With the 2021/22 season drawing to a close it has certainly been an eventful campaign on and off the pitch so here are our awards to some of the campaign’s heroes and villains
It was a season that cemented a generational rivalry in English football.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool again traded blows to the end while all other contenders lay flat on the canvas.
Elsewhere, prodigal son Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford and loved it so much he burst out laughing as a punch from Brighton confirmed the United he had left under Fergie is turning into a comedy club had.
Their failure to appoint serial winner Antonio Conte (a move almost as puzzling as Everton’s hiring of Rafa Benitez) was Spurs’ win, and it was good to see midfield legends from just a few years ago roaring from the dugout: Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace, Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa and Frank Lampard at Everton.
So, as we say goodbye to Roy Hodgson, Neil Warnock, Mike Dean and hopefully Mike Ashley, let’s hand out the brickbats and bouquets for the 2021-22 season.
AFP via Getty Images)
The FA forced Manchester City and Liverpool fans to travel to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final over an Easter weekend when they knew there were no trains that would take them there, in a good example of sick humour .
Almost as sick as Arsene Wenger, who sells his soul to FIFA to promote a World Cup every two years, if as a manager he had openly scoffed at such naked greed.
But that couldn’t match the LGBT+ symbol David Beckham Takes £150m From Qatar Gay Cruelty being their face of the World Cup and then spouting rubbish about how he “strongly believes in the power of football to bridge differences”. Sure buddy.
Fans who filled stadiums after their longest absence since World War II were music to everyone’s ears.
As did the screams of PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi as he stormed the referee’s room demanding to know why his mercenary team Real Madrid had been kicked out of the Champions League.
Jeff Stelling gave us all a boost when he announced a U-turn in his departure from Sky’s Soccer Saturday and the heartfelt show of love from the people of Leeds for Marcelo Bielsa as he was sacked was a humiliating testament to the power of football.
But the sound of Blackpool’s 17-year-old Jake Daniels reveals he’s gay broke down a wall of silence and made English football a more honest and healthy place.
VAR’s thicker lines meant fewer offside armpits, allowing fans to enjoy goals again with confidence.
We had a flood of golden oldies gleaming in the twilight of their careers: Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mike Ashley eventually packed away the Sports Direct signs in Newcastle and freed Geordies from Hell. But there was only one winner: Christian Eriksen plays football for Brentford Seven months after he almost died on the pitch with a smile on his face that spread to everyone else.
The return of the mass use of vuvuzelas as the backdrop to a boring AFCON tournament was a departure.
The announcement that Burnley had fired Sean Dyche in the midst of a relegation battle was heartbreaking, as was the squeak from the revolving door in the Watford manager’s office.
but Chelsea fans chant Roman Abramovich’s name while Russian tanks bombed apartment blocks in Ukraine, and the ugly increase in fans singing about football game deaths was by far the worst.
Steve Bruce jumped back on the managerial carousel, which he said would turn him to an early grave, three months after he picked up an £8million compo check from Newcastle felt sticky.
Fans of his old club raising Saudi Arabian flags in Chelsea a day after the state carried out 81 executions left a bad taste in their mouths that couldn’t be washed away.
But nothing was as disgusting as the video shown Kurt Zouma claps, then scolds, his cat across the kitchen to a soundtrack of laughter. Although David Moyes was forced to defend West Ham’s appalling floury stance, it was almost as disgusting.
Bruno Guimaraes proved a catalyst for Newcastle, as did Phillipe Coutinho at Aston Villa.
Aaron Ramsdale improved Arsenal’s defence, Dejan Kulusevski was a big upgrade from Lucas Moura for Spurs and Michael Olise and Marc Guehi were inspired signings for Crystal Palace. Brighton unearthed another gem in Marc Cucurella and Tino Livramento was a revelation at Southampton.
But few signings have made an impact as deep and quick as Luis Diaz has at Liverpoolcarved his way into one of the strongest attacks in Europe, giving them renewed impetus in their quest for four trophies.
THE MOST ADORABLE TREND
The rise of the cheer police – pundits and fans who taunt other groups of players and fans for wildly enjoying winning a football game – left many cold.
As have children and adults holding up pieces of cardboard trying to emotionally blackmail a player into giving them his jersey. Players’ insincere Twitter apologies for a “mare” and tourist fans filming opposing players celebrating goals against their team on their phones have raised hackles.
But nothing had made fans rip out what was left of their hair when Assistant referees are taking longer and longer to raise their flags when players are offside.
Photo only/PA images)
New Roma boss Jose Mourinho told Italian media: “I won’t seek trouble. I’m more emotionally stable” before being sent off for protesting to a referee, then taunting Juventus fans and asking if a respected journalist has a brain .
Jesse Marsch told us how he motivates players: “I have hundreds of quotes that I use at different moments. There are historical figures like Gandhi,” before Dan James took inspiration from the great pacifist by becoming the second Leeds player to be sent off for a violent challenge in three days.
But the winner is a buddy of mine who was asked by a hotel in St. Petersburg if he had canceled a hotel room for the then-planned Champions League final “for personal or other reasons”.
He replied: “Others. Your president is a crazy ass.”