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Thursday, June 10, 2010

End of Season Awards Part IV

The season's at an end, and it's time to recognise those who have done well, and those who haven't. On the fourth day of their awards, the lads mainly focus on some of the decisions made over the past 12 months.

Best Hiring of the Season

Nominations: Ian Holloway, Paul Lambert, Paul Peschisolido.

I think Lambert is the obvious one because you can directly see the impact he had on the club. Holloway is another easy pick. That's why I've nominated Peschisolido.

He kept Burton safe with consummate ease and they never looked like being in danger. He also had to turn around a club that stuttered over the finishing line last season.

Lakes: Lambert did a good job of steadying the ship at Norwich and then a fantastic job getting them promoted but, in terms of relative squad quality in the divisions, Holloway had a tougher job with his squad and worked some real magic.

The signing of Charlie Adam was brilliant work from Holloway. Adam could've played for a more sure-bet for promotion but went for Blackpool thanks to Holloway's persuasiveness.

It's tough, but I'm going for Holloway.

Nobes: For me, it has to go to Holloway. Not only for taking a small team to an unexpected promotion - but also in the manner in which he's done it. He spent a year out of the game and took time to think about his approach.

I was a big critic of how his Plymouth and Leicester teams played, but he's come back and got Blackpool playing really entertaining, positive, attacking football.

That's what fans and neutrals alike wish to see. That's also what managers should do when they get sacked. Not blame the club or players - but take a look at what they were doing and where they were going wrong.

He's done that, he's re-assessed things, and he's come back stronger. Inspirational.

Turls: I'll agree that what Holloway has done is very impressive and the chances of someone like Neil Warnock doing that are very slim.

He recognised that he failed at Leicester because of his style of play and he understood that he needed to change something. He essentially admitted that he was to blame and acknowledged his faults.

Holloway is a worthy winner, but I'm glad Peschisolido has at least been acknowledged.

Winner: Ian Holloway

Worst Hiring of the Season

Nominations: John Barnes, Chris Sutton, Mark Cooper, Steve Staunton

Nobes: I'd be tempted to give it to Sutton - but at least Lincoln didn't go down under him. Although, I think next term will prove it was a poor appointment.

Staunton was always going to be onto a loser at Darlington, but never should have been given the job.

Turls: Sutton had a bad first year but managed to avoid the drop and Stan Staunton was always going to struggle.

Nobes: So it's between Barnes and Cooper. Question is - what's a worse appointment - giving a Non League boss a job three divisions above his experience, or giving a big name failed manager a chance in League One?

Lakes: I think Barnes has to win this one. Anyone with half a brain cell would know that hiring him would be the equivalent of nuking your own capital city.

Turls: Has to be Barnes. Cooper's appointment was a strange one but it was something that made no difference to the eventual outcome. No matter who they brought in, Peterborough were going to get relegated.

Barnes almost cost Tranmere a spot in League One though. Cooper had never tried at that level and you could understand taking a punt on him. Barnes has failed at every single managerial job he has been given.

It was a ridiculous appointment from the off.

All this Barnes-ridiculing is obviously, for me, very painful. I'd reluctantly agree to give him the award.

In most normal years though, appointing a route one merchant from the Conference into a second tier job would win this hands down though.

Winner: John Barnes

Best Firing of the Season

Nominations: Mark Cooper, John Barnes, Bryan Gunn

Nobes: Very difficult to call. I think Gunn could still have got Norwich competing - although I doubt he'd have done as well as Lambert. It was a ruthless and efficient sacking.

As we've already said though, Tranmere would have gone down under Barnes. He was playing crazy formations and they were leaking goals for fun.

It's a sign of how bad they were that only on the final day did they salvage their campaign and stay up. It was almost disastrous. He might just edge it.

Turls: I'd love to give Barnes the award, but they didn't have a choice. He'd picked up a handful of points in over ten games and his appointment was ridiculous. The board had no alternative but to sack him.

Gunn could have got Norwich competing - but not like Lambert did. It was a ruthless decision that paid off. They saw what nobody else saw and went for it.

If it had failed, they'd have been ridiculed for sacking a man after a couple of games. As it stands, it was genius.

Nobes: I'd agree, there have probably been few more ruthless managerial firings that have paid off so handsomely.

Lose 7-1, decide the manager isn't up to it, appoint a replacement, surge to the title. They must be wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to choosing managers!

Lakes: I agree with Gunn. Fact is, Barnes wasn't so much a great firing as an utterly obvious one. Anyone lumbered with that clown would've got shot after his experimental football backfired so hideously.

As such, the shrewdness of Gunn's demise rightly gets the plaudits.

Winner: Bryan Gunn

Worst Firing of the Season

Nominations: Jim Magilton, Alan Irvine, John Trewick, Gareth Southgate

Nobes: Alan Irvine - for sacking a decent guy who was a victim of his own overachievement and replacing him an absolute toss pot whose Championship credentials are zero.

Lakes: Classic wind-up, Nobes. I think in the face of Irvine's achievements the previous season it was far too soon to sack him. I'm surprised we got rid of him when we did.

For me, it's Gareth Southgate - whose rug was pulled from under his feet early on - throwing Boro's season into chaos and potentially wrecking their chances of promotion.

Turls: They were doing splendidly when he was sacked. It was a ridiculous decision that cost them a shot at promotion.

