There are only another five weeks before most players report back for pre-season training, so I'd better get the last season's awards out before the whole fandango starts all over again . . .
For technical excellence, Chelsea 4 Barcelona 2 in the Champions? League. Ronaldinho?s stunning goal, Chelsea?s barnstorming start and John Terry?s dramatic late header, plus enough controversy before and during the match to keep the media fully stretched for days.
For drama and human frailties, most matches involving Norwich City. A 4-4 draw at home to Middlesborough when they were out of it at 4-1 down with only eight minutes left. Played off the park by West Bromwich Albion, they contrived to win 3-2. But, above all, losing 4-3 to Southampton when both sets of defences had no clue about the rudimentaries. It was great fun, though.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
David Moyes at Everton, for confounding all the Jeremiahs of last August. Bryan Robson the runner-up for a marvellous six months in the Albion job. Iain Dowie for verbal originality and indomitable spirit in his ultimately failed attempt to keep Crystal Palace in the Premiership.
BEST PRESS CONFERENCES
Any involving Dowie and Chelsea?s Jose Mourinho. You really don?t know what Mourinho?s going to say, but you know he?s thought about it. Outside the Premiership, Joe Royle at Ipswich is not just a gracious loser but a dry wit when he?s won, while Queen?s Park Rangers? Iain Holloway is engagingly daft with a vivid turn of phrase.
Steve Bruce, contemplating signing Jermaine Pennant for Birmingham City once he came out of prison. ?Have you talked to him about it?? a reporter asked. Bruce answered deadpan, ? It would?ve been difficult in the last month?.
FUNNIEST CHANT FROM THE CROWD
The Manchester City fans, on spying Jose Mourinho in his ubiquitous grey overcoat from Hugo Boss. ?That coat?s from Matalan?.
Anfield, when Liverpool beat Juventus and Chelsea in the Champions? League. In the latter match, Five Live?s coverage let the singing of You?ll Never Walk Alone wash all over the listener at the crucial stage. You wanted to be there.
Tim Cahill at Everton, Southampton?s Peter Crouch, Norwich?s Dean Ashton, Zoltan Gera at Albion and Paul Robinson at Tottenham.
The two who got me out of my seat consistently were Manchester City?s Shaun Wright-Phillips, proving that a terrific little ?un is better than a hulking athlete, and United?s Wayne Rooney.
He may be too chav to be true, the Bash Street Kid with too many rough behavioural edges, but Rooney is the genuine article. Already, he?s a wonderful player ? at only 19.
Manchester United provided a clean sweep. Sloping off the field at Carrow Road after being beaten out of sight by a limited Norwich City, with the Canaries? supporters delirious.
Gary Neville applauding Chelsea players on to the pitch after they?d clinched the championship, with a stony face like thunder. United deserved to win the FA Cup but Arsenal nicked it. Sir Alex Ferguson?s impression of a man chewing an angry wasp marinaded in paprika was priceless.
WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY
Manchester United?s Liam Miller, James Beattie at Everton, Birmingham City?s Jesper Gronkjaer, Albion?s Kanu and Mateja Kezman, of Chelsea.
BIG GIRLS? BLOUSES
Chelsea?s Glen Johnson (poor attitude to wingers who kick him back, and he can?t defend), Albion?s Jason Koumas (started the season suspended for four matches and united Gary Megson and Bryan Robson in antipathy towards such a waste of talent), Manchester United?s Rooney when the toys come out of the pram, Bolton?s El-Hadji Diouf for gobbing in opponents? faces and Harry Kewell for regular renewal of his season ticket to the Liverpool treatment room.
But the winner is Mr Consistency himself, Robbie Savage. He walked out on Birmingham just months after signing a lucrative extension to his contract, claiming that Blackburn was nearer to his Welsh roots and that money wasn?t a factor. Buy this man-child a map, someone. The epitome of all that?s wrong with many modern footballers. He?ll have to come back and play at St Andrew?s sometime. And he still hasn?t been sent off in the Premiership!
Birmingham?s Matt Upson and Mario Melchiot, Mark Delaney and Nobby Solano at Aston Villa, Everton?s Nigel Martyn, Charlton?s Matt Holland and almost every player at West Bromwich Albion. Stuart Pearce, the new Manchester City manager, for respecting where he?s come from, maintaining his humility and refusing to blame referees.
Liverpool?s manager Rafael Benitez ? worked hard at mastering the English language, embraced the Anfield heritage and the fans and never moaned about a crippling injury list.
Chelsea?s Frank Lampard, one modern England international who valued getting his hands on the Footballer of the Year trophy, first won by Stanley Matthews ? and said so.
