End of Season Awards – From My Travels
At the end of the 2017-18, I have been to a total of 43 games of football. This is a wholly subjective and not particularly serious article, looking at some of the most exciting games, impressive managers and heart-breaking moments that have stood out for me on my travels this season.
Manager of the Year – Micky Mellon
When I went to Tranmere in October to watch a dour 0-0 draw with local rivals Chester, Tranmere looked a million miles away from the side who came so close to a return to the football league against Forest Green Rovers. Since then Mellon turned their season around in incredible fashion, with the team storming into second place yet again and navigating themselves through an incredibly tumultuous playoff final against Boreham Wood. To lose a player in the 1st minute of the game and still prevail is testament to fighting character Mellon seems to have instilled in his players, making him a worthy winner of the manager of the year.
Goal of the Season – Lee Evans (Sheffield United vs Middlesbrough 10th April 2018)
Lee Evans is perhaps the most unfortunate man to score an exquisite volley this season, with equally as impressive volleys from Jack Grealish and Ruben Neves in the space of 24 hours overshadowing his effort somewhat. Nevertheless, Evans’ goal is without a doubt the best I have seen this season. The ball had been hit so far up into the air that it was almost into orbit, but Evans managed a delightful first-time strike whilst on the move, placing it effortlessly beyond the helpless Darren Randolph to the amazement of everyone in attendance.
Miss of the Season – Gozie Ugwu (Chesterfield vs Sheffield United 18th July 2017)
Gozie Ugwu undoubtedly holds the accolade for worst miss of the season, something that is even more embarrassing given that this miss took place in a preseason game, meaning that from July to May there was not one player who produced a more horrendous mishap. Gozie Ugwu was played through on goal and did well to take the ball round Simon Moore, leaving himself with the seemingly easy task of placing the ball into a gaping empty net. Everyone in the home end assumed that Ugwu had scored before the ball hit the net, something that made his calamitous effort crashing off the post even more amusing for the away fans. Despite Chesterfield playing relatively well that day, it seems that his miss was a rather prophetic precursor to a miserable season for the club.
Mistake of the Season- Sunderland vs Millwall (18th November 2017)
Sunderland vs Millwall was a clash at the Stadium of Light between two Championship sides, although the standard of goalkeeping on display is without a doubt the worst I have seen at any level of football. It started with Jordan Archer flapping at a fairly routine cross and letting the ball fall into the feet of Lewis Grabban, who could hardly miss from his position. Robbin Ruiter then upped the ante in terms of horrendous goalkeeping, aiding George Saville’s free kicks by seemingly guiding them into the net with his own palms. Ruiter had forgotten that he was supposed to be stopping the ball from crossing the line, yet somehow Archer managed to eclipse his counterpart. An Adam Matthews cross should have been an easy catch for him, yet he inexplicably seemed to fall into the net and palm the ball in the same direction at the same time, gifting Sunderland a much-needed equaliser. This was a display of goalkeeping so bad it almost defies description, but the below video should provide enough proof as to why this entire game is awarded the title of mistake of the season.
Performance of the Season – Gateshead 0-5 Luton (3rd December 2017)
Luton Town looked to be storming towards the League 2 title when they arrived at the Gateshead International Stadium for a first round FA Cup tie, and although they eventually missed out on the title to Accrington, this performance definitely goes down as the most dominant that I witnessed this season. Luton made the gap between themselves and Gateshead look much greater than one division, playing some scintillating football at times. The first goal may have come about due to an unfortunate collision that saw Scott Barrow leave the pitch with a concussion, but the rest of the goals were the results of clever passing, pinpoint crossing and opportunistic finishing, with a resounding strike from Luke Berry to cap the 5-0 win being the pick of the bunch.
