BBOAH’s Alternative End of Season Awards

Ah, season’s end. The point where hope or despair finally crystallise and you realise there’s nothing more you can do about it until August. Where you can strut about the beach at Ayia Napa in your replica shirt like a peacock or stuff it in to the bottom of your suitcase, never to be seen again. And – of course – where one of your players picks up a lovely new Redifusion Television to recognise their efforts. You young people should Google that and then give thanks you were born in the era of 4K and Kodi sticks.

Anyway, we (ok, me) at BBOAH are no different in wanting to hand out some rewards and brickbats though we (ok, me) have no Redifusion Televisions to give out, let alone a Kodi stick. The winners and losers below will just have to make do with the kudos or shame that comes from knowing that a couple of hundred people have read something vaguely humorous about them. So, without any further ado, let’s go.

Player of the Season

See, here’s where I’m different. Everyone else builds up to this award. I start with it. Get me.

The thing is this may be the only sensible award in the whole piece and the jury (me and The Boy) are very much split. You would think it would be a shoe-in for Knockaert having won the award at both club and Championship level and, indeed, he is The Boy’s PotS of choice. I, on the other hand, am an old pub centre back. Players who tried that sort of fast-feet, drag-back, twisting and turning were shown two pairs of studs and kicked all the way back to the Dog and Duck. Our defence has been outstanding all season – well most of it – and its beating heart is Lewis Dunk.

He’s so much more than that though. He’s a major threat from set pieces, his passing is absolutely outstanding (let me tell you, all that flashy beating players to standing ovations doesn’t happen unless some big lump has won the ball back and given it to you) and he formed, with Duffy, the best centre back pairing in the division. I’m not having this Pontus Jansson nonsense. Leeds didn’t even get in the playoffs.

But, ultimately, the award has to be shared with Knockaert. Yes, I know I’m copping out, or at least compromising, but to not recognise the Albion’s player of the season, the Championship’s player of the season and The Boy’s favourite Albion player ever seems wrong. Fifteen goals, eight assists (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/brighton-and-hove-albion/top-scorers) several full backs dumped on their arses and more heart and soul than a rugby team on steroids singing the national anthem. Plus he led the celebrations down West Street.

Anthony and Lewis, we salute you.

The Sami Hyppia Award for Alternative Tactical Genius

Goes to Colin Wanker of Cardiff for having his centre forward man-mark Lewis Dunk. Outstanding innovation. Shame it didn’t work. Talking of Cardiff………..

The Mike Bailey Award for Dullest Match of the Season

Goes to Cardiff away.

I don’t get to go to many away games so I pick the ones I do go to carefully, or should that be Caerphilly. Honk. I chose Cardiff because a good mate of mine is a proper Cardiff fan and promised to show us the sights. Indeed, leading up to the game it was a proper day out and no mistake. He had a shit on the English side of the bridge and me on the Welsh. We walked it to a pub at 10.50 in the morning and it was rammed, not a table to be had. I got a breakfast and a pint for less than I tip the dustmen at Christmas. We saw some superheros and we survived a bar where everyone had a shaved head and had been in the Soul Crew. Except me – I just had the shaved head.

A huge amount of beer was taken which was just as well as literally nothing happened in the game. It had 0-0 written all over it after 5 minutes. Three pigeons that had taken roost on top of the grandstand died of actual boredom. Substitutes warmed up because it was colder than Theresa May’s heart and because they’d have dozed off otherwise. Stockdale nearly got frostbite. The share price of the company that makes their goalnets dived by fifteen percent.

In those circumstances the only thing you can do is sing and jump around like a looney, and the Brighton fans did for 90 minutes, so much so that Chris Hughton came over to acknowledge us afterwards. Or he might have been apologising.

The thing is, though, that it was another fantastic day in a whole season of them, and much more typically Brighton. A good session ruined by 90 minutes of football is my default setting. Great friendships were also made that day. And that’s what it’s ultimately all about, isn’t it?

The “You’re Not Quite Your Mentor Are You” Award for Getting English Football Wrong

Goes, of course, to David Wagner.

