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The Fiver Christmas Awards 2021 | Soccer


Welcome to the 2021 Fiver Christmas Awards. For anyone counting, this is the fifth year of us admitting that we’ve lost track of how long we’ve been doing this, so the all-time total has to be in double figures at least, 11 or 14 or 23 maybe, something like that. Sound right? So here we are again, happy as can be, all good pals and jolly good company. And while we’re on the subject of contrived bonhomie and forced festive spirit, pour yourself a large glass of Cillit Bang, top it up with a little Bold, pop in a cube or two of Calgon, and let yourself slip into an effortless, decadent, back-of-the-cupboard-under-the-kitchen-sink-fuelled reverie, enough to get you through the rest of this email and then some. Enjoy! Try to enjoy!

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THE GUY FAWKES AWARD FOR SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL TEAM

Team Ingerlund were in a major final for the first time since the launch of the Mk2 Ford Cortina and there was only one way for the country to celebrate. Across the nation, pubs were filled from breakfast time and in London itself, Leicester Square was full of those who chose to kill their pre-match nerves by tramping on broken bottles, singing about the second world war and hoofing the jazz salt.

One b@nter merchant upped the ante on “no pyro, no party” by thrusting a lit flare betwixt his buttocks. “I’d been on the p1ss since half eight in the morning and had had at least 20 cans of Strongbow,” howled Charlie Perry, a roofer from Sunbury-on-Thames, with “Benidorm Bunters” tattooed on one of his cheeks. “It was the biggest day of my life.” Charlie also claimed to be one of the mob who “jibbed” into the Euro Not 2020 final itself, storming the gates and putting others in danger. “The threats, aggression, violence, smoke and flare use, throwing of missiles – including faeces – excessive consumption of alcohol and cocaine all combined to fuel a febrile atmosphere,” concluded a report published in December.

England fans gather in Leicester Square ahead of the Euro 2020 final against Italy.
England fans gather in Leicester Square before the Euro Not 2020 final against Italy. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

THE DEL AMITRI AWARD FOR STAYING HOME TOO SOON

In 1954 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1958 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1974 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1978 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1982 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1986 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1990 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1992 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1996 Scotland went out in the group stage. In 1998 Scotland went out in the group stage. At EN 2020 Scotland … as soon as the Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick smashed one in at Hampden from somewhere near Prestwick airport, the Ally MacLeod die was cast. Still, at least they beat England 0-0 at Wembley.

Scotland’s keeper David Marshall lies in the net after being beaten from a loooooooong way out by Patrik Schick.
Scotland’s keeper David Marshall lies in the net after being beaten from a loooooooong way out by Patrik Schick. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/Reuters

THE NYTOL AWARD FOR MANAGING TO SLEEP LIKE BABIES

This prestigious award, which for the last couple of decades has been dominated by supporters of compunction-lite powerhouses Manchester City and Chelsea, goes to those Newcastle United fans who have spent the last couple of months in blithe indifference to the source of the money that will fund their 2022-23 promotion bid. Some of the mental gymnastics performed have been of an Olympic standard, with a difficulty tariff of 5.8, while the volume of whataboutery has reached levels never before registered outside Ibrox or Parkhead. Well done, everyone! Melatonin gummies all round!

THE IT CROWD AWARD FOR THROWING OPPRESSED MINORITY GROUPS UNDER A BUS

This goes to Toon LGBTQ+ supporters group United with Pride. Not so much for going out of their way to welcome new owners connected to a regime more than happy to imprison, beat, whip and torture gay people, though there is that, or for sacking off the Pride In Football network in a fit of pique soon after, but mainly for this stone-cold demonstration of elite-level handwashing: “We could look at the situation in Saudi Arabia and we could rightly condemn it, but it’s not really our responsibility as a group to act on something.” A blasé shrug would have equally done the trick, but hats off for going the extra mile. Mind you, not winning a domestic trophy since 1955 is a form of suffering too, right? Solidarity!

THE NEAL CASSADY AWARD FOR PARKING THE TEAM BUS

The €uropean $uper £eague was a bad thing, carved up by clubs who wanted more of the loot having previously overspent all of the loot. It was doomed from the moment its website launched late on a Sunday night and appeared to have been constructed on Dreamweaver version 1.0. And though Florentino Pérez may still claim the project is the best way to save footbal … sorry, Real Madrid, it was dead in the water as soon as fans in England took to the street to protest.

Chelsea bailed just as their fans raged on London’s fashionable King’s Road, and the other Premier League clubs involved (including, er, Spurs) swiftly followed suit. “We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right,” grovelled Joel Glazer in an open letter to Manchester United fans on 21 April. Not good enough, retorted United fans. “We decide when you play,” screamed a bedsheet at the club’s training ground. A forecourt protest on 2 May caused the Liverpool game to be cancelled, the resourceful blockade having stopped the team buses being able to leave their hotels. “A game has been called off today and the fans have spoken,” roared Ché Neville, developing his taste for a protest movement.

The Bernabéu? Pah! There’s nothing like the Bet365 stadium.
The Bernabéu? Pah! There’s nothing like the Bet365 stadium. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters

THE MAHATMA GANDHI ‘MARCHING’ FROM A PUB WE WERE GOING TO BE IN ANYWAY TO A FOOTBALL GROUND WE WERE GOING TO GO TO ANYWAY AWARD FOR INEFFECTIVE PROTEST

Tired of their free-spending owners lavishing their squad with expensive signings and appointing highly decorated Big Cup-winning managers, assorted Everton fan groups finally decided they’d had enough and tried to organise a walkout in the 27th minute of their game against Arsenal. The result was nothing if not predictable: at the appointed minute, a handful of fans were seen making for the exits, possibly oblivious to any protest but intending to visit the toilets or get their drink on. The vast majority who remained in their seats got to cheer their team on to a 2-1 win. Have that, Farhad Moshiri!

THE HERBERT BAMLETT AWARD FOR MANAGERIAL EXCELLENCE

Bamlett’s managerial career was a mixed affair, to say the least. On the one hand, he came within one point of leading Oldham Athletic to the title in 1915, which was no small achievement. On the other, he was in charge at Old Trafford in 1930, when his Manchester United side lost their first 12 games and went on to suffer an ignominious relegation. So, y’know, let’s not dwell on the more problematic aspects of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s time at the wheel, he wasn’t that bad. In fact, not only did Ole keep United up, his win percentage of 54.17 compares very favourably to Bamlett’s 31.15, and is only bettered in United history by José Mourinho (58.33), Lord Ferg (59.67) and, statistically the daddy of them all, 66.67’s Michael Carrick. So well done, Ole! Chapeau! Having said that, Bamlett’s 1930-31 rabble still managed to beat Liverpool 4-1 at home, while Ole’s men … well, OK, but let’s not kick a man while he’s down.

Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has understandably got a right face on as he looks on during their 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool in October 2021.
Ole at the wheel during United’s 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

THE BOAS-MATTEO AWARD FOR PROFESSIONAL OVERREACH AND UNFLATTERING JUXTAPOSITION

Frank Lampard. Oh Thomas. Did you have to make it so obvious?

THE DAVID COOTE AWARD FOR VAR-RELATED TOMFOOLERY

So much to choose from but Martin Atkinson and his video assistant referee Darren England had a collective shocker during Manchester United’s league win over West Ham at the London Stadium. Sawn in half by Aaron Wan-Bissaka in United’s penalty area, not only did Tomas Soucek not get a penalty but was actually penalised for a foul himself. Later in the game, Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a clear penalty after being fouled by Vladimir Coufal, then another less obvious spot-kick moments before West Ham galloped upfield and didn’t get a penalty of their own for a blatant Luke Shaw handball. That decision was at least overturned in the time it took David Moyes to send Mark Noble off the bench to take the crucial spot-kick with his first and the last kick of the game. He missed.

Yikes!
Yikes! Photograph: James Griffiths/West Ham United/Shutterstock

THE FORREST GUMP LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES AWARD FOR WORST ANALOGY

When the Premier League sent out its self-serving attack dogs to pour cold water all over Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review, Aston Villa chief suit Christian Purslow parroted the entirely inaccurate and ill-informed Tesco v Corner Shop analogy previously used during lockdown by his Crystal Palace counterpart Steve Parish. “Hold my beer!” announced Leeds United managing director Angus Kinnear, who subsequently staked his winning claim for the award by comparing the appointment of an independent football regulator to a totalitarian Maoist collectivisation policy that led to the deaths of at least 15 million people. Perspective, Angus. perspective.

THE SAM KERR AWARD FOR DOING SAM KERR THINGS

When a presumably drunken lout stormed the Kingsmeadow pitch during the Women’s Big Cup match between Chelsea and Juventus, he got more than the selfie he bargained for. Sam Kerr, the flamin’ Chelsea and Matildas striker, barged him to the ground in the style of a rolling maul. Hurrah for Sam? No, referee Sara Persson waved a yellow card and it later turned out that the invader was not even eligible for arrest, due to the antiquated Football (Offences) Act 1991 not including women’s football in the definition of a “designed match”.

The game ain’t straight.
The game ain’t straight. Photograph: John Walton/PA

THE CALIGULA PONTOON AWARD FOR THROWING GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD

Footballers these days are trendsetters. “Influencers”, the kids call it. They are also cash machines, as middling indie-landfill protagonists Hard-Fi once had it. The money continues to roll in while the rest of us wonder whether to wear an extra jumper or foot the gas bill. That doesn’t mean new revenue streams are turned away. Oh no. Non-fungible tokens and the wonderful world of crypto give clubs and players chances aplenty to flog the latest load of old tat on various Social Media Disgraces. What do you get for your NFT, other than the ownership of an easily CRTL-C’ed graphic resembling one of the Garbage Pail Kids? Yeah, good question, and until football authorities wake up – Crypto.com sponsors VAR in Serie A – this is the Klondike Gold period for absolutely nothing being sold for a lot of something.

THE GARY LINEKER IMODIUM AWARD FOR GETTING CAUGHT SHORT AT AN INOPPORTUNE MOMENT

Scottish co-commentator Bobby Bulloch was late back for the second half of a match between Hamilton and Ross County and apologised to viewers, saying he “went away for a wee jobby at half-time”. The Accies suits were suitably understanding when it came to Bulloch’s “very poor attempt at humour” and announced they “didn’t find this funny and the person will not be used again”.

THE BORIS JOHNSON AWARD FOR FRONTING UP LIKE A GROWN MAN

As captain of Manchester United, and for the second year running, Harry Maguire clocked up more than 200 hours of brutally honest post-match deconstruction, in which he held up his hands, fronted up, promised to do better and admitted it isn’t good enough for a club like Manchester United. Every minute of it delivered in a serious tone while wearing the Politician’s Frown of Grave Concern. Bravura performances.

THE DOMINIC RAAB AWARD FOR EFFICIENT POST-BREXIT LORRY MANOEUVRABILITY

And it’s yet another gong for £80m Harry Maguire!

BUMPER ONE-OFF FESTIVE TV & RADIO SPECIAL: ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR PERIOD

Right, aye. You are joking, aren’t you?

MAIL! MAIL! MAIL!

Send your emails, presents and Christmas cards to the.boss@theguardian.com.

HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR, WE’LL BE BACK ON 3 JANUARY



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