Game of the Season- Barnsley 3-2 Sheffield United (7th April 2018)
A strange pick given that my team was on the receiving end of a comeback from a relegation threatened local rival that sparked jubilant celebrations in the home end and a chorus of “Sheffield United, you’re keeping us up.” It was painful at the time no doubt, being a real dent to our playoff hopes, but looking at it from a neutral perspective it was undoubtedly the best game of the season. There was local rivalry to stoke the flames, and two vocal sets of fans desperate for what could be a season defining 3 points added fuel to the fire. Include crunching tackles, United coming back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1, Barnsley then managing to win the game 3-2 and all the associated euphoria and despair that such a back and forth game evokes, and you have all the foundations for a great game of football. Being on the losing end of such a result might hurt, but it was a game that encapsulated all the emotion and passion and the highs and lows that make football so endearing.
Worst game of the Season – Heaton Stannington 3-3 Crook Town (25th November 2017)
How could a game that finished 3-3 be classed as the worst game of the season? I’m not suggesting that this wasn’t an exciting game, in fact far from it, but only that I missed nearly every ounce of entertainment. Missing kick off meant that the first goal alluded me, something that would become a common theme throughout the 90 minutes as, if I so much as turned my head for a second, another goal would fly in. Clearly the footballing Gods chose to smite me that day, and it’s something that annoys me still and makes this game my worst of the season.
Fans of the Season – Chester (Chester 1-0 Solihull Moors 9th December 2017)
Chester have endured a miserable season that ended with relegation to the National League North, so when snowfall threatened to offer them a reprieve from their game against Solihull, you could forgive them for not being too disappointed. Instead, the fans turned up with wheelbarrows and shovels in hand, clearing the snow to ensure that the game went ahead and that the journeys of home and away fans alike were not made in vain. This togetherness was replicated by the squad, who ground out a 1-0 win in what was a tough contest for both sides. The determination and community spirit shown by the fans might not have been enough to stave off relegation, but it certainly inspired their team for 90 minutes and won them the fans of the season award in the process.
Back from the Dead award – Solihull Moors
When Chester beat Solihull in the aforementioned game, Solihull seemed to be dead and buried, cut adrift at the very bottom of the National League. They were still bottom over Christmas and only climbed off bottom spot on the 1st of January. Everyone may have written them off, but they certainly didn’t down tools and accept their fate, instead embarking on an astonishing run of results that included home wins over playoff hopefuls Bromley and Dover and hard earned away points against Fylde and eventual champions Macclesfield. A stunning 2-1 away win at playoff winners Tranmere saw them seal their National League status, something that would have been near unthinkable at the turn of the year. This is perhaps the greatest of escapes, a feat that earns them the back from the dead award for 2017-18.
Ground of the Season – Brunton Park (Carlisle United)
Brunton Park, disregarding one newly built stand, is a hark back to stadiums of old before the gentrification of football and the commodification of the supporters. Its terraces might look somewhat tired, but they are filled with history, with memories of victories and defeats for multiple generations of Carlisle fans seeping into their very foundations. It might look a lot different to the soulless bowls that many clubs occupy these days, but it is this uniqueness and sense of identity that makes Brunton Park infinitely more enjoyable to visit than these newly built stadiums. Admittedly, Brunton Park will not be able to stand as it does now indefinitely, but one can only hope that it continues to act as a reminder of football before money grabbing players and popcorn eating fans for many more years to come.
Heartbreak of the Season – Spennymoor Town (Spennymoor Town 2-1 Southport 28th April 2018)
Finally, the heartbreak of the season has to go to Spennymoor Town. Their rise through the leagues in the past 10 years has been nothing short of spectacular, and the final game of the season offered them a chance at yet another promotion. They sat in 8th place, with 7th place being the final coveted playoff berth, knowing that if they could better the result of Bradford Park Avenue they would earn a shot at promotion to the National League. The game started poorly for Spennymoor as they conceded in the first half, but they summoned up the drive and energy needed to score 2 goals and put themselves in 7th place for the time being, with Bradford losing at Kidderminster. The game ended 2-1 to Spennymoor and there were some tentative celebrations mixed with nervousness, as Bradford had equalised in the 81st minute and were still playing. There was to be no chance at another promotion for Spennymoor, as Boyes scored a dramatic 93rd minute winner for Bradford Park Avenue to steal the playoff place from them at the death, a heart-breaking end to an otherwise incredibly positive season for Spennymoor.