• Alternative end-of-season awards

Alternative end-of-season awards

Josh Williams May 23, 2010
It was a fine season for Wayne Rooney © Getty Images

Now the club football season has drawn to a close, we at ESPN.co.uk thought we'd hand out some honours - and make up a few - at our inaugural awards...

Player of the season
Wayne Rooney, so often a prisoner to his selflessness, was promised at the start of the season that he would no longer be shunted out wide - instead, he would be afforded his wish to play as a central striker. In return, Sir Alex Ferguson asked him to be more economical with his running and to become a constant presence in the box. Not a bad deal for the two to strike - Rooney blasted 26 league goals as United surged to the brink of the Premier League title.

Manager of the Year
Fulham's run to the Europa League final renewed interest in a competition that had been robbed of drama by its bloated, seemingly endless format. The brains behind the operation - and what a phenomenal achievement it was - was the Cottagers' avuncular boss Roy Hodgson, who had the knack of squeezing every last drop of effort and talent out of a squad not graced with star names.

Best signing
A season that promised so much for Arsenal fans went awry late in the season, but one positive was the form of centre back Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian stopper's pragmatic approach to defending - if in doubt, get it out - was a breath of fresh air in a Gunners team that can suffer for its over-elaboration.

Worst signing
He's had a handful of good games, yes, but for the crime of not being good enough to displace Lucas it has to be Liverpool's Alberto Aquilani. He arrived with the weight of expectation sitting heavily upon his shoulders, but his attempt to replace Xabi Alonso as the creative hub of the Reds' team has created only more headaches for manager Rafa Benitez.

The Paolo Maldini award for unflinching loyalty
"Speculation about me must stop," an adamant Robinho said in December. Why? "I will not leave: I think I will stay five years, 10 years. My only focus is Manchester City." Fair enough. "I love the fans and I love it here! It is very beautiful." Alas, how quickly a love-affair can sour. In January, the Brazilian had returned to his homeland after joining Santos in a loan deal.

Debut of the season
Darren Bent's pass to his Sunderland strike partner was so inch-perfect that he didn't have to move in order to divert the ball past Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. Yes, it was the simplest - but surely not the last - goal that the red balloon, who had justified his manager's decision to hand him a start, would ever score.

The Steve McClaren award for launching an unlikely comeback
When Sol Campbell insisted that he was targeting the Premier League when he joined League Two's Notts County in July, it was difficult to suppress a snigger. And yet, a mere six months later, Campbell found himself taking to the turf in the top league after re-joining Arsenal on a free transfer. He again confounded expectations by proving a success - prompting Arsene Wenger to offer him a one-year deal at the end of the campaign.

The Brian Clough award for geeing up players
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan hasn't quite got the hang of this motivational speaking lark. "I had no sleep last night, having watched the shambolic performance by the team against Wolves," he said after a 3-0 defeat. "I was as angry and upset as every supporter in the stadium at the disorganised way we played, allowing Wolves too much space so they looked like Manchester United. We have a few very talented players in our team, but it is a very unbalanced squad. I apologise to every supporter for the pathetic showing on Tuesday night."

Amr Zaki award for unjustified early-season hype
It all started so well for Burnley. In the second fixture of the season, the Clarets threatened to take the Premier League by storm when they beat Manchester United 1-0. As if to illustrate their decline across the season, United's rivals from across Manchester led 5-0 at half-time when they visited Turf Moor late in the season.

Tough times for Brian Laws at Burnley © Getty Images

The Sven-Goran Eriksson award for pre-World Cup drama
Just when it seemed that Fabio Capello would be afforded the opportunity to field something approaching his first-choice England team at the World Cup, along came Gareth Barry's ankle to cause mischief. Long-term observers of England's pre-tournament preparations received the warm embrace of familiarity when Barry announced he was sleeping in an oxygen tent to get fit for South Africa.

The Gary Lineker award for cringeworthy endorsements
In October, Frank Lampard took the laudable step of agreeing to front a new £75m child obesity campaign. "You're never too young to get fit," he insisted. A mere five months later, Lampard agreed a deal to be one of the faces of Walkers Crisps, encouraging kids to put crisps in sandwiches. "Any sandwich is more exciting with Walkers!" Oh, Frank…

The fair play award
"I don't give a flying f*** about them slaughtering me. I had to take a bit and took the heat off Tiger [Woods]. Somebody else will get it, it does not matter to me," said Wolves boss Mick McCarthy after he was criticised for fielding a weakened team against Manchester United. We're not suggesting anything, but Tiger's decision to withdrawal from the Players Championship did deflect attention from Wolves' shaky late-season form.

Quotes of the season
"A big club will always go for that sexy name. I'm not really sexy. You'll have to ask my wife. She'll definitely say 'no'."
It was time to get the violins out for Harry Redknapp

"Ruud told me that goals are like ketchup. Sometimes as much as you try, they don't come out, and then they come all of a sudden."
Now we know the secret to Ruud van Nistelrooy's goalscoring success… tenuous food metaphors

"He acted like a complete sock-sucker [boot-licker] when he said I wasn't worth £25 million just to suck up to the manager."
Carlos Tevez accused former team-mate Gary Neville of a whole lot of sucking

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Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk