The end of the season is upon us. Match of the Day is to vacate our Saturday evenings. John Motson will behind his hibernation routine. Cricket will gain some viewers and the vagaries of transfer window bollocks will soon to take over.
With these depressing images in mind we should probably look back at the good times.
It is obvious who the best players have been, so here I put cases forward for the overlooked, the hilarious and many of whom I like for no reason at all.
This XI consists entirely of players that haven’t been demonstrably good at playing football for a sustained period of time. This is their chance to shine. This is their end of season awards.
Goal warden – Robert Green
Robert ‘Rob’ Green has had the hardest job of any player in the Premier League this season. He was tasked with organising a ramshackle defence of aged stooges and clueless mercenaries. On top of all this he had to try and stop the ball ending up in his beloved net (a task he completed six times). A truly monumental task, and not one you would wish on anyone.
He has tried gamely, but ended up cutting the figure of a hapless shepherd whose sheep dogs insist on driving his flock off a cliff every week. He began hopeful and excited; he ended dejected and relegated. His face is now unimaginable without a glum expression. Poor man.
Goal defence – Alex Bruce
Ahhh, nepotism – there’s nothing quite like it for enabling over promotion. Alex Bruce has played for just about every middling Football League club you can name. He is at best an uncomplicated clearance mechanism: see ball, boot ball. But – and here’s his ace in the pack – his dad happens to be a Premier League manager.
Steve got Alex a job at Birmingham City in 2005. He made six appearances and by all accounts wasn’t any good. But when dad took over Hull in 2012 he immediately signed his son who had been struggling to even get on the pitch at Leeds.
This season has seen 1449 glorious minutes and absolutely nothing of note. Congratulations are in order at the Bruce household!
Goal defence – Marc Wilson
A close run thing in the league’s most unspectacular players, Marc Wilson is a classic unsung hero. Stoke’s defence is made up for four Marc Wilsons, so it is hard for the real thing to stand out.
He is in this team as a representative of every man; of the notion that anyone, no matter your skillset can make it as a footballer. Chase your dreams. There’s a little bit of Marc Wilson inside all of us.
Aggro merchant – Alan Hutton
Remember at the start of the season when Alan Hutton was a picture of consistency? He adorned every fantasy team as a token of possible clean sheets (three in the first four games). Hutton’s Villa managed to double that total in the next 33 games.
Hutton himself is a marker of pent up aggression: fly into tackles, swear at the ref, shower, and drive home. He may not have managed consistency in his overall performance, but his routine never changed and that should be celebrated.
Running back – Jeff Schlupp
His name is more than enough to deserve recognition, but Schlupp also comes dangerously close to failing the ‘demonstrably good for a sustained period of time’ test.
Early in the season he ran up and down the left touch line flinging balls into the opposition box without reward. Then Leicester suddenly got good and as a result he became effective. But we shouldn’t let this late season blossoming effect his overall standing as an excellently-named but generally futile footballer.
Kicker – Chris Brunt
Chris Brunt plays for perhaps the most functional side in the league. He works hard, he is unspectacular in every aspect, apart from when the swings his left foot at the ball.
Footballers whose main skill is kicking the ball very hard should be a treasured species. Some have ‘cultured’ or ‘educated’ left boots, but Brunt’s is definitely falls into Alan Partridge’s traction engine territory.
Chris Brunt no doubt has the top score on the kicking machine in his local arcade, and that is more than enough to secure a place in any team.
Shin kicker – Liam Bridcutt
Imagine being signed as the understudy to Lee Cattermole. You are reaching the peak of your career, receiving praise, being scouted. Then you end up in Sunderland.
Bridcutt was signed by Gus Poyet to become the apprentice to the best shin kicker the Premier League has ever seen. And while the master has braved new heights with 14 yellow cards, Bridcutt is left stuck on a paltry six.
He still has lots to learn, but with dedication and hard work I suspect he can still achieve his dreams.
Midfield maestro – George Boyd
George Boyd is Burnley’s joint-record most expensive signing. When most clubs splash out on a luxury attacking player they tend to go down the Brazilian wonder-kid route. Burnley signed a fella with long hair from Chatham.
For the princely sum of £3 million they added the occasional fancy bit to a functional team.
The Lancashire club have been applauded for their approach and Boyd has typified it by running around lots. Excellent stuff.
Long-legged roamer – Sammy Ameobi
We were all sad when our beloved Shola left for the money and fame of the Turkish second division in August, but little did we know his younger brother would take up the mantle at Newcastle.
Sammy looks like a daddy long legs which has been forced to move at an unnatural speed. His unfathomably long limbs deploy via periscope-like extensions to propel him forward in a fantastically watchable fashion.
Shola may have come back to England at Crystal Palace, but I’ve got a new favourite Ameobi brother.
Shooter – Rickie Lambert
If sentimental value is reason enough to sign someone for a team with top four aspirations, then it’s certainly enough to make this XI. Brendan Rodgers seems pretty hot on sentiment – what with his veneration of Steven Gerrard – so his desire to make big Rick’s boyhood dream come true should be admired.
We shouldn’t let sporadic appearances and two Premier League goals dampen spirits. From beetroot factory to sitting on the bench in the Anfield sunshine. Dream come true – we salute you Rickie.
Goal attack – Glenn Murray
Completing my everyman attack is Crystal Palace hero Glenn ‘undoubtedly a top bloke’ Murray.
Unlike Lambert he has been afforded opportunities this season and since the saviour Alan Pardew arrived at Selhurst Park he has been reborn. Seven goals in 12 games since the end of February, all scored in a typically assured, no-nonsense style is commendable, but not as much as his career timeline.
What a guy.