United heroes of 2010/2011
I can’t promise a star-studded ceremony, but anyone who knows anything about football knows that the following awards rank among the highest accolades available to a professional sportsman. The Alternative LUFC awards are decided by a judging panel of one (me), and the trophies are lovingly sculpted from cardboard and sticky-back plastic in the style of one of the country’s most respected artists (Neil Buchanan from Art Attack). Winners will have to phone me to arrange to collect their prize, as I don’t have a car.
So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Player of the Season
You have to go back to a long-forgotten era when Dusty Bin was more globally famous than Bin Laden to find the last recorded case of a Leeds United outfield player starting every single game, so take a bow Jonny Howson, whose invention and dynamism were only matched by his supreme consistency. Not content with simply raising his game to Championship level, he more than doubled last season’s goal tally and even sneaked into the international picture. A born leader, and a potential club legend in the making.
Most Improved Player of the Season
Narrowly missing out to Howson in the Player of the Season stakes, Max Gradel’s 18 goals represent a remarkable return for a player who spent half of last year’s promotion-clinching Bristol Rovers game in tears under the physio’s bench. An impact sub at best and a walking episode of Jeremy Kyle at worst, his suitability for Championship football was questioned, not least by Leicester, whose ill-advised decision to let him go has come back to bite them. At his best, it’s like watching Tino Asprilla in full flow, Let’s hope Newcastle keep their hands off.
Tony Yeboah Award for Goal of the Season
If Bradley Johnson never kicks another football in anger, he can rest assured that his laser-like attempt against Arsenal will stand the test of time. Wojciech Szczesny almost lost a hand trying to stop it, an event that would inevitably have led to Arsene Wenger embarking on a 40-minute rant about thuggish Championship teams deliberately injuring his precious players.
Comedy Moment of the Season
Can count myself lucky not to have earned a surprise nomination for this one after my doomed attempt to catch the ball against Reading led to me overbalancing and almost landing in the lap of the poor chap directly behind me. The spectacle of Neil Kilkenny flapping his bottom lip at Adel Taraabt during last week’s win was made even more engaging by certain TV stations electing to show it in slow motion HD. The winner, however, is the QPR fan who attempted to violate Paul Connolly with a pink inflatable guitar in the first half of the same game. Disturbing on many, many levels, but it still made me chuckle.
Drag Me To Hull Award for Most Horrible Display of the Season
Preston at home. I still wake up screaming, although my therapist says I’m showing signs of recovery.
Gordon Brown Award for Foot-In-Mouth Moment of the Season
John Ryan: “All these people who pretend to support Leeds and come from Doncaster, it’s quite unbelievable, If you are from Doncaster you should support Doncaster Rovers! We’re better than Leeds anyway!”
This was the cosmic tipping point at which some higher power finally decided that Doncaster Rovers and their lovably deluded chairman had gone far enough. The sheer absurdity of them occupying third place disrupted the fabric of the universe and created a vortex that sucked them down to their natural position near the foot of the league. Get back in yer box, pal.
Neil Warnock Award
The NWA, named afer the much-loved former Sheffield United boss, is awarded to the best example of verbally insulting or belittling a fellow professional. Ironically enough, it goes to the referee from Leeds-QPR at Elland Road who responded to Warnock’s bellowed “I’ll show you four decisions you got wrong!” with “Yeah, and I’ll show you four or five bad passes your team made!”. Someone give that man a medal.
So, there you have it, and that’s it from me. Once again, I look back on United’s efforts with no little pride. I think there’s a growing sense in the footballing community that this team is ready to be taken seriously again. The most vital transfer business of the season is, I understand, being conducted as you read this, and concerns the contracts of the likes of Gradel, Howson and Bradley Johnson. It is imperative that we retain their services so that we can build on our progress.
As for transfer targets, we could certainly do worse than look at Nick Montgomery, Eric Lichaj, James Perch and a certain other Newcastle player. I know some of you are fed up with me banging this particular drum, so I won’t mention his name, but it sounds a bit like Gralan Grith.
Will I be back next year? Even I’m not sure of that right now, but in the close season I’ll be continuing to write for the website of a well-known LUFC fanzine. Keep an eye on my official Facebook page for more details.
I consider myself truly privileged to have been chosen to represent my club on Sky and I hope I’ve made a few people smile along the way. Roll on next season, when we’ll be marching on up to the promised land.