Off The Bar: Alternative Premier League Awards

Ben Davies 29/05/2015
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Golden envelopes at the ready: The Alternative Premier League awards.

Welcome to the inaugural and highly prestigious Off The Bar: Alternative Premier League Awards — a chance to celebrate and commiserate some of the most brilliant and bizarre highs and lows of the 2014-2015 Premier League season. With categories on waxworks, fashion and facial hair to name a few, prepare for a truly unforgettable, and occasionally regrettable, attack on the senses. Golden envelopes at the ready…

– EPL season review: Chelsea stroll to success as challengers falter
– #360Fans: West Ham target Klopp and Bilic as coach
– Simon to Aboagye: Six players to watch at the U20 Football World Cup

Player Of The Year
Winner:  Bojan Krkic

Ever since Bojan joined Stoke City, the combination of his exquisite technical ability, adorable little grin and humble nature (going from Lionel Messi for Jon Walters isn’t a routine transition) had left Off The Bar in the midst of a whirlwind bromance with the pint-sized Spaniard — we watched his games back, scrawled a heart around his name in our textbooks and hunted through the Britannia bins for beautiful Bojan’s address. You know normal stuff. His season-ending knee injury in January cruelly ruled him out of the running for Player of the Year – so we are righting that heinous wrong here.

Manager Of The Year
Winner: Tim Sherwood

Just as the lifeless corpse of Aston Villa was being gradually lowered into the relegation zone by Paul Lambert, Sherwood ripped off the coffin lid, resuscitated the likes of Cleverley, N’Zogbia and Benteke back to life and gleefully crowd surfed over the wake that had become match day at Villa Park. A miracle. Now each week is win win — when he gets it right, we are treated to hugely entertaining football and enough high-energy fist pumps to power the entirety of New York City, and when he gets it wrong, we bare witness to an absolute thrashing and the destruction of a an eccentric piece of clothing.

Goal Of The Season

Winner:  James Collins

Yes, it was an own goal against City, but what a goal. The centre-back’s act of genius against Manchester City saw his sweetly struck volley hit the under-side of the bar, the goal line, the roof of the net and the inside of a post. This was not just a mere piece of misfortune, it contained the angles, symmetry and inch perfect beauty that would have inspired Michaelangelo to scrub out his Sistine Chapel masterpiece and start all over again.

Best Ostrich-based Accusation

Winner: Nigel Pearson

Admittedly Nigel Pearson didn’t have too much competition in this category  —though Jose Mourinho did privately feel that ostriches were also complicit in the ‘conspiracy’ to bring Chelsea down this season. Pearson deserves huge credit for somehow working the large flightless African bird into a post-match press conference. That’s no easy feat. Pearson eventually apologised for accusing a journalist of being an ostrich, but we’ve still seen no visual proof that reporter Ian Baker is anything to the contrary. No smoke without fire.

Best Piano-based Serenade

Winner: Alexis Sanchez

South American players are not supposed to settle immediately into the Premier League – they are supposed to do a Juan Sebastian Veron and spend at least 18 months familiarising themselves with the basic physics of a rolling football in a Northern Hemisphere environment. Yet, Alexis has taken to the game so darn quickly here that he has accrued buckets of free time and used it in the wisest of all possible ways — mastering the piano instrumental of 1980s love ballad ‘Right Here Waiting’. Add in some dry ice and a wind machine and you have the best video in the history of humanity.

Best Facial Hair

Winner: Roy Keane

Roy Keane’s full, ferocious and magnificently ragged beard gave us an invaluable insight into how Cast Away would have looked if they’ve done the right thing and casted the football hardman over Tom Hanks. With a few coconut trees for posts and Wilson the volleyball available, it would have been a welcome upgrade on the football facilities Keane encountered at the infamous Saipan training ground at World Cup 2002.

Best Haircut

Winner: Arsene Wenger

Arsenal is the football equivalent of Ground Hog Day. Each and every year, it’s the same thing – 3rd or 4th place, qualification for the Champions League and 25 snapped hamstrings. Yet, on occasion, a wonderfully inexplicable change rises up from the Déjà vu deluge – and that change this season was Arsene Wenger’s super hipster haircut.  Razor sharp on the sides and a bit short up front, it was both an edgy cut and a reflection of the strengths and weaknesses of the Arsenal squad. Beyond defeating Manchester City 2-0 away, it was Wenger’s finest scalp this season.

Best Wheelie Bin Lookalike

Winner: Simon Mignolet

When he joined Liverpool from Sunderland in 2013, Mignolet would have hoped to have drawn comparisons to some of Liverpool’s great keepers — Bruce Grobbellaar and Pepe Reina to name a few. Instead, this season the Belgian has almost exclusively been compared to Liverpool Council’s wheelie bins. Both wearing the same outfit, lacking natural mobility and constantly witnessing rubbish build up, the similarities are damning.

Most Awkward New Signing Photograph

Winner: Aaron Lennon

Picture the face of a broken man. Now imagine that said man has just trod in some dog poo whilst simultaneously realising he may have left the bath tap running back at home — mix all that misery, disgust and terror together and you may just come close to Aaron Lennon’s priceless expression in the photo’s confirming his move from Tottenham to Everton in early February. Off The Bar just wants to put a blanket around him, give him a nice cup of cocoa and tell him everything’s going to be okay — everything except his living room ceiling.

