AND SO, the great and the good gathered at The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair (Game of the People has been doing well…) for this year’s awards. As the glasses clinked in the Polo Bar in Conduit Street, the cognoscenti decided upon the winners from a star-studded field. The GOTP awards do not necessarily hand plaudits to the obvious – in fact, we look to recognise the somewhat quirky aspects of the game – with one or two exceptions. It is easy to hand Barcelona, Real Madrid, Lionel Messi and Neymar accolades, but we won’t be doing that – besides, we cannot afford the private jet to bring them to the awards ceremony. So here we are – congratulations to all the winners.
We are going to start with a new prize – The Community Chest Award – which recognises the connection between a club and its fans.
Sutton United acted bravely in bringing down season ticket prices in a bid to attract new fans to Gander Green Lane. The princely sum of £99 for a season ticket – tremendous value. A gamble, but it has highlighted Sutton as a club with the community in mind. More non-league clubs should follow suit as pricing below the Football League is unrealistic. Genuine foresight that deserves to be rewarded. Everyone talks of ebing a “community club”, but few put their money where their mouth it. Hats off also to Clapton for their rebirth and also to the “yellow wall” at Dortmund.
Jamie Vardy is the name on everyone’s lips in England this past few months. His rise from non-league to the England squad has been nothing short of remarkable. It may not continue, but Vardy shows that persistence can win through. In an age when English football is short of heroes, Vardy can be that man! Robert Lewandowski ran Vardy close and Carli Lloyd – the new Geoff Hurst – scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final!
Past winner: 2014 – Luis Suarez
Iceland qualifying for Euro 2016 is remarkable. Just a few years ago, the country was bankrupt, but their recovery – on and off the field – has been the story of the year. The fishing industry will have to take a back seat during the summer, so expect a cod shortage in the supermarkets while Iceland’s footballers head for France. Reykjavik could be fairly well empty in June-July. All over Europe, underdogs are having their day at the moment – Carpi and Frosinone in Italy, Darmstadt in Germany and, AFC Bournemouth. We salute them!
Past winner: 2014 – Gamba Osaka
There can be only one winner for the Technical Area award and that has to be Chelsea’s former doctor, Eva Carneiro, evicted from the dugout by Jose Mourinho. This incident, which Mourinho must now surely regret, has set the tone for an unhappy 2015-16 for the Stamford Bridge club. We wish her well.
Past winner: 2014 – Diego Simeone
Drone gate. The bizarre aspect of this year’s award is that this is a game that was never played. Albania were awarded a 3-0 win by UEFA. If nothing else this game reminded us that the Balkan area still has problems simmering beneath the surface.
Past winner: 2014 – Germany 7 Brazil 1
The sight of Laura Bassett after scoring a last minute own goal touched many people. England’s ladies performed heroics during the World Cup and it was a cruel blow to go out of the competition in such a dramatic way.
Past winner: 2014 – Steven Gerrard
So that’s it. Another good year for Game of the People – still flying the flag for football as it should be played. Hit rates have soared once more, awards have been won, content has been shared and syndicated. Matches have been watched – not all enjoyed, I will add – and countries have been visited. In 2015, we have been to: PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, AC Milan, FC Zurich, Gothenburg and Athletic Bilbao, along with a host of Football League and non-league clubs. Thank you for your support and keep watching!