Helena Costa takes Hunter's "Top Girl" award. Photo: Getty
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At the end of this “incredibly exciting, best ever, world-class” season . . . it’s time for gongs

A good season for facial hair, a bad one for puns.

Beards Excellent season for facial hair, compared to head hair – which, frankly, has been boring, neat and tidy with a parting, as if their mums had done it for them. Pirlo of Juventus is still the World Master but Ashley Cole emerged as English chump, I mean champ, with the full Player’s packet. Now we know what he was doing all those months Mourinho kept him on the bench.

Big Sam v Steve Bruce This has gone to the wire. Steve did try to hide his enormous girth in a tracksuit that’s really a bell tent, while Big Sam has been bursting out of his suit. Every game, they seemed to put on a stone. Did they have a bet? The winner gets all the pies.

Thin Manager . . . and manager of the season – Tony Pulis, for keeping Palace up and turning them into a positive, attacking force, unlike the dour defender he appeared at Stoke.

Most Improved Players I had Gary Cahill down as a lump for years but blow me, this season he has looked positively cultured. Also Demichelis of Man City, a total liability, early doors, but came good when it mattered. And Jordan Henderson, with his funny, lumpy walk; but he, too, has improved. Which leaves Phil Jones of Man United still to demonstrate that he might not be as lumpish as he looks.

Top Girl Has to be Helena Costa of France’s second-league side Clermont, the first woman in the top two divisions in any of the leading European leagues to be appointed club manager. Takes over next season. Will she be La Gaffer?

Top Name Casper Sloth, who plays midfield for Denmark. What a mover. I bet he comes to Spurs next season – can’t be worse than the seven funny-sounding foreigners they acquired last year.

Fans Having Fun Well done to all the Norwich City supporters who voted for Carlo Nash as their Player of the Year – their reserve goalie, who never played all season. Also the Newcastle fans who walked out in the 69th minute because, er, I’m not quite sure why. Something to do with 69 years since they last won a home game?

Home Games An interesting aspect of this incredibly exciting, best ever, world-class, brought to you only on Sky/BT/BBC/ITV blah blah is not that the top teams were often surprised by bottom teams, but how often the top teams got beaten at home, such as Liverpool by Chelsea, Bayern Munich by Real Madrid, Chelsea by Atlético Madrid. Is home advantage a myth?

Nice Visual Joke I did like it when Samuel Eto’o of Chelsea staggered to the corner flag after he’d scored and held on to it like an old man. It was a pointed reference to Manager Mourinho saying he didn’t know Eto’o’s age.

Nice Banner “Brendan – the carefully chosen one”, held up by the Liverpool crowd. In a year or so the meaning will be lost, but it was to do with the Man United banner that announced David Moyes as “the chosen one”. David Moyes? Come on, you can’t have forgotten him.

Best Crowds Palace fans shouted even when there was nothing to shout about. Will they take over from Newcastle, the old leaders in chanting and baring their beer bellies?

Awful Pun “Kane shows he is able . . .” Sky commentator, speaking when Harry Kane came on for Spurs.

Awful Image “Van Persie should have shot himself”: another Sky commentator, suggesting van Persie shouldn’t have passed to Rooney.

Awful New Trend Players shaking hands with everyone on the bench when taken off. Takes ages: most benches have 100 tracksuits sitting there.

Fans Having No Fun At the beginning of the season I decided to sponsor one of the players for Carlisle United, my home-town team. I chose Mark Beck, recently picked for Scotland’s under-21s. It cost me £400 plus VAT. I got my name in the home programme and was promised Beck’s home and away shirts at the end of the season. He hardly got a game and in January went out on loan to Falkirk. Now Carlisle are relegated. Oh well, when I do get my CUFC shirts they should be sweat-free . . .

Right, that’s this season over. But back in four weeks for the World Cup.

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 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Why empires fall

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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

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 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage