THERE’S NOT been much to smile about recently in football, but each year at GOTP towers, we get together with those that know to decide who deserves a little piece of Objet d’art for their sideboard. These trinkets are much sought after, as coveted as Tiffany paperweights and pieces of Scandinavian folk-art.
So, stop worrying about Brexit, Trump and the price of Christmas for a few minutes and wallow in nostalgia – or is it neuralgia?- as we look back on who’s worthy and who’s worthless. They’re back – the GOTP Annual Awards, as disposable as modern music, as credible as European government budgets.
A little bit of applause please for…
The Community Chest Award The rise of supporter engagement in non-league football is highly encouraging and we’ve seen the emergence of bands of “ultras” at various clubs. However, the club that has impressed us most at GOTP is Dulwich Hamlet. We take our hat off to a club that looked dead a few years back, playing in front of a couple of hundred people. Now, it has a vibrant community programme that engages all corners of society and four-figure crowds. Clearly, the way ahead for non-league clubs. So congratulations to Mishi Morath, one of the driving forces at the club, and Dulwich! Past winners: 2015 – Sutton United
The Impact Award We’re going left field for this year’s award and we would like to name a player whose impact on the game has lasted decades. In 2016, we said farewell to many big names across many sectors of life, but early in the year, the football world mourned the loss of Johan Cruyff. We therefore feel that we should mark his passing by naming him as the 2016 winner. It’s also our equivalent of retiring the number 14 shirt. So next year, we shall have a new accolade in the place of the “Impact Award”. Past winners: 2014 – Luis Suarez; 2015 – Jamie Vardy
The 11 Heroes Award We don’t always like to go for the obvious in our annual awards, but you cannot overlook Leicester City and their unlikely Premier League title win. It may never happen again for the Foxes and indeed, to a club outside the small bulge bracket, but it restored your faith in the possibilities of football. As we’ve seen in the past few months, Leicester have struggled to wear that crown, but at least they are making a splash in Europe. Honourable mentions also to Wales and Memelodi Sundowns of South Africa. Past winners: 2014 – Gamba Osaka; 2015 – Iceland
The Technical Area Award There’s consolation for South Africa in that we’ve selected Memelodi Sundowns’ boss, Pitso Mosimane for the technical area award. He’s been in charge for four years and brought home the African Champions League title. He’s also been named among the top 100 managers in the world, no mean feat for a South African football coach. Honourable mention to Claudio Rainieri. Past winners: 2014 – Diego Simeone; 2015 – Eva Carneiro
The Hour and a Half Award Nothing from EURO 2016 kept us that interested, so we’re looking beyond the top flight and dipping into non-league – Morpeth 4 Hereford 1 in the FA Vase final. Firstly, Morpeth were the underdogs and secondly, Hereford’s fans swamped Wembley for this game. The little guys came through and thoroughly deserved an emphatic win. It was a joy to behold and also gave Wembley a successful non-league finals day. Past winners: 2014 – Germany 7 Brazil 1; 2015 – Serbia 0 Albania 3
The Pak Doo-Ik Stuck in a Moment Award It has to be Sam Allardyce and a classic act of entrapment. But Big Sam’s unfortunate meeting cost him the job he’d always craved. Not a nice episode for football, but in a year when the game was dragged through the dirt once more, not the worst example, either. He’ll soon be in work again. Past winners: 2014 – Steven Gerrard; 2015 – Laura Bassett
So that’s it. No ticker-tape celebrations or fireworks. It’s a low budget affair – we may raise a glass to the winners, but that glass is half empty – or is it half full? You decide.
It has been another successful year for Game of the People. Hit rates have risen once more by 45% and we’ve won more awards and been referenced more than ever. We’d like to thank our supporters and advocates everywhere!