Getting a grip on a bag of chips
The Christmas awards every footballer dreams of winning are unimpressed with Ronaldo
So far, what do you think? While you make up your mind, here are the official awards.
Team of the half-season: Hull City, of course. No one expected them to do so well, get so far, with so little. Pat on the back - hope the ref spots that - to Ian Ashbee, Hull's captain, who has been with them through all four divisions. Excellent.
Players of the season: No obvious winners, though some new names to conjure with - surely the ref won't allow that. I was so impressed with my first glimpse of young Nathan Delfouneso of Villa that I even found out his correct spelling. Hope I get it right. Must also mention young Jack Wilshere of Arsenal, mainly because of his gait. He has this stiff back and funny standing-up run, a bit like Barry Ferguson of Rangers or Didier Deschamps, the one Cantona called the water carrier. Amr Zaki of Wigan, he's also done well. He's an older sweat, Egyptian variety, been around, but new to most of us and has been impressive, battling away up front.
Cuddliest Newcomer: Rafael, the new Man United fullback. Don't you love those shocking dark curls, hmmmm.
Disappointments: Deco has shown little art, ha ha, and Berbatov has not shown much effort, but we expected that. Effort is not on his CV. Ideally he'd like not just a water carrier to help him out on the pitch but a sedan chair.
Most Disappointing: Cristiano Ronaldo. When he arrived, he was a silly diver, a crybaby, writhing in pretend agony, wasting the ball with too many stepovers. Last season, he grew up, became determined, constructive, strong in mind and body, added excellent heading, free kicks, crosses and goals to his portfolio and well deserved all the awards. Now, he's back to being a baby - and worse. He's arrogant, petulant, self-obsessed, self-pitying, convinced he's greater than the team. Walking off the pitch that time, against Sunderland, because he felt like it, showed he'd become detached from the team, if not from reality. Come on, Fergie, get a grip.
Best New Idea: In Argentina, refs have been experimenting with a vanishing spray to stop defenders creeping forward at free kicks. They pace out the distance then mark it with a white spray that disappears a minute later. The next stage is to develop one for use on players. When they argue with the ref, poof, they disappear in a white cloud and are not seen again for, oh, could be weeks, possibly for ever.
Best Crowd Chant: When, amazingly, Portsmouth were leading Milan, the Pompey fans could be heard singing: "Are you Bournemouth in disguise?"
Best Speech by a manager: No contest there. Joe Kinnear, addressing the press, early doors, going through his full repertoire of !!!!!! and ???????, not to mention §§§§§§§§.
Best Early Doors quote came from Paul Ince, remember him? Praising his Blackburn team after another defeat, he said: "I was pleased they kept the back door closed early doors." He was toast soon afterwards.
Least illuminating comment by a commentator: "Hmm," followed by "Hmm," then another "Hmm" for good measure. When Andy Gray does this, I'm never sure if it's a sign of a philosophical observation coming or if he's sucking a boiled sweet.
Most graphic comment: Craig Burley on Setanta describing David Bentley of Spurs beating the opposition fullback: "Bentley's sent him for a bag of chips."
Biggest surprise: No, not Hull, not even Ramos going to Real Madrid, though that was a right turn-up, but Chelsea giving away a free blue and white woolly scarf to each of their fans at the home game against CFR Cluj. Don't they know there's a war on? That Didier is down to his last Baby Bentley?
Biggest shock I got was switching on to watch Norwich v Ipswich and thinking: "Hmmm, Norwich's captain looks familiar." Blow me, it was Gary Docherty. He drove me round the bend when he played for Spurs; I used to close my eyes whenever he got the ball.
Since he went, I had wiped him from my mind; in fact I pushed him so far back I would have said, "Oh yeah, didn't he play for Spurs about 1942, '43, wartime anyway, when only the crocks got a game?" As opposed to just five years ago. He played quite well, actually.
Excitements to come in the new year: Hurrah, once again there are four English teams still left in the Champions League, so let's hope for the fifth year in a row we'll have a team in the final. Before that, in January, look out for Man City buying every player in the Prem, ending up with a first-team squad of 1,257. Just think of the bench.
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