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27 May 2017

And the winner of footballer wig of the year is…

My end-of-season awards. 

By Hunter Davies

Time to take socks, look back over the season for holes, threadbare excuses and darn well work out what it all meant.

Face of the Season
Wenger: his own eyes must haunt him when he looks in the mirror. How long can a man hang on? Another ten years, is my top tip.

Hair of the Season
It’s now all beards on the pitch – only the refs and the ball boys don’t have one. The effect when they go down injured is weird: their little beards stick up in the air, as if painted on by some joker at half-time. As for the mane award, it has to go to Cristiano Ronaldo. Appearing at the end with highlights was . . . well, a highlight.

Has to be Antonio Conte at Chelsea. Managers get the blame or the credit when so often it was little to do with them, but this season we could all see the difference at Chelsea, after the shambles of last year. He managed to turn around the old lags and some young poseurs and make them perform as a team.

Thank God for One Of Our Own. Harry Kane, an Englisher, ended top goal-scorer.

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Was it 4-3-3 what done it, or 3-3-4 or 1-2-3-4 or 999? All this numbers talk is mostly bollocks, has been since 1863 when it began. Formations come and go. You pick your best players, train them like hell, shout and scream at them. That’s about it, really.

End of the North
Is football finished, oop there (in the NE anyway), with Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull down? Nothing much in Yorks or Lancs, either, outside Manchester and Liverpool. Is it ’cos players’ wives won’t live there? Is it because sponsors won’t buy hospitality boxes there? Hurrah for Newcastle coming up.

Chant of the Season
The one that made me laugh was at White Hart Lane for the striker Vincent Janssen, Dutch Young Talent of the Year 2016, bought by Spurs for £17m, who has been allowed only occasionally to lumber on for the last five minutes. Then blow me, he got a goal from open play, against Bournemouth back in April. At once, the whole crowd started singing: “He scores when he wants, he scores when he wants,/Vincent Janssen, he scores when he wants . . .”

Most Confusing Chant
Bury’s supporters singing “I’m Bury till I die”.

Wig of the Year
Wayne Rooney’s is fading, Slaven Bilic’s still looks thin, but Conte – what a mop, what a mop, what a luscious head of fake hair. Perhaps triumph has made it really grow again?

Fear of Lip Reading
Managers on the bench talk to coaches with their hand over their mouth, as if they had bad breath, in order to stop the lip readers on Sky working out just how rude they’re being. The habit has now spread. In the ranks of jobsworths on the benches behind, you can see the deputy assistant chief video geek covering his mouth so we can’t see him saying to the deputy youth team physio beside him: “Fancy a pie?”

Clichés of the Season
“He can hit the ball with both feet.” So that’s why he falls over. “He opened his body for that one.” Ooh, what a mess.

Success at last at Watford. Yes, they have a new player from Nigeria called Isaac Success, bought for £12.5m from Granada.

Most Distinguished Beard
Gareth Southgate, England manager, always was dignified. Now he has turned stately and ecclesiastical. Top tip for the next bishop of Durham. Big Sam, since he got the push from England, looks even more like a pork butcher. Moral – takes all sorts to be a manager.

Neatest Poster
Draped by Man United fans at Old Trafford: “The Special Juan”. Bit complicated, but it referred to Mourinho, formerly the Special One, being horrid to Juan Mata.

Most Annoying New Word
Everyone in the Prem is now an elite player, every club is an elite club. I have now decided I am an elite fan. Oh yes.

Right, that’s it till the next exciting season. See yous in September. 

Volume two of Hunter Davies’s memoirs – “A Life in the Day” – will be published by Simon & Schuster in July.

This article appears in the 24 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain