Liverpool FC: End Of Season Awards

Seriously?!

Let’s be honest, it’s been a poor season. It wasn’t exactly the type of season anyone would want to write home about before the Reds lost 6-1 away to Stoke, but sufficed to say that result has left a bad taste in the mouth.

So the idea of doing some End Of Season Awards seems a little bit like being asked to judge a ‘fart in an elevator’ competition: Unappealing and hardly likely to get anyone overly excited.

Yet the truth is that the players gave it their all. The manager, despite what some might say, did everything that he could to see Liverpool be as successful as possible. The season was a washout, but it wasn’t because of an intentional collapse or failure.

Therefore it’s only fair that those that gave their blood sweat and tears to the Liverpool shirt this season are rewarded with a thank you. And that thank you is here in the form of our inaugural Awards. Let us know if you think we’ve got it wrong anywhere!

Young Player Of The Year

There are a number of entrants for this particular award. Especially given that FSG have deliberately employed a tactic of using youth as much as possible. Players like Lazar Markovic, Emre Can, Alberto Moreno, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Ibe and Jerome Sinclair have all made appearances in the first team this season, and all of them are under 25.

Sinclair and Ibe haven’t had enough of an impact to win this award, though they have done enough to mean that Liverpool fans should be excited about them as prospects in the coming years.

Likewise neither Moreno nor Markovic have been particularly impressive for the Reds, with both finding their positions in the starting line-up to be rather limited.

Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho are the standout candidates, with both having been excellent throughout the year. Yet Can’s performances fell away a little bit towards the end of campaign, with Rodgers’s decision to play him out of position doing him no real favours. As for Coutinho, we’ve got another award entirely in mind for him.

By Biser Todorov (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Biser Todorov (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

That only leaves one player as a serious candidate for the Young Player Of The Season Award and, given the behaviour of his agent in recent weeks, we’re not sure he’ll be an entirely popular one: it’s Raheem Sterling.

Say what you want about Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, to say nothing of the player. He’s not exactly endeared himself to supporters over the last few months, with his refusal to sign a new contract whilst also saying it’s not about the money leading to many supporters feeling that he’s something of a money grabber and a traitor.

Yet it’s on the pitch that it really matters, and it’s on the pitch that he’s continued to perform. This season he’s played up front, behind the striker, on the wing and as a wing back. Sometimes he’s even had to play all of those positions within the same game.

Statistically he’s up there with the best of the best at the same age. Here’s a look at the chances he created in the season he turned 20 when compared to compared to Messi, Ronaldo, Bale and Silva at the same age:

Player Games Chances Created
Messi 28 40
Ronaldo 33 49
Bale 23 39
Silva 34 40
Sterling 35 75

Now chances created aren’t the same as assists or goals, of course, but the stats are still impressive – especially when you consider that Liverpool have been without a main striker for most of the season and decidedly poor for pretty much all of it.

Like him or not, think he’s money grabbing or not, there’s no denying that he’s a top quality footballer. For that reason, Raheem Sterling is our Young Player Of The Year.

Player Of The Year

Such is the nature of Liverpool’s poor season that there’s barely even a shortlist for this one. Can has impressed, but has hardly been superb. Mamadou Sakho has been excellent when he’s made it onto the pitch, but his hissy fit during the derby and his injuries throughout the season mean that he’s just not been consistent enough to win it.

Simon Mignolet managed to shake off a terrible start of the season to come within a whisker of the Golden Glove, yet there’s always a fear that he might regress to his former self and you certainly wouldn’t want to bank on him when the pressure is on.

By Dean Jones (Flickr: Coutinho Goal) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dean Jones (Flickr: Coutinho Goal) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

And then there’s Philippe Coutinho; the Brazilian wonderkid who the Liverpool players nicknamed ‘David Blaine’ because of his mesmerising footwork; the player that most people think the Liverpool team should be built around in the future. Is there a more serious option for the award than him?

When he was named in the Team Of Year by the Premier League there was an ‘amusing’ tweet doing the rounds that pointed out he’d scored 4 and assisted 4 – the same as the Manchester United ‘flop’ Falcao. It was a tweet that summed up the problem with modern day football supporters – it’s all about the flash and not about the substance. Fans nowadays have no time for nuance; they have no understanding that a player may just offer more than goals and assists. Of course we’d like to have seen more of both from the youngster, but that doesn’t mean he’s been unimpressive this season.

He’s been the impetus behind Liverpool’s best performances and the player that offers the clearest hope of success next season, which is why Philippe Coutinho is our Player Of The Year.

Goal Of The Season

As we’ve just said, Philippe Coutinho may well need to score more goals before he becomes a truly great player, but that doesn’t mean that the ones he has scored have been lucky in any way. In fact, he could have a Goal Of The Season competition all to himself.

With just 52 goals from 38 games, it shouldn’t be overly difficult to narrow down the best of the lot of them. Yet somehow, even amongst the doom and gloom and without the joy of watching Luis Suarez play Norwich, there have been a number of absolute corkers this season.

Here are our contenders:

It seems an age ago now, but remember that game against Tottenham when Alberto Mereno won the ball back from Andros Townsend well inside the Liverpool half at White Hart Lane, before running the length of the pitch and smashing it past Hugo Lloris? It wasn’t just a great goal; it was a signal of intent and a promise of things to come. A promise that went undelivered, sadly. Still, what a goal.

When Everton come to town it’s become customary for Steven Gerrard to do something to get himself in the headlines. This year it was score against them. Again. A brilliant free kick, deserving of its place on our shortlist.

Adam Lallana has been a little bit disappointing this season, but he’s still shown glimpses of the player he could become for Liverpool. Never more so than when he played a lovely back-heeled one two with Jordan Henderson, danced through the West Brom defence and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

Raheem Sterling has been in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons of late, but we still remember when he decided to take on the entire Chelsea defence and smash the ball past Thibaut Courtois in the League Cup. It wasn’t enough to see the Reds into the cup final, but it was still wonderful to watch.

The FA Cup nearly became Philippe Coutinho’s competition this season, until the Reds threw it all away against Aston Villa. The Brazilian’s first entry into this award came against Bolton Wanderers when Jordan Henderson laid the ball off to him before he struck a wondershot into top corner.

Southampton haven’t been overly generous with goals this season, with Fraser Forster in line for the Golden Glove before getting injured. So Philippe Coutinho’s second entry into the award shouldn’t be under-estimated. It was an absolute screamer that smashed into the bottom of the crossbar and gave Forster no chance.

Another goal that shouldn’t be under-estimated is Jordan Henderson’s effort against Manchester City. Joe Hart may not be the goalkeeper we all thought he’d grow into, but he’s still not half bad. So when Henderson picked the ball up outside the City area I’m not sure anyone expected what happened next. It was a truly brilliant effort that Hart couldn’t even get so much as a finger onto. Unstoppable.

Anything you can do, I can do better. So went the shout from Philippe Coutinho after he’d seen Henderson’s shot fly past Joe Hart. Two screamers in one match against one of the top goalkeepers in the country? We’ll take that. When Coutinho picked the ball up from Sterling on the edge of the area and looked up to see Hart slightly off his line, we all sort of knew what was coming. It was still a surprise to see him pull it off, though. The very definition of a wondergoal.

So there you have it, our contenders for the Goal Of The Season. It seems easy enough to narrow it down to the player, given the Coutinho has 3 entries into the award, but to narrow it down to which goal is far more difficult. For us, though, there can be only one winner. They may have disappointed this season as far as their title challenge is concerned, but Manchester City are still one of the best teams in the country with a defence to die for, so Philippe Coutinho’s screamer against Joe Hart is our Goal Of The Season.

Most Improved

At the start of the season Simon Mignolet looked as if he wouldn’t be able to save money, let alone a shot on his goal. He was absolutely all over the show, looking mentally and physically lost with the demands of the season.

It got to the point that Mignolet’s shaky form saw him dropped by Brendan Rodgers, with the Ulsterman preferring Brad Jones to the Belgian for the game against Manchester United. The Liverpool manager said that Mignolet would be dropped ‘indefinitely’, meaning that it looked as though his goose was cooked.

Then Jones picked up an injury in the game against Burnley at Turn Moor and Mignolet made his way back in to the team much quicker than expected. He still wasn’t at his best, though, as he took so long deliberating over what to do about a back-pass that he let it run out for a corner.

It seemed nailed on that Liverpool would look for a new goalkeeper in the January transfer window, until Mignolet had a conversation with someone that changed his mental approach to the game. Weirdly, though, the person wasn’t famed man-manager Brendan Rodgers, or Liverpool’s psychologist Dr Steve Peters, it was his girlfriend, Jasmien Claes.

She told her fella to stop over-thinking and to just get back to basics. It was advice that did him wonders, with the goalkeeper going on to help Liverpool notch up a club-record equalling 6 clean sheets. He finished the season with 13 clean sheets in total, meaning he only just missed out on winning the Golden Glove.

From club reject with little to no hope of resurrecting his career, to one of the best goalkeepers in the country in the space of just a couple of months. If that isn’t a sign of someone improving exponentially then when don’t know what is. Therefore the winner of our Most Improved Player Award is Mr Simon Mignolet.

Worst Performance Of The Year

There are few joys to be taken from such an appallingly bad season, but from our point of view it’s at least the case that it gives us a fair few options for the team’s worst performance of the year.

Remember, for example, when Real Madrid came to town and the Reds seemed to be so in awe of the Spanish giants that they rolled over and had their bellies tickled? Losing 3-0 at home to Real without even laying a glove on them isn’t just a bad performance, it’s an embarrassment. Not because the opposition wasn’t good – they are one of the best teams in the world – but because Liverpool Football Club shouldn’t surrender so meekly regardless of who the opposition are.

There was also the match against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground that the Reds lost 3-1, going two goals down within just 7 minutes of kick off. Yes the Reds made it 2-1 before the half hour mark, but it never really looked like they could get back into the game.

Manchester United came to Anfield in a game that looked like it could help to decide the team that would take 4th spot. Despite a recent run of good performances the old foe had hardly been in exceptional form all season, so it was felt the game was in the balance. Then came one of the worst first-half performances Liverpool have produced, with the team lucky to go in just 1 goal down. They bucked themselves up a touch in the second half – despite Steven Gerrard’s red card after just 38 seconds of it – but the damage had been done.

The semi-final of the FA Cup is a big occasion, even for Liverpool Football Club. Yet it shouldn’t have been as over-whelming as it appeared to be for the Merseysiders. They took the lead through Philippe Coutinho, in spite of their performance rather than because of it, but threw that away to lose 2-1 at Wembley to a club fighting relegation. It was a disgrace, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten or forgiven any time soon.

They always say you should save the best until last, and if Liverpool had followed that advice then maybe one of the previous performances would have won this award. Instead the Reds travelled to Stoke for the final day of the season and completely and utterly capitulated. They were abysmal from start to finish, with little fight and even less pride. Despite the fact that it was the last time that Steven Gerrard would pull on the Liverpool kit, they conceded 3 goals in half an hour and five before the interval. Some mild professional pride was pulled back after the break when Gerrard scored a consolation goal, but their humiliation was complete when ex-Red Peter Crouch scored a sixth before the final whistle. No question, the 6-1 defeat away to Stoke was the Worst Performance Of The Year.

Match Of The Season

It’s been a dreadful season. There really haven’t been many great performances to choose from, truth be told. Yet the start of the season offered so much promise. The 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane at the start of the season represented the best that Liverpool had hoped for. Despite the fact that Mario Balotelli didn’t quite click into place in his first game for the Reds, there was still a feeling of hope when Liverpool destroyed their nearest rivals in a game at their home ground.

There was also the 4-1 victory over Swansea at Anfield, when Adam Lallana showed the kind of drive and determination that is the hallmark of a Brendan Rodgers side when he closed down Lukasz Fabianski’s clearance and it ricocheted into the back of the net. It also saw an own goal from old-boy Jonjo Shelvey, but it was all a little forced and unsubstantial. A good score line, but far from the ideal performance.

The hope and promise of the game against Spurs was never fulfilled, but for a brief 90-minute period we all forgot who Luis Suarez was and dreamed of another tilt at the title. That’s why the 3-0 victory over Tottenham in London is our Match Of The Season.

Most Disappointing Player Of The Season

By Ronnie Macdonald [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ronnie Macdonald [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Southampton notched up 14 clean sheets in the 2013-2014 season, with Dejan Lovren being a vitally important part of that. He came to Liverpool with a big reputation and a £20m price tag, but he hasn’t done an awful lot to show that he’s worth either.

He’s looked cumbersome, nervous and nerve-wracking if you’re a Liverpool fan whenever he’s been on the pitch. To suggest he’s a liability might be a touch unfair, but when the back four has contained Dejan Lovren, Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno it has been panic-attack inducing.

He came offering so much, but now most just hope he leaves before he does some lasting damage. Our Most Disappointing Player Of The Season Award goes to Dejan Lovren.

 Under-Rated Player Of The Year

There’s a feeling among Mamadou Sakho’s critics that he’s dodgy on the ball. It’s a cliché born of the fact that he’s got long limbs and looks a little bit like the ex-Liverpool defender Djimi Traore, though that seems to be based largely around the fact that they’re both black and have long limbs.

joncandy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

joncandy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

He may have slight injury issues, but the stats show that Liverpool get better results when Sakho plays. After Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield, they won 5 and drew 3, conceding just five goals at a rate of 0.63 goals a game and collecting 5 clean sheets.

Sakho’s tackling is significantly higher than Liverpool’s other defenders, with his rate of 69.8% successful tackles better than Skrtel’s 62.1%, Toure’s 52.5% and Lovren’s 46.6%.

Despite the amount of times that members of the press seem to spread nonsense about Liverpool’s players, managers or the club itself depending on what the mood of the nation is, there still seem to be a portion of supporters who buy into the notion that Sakho is unreliable or dodgy on the ball. The truth is it’s just nonsense and Mamadou Sakho is an incredibly good defender that Liverpool fans should sing the praises of.

All of that is why Mamadou Sakho is our Under-Rated Player Of The Year.

Lifetime Achievement

The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be. 710 appearances for Liverpool. 372 wins. 186 goals. So much more than statistics.

It’s no surprise that everyone who is anyone in the world of football has been coming out of the woodwork to lavish a huge amount of praise on Steven Gerrard. Brendan Rodgers said that “He’s done more for the city than politicians”, and that might only be the half of it.

Much like Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard has carried the hopes and dreams of Liverpool supporters on his shoulders for far longer than he should have. Whilst the likes of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have all come and gone, Steven Gerrard has remained. He’s been chased by the best teams in the world, yet he has stayed on Merseyside.

Steven Gerrard should be given the keys to the city; he should be given everyone’s wives if he wants them. He is a genuine hero and a legend in his own time. The Liverpool captain is a colossus; a midfield general in the old style. Patrick Viera told the Sunday Times that he considers Gerrard to be a better player than he was, and Viera is considered to be one of the best.

He’ll be back at Liverpool at some point and in some form, there’s no doubt about that. Yet right now he’s leaving as one of the club’s greatest ever players. It’s been a privilege to be able to watch him in a Liverpool shirt over the years and there’ll be a Steven Gerrard sized hole both on and off the pitch for many years to come.

It wasn’t a difficult choice here. Steven Gerrard wins our Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

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