Most Unnecessary Waxwork

Winner: Ben Foster

To earn the right to have plaster liberally applied to your face and be captured in waxwork form for eternity you simply have to be one of the game’s very greatest talents — such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovich and…Ben Foster. Yes, the West Brom ‘keeper was inexplicably chosen to get the waxwork treatment back in December. Be sure to keep an eye out for Foster’s ‘double’ in low budget horror movies. Seriously, Off The Bar cannot be held responsible for what you may experience if you look into its eyes.

Most Bizarre Injury

Winner: Enner Valencia

There’s been some pretty dumb off-the-pitch football injuries down the years — our favourites include Allesandro Nesta rupturing a thumb tendon after playing too much PlayStation and Darius Vassell catching an infection after trying to drain a blood blister with a power-drill. Now at to that mighty list Enner Valencia — the West Ham forward’s foot required surgery in March after he walked over a broken tea cup in his kitchen. Quite possibly the most English injury of all time.

Worst Crime Against Fashion

Winner: Charles N’Zogbia

Footballers are renowned for their somewhat adventurous approach to fashion – see Lionel Messi’s exotic choice of suit colour at the Ballon D’ors. Yet, Charles N’Zogbia is in a whole new league to Messi (and there’s a sentence you won’t hear again). The Aston Villa midfielder was snapped wearing this floral feast after a match in April. Somewhere in the West Midlands, someone is missing their 1960s sofa cover. We hope and pray that this is the official Aston Villa suit choice for FA Cup Final day.

Worst Crime Against Interior Design

Winner: Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll’s ruptured knee in the New Year was a huge blow for West Ham fans, but surely that pales in comparison compared to the utter devastation metered out to his living room this season. The combination of Zebra wall paper, gold pillows and a lipstick pink leather sofa was universally ridiculed on Twitter when Carroll’s fiancé released snaps of the revamped ‘Carroll Castle’ on Instagram. The Olympic Stadium in London will soon need a face-lift once West Ham move in…oh boy. We need to wash our eyes out.

Worst Christmas Song Video

Winners: Queen Park Rangers

Calamitous, lifeless, devoid of talent, out of synch as a whole, technically inept and ultimately finished off by the hapless Harry Redknapp — if you wanted a metaphor for QPR’s horror season, look no further than their Christmas music video. Will Christmas ever be the same again? No, definitely not. In fact Christmas is banned henceforth — as a human race we can’t risk this visual abomination ever happening again.

Best Fan Chant of the Season
Winner: Aston Villa Fan

Well it’s probably best we recover with a musical high. Hailing from early December, this Villa fan belted out an incredible audio homage to big Christian Benteke to the tune of ‘A Lion Sleeps Tonight’. The simple lyrics ‘There was a striker, a Belgium striker, called Christian Benteke’ is effectively a super short super catchy Wikipedia entry for the 24-year-old. With Benteke (a striker, a Belgium striker, called Christian Benteke) in sensational goalscoring form right now (thanks to our manager of the year), we can’t wait to hear the chant swirling around Wembley this Saturday.

And with that – and pending a long lie down in a dark room to recover from all you have seen and heard here today – Off The Bar wishes you a fond farewell until even more audacious absurdity befalls the Premier League in August. 

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Sepp Blatter defended his actions battling corruption ahead of the FIFA presidential election.

FIFA leader Sepp Blatter on Friday defended his actions battling corruption ahead of a vote to decide on whether he remains as president of football's beleaguered world body.

But Blatter expressed doubts about timing of the arrests of seven top football officials just two days ahead of the election he has been strong favourite to win.

– EPL season review: Chelsea stroll to success as challengers falter

– #360Fans: West Ham target Klopp and Bilic as coach
– Simon to Aboagye: Six players to watch at the U20 Football World Cup

"I am not saying it was a coincidence. But I do have a small question mark," the Swiss official told the start of FIFA's annual congress.

Blatter, 79, is being challenged by Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president. The prince, strongly backed by Europe's football powers, has campaigned on the need for change at the top of the scandal-tainted body.

FIFA was rocked on Wednesday by the arrest of seven officials in a dawn raid on their Zurich hotel. They now face extradition to the United States where they are accused of accepting tens of millions of dollars.

Separately, Swiss investigators are looking into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. The votes have also been at the centre of corruption allegations.

Blatter said the arrest of the seven at FIFA's Zurich hotel had unleashed a "storm" and that the congress has "vital decisions" to take. But he added: "I appeal for a team spirit, unity, so we can advance together. It may not be easy but that is why we are here today."

Blatter, who rejected a call to quit from UEFA president Michel Platini, repeated his case that he cannot "monitor" all of football alone and cannot be blamed for the scandals.

"The guilty ones are individuals, not the whole organisation," he insisted, calling for greater action by regional confederations and national associations "to put FIFA on the right track."

Blatter, who has confronted scandals almost since he became president in 1998, is favourite to win a fifth four-year term because he has solid support from the key African and Asian confederations which account for 100 votes among the 209 member federations.

 Platini has said a "very large majority" of the 53 European federations who take part will back Prince Ali.

Blatter needs a three quarters majority to win in the first round. If it goes to a second round, a simple majority will do.

The boss of football's governing organisation remained defiant as governments joined leading figures of the global game and sponsors in crying foul over FIFA's corruption scandal.

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The Duke of Cambridge talked about the upcoming FA Cup Final between his beloved Aston Villa and holders Arsenal with sports broadcaster and former footballer Gary Lineker.









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