LOOK BEHIND YOU
If David O?Leary gets the players he wants for Aston Villa in the close season, he won?t be able to bang on any more about his small squad, the legacy he was left when taking over two years and the lack of talent in the reserves and youth team that have won several trophies in recent years. And I wonder what we?ll get from Eric Djemba-Djemba?
Steve Bruce says that last season was his most difficult in management. If David Dunn and Muzzy Izzet report back fully fit, it?ll be like having two new quality players available. But he knows that last summer?s influx of players were generally a disappointment.
With the level of investment from the board reassuringly generous, with the squad talented and experienced enough if fit, Bruce and Birmingham ought to be pushing for a place in Europe. If Everton can finish fourth and Bolton qualify for the Uefa Cup, Blues should be up there, as well as challenging in the cup competitions.
Ferguson can?t afford another failure next season, with the club in flux and some of his senior players waning. In the past four seasons, Ferguson has won the FA Cup and the Premiership only once ? not satisfactory when you?re a serial winner like Ferguson.
Graeme Souness has to clamp down on the soap opera that is Newcastle United. The antics of Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer are familiar enough but when a good, experienced pro like Aaron Hughes ups and leaves for the Villa and the admirable keeper Shay Given admits his frustrations the warning bells are clanging.
Would you want to be alongside the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, in the jungle? Alan Shearer?s managerial ambitions are well known, and Martin O?Neill will probably be available some time . . .
READ MY LIPS
Harry Redknapp, last December, musing on life as the Portsmouth manager. ?Leaving? I?m not leaving. It?s a load of nonsense ? it?s just not true and I?m fed up of hearing that I am?. A few days later he was installed as Southampton?s manager.
Ferguson last November, letting Malcolm Glazer know what he thought of his proposed takeover. ?I have tried to support the fans in a lot of their pleas and causes. And we?re both of a common denominator: we don?t want the club to be in anyone else?s hands?.
Now his friends are saying he?ll be at Old Trafford for at least a couple more years.
Bruce Langham on May 10 last year, as he became Aston Villa?s chief executive and faced the inevitable questions about life with Deadly Doug. ?I?m not anybody?s nodding dog? he told us. He proved that last week.
Rio Ferdinand in April, agonising about accepting a pay rise of #40,000 a week that would take him up to #120,000. ?People have to understand that contract negotiations don?t happen in one or two days?. Number of days since United made their revised offer to Ferdinand ? 40. And rising.
ONES TO WATCH
Tottenham?s Michael Dawson, Steven Davis at Aston Villa, David Nugent at Preston, Arsenal?s Cedc Fabregas, Steve Sidwell at Reading and Newcastle?s Steven Taylor.
TEAM TO WATCH
Tottenham. Martin Jol, a shrewd and genial manager, has assembled a group of fine young British players and, unlike many foreign bosses, he understands the culture of English football and the Tottenham tradition of good football.
SO FAREWELL, THEN
Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, two emotional, honest men of football who did so much for the game in Newcastle, yet fell sadly short. Brian Clough ? singular man and great manager who would have been heartbroken at the decline of Nottingham Forest. He was apoplectic enough about Forest?s plight when we talked about it last summer, so gawd knows what he?d have had to say a year on.
A daunting list. One-eyed managers like Sam Allardyce who never give a referee a break and bang on and on in post-match press conferences. Players who blatantly cheat and then whinge when their bluff is called. Those who fall down in the penalty area at the merest hint of contact.
Arsene Wenger bemoaning the soft penalty won by Wayne Rooney last October while forgetting that he has serial divers such as Robert Pires, Juan Antonio Reyes and Patrick Vieira.
Let?s not forget David O?Leary?s pre-match briefings up at the Villa training ground or Peter Kenyon?s bare- faced cheek when caught out pushing the Chelsea envelope just a little further than necessary.
There?s Sven-G^ran Eriksson talking up David Beckham?s captaincy credentials and right to be in the England team. Coaches and managers who chew gum remorselessly with their mouths open. The fourth officials and their consistent cowardice in bottling out of admitting they?d had a clear view. Everton?s prehistoric playing style whenever Duncan Ferguson is on the pitch.
And how about big-name footballers who show off their fashionable threads on the television sofas but offer absolutely nothing as analysts?
A personal gripe is the space in the papers or time on the airwaves devoted to minor celebrities as they witter on about their favourite club. They can gain street cred by talking intelligently or wittily about football or asking good questions ? the rest is irrelevant, pandering to their egos.
One columnist on a reputable broadsheet hardly ever completes an article on football without mentioning that he supports Everton. I have written on two occasions to the letters editor this past year. Each time, the letter wasn?t published.
The chosen clubs of radio and television presenters are of no consequence. Their job is to shed light on football, not impose their tastes on us. It should be a matter of pride to a broadcaster that the audience has no idea who he or she supports.
Whenever a broadcaster is asked who they support, the stock answer ought to be ?an expensive lifestyle? and move on.