People like Klopp. Hell, I love Klopp. There may even be Man United fans who like him. He’s funny and smart in a slightly scruffy way and has the air that he’s just jumped off the terraces. His teams play attractive football. Journalists dine off his soundbites for weeks. And he GETS English football.

His protegee, David Wagner, on the other hand has held a one man pitch invasion, had a fight with Gary Monk and got the whole “intimidating a team in to bottling promotion” so wrong that his quotes will still be fed back to him with a sliver of German mustard and lashings of schadenfreude in July.

Game of the Season

Here’s where I really struggle. How can I pick ONE? And – it might not even have happened yet!

So here’s my shortlist. Norwich at home, Sheffield Wednesday at home, Fulham away, Wigan at home, Brentford away. What to choose, what to choose. A thrashing, an astonishing, against the odds, victory, an unlikely comeback win, the day we won promotion or a last minute equalizer with Tony Bloom going spare at the front of the terraces?

I honestly can’t pick. If ever there was a collection of games that summed up the perfect season then this is them. Goals galore, totally unreal penalty saves, last minute drama, mental celebration scenes and hilarity levels off the scale. How do you choose? These, quite simply, were the games that framed the season for me. You can stick your easy wins over Derby or Reading or your hard fought three points at Barnsley. Football is all about those fleeting moments where you’re lost in utter rapture or where you’re toying with a supposedly good opponent who are making Mark Farrington and Richard Tiltman look like football geniuses, to the extent that you can’t stop laughing. Those games delivered it in spades.

But, if we win the title with a last minute winner at Villa off Stockdale’s arse as he’s come up for a corner kick? Well, frankly, I might not cope.

The Frank Spencer Award for Comedy Gold

Honourable mentions again to the Norwich games, both for their defence at the Amex and Stockdales total lack of luck, and phlegmatic acceptance of same, at their place but there is only one winner here; Leeds.

Thank you Leeds. Let’s just remind ourselves of that moment at Elland Road where Liam Bridcutt stated, without any irony, that they were on for the automatics. Twitter was full of predictions that they’d do the same, at our expense, because “Brighton bottle it”. At this point the current chairman of the irony club has just sold his gaffe and moved lock, stock and barrel to West Yorkshire.

Not even in the playoffs. Fans across the division joining each other in matey renditions of “Leeds are falling apart”. And, of course, it’s all so damn UNFAIR.

That this MASSIVE club are once again bereft of Premier League football is a crime against everything the game’s about. After all, having huge attendences (four times a season), selling out away ends all over the land (never mind how close your opponents are or that you have a large London supporters club because lots of people love Leeds so much that they left it the second they could), and having every game moved by Sky (oh, wait, no, that’s us) should be enough. Forty Six games of football and keeping your nerve under pressure shouldn’t even enter into it.

I am slightly disappointed though. Only the other day I paid about twelve quid to see Stephen C Grant, Steve North and Atilla make me laugh. I could have spent the night on the #lufc hashtag and got the same amount of hilarity for free.

The Boy’s Award for Referee of the Season

And finally, it’s the one you’ve all been waiting for. This season has seen several rants, a few marks of minus several million and genuine OUTRAGE at the end of Brentford at home, but there has been nothing – so far – to compete with The Shyster (who we may well get next season, who said this promotion lark was good?).

There have – incredibly – been a couple of positive marks. Such things are almost unheard of. So it is, without further ado, that Chris Kavanagh, who reffed the Derby home game, strolls home with an astonishing 7 out of 10. We shall never see the like again.

Leeds United at Home 16/17 – Professional

Sometimes the oddest of things can demonstrate the pulling power of a good side. An example. This week I have suffered (and I can already sense female readers rolling their eyes at the use of that word) from a throat so sore I couldn’t talk, temperature changes that saw me going from thick jumper to t-shirt in an instant and, strangely, toothache. In other words, manflu. Manflu on steroids though, with added unpleasantness. I hate toothache. But it went nearly as fast as it came. Even on Friday morning I was still chucking as much paracetamol as I thought I could get away with down me but the big packet I took with me went untouched.

