little - Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo of Chelsea; Harry Kewell of Liverpool.
Young players marking time: Wayne Rooney made little progress; Jose Antonio Reyes flattered but didn't deliver.
Young players who did progress: Shaun Wright-Phillips had a great season. Also Cristiano Ronaldo of Man United, who seemed about to disappear up his own bot with all his tricks, but has started to play simply and sensibly.
Player of the Year: Thierry Henry, of course, but an honourable mention to Alan Shearer. Just when you thought he was over the top, becoming too reliant on backing-in to defenders, he turns in an excellent season and scores some stunning goals.
World Player of the Year: Currently Ronaldinho of Barcelona. Last Sunday against Espanyol, he was the nearest thing on the planet to a footballing genius. Makes Zinedine Zidane look lumpen.
Farewell, my lovelies: Surely we won't see David Pleat again, please God, but I'll miss Claudio Ranieri for his good humour, Eddie Gray for his dignity, and Gerard Houllier for his red scarf and his lips moving as he talks to himself. A big welcome to Delia. At last, a woman of substance in the Premiership.
Things to look forward to: Portugal, of course. I'm off now for four weeks, but will return for Euro '04. I predict that the final will be between Portugal and France. England will get to the semi-finals, then play like kaka, as alas they so often do . . .
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