It was a shite season. We might as well admit that. The last hope for any memorable or redeeming quality was kiboshed on the final day when Newcastle managed to stay up, and before then we'd already had Chelsea coasting to the title and Manchester City, Arsenal and United all clinging onto the top four spots. If every team decided just not to turn up on Day 1 and the result was called by a brain trust of football writers and basic computers, the anaemic 2014/15 season is exactly what they would have dreamt up.
You often hear "transitional period" being used to excuse a terrible team, but right now it feels like that's what the whole league is going through. We're at the end of a great party, and hoping that the hangover doesn't last too long before the next one. Despite all that, there were still plenty of talking points to chew over, and things to learn and help us progress as better people in our lives. Also lots of jokes about Phil Jones slowly falling over to be made on popular football forum twitter dot com. Here are some of the season's highlights:
MOST EXCRUCIATING PRESS CONFERENCE MOMENT OF THE YEAR
There are a few contenders here, from Tim Sherwood's unpunished hubris, Brendan Rodgers continuing to be Brendan Rodgers, and John Carver insisting he was the best coach in the land despite looking like a hard nan summoned onto Jeremy Kyle for an alcoholism intervention. But we've got to go with a classic, and Nigel Pearson's "Yer an ostrich, Harry" attack on a journalist gets the nod.
Pearson couldn't have much more of a your-mate's-dad vibe about him if he tried. He has a permanent slight smirk that seems to conceal sheer contempt for whoever he's speaking to, and tries to act like a hardman in the same way a PE teacher who is a little bit scared of the sixth formers does. In the absence of a genuinely hard Glaswegian accent, he just comes across as a massive weirdo. A massive, dog-blinding weirdo.
Any other manager calling a reporter an "ostrich" might be held mildly accountable for their side's position. Not Nige: Leicester propped up the table from September through to March, and nobody really said something other than "Cambiasso was a good if unlikely signing, wasn't he?" That's the dread that Pearson inspires: journalists are a touchy bunch and any mild slight against them tends to send them into a panic, as though Leicestershire had suddenly become Pyongyang. For weirdness, paranoia, delusion and general embarrassment, there's only one winner. Nigel Pearson is inside your head, fucking things up. Nigel Pearson is outside your window, threatening your dog. Nigel Pearson is the regime, and you do not twist against it. Nigel Pearson is calling you an ostrich.
SCHADENFREUDE MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Everybody missed the schaden to end all freudes when Newcastle United narrowly avoided potential relegation on the last day, but there were a couple of other contenders on that long last day: first, Steve "I can see both sides to the Ched Evans case" Bruce got himself sent down, while Steven Gerrard's last Liverpool game ended in a 6-1 defeat to Stoke and a final goal he wasn't truly allowed to celebrate. Taste it. Taste the air. It tastes delicious.
So on the surface, 2014/15 looks a bumper year for revelling in the despair of those you hate. But when we truly examine things... for the most part, the arseholes won this season. Costa, Mourinho and Terry won the league, Alan Pardew made himself look like a genius, Mike Ashley stayed in profit and Arsenal fans will claim a title challenge. All the worst sides of the Premier League dice landed face up.
There is one glaring exception, of course. Manchester United losing 4-0 to MK Dons was so extreme that everybody's weirdly forgotten about it, as if it were so identical to that dream everybody keeps having they just assumed it hadn't actually happened. It did. Manchester United lost by four goals to nil, to MK Dons, without even playing that weak a side.
MOST PAINFULLY OUT-OF-HIS-DEPTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
There's only really one contender here, and it's not one anybody would have predicted. Yes, it's Radamel Falcao. Purchased in a last-minute spending spree that resembled the football equivalent of why you shouldn't do your big shop while you're hungry, Falcao started out injured and unable to play and got worse from then on. He was impossibly, quite unbelievably bad.
You know when a striker who is best known for scoring shedloads of goals is done when he suddenly starts getting praised for workrate and movement. Fernando Torres taught us that. Devoid of all pace, imagination and flair, it went beyond ridiculous, to possible, to just a basic fact that if United had signed Jon Walters he would've got more goals than Falcao. Almost any fives player randomly picked off a pitch in Britain could've.
And, in fairness, that was what he looked like – a determined Radio 2 DJ thrust into a charity game with Teddy Sheringham and David Ginola. The ball would come near him, he'd panic blindly, run with a gait that suggested his mind was attempting to get his body to move about twice as fast as it was capable, stagger forward with a leaden touch then slice a shot into the keeper's shins. Luckily for him, he'll probably be mostly forgotten, but he was truly, truly terrible, of a level rarely ever seen in England now we have things like professionalism and not being allowed to drink 20 pints the night before a game.
Farewell, Radamel, we hardly knew ye.
MOST INEXPLICABLE DECLINE OF THE YEAR
Mario Balotelli at Liverpool was a gamble, of course, but at the time it looked like a smart bit of business: he was a proven goalscorer, and the thing to do when a group of young, talented players hell-bent on attacking are just pipped to a league title is to sign a calm, maverick striker. It's called "doing a Shearer", and it has precedence. It makes sense.
The general caution in the papers at the time was that if Balotelli could keep his head down and work hard, and tone down the off-pitch shenanigans (fireworks, trampolines, handing £50 notes out of his Ferrari in town centres, etc), he'd be brilliant. Instead, the opposite was true – Balotelli did, surprisingly, hardly appear in any off-pitch stories, worked hard and was completely hopeless in front of goal.
A decline in more ways than one, then. The old stories of the loveable Mario weren't there, and pretty much his one service to being a maverick was to be anti-Semitic on Twitter, not the behaviour of a devil-may-care hero. We'd suggest they're linked, and the minute he's given permission to go back to gatecrashing school discos or breaking into convents then the goals will start to flow again. It's not too late for a resurgence.
MOST TEDIOUS GRIPE TO BE BROUGHT UP BY talkSPORT CALLERS EVERY FUCKING DAY
It seems like we get another one of these every year, and this season the award goes to Raheem Sterling's contract negotiations. If you had to rely on opinions rather than facts to get your news, you'd think he was a young street urchin abandoned as a baby outside the Shankly gates, brought in, suckled by Brendan Rodgers and raised in the proud traditions of the football club only to cruelly reject them on the promise of more money.
Of course, what actually happened is that he's a talented kid that Liverpool poached from QPR then attempted to bully in the press for demanding a new contract. We then got a backlash against this as well, just to prove that we can't have anything nice, and to give us all one more reason not to call our dads as much any more. Thanks, football.
THE FABIO BORINI MEMORIAL AWARD FOR ILL-ADVISED SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
It's been a bad year for this in the Premier League, with Mario Balotelli's aforementioned SporfFunnyLadBanter concession being the runaway winner. But that's lame, so we'll have to go to leagues where professionalism and branding aren't held in such high regard, and there are two real contenders here.
The first is Wesley Sneijder, now of Galatasaray, with his bizarre decision to start marketing a lovely box-set of club-branded knives on the anniversary of the fatal stabbing of two Leeds fans in Istanbul, a chain of events that just seems so unlikely that... no, surely they wouldn't, would they?
But for the real stuff here, you have to go to Scotland. In a country where banter is held as sacrosanct, nobody really gives a fuck about what people are saying on Twitter. You can get players referring to former managers as a bellend and his colleagues eagerly joining in.
The real winner though, is the aftermath of the Montrose-Peterhead game, a mid-table encounter which saw the latter being reduced to eight men and denying reports their manager had been arrested by half time. That led Peterhead's Andy Rodgers to take to Twitter to voice his strongly-felt opinions that "at least I'm not Josh Falkingham... what a horrible cheating wee shitebag of a boy!" and "as for the town and people of Dunfermline.... wow!!!! Absolute creatures!!!!!"
The fallout of such an extreme response was... well, fuck all. It's the Scottish Third tier: nobody cares. Can't we take a leaf out of that book for next season? Isn't trash talk as valuable a part of the whole entertainment package as the others? That's our one wish, and what we're taking away from all of this.
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