Let me take you away from this picture of personal patheticness to a much more pathetic, tragic, annoying, unfair, hilariously incompetent and potentially corrupt situation – the effing trains. Was there ever, really a more sorry shower of shit? It’s not this blog’s place to go all political or start looking for a single scapegoat, but what I will say is that it seems to me that the ideologically evangelical ideas of a few are causing misery to the hundreds of thousands, our beloved football club and beloved Mr Bloom included. Once again there would be a service so poor that it made Leon Best’s loan spell look professional.

There’s a point, I promise. Two years ago that would have been it for me. I would have pulled up the drawbridge. “Manflu, plus toothache, plus no trains” I’d have said to myself. “Sod that, I’ll watch it on Sky”. As, indeed, I did, almost exactly two years ago when Millwall came to town on a Friday night and the trains were better then and I might not even have had manflu. But what has been achieved in those two years is quite incredible. At no point this week did I think “maybe I’ll give this one a miss”. No, I’ve been looking forward to it since the final whistle went on a dull, cold 0-0 at Cardiff.

Luckily, while I’d been moaning and necking Strepsils (other throat lozenges are available but I like Strepsils) Steve had been much more practical and had booked the four of us on to the West Hove Sainsbury’s Park and Ride. Quite possibly some adrenaline kicked in too as, by 5pm I was feeling as good as I had done all week. The Boy pulled on his Brighton hoody and we were ready to go. Glory hunter? Moi?

Glory hunting dominated my part of the pre-match chat on the way to the bus stop. Leeds United do not have a very good record at The Amex, which is odd, what with them being the actual champions of Europe and stuff. Last season was probably their nadir, a hopelessly pathetic performance from Sol Bamba lighting up a game where we led 4-0 at the break. So it was with confidence that I told The Boy that, while it would be a tough game, I fancied us to do it. He wasn’t so sure. He expected Leeds to try and kick us off the pitch, with Knockaert being the main target. Admittedly this was based largely on his FIFA 17 tactics against yours truly on the X-Box where he insists on spending the first five minutes of any game slide tackling my star player whether or not he has the ball. “I don’t think Gary Monk uses quite the same tactics” I assured him.

There were mixed confidence levels in the WSU despite us playing our traditional Amex whipping boys. Tough game reckoned Steve. Yep, agreed the leader of the cheese eating poker school. Just then I bumped in to the delightful Jem Stone who was beaming and confidently predicted three points.

It says a lot for last week’s bore draw (which despite the blog name I attended, but didn’t write up owing to not remembering much of it) that I whole heartedly believed that the first three minutes of this match contained more action that the whole of last week. What’s more, despite being forced by a Leeds coin toss win to attack the North Stand first, that action was coming from us. Ok, there were no actual chances but Jamie Murphy was causing problems down our left, Baldock was buzzing round like a particularly annoying wasp and Murray, playing right on the final defender’s shoulder, was annoying the crap out of their centre backs. However, the first real goal mouth action to emerge from this far better start killed the game off as a contest.

Twenty one minutes were showing and we had a corner on the East Stand side. Knockaert swung in a wicked, curling inswinger and Dunk lost his man at the back post. He got a foot to the loose ball and steered it goalwards, at which point I lost sight of it. Hi viz yellow ball my backside. Actually, the reason I lost sight of it was very simple. I fully expected it to be nestling in the north goal and it wasn’t. All around me people were out of their seats cheering too. In fact we soon would be 1-0 up and this goal came with four cheers for the price of one, since Kalvin Phillips had cleared off the line with his arm. Ball seems to go in – on feet. Ref points to spot – almost a goal level bounce around. Ref produces red card – laughter, additional cheers and waving. Murray puts in dodgy looking penalty to give us the lead – general mentalness followed by high fives.

And that was almost that. In an instant we went in to professional mode, dropping down to third gear without ever looking like our hands were off the wheel so to speak.

Oh, we created some more decent chances. An almost identical corner saw Murray get away at the back stick only to head wide. Right at the end of the half Pocagnoli, having a great game in place of the suspended Bong, took a magnificent cross field ball, beat his man and tapped back to Murray who had an outside-of-the-boot chip well saved by Rob Green. For Leeds Chris Wood completely scuffed a dangerous low cross.

In the second half Monk reorganised his side to be more compact in midfield and we went in to “don’t blow this now” mode. Still Murphy tested Green after a quick and slightly fortuitous break and Duffy sent a free header straight in to the same player’s arms. And then a favourite moment of the day. A free kick from the left saw Dunk get ahead of his marker and go down. Having missed the bleeding obvious penalty your scribe confidently exclaimed “that’s another penalty”. Normally your scribe is very wrong when he says such things. So you can imagine the sheer incredulity in the WSU as the ref pointed to the spot again. With Murray taking a well earned rest (and there was definitely some game management from Hughton bearing in mind we have a game on Tuesday and were against 10 men for nearly 70 minutes) Hemed stepped up. “He’s going right down the middle” I said. The Boy nodded. Hemed stuck it in the corner. Game done.

No real mention of the mighty Leeds? Well, that’s probably because we had eighteen shots to their two, seven on target to their none. As a contest the red card had killed it.

One other thing that both boys were impressed with was the Leeds fans very sweary anti Sky song, delivered in broad Yorkshire. In fact they thought it was the funniest thing they’d heard since three thousand Brighton fans had invited a Charlton fan to do something anatomically impossible with his drum. So it was with a certain fascination they looked at the Leeds fans who were, for whatever reason, on the bus back to Portslade. We were all looking for a gritty Yorkshire rant about the price of t’pints so it was a double take done by most of us when the feller proclaimed something like “fackin ‘ell, I ain’t seen a worse ref since me old mam fell dahn the apples bless ‘er.” All he was missing was the pearly suit. A strange end to a strange week.

The Boy’s Ref Watch

This week I do not bring you a rant, nor even a negative score. I bring you an incredible four out of ten. Yes – that’s plus four. Both penalties and the red were heartily approved of, though marks were lost for being too lenient on Vierra, the Leeds number 25.

I appreciate this section isn’t as funny as usual but if that’s not a winning score then I’m a cockney Yorkshireman with toothache.

Leeds At Home 15/16 – Easy, Easy!

Ah, Leeds. Welcome at The Amex any time. In the naughty years gone by, the seventies, eighties and early nineties a visit from Leeds was about as welcome as one from your mental Auntie Vi with a crowbar in one hand and a gattling gun in the other, but not now. They come in numbers, boosting Mr Barber’s revenue (pretty much what it’s all about now if you believe that Argus interview about Sky), they provide a decent atmosphere, there are always goals and they never win. So it was last night.

It was a fitting way to celebrate my last alcohol for a month and a half. Hobbling, with DOMS coursing through my legs after a PB at the Brighton Half I mentally made a note that this game would provide my last beer before the big one in April. I headed first to The Swan where there was a gathering of the old school, home and away crowd I’ve known for years. I wasn’t the only one to have run the day before and, where the talk would previously have been of pubs, train times and away stewards it was all of times, pacing and training. At least for a bit. Then we got started on a game preview and we wondered aloud when the last time we had a penalty at home was. We concluded it was Ulloa’s effort that had cleared the North Stand and damaged several satellites. “Wonder when we’ll get another one?” we collectively asked.

I headed to the ground to meet the Cheese Eating Poker School, who had arrived with one of the anti-Sky banners being handed out by Leeds fans. I gently pointed out that we had the only seats in the entire ground that were behind the cameras. Such a banner would have been as much use as Sol Bamba. I supposed it could be rolled up and used as a telescope but instead it was gently abandoned.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with its sentiment. I can’t stand Monday Night Football, an invention from the States that was purely to increase advertising revenue over there. Attending a game on a Monday is wrong, as is having to write this in half an hour before work with a hangover. So what follows may be brief. But inconveniencing fans, many who would already have booked train travel or a weekend stay to our City is way more wrong. Brighton / Leeds games have always had a good atmosphere since we moved in to our new home. Credit to the Leeds fans who did turn up and kept singing despite what was occurring on the pitch, but there were less of them than in previous years and some significant gaps on our side of the fence too. Monday football sucks balls.

Gathered in the roost we made the now traditional draw for the quids in correct half time score. I believe eight of us now had a piece of the action, necessitating some fairly creative and outrageous scores to be included. I got 2-0 Leeds. Nobody, though, got 4-0. I mean, when have we ever been four up at half time (a game against Barnet at Withdean is the Tim Carder answer by the way)?

It didn’t start promisingly. The singing battle from the stands was excellent but much on the field was being concentrated in midfield. In hindsight this is where Leeds excel. They have a nice midfield. A decent, Liam Bridcutt at sweeper-ish, type of midfield. Luckily for us they can’t defend and they can’t attack, so when they had an early penalty shout denied that was it for the half in terms of their threat.

We’d been snuffed out in midfield but suddenly we were in front out of nothing. Rosenior went on the overlap down the left, cut in to the box through two players and was hauled down. We had our first home penalty since the Ulloa affront. This one was nearly as bad. If any of my under nines had taken a kick like it I’d have made a mental note that they were off penalties for a month. Tomer Hemed chipped it, very gently, right down the middle. But let’s be generous and say that he saw Silvestri move as the Leeds keeper generously dived out of the way for us to take a 1-0 lead.

Worse – much worse – was to come for Leeds. Bamba, who had a nightmare, gave the ball away to Baldock thirty five yards out from their goal with all their players out of position. Baldock seized the gift like a six year old at a birthday party and exchanged passes with Stephens to go in to the box, where his attempt at a finish took a massive deflection off Liam Cooper and in. 2-0. Fatty Evans was about to burst.

Last season we beat them 2-0 and it was the easiest home game of a difficult season. Though we are at a different end this season we haven’t had many games where we’ve cruised to a win, Brentford excepted. At this point the game was actually safe, given that Leeds’ attack had the accuracy and potency of a blind man hurling ping pong balls in a gale. We didn’t yet know this though as they failed to get out of their half. And, while they had succeeded in keeping Knockaert quiet this only left room for Murphy to attack on the other flank and Baldock and Hemed to torture their ponderous back four.

Next Murphy went clean through but Silvestri produced an excellent save. But then a long ball over the top was only half cleared and it fell to Hemed on the edge of the box. If anyone will have appreciated the Leeds defence parting like the Red Sea it would be him. A simple, low shot and it was 3-0. Now there was real tension among the Cheese Eating Poker School and Other Assembled Guests. 3-0 was one of the held tickets but we didn’t look done yet. Gallows humour took over the Leeds fans. The North Stand went in to shock. How Evans didn’t have a heart attack I’ll never know.

The inevitable fourth came from a corner. Leeds switched off and Dunk climbed highest of all to head home. Bedlam up in the roost. More puce-ness on the touchline. Poor old Leeds. Dragged down here on a Monday night to watch that. The half ended with us stroking the ball around like Barcelona and the whole thing was very neatly summed up by Steve. “I’m not sure how to deal with being this comfortable – I’m at a Brighton game and I’ve got a resting heart rate of 60.” All round the ground similar thoughts were being aired. No one had a winning ticket. Half time scores went in to a roll-over.

I had a sneaking suspicion that, while Evans would have been demolishing the away changing room, many tea cups and several Piglets Pies, Hughton would already be closing the game down. Don’t get booked or injured or do anything silly seemed to be the mantra. Leeds had much more territory in the second half, but so useless were they with it that the first save from Stockdale was celebrated like a goal by their fans. We still nearly added another one, Skalak on as a sub going clean through but rounding the keeper the wrong way and finishing with an exaggerated dive as he was robbed. But that was it as a contest. “4-0, and you still don’t sing” taunted the Leeds. Sorry, lads. Mentally we were already on the bus home.

4-0 it finished. Such wins deserve to be celebrated with a pint or two and so we did. This morning I am facing a month and a half of sobriety. What a way to go out.

Leeds At Home 2014/15 – Perfect

Another mid week game. Another night without The Boy. Beer then. Quite a bit of beer.

Pubs in a station shouldn’t be good. They should, in fact, be the sort of pub you run screaming from unless you’re the sort of chap that needs an 11am eye opener of Tramp Juice or you are a group of thirsty football fans. And of course, like any two sets in a Primary School maths lesson there’s a subset of both in the middle. But I digress. Every pub I’ve ever been to in a station has been horribly shit. The old one on Brighton Station most definitely was. Even we stayed out of it and I’ve drunk down Ditchling Road and in The Clyde. So it was a rather bizarre experience to bookend my trip to the Leeds match with a nice pint of West Pier for me, a Cruzcampo for my friend who is very fond of such things, some honey and bacon peanuts (say that out loud without drooling) and a group of familiar faces in the corner in a pub in a station. The Cyclist, it turns out, is rather nice. Yes, Brighton But Only At Home was on the sauce.

I mention this because when it happens (and it’s happened just few enough times this season for my regular readers to recommend the AA) any real sense of football reporting goes out of the window. What makes it even harder to report on the game is that, even through my morning paracetemol and coffee I can’t really think of a single negative to dress up in disasterous metaphors. It was a regulation win by a good looking team. I haven’t said that all season. I remember them in the past. Leeds last season was one. Wolves under Poyet another. Not a thrashing. Not a lucky win. Just a professional job where we score more goals than the opposition without looking worried.

A Cruzcampo, a pint or two or three in Dick’s and we took our seats at 7.35 to Fanzone and an empty stadium. The roads round the Amex had been chocka and many people were still getting to their seats ten minutes after kick off. They had missed the ostensibly puzzling news that the front line was to be led by CMS and Baldock. And here’s the first thing I love about Chris Hughton. Sami, bless him, used to tinker with the side for no apparent reason and to no apparent effect. Leeds, however, looked ponderous and one paced at the back. Even a man four Real Ales down could see that and our management team had clearly studied their weaknesses. CMS and his running bothered them immensely and we used it to good effect as Tex and Baldock found gaps and Kayal and Ince bossed midfield. In such circumstances your defence is rarely troubled and Leeds sat on the back foot with us dominating possession, or at least as much as I could see before I had the sudden urge to start telling silly jokes or starting a song.

After twenty six minutes it paid off with CMS breaking down the right and slotting a lovely ground cross for Baldock to provide the deftest of finishes. Normally this is the cue for us to retreat in to our shells and concede almost immediately. Not last night. Perhaps it was finally getting the 4-3 win over Birmingham or perhaps the new management team had finally got though to them, I’m not sure. But we continued to press, Kayal and Ince continued to dominate, Stockdale who had used the second period of the first half to save a one on one and a penalty on Saturday remained untroubled.

A half time pint. A smiley, happy, bloody hell we’re actually good half time pint.

More of the same in the second half. Leeds couldn’t cope with Baldock’s pace and CMS’s energy. They couldn’t cope with Kayal’s box-to-box-ness, Ince’s legs or the fact that Calde may actually be the second coming. They couldn’t cope with Dunk’s height or Greer’s new found desire to pass it forwards. We made several chances, firstly a pass coming when a shot should have when clean through before CMS shot straight at the keeper. Then we doubled the lead through Calde’s beard, Tex having put Kayal through for a chance which their keeper palmed on to the Lord’s facial hair where it nestled pleasantly in the corner of the net. That’s the ball not his beard. There was still time for a game of goal ping pong and for us to hit the post when scoring was easier but that, essentially was that. Game wrapped up by 65 minutes. Relaxed people in stands. Who’d have thunk it?

So I may have had my blue and white beer goggles on but in the cold light of day I can still say every single player deserved the win. It was a professional performance, devoid of panic, cock up or scapegoat. The hundredth game at the Amex took me back exactly two or three years to time when such a win was the norm. I’ll drink to that.