Lakes: It was poor timing and a harsh decision - leaving us with just another pundit on the telly.

Nobes: He's not a bad pundit though and seems like a decent guy. I would also have to agree in terms of where Boro were when they fired him and where they ended up, it was a poor sacking.

Some might say he was lucky not to get the chop after they went down though. Whereas nothing Irvine did at Preston merited him being sacked.

Turls: Not being called Darren Ferguson?

I'll agree that the Irvine decision seemed ludicrous. However, Boro decided to keep Southgate despite being relegated. They gave him a chance to redeem himself and they looked like they had a good chance of going straight back up.

As soon as he was sacked, that was it. They never looked like recovering and Gordon Strachan ended up bringing in a load of SPL garbage.

Lakes: Southgate wins then. For what it's worth, I agree actually, he's one of the better pundits and always seems quite shrewd - especially when describing set pieces and play the back.

Nobes: I'm sure that will represent some kind of solace to him.

Winner: Gareth Southgate

Signing of the Year

Nominations: Chris O'Grady, Grant Holt, Charlie Adam, Charlie Austin

Nobes: Hard one to call this. O'Grady the loan signing whose goals helped fire Rochdale to their first promotion in 40 years. Sounds compelling. Then you've Austin making the step up from Non League in sensational scoring fashion.

Holt's goal were crucial to firing Norwich to the League One title, and Adam was the man who made Blackpool's top flight dreams come true. How do you pick a winner?

Lakes: Bang for buck, you won't get a more influential player than Charlie Adam. He completely drove Blackpool's season.

O'Grady was a great signing, incredibly important for Dale, and for Austin to make the huge step up from Non League is a great achievement and something which doesn't happen enough in football in this country.

My backing goes to Adam, though, simply because he absolutely pivotal for Blackpool.

Turls: Adam was a one man team. Remove the other players from the equation and you kind of get the feeling that the clubs would have done well regardless. However, take Adam out of Blackpool and they'd have probably gone down.

Nobes: Can't argue with that. Not only was he their top scorer, he was also crucial in setting up so many of their goals - particularly from set plays.

One of those crucial signings who can turn an average team into a good one.

Lakes: Yes. I think a good way of looking at it is the player's quality against the overall quality of the squad. Look at Blackpool, and Adam stands head and shoulders over his teammates.

Winner: Charlie Adam

Worst Signing of the Year

Sol Campbell, Exodus Geohaghon

Nobes: Two centre halves - one a Non League player with a big throw who was well out of his depth in the Championship.

The other an expensive flop who played once and summed up the rapid collapse of the Notts County dream.

Turls: Geohaghon - where do you start? Simply not good enough for the Championship - or League One next year. The Kettles must've cried tears of joy when he left them for sunnier Peterborough climes.

Campbell, on the other hand, made a stupid, financially-motivated decision to go to Notts and it failed. You can't help but think though that the club was trying its luck and pulled off a major coup making them the envy of the division.

You can understand the reasoning behind him joining County. They were sending a message to the division and the rest of English football that they meant business.

It went tits up as a lot of people expected it too. He was never going to hang around. They didn't actually waste too much money on him when you think about it.

Lakes: The PR fall out from Campbell berating the club, his fellow players, and Sven made him a dreadful signing though. Especially when you consider he played just two games of something ridiculous like a five year deal.

Turls: Exodus - a few weeks weeks wages and a signing on fee may have been wasted on him. I love the former Kettle, but he found himself out of his depth when he moved. A risky move that never looked like paying off.

Lakes: This is a very tough one. I really want to go with Campbell to further laugh at County's self-imposed misery, but can't help but think the quality of the player should count for something - in which case Exodus wins.

Nobes: I would have to agree that the quality aspect comes into it. I'm sure a fully fit Campbell would have easily dealt with League Two. And, at the time, Notts thought they could afford him.

Exodus was never, ever, ever, going to be good enough for the Championship. Bit like the manager who decided to sign him. So I'll plump for Geohaghon.

Lakes: I'll go for him too.

Turls: I'd agree with Exodus. Stupid signing that was never going to work.

Winner: Exodus Geohaghon

Outstanding Achievement

Winner: Keith Alexander

Lakes: "Keith Alexander, hands down."

Turls: "For simply being Keith Alexander."

Nobes: "To a lower league legend."

This year's Outstanding Achievement award was, unanimously, awarded to the late Macclesfield boss Keith Alexander. His tragic death in February was a sad loss to the game in the lower divisions.

Keith was a widely respected and much loved giant of a man. His work across the basement division and Non League circuit helped him develop a knowledge of the lower leagues almost unrivalled.

Between 2003 and 2006 he took Lincoln City to four successive play-off campaigns. Although they failed to win promotion on each occasion, it is an achievement never matched at that level.

He also proved to be someone who could work within a budget and always put a club's long-term financial future ahead of his own personal interests of adding a promotion to his CV.

Keith was most famous for discovering players from the Non League game and revitalising the careers of Football League players who had stalled at their current club.

He would have been especially proud to see Gary Taylor-Fletcher, a player whom he turned around at Lincoln, scoring at Wembley and winning promotion with Blackpool to the top flight in May.

This award is posthumously awarded to the man affectionately known as 'Big Keef.' In honour of his work in the lower division, it will also be renamed the Keith Alexander Award for Outstanding Achievement, from next year.

More awards tomorrow.

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