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 ( 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.

Charlton At Home Season 2014/15

One thing that’s different for me this season is taking my son to each home Saturday game. A friend of mine also takes his son from the same station and so we travel over to The Amex together. The night before the game this friend and I had gone out and got rather the worse for wear as I believe they still say in polite circles. Thus we met feeling a little delicate as I also believe they say in polite circles. My friend is ex Royal Navy and explained on the way over that, were we to attempt to ease the delicate feeling with another beer it would have been known on his submarine as “equalizing”. Equalizing turned out to be the theme of the day. Well, that and rollercoasters.

Rollercoasters? As in rollercoaster ride. Ups and downs. Following The Albion has always been one and the current transfer window has been no different. We’d gone from selling our best assets and being jilted at the alter by Sammy Lee, Adam Clayton and Stephen Ward to an influx of seemingly quality signings I was itching to see in the flesh, a turnaround that had taken about three weeks.  My Albion mojo was up and down like a persistent toddler on an over inflated space hopper. Having quickly equalized in the WSU concourse, as we took our seats it was most definitely up. Sadly it only took around five minutes to deflate, another thing in common with a heavy night on the drink.

The West Upper is excellent for seeing shape and tactics. The Boy is learning (very slowly since he takes after me) to play football. Thus I was trying to explain the differences in our shape to him, particularly our high defensive line with Bruno and Bennett pushed right up, when Charlton broke at pace in to exactly the huge gap I was describing. We scrambled back but to no affect as a deft layoff from the excellent Buyens found the equally excellent Vetokele and his shot went through a crowd of players for the opening goal. Stockdale appeared to be wrong footed at full speed and I’ve not yet had the appetite to watch it back to check if he was at fault. No matter. We would be playing catch up again.

That the rest of the first half quickly restored my early damaged hopes, even though we didn’t score, says much about the quality we have brought in and the way Sami wants to use it. We may not yet have agreed on an acceptable pronunciation of Teixeira but we were all agreed he was excellent in the first half. He takes up awkward positions just behind the front players and, in the first half at least, seemed to have the ability to create his own space at will. What I really like is that, if he loses it, he fights back for it immediately. So many skilful players who operate in a free role end up as ‘luxury players’. Portuguese Tex puts in a shift. We look lucky to have landed him. With his help we dominated the rest of the first half in terms of possession, territory and chances. A combination of one piece of great keeping and our inability to fashion a killer final ball meant we did not turn this domination in to a goal.

At half time friend and I agreed that it was only a matter of time before we scored, probably through some Teixeira genius. We just wouldn’t score from a set piece we agreed, due to the lack of height up front. And so it was that on 67 minutes, the minutes’ applause for Tony Langridge, chairman of the REMF who sadly passed away, was started with a cheer as Lewis Dunk headed in from a Danny Holla corner, a route we needed to use because Teixeira was now being closed down and double teamed. Yeah, what do I know?

And that should have been it. The North Stand woke up. The West Stand woke up. All over the park the players looked lifted. Surely now we would take our dominance of the ball and turn Charlton over. Er, no. Instead, in a move I suspect we’ll see quite a bit of this season, the gaps down our flanks were exposed by one more break and we backed off Vetokele who disappointingly scored at the near post. It felt like two shots, two goals for our visitors. Enter Baldock for JFC to complement Colunga and Lua Lua. We were going for it still.

I return to The Boy. He had asked quite early on, when he’d seen Stockdate standing half way between our box and the centre circle, if he ever went up for corners, to which I replied ‘only if we’re really desperate for a goal in a Cup match or something’. The Boy, at seven, is already disgusted with early leavers. ‘The game’s not finished Daddy’ he says. The Boy’s favourite player is Lua Lua. And so, as the Amex evacuated around us with less than a minute of injury time left, we got a corner. Stockdale came up for it and caused mayhem. The loose ball fell to Lua Lua. The Charlton defence seemed mesmerized by the luminous vision scrambling back to his goal and Lua Lua picked out the unmarked Dunk who headed deftly home for his third of the season. Lewis Dunk, top scorer.

The final whistle was greeted by a Charlton player throwing himself to the ground in mock exhaustion and disappointment. Up in the West Upper The Boy and I were still going barmy.

EDIT – I have now forced myself to watch the goals back on iplayer. The deft touch that set up their first was, in fact, off the back of the heels of one of our backtracking defenders, leaving Stockdale unsighted as well as wrong footed. All in all a very unlucky goal.