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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Owen Smith promises to be a "cold-eyed revolutionary" - but tiptoes round Brexit

The Labour leader challenger takes Jeremy Corbyn on at his own anti-austerity game. 

Owen Smith may be challenging Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership but it seems he has learnt a thing or two from his former boss. 

One year on from abstaining from the Tory Welfare Bill - a decision he now says he regrets - Smith attacked the former Chancellor George Osborne’s austerity policies from Orgreave, a former steel plant which was pivotal during the miners’ strike.  

Listing frustrations from library cuts to delayed trains, Smith declared: “Behind all of these frustrations is one cause – austerity.”

Borrowing the rhetoric that served Corbyn so well, he banged the drum about pay, labour rights and fair taxes. 

Indeed, a spokesman from Jeremy for Labour popped up to say as much: “We welcome Owen’s focus on equality of outcome, reindustrialisation and workers' rights - and his support for policies announced in recent months by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.”

On policy, though, Smith showed a touch of his own. 

His description of the Department for Work and Pensions as “a byword for cruelty and insecurity” resonates with the deep fear many benefit claimants feel for this faceless but all powerful authority. His promise to scrap it will not go unnoticed.

Another promise, to end the public sector pay freeze, is timely given widespread expectations that withdrawing from the EU’s single market will push up prices. 

He also appealed to the unions with a pledge to scrap the “vicious and vindictive” Trade Union Act. 

The policies may be Corbynite, but where Smith stands out is his determination to be specific and practical. He is selling himself as the Corbyn who actually gets things done. Asked about what he would replace zero-hours contracts with, he responded: "Well it could be one [hour]. But it can't be zero."

As he concluded his speech, he promised “revolution” but continued:

“Not some misty eyed romanticism about a revolution to overthrow capitalism.

“But a cold-eyed, practical, socialist revolution, through a radical Labour Government that puts in place the laws and the levers that can genuinely even things up.”

Smith’s speech, though, steered clear of grappling with the big issues of Brexit. He stands in favour of a second referendum on the Brexit deal, which may appease Labour's inner city voters but could frustrate others who voted Leave.

On the free movement of people – widely viewed as a dividing line between Labour’s Corbynite members and the wider voting population - he has been vague. He has previously expressed support for the "progressive case against freedom of movement" and criticised Corbyn for failing to understand patriotism. But this is not the same as drawing up policy. Whether he can come up with strong views on immigration and still appeal to both voter bases will be his biggest challenge of all. 

Owen Smith's 20 policies

1.      A pledge to focus on equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity 
2.      Scrapping the DWP and replacing it with a Ministry for Labour and a Department for Social Security
3.      Introducing modern wages councils for hotel, shop and care workers to strengthen terms and conditions
4.      Banning zero hour contracts
5.      Ending the public sector pay freeze
6.      Extending the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees
7.      Ensuring workers’ representation on remuneration committees
8.      Repealing the Trade Union Act
9.      Increase spending on the NHS by 4 per cent in real-terms in every year of the next parliament
10.  Commit to bringing NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government
11.  Greater spending on schools and libraries
12.  Re-instate the 50p top rate of income tax
13.  Reverse the reductions in Corporation Tax due to take place over the next four years
14.  Reverse cuts to Inheritance Tax announced in the Summer Budget
15.  Reverse cuts to Capital Gains Tax announced in the Summer Budget
16.  Introduce a new wealth Tax on the top 1 per cent earners
17.  A British New Deal unveiling £200bn of investment over five years
18.  A commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England, and to bring forward High Speed 3
19.  A pledge to build 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament – 1.5 million over five years
20.  Ending the scandal of fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy