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23 May 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:38am

My end-of-season awards: Arsène’s jacket, Firmino’s teeth, and the curse of the Panini sticker

For the first time in 22 years, Haircut of the Season is not being awarded. Too many with the same razor slashes.

By Hunter Davies

Looking back at the season, looking forward to the next, to life, love, everything.

Arsène’s Anorak

One of the visual moments, the jacket he could never zip up. What will happen to it now he’s gone from the Arsenal bench? He always pretended to do it up without looking down, the fool, never managing till he concentrated properly. By which time they were two goals down. What will happen to his assistant Steve Bould? He had a non-speaking, non-moving part. His job was to sit there, being ignored, looking tough and awfully solemn. When Fergie packed it in, there were people on eBay flogging bits of chewing gum which he had allegedly spat out at the end of each game. I hope the anorak will be auctioned for charity. I might bid for it. I could wear it for gardening.

Haircut of the Season 

Alas, for the first time in 22 years, this is not being awarded. Too boring, too many with the same razor slashes. Instead – Teeth of the Year! We have seen some flashing gnashers this season. Not from our native lads, brought up on sugary drinks, but from these foreign chaps who clearly had sensible mummies. And the winner is: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool. Let’s hope in the Champions League final against Real Madrid we see his winning smile. Dark glasses ready to soften the glare.

Players of the Season 

Those who Won Top Awards/Set Records/Helped Old Ladies were excellent, such as Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane, but a small cheer for some lesser lights, in less glamorous clubs, who done good: Marko Arnautovic of West Ham, Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle and Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace.

Top Rejects 

Meaning players who got dumped, early doors, and then came back to haunt their dumpers, such as Salah and De Bruyne, both let go by Mourinho when he was at Chelsea, har har.

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Ex-Spurs stars who Done Good 

Gareth Bale had a decent season at Real Madrid, as did Modric, and Kyle Walker got even better after he went to Man City. Top men, top clubs, top money. What will Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen be thinking? Hang on, or not?

Most Improved TV Commentators 

When you get an incisive phrase, why bother to change it ? Hence Steve McManaman has decided the only adjective he will use from now on is “nice”. That was a nice ball, a really nice ball, now that was nice, oh what a nice throw-in, the grass looks nice today, think I will go and have a nice lie down. Mark Lawrenson has chosen not to waste time on words, so his reaction to everything, from a reply to a fellow commentator or drama on the pitch, is to slowly go: “… hmmmmmm.”

Saturday’s Euro Final 

Could Liverpool do it? Real Madrid and Barça have soared so far above our lot these last few seasons. Ronaldo and Messi are two of the planet’s best players, ever. Liverpool will be the underdogs. I predict we will be klapping Klopp.

Summer Bliss 

I am already prepared for the World Cup – screaming and shouting with frustration, good training for watching England. It’s being caused by Panini stickers. I got the free album at the Co-0p but you have to buy the stickers, beloved by young fans for decades. Football stickers began with Baines cards in Bradford in 1885. Oh, they were so pretty, far more attractive than the crudely coloured Panini stickers. Peter Blake did a poster based on them – a copy of which I have above my desk .

So far, with my Panini stickers, I have five of Eric Dier and six of Hirving Lozano of Mexico. Never heard of him, yet I am a total expert. Failed to swap them with my granddaughters. They have masses of the same ones. Panini stickers at least still exist, a memory of past joys, but we will have to do without one World Cup delight this summer – no official England song.

Next Season 

Arsenal will have a new manager, Unai Emery. Spurs will be in their new wonder stadium. And Wayne will be leaving our shores, possibly, maybe. And surely better haircuts will arrive. See you in September. 

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This article appears in the 23 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Age of the strongman