Friday, 28 May 2010

The CollinsBeans Awards 2010

The Balon d’Or, the PFA Team of the Year, the Football Writers’ Player of the Season… All great prizes, but nothing next to the most coveted award in European football – a CollinsBean.

Welcome to the inaugural CollinsBeans Awards, selected by the creators of this blog and distributed to worthy recipients across the continent. Tea cups have been hurled, threats made and shirts chucked to the floor but finally the victors have been confirmed.

And to get things underway with a bang, the Premiership winners are announced below.

Keep your eyes peeled for the eagerly anticipated European Awards, which will follow in the next few days.

Premiership Manager – Roy Hodgson

It’s the obvious choice, but it’s got to be Roy Hodgson. Taking a tiny, unheralded squad to the final of a European competition, disposing of established giants and the holders on the way, is some achievement. Leading Fulham to a solid mid-table position at the same time should not be underestimated either, particularly given the limited resources available. It wasn’t long ago that Fulham were relegation candidates.

The fact Hodgson is also articulate, gracious, polite, engaging and seemingly a thoroughly decent chap, helps as well.

Honourable mentions go to Carlo Ancelotti (the Double in your first season in England – not bad) and Alec McLeish.

Premiership Player – Frank Lampard

At first we thought this was simple, give it to Wayne Rooney. He’s cleaned up in all of the awards so far (although these are of course the ones that really matter) including both the Football Writers and PFA versions, and it’s really hard to argue. Simply, the man’s been a phenomenon, filling the considerable gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo and banging in goal after goal. Indeed, he’s the reason why a pretty average Manchester United side were able to hang in the title race so long – Rooney was so good he was papering over the many cracks at Old Trafford.

However, despite all of that, we’re going to plump for Frank Lampard. How he is continually overlooked by both his peers and those in the press is beyond us. Not only is he a model professional but he’s a goal scoring machine from centre midfield and the vital cog in Chelsea’s side. He is the real leader of the club – a man who digs deep when the team is in a hole and who never shirks his responsibilities. Another unbelievable season from a man with exceptional standards.

Premiership Team – Birmingham

Wolves did very well to survive relegation so comfortably, Fulham were fantastic in reaching the Europa League final, Tottenham didn’t do badly in holding their nerve and securing 4th place, and of course Chelsea won the Double.

Yet this award is going to none of the above. In an era where star forwards and wingers grab all the headlines, and the focus is very much on the individual, one side this season proved the sum can be greater than the parts. Birmingham City may lack a big name or two, but through sheer hard work, camaraderie, discipline and togetherness they have achieved remarkable success in their first season back in the top flight. Ok, they didn’t win any silverware, but a 9th place finish in their first season back in the Premiership, with top results at home against some of the league’s best sides, was a fantastic team effort. There was no lack of quality too, with Birmingham scoring a number of expertly worked goals. In terms of overall team performance, Birmingham thoroughly deserve this award.

Premiership Goalkeeper – Joe Hart

Heurelho Gomes had a great season and Shay Given maintained his extremely high standards, but the award goes to Joe Hart. Given belief and confidence by Birmingham, Hart has shown all the qualities he promised a couple of years ago. He’s made tremendous saves almost every week and crucially, very few (if any) errors. All the stoppers in the Premiership are capable of pulling off a dramatic save, but it’s the basics, the composure from crosses, the kicking and the overall decision making which really set the best keepers apart. In this respect, Hart has been immaculate.

His location next season will be intriguing too, as surely such an outstanding young goalkeeper can’t sit on the bench at Manchester City?

Premiership Defender – Ashley Cole

Like with all positions, it’s hard to separate – being a full back requires very different skills from being a centre half, but this is one award, so it’s going to one defender. When one thinks of a defender, one immediately thinks of a rugged centre back and there have certainly been some impressive performers in this area. Both Roger Johnson and Scott Dann have made great contributions to a very tight Birmingham rearguard during their first seasons in the top flight and Michael Dawson has improved his reputation to where many are clamouring for him to go to the World Cup. Thomas Vermaelen has also been an excellent addition to the Premier League and his season is made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s had to play in front of Almunia and Fabianski.

Many of the more heralded names (your Vidic’s, Terry’s, Ferdinand’s and Carragher’s of this world) have in our eyes been very shaky this year but the one famous name whose reputation has been enhanced (well on the pitch anyway) over the past 10 months is the former Mr Cheryl Tweedy himself. Hate him or loath him, Ashley Cole is the best left back in the world, and this season he’s returned to his exceptional best. In the immortal word of Mr. Martin Tyler, when he scored the 8th and final goal of the title clinching rout of Wigan, ‘that summed it all up’.

Premiership Midfielder – James Milner

A tough one to call, and there won’t be any weak sentimentality shown here (see Giggs, Ryan circa 2009). Cesc Fabregas looked on course for this one at Christmas, but injuries and Arsenal’s general decline meant his season tailed off. And whilst Frank Lampard has claimed our overall player award, we want to distribute these sacred CollinBeans as widely as possible.

So ultimately the choice comes down to Steven Pienaar or James Milner. Pienaar has been superb – creativity, tireless running and a quite brilliant goal at the Emirates, but the award goes to Milner. He started the season as an effective, if unheralded wide man, and ended it as one of the league’s finest central midfielders. Milner has always shown glimpses of talent, but this year has marked his arrival as a top player. He has fantastic workrate, and pretty much a complete game for a central midfielder – strong, good in the tackle, energetic, a range of passing, powerful shooting and an eye for goal. Why did no one play him in that position before…

Premiership Striker – Wayne Rooney

Here you can copy and paste our earlier comments on Wayne Rooney from the ‘Premiership Player’. No arguments, Rooney all season long has been setting extraordinary standards as he developed into the all round, combative, explosive centre forward we all hoped he’d become. So yes, step forward Mr. Rooney, striker of the year.

A word for two other players though. He may throw something of a hissy fit at not getting this award but it was hard to look past the goals of the league’s top scorer, Didier Drogba. He’s not getting any younger but is still the prototype for the complete 21st century forward – a lethal combination of pace, power, strength, poise and skill. Pretty handy from a free kick too. Finally, Darren Bent. 25 goals is a terrific effort, yet wherever he goes he never seems to get much love. He’s no rabbit killer either; he’s scored against all the top teams and is even good enough to garner assists from beach balls along the way.

Goal of the Season – Maynor Figueroa

It’s always hard to pick this one, as everyone has a slightly different view on what makes a great goal. However, we’re going for Maynor Figueroa’s sensational lob for Wigan in the game against Stokes. The technique involved was outstanding, and the only disappointment was Tony Gubba’s BBC commentary, which didn’t quite match up… “Oh, it’s gone in. Figueroa’s scored.” Thanks for that Tony.

Runners-up congratulations go to (including a couple of Championship names):

Didier Drogba, for the brilliant team goal against Bolton:

Victor Moses, for a stunning overhead kick versus Barnsley:

Nicky Maynard, for his quite ridiculous strike in the QPR – Bristol City game:

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