Relegation and Wembley victory all in the same calendar year. It’s time to acknowledge who did this to us.
Much like killjoy Sam Allardyce turning up at Everton and banning all festivities, there’s part of me that wants to confine most of 2017 to the waste paper basket. We’ve dropped to the bottom division in the football league and are watching some wholly atrocious football matches. There’s very little to be proud of.
But, as torrid as 2017 has been, there have also been some noteworthy moments. We won a trophy for the first time since the The Simpsons made their TV debut; Mark Robins returned (dinnerlady jacket in-hand); and the desire for a takeover reached peak desperation as a chap named Dale announced his intentions with a massive typo and Facebook message.
Oddly, in a year where my personal ire index has regularly reached “incandescent” during matches, I’ve also been able to very quickly resolve this once the game has finished. It turns out “game” has been the key word all along. When things go wrong, it’s important to be able to rationalise, contextualise – even trivialise – else you’ll just be angry all the time. And that’s no good.
So, with being trivial high up on the agenda – please find below the winners of the Sky Blues Blog Awards 2017.
🙃 The Mo Konjic award for outstanding lunacy
Gael was quite the outstanding lunatic. I really did love him. Whether it was his visible out-of-body experience having scored the opening goal at Wembley, or incongruous use of “mama mia” in a TV interview, there was always a scent of wackiness in his behaviour. But it was genuinely endearing.
Of course there was plenty to criticise from a consistency point of view. He was a “higher-level” player who regularly performed below his optimum, but now he’s left I find myself absolving him of the disappointment because he was also able to prompt smiles with his eccentricities. Even amidst the relative seriousness of his in-game mistakes and dreadful passes, the daft moments on the ball always drew a chuckle… at least once he’d managed to rectify them.
He drew me in, and when he was in the zone, he was exactly the type of player I wanted in our midfield. We saw it during the Checkatrade Trophy run. Compare that passion to the turgid non-event that 80% of this year has been, and you realise just how much characters like Bigi make football more watchable.
😣 The Michael Doyle award for making it look like you try really hard
When I invented this award in 2012 I did so safe in the knowledge that Michael Doyle had long gone, and was never coming back. This award served to measure the best of those players who, at the very least, knew how to play to the crowd. But now the king is back, and in many ways is being more Michael Doyle than ever.
The notion of the award may seem like an insult, but it’s really to commend those players that are fully aware of what us fans want to see: effort, and loads and loads of it. We’re talking the Aron Gunnarssons of this world, who even if they’re playing poorly will be keen to show the fans they are still really trying, even if it’s a little contrived.
So to give Doyle his credit, he has his off days, but for the most part he really does try. But when it’s not working for him he also knows how to play the crowd, and bawling at teammates to demonstrate “heart” earns you brownie points. Doing so will at the very least get you to the top of the default Man of the Match vote. Players like Duckens Nazon seem to be less aware of this requirement, tending to rely on raw talent and ability to impress us instead – the damned fools.
Doyle has the “Bastard Factor”, but on these pitches, with these refs, and these opponents – that’s by no means a bad thing.
🥅 The Clarrie Bourton award for goalscoring
We ended the season getting relegated with very little attacking threat, and have started our new one as a bigger threat, but with an equally tame end product. George Thomas, Marc McNulty and Duckens Nazon have all shown an ability to put the ball in the net, but you have to delve into the youth team to find the real goalscoring star of 2017.
Jordan Ponticelli – you maniac.
His exploits with the young’uns led to endless calls for his immediate and unquestioned promotion to the first team. It took a while for Robins to heed these calls, but having played a decent number of games with the seniors and notching a handful of goals, he has continued to show an innate feel for goalscoring. Is his broader game ready for a sustained run? Probably not. There’s still much to work on, but as a young lad blessed with the poacher gene, that in itself would appear to be something worth embracing.
😍 The Chris Coleman award for being fancied by men
Benjamin likes to look good. While he may have fallen behind his good pal James Maddison in terms of career progression on the pitch, he more than makes up for it with his slickness off it.
Sure, it can sometimes be difficult to endure the nauseating compliment-athon that persists among the younger Cov lads on Instagram, but in his (and their) defence – he’s so bloody swarthy.
After a fall in the pecking order, 2018 will be huge for this guy. He’s got the physical appearance but can he prove his worth as a viable midfield option, beyond a neat-and-tidy replacement for the regular first teamers? I for one support his aspirations.
💁♂️ The Cobi Jones award for best haircut
While the ubiquitous Disconnected Undercut remains a hot choice for the trendy crowd, goalkeeper Corey Addai makes his own statement, accentuating his already abundant height with an impressive, and well-kept barnet.
I had the pleasure of meeting him a few months back, and while my first thought was to marvel at what a magnificently tall gentleman he is, I also noticed and appreciated that I was in the presence of a significant hairdo.
Well done, Corey.
⚽ The Darren Huckerby award for best goal
George Thomas v Oxford Utd
Best. It’s an interesting concept. But combine all the factors and I don’t think you can look beyond Georgy boy’s wonder strike at Wembley.
The build up. The control. The finish. The euphoria. Snobbishness and restraint went out of the window for all fans in the stadium that day and we were able to experience the unadulterated joy of victory. For inciting that emotion alone, George, you get my vote. To score that goal in that moment was simply magical.
Other noteworthy candidates include:
- Kyle Reid vs Port Vale
- Michael Doyle vs Wycombe
- Jordan Shipley vs Luton
😎 The Roland Nilsson award for being a class act
I used to sit in front of a man who not only disliked Jodi Jones, but actively revelled in any misfortune he suffered. For an entire season I did what any self-respecting member of society would do and held my tongue, while slagging him off behind his back to anyone who’d listen.
Truth be told, it took Jodi a little while to believe in himself, and he’s the sort of player that a fan like the chap behind me would grow to dislike. He’s a risk-taker with a goal focus, but in those early games this didn’t transfer into anything meaningful. He was flash, without having an impact.
Journey forward to this season and we now have a player who is quite clearly a class above his opponents, and he knows it. When the talent is there, that unwavering belief in your superiority is often what’s needed to convert that potential into prosperity.
Losing him at this point in the season is a major blow, but JJ is sheer class and will come back stronger and better in 2018 – I’m certain of it. But as far as 2017 went, it was the breakthrough year for this guy. Finally, after a few false starts, we now know what he’s capable of.
😠 And finally… The Craig Bellamy award for being a git
Being a “git” implies an element of malice or intent, which is why this award is always tricky. We don’t know any of these guys personally, and much of what happens on and off the football pitch is little more than pantomime.
But Russell Slade oversaw a shocking demise during the opening months of the year and receives this award not for being a bad person, but for crimes against being evenly vaguely competent.
Did he have the players? Maybe he just wasn’t good enough? Or was it all just Sisu’s fault? We all have our thoughts on what ultimately caused last season’s relegation, but what I am sure about is that he had opportunities to at least invoke some change, and he failed to activate the squad at all during his short tenure. For a club where being in League One was a failure in itself, to allow us to become so entrenched at the foot of that league was incompetence in all its forms.
To be fair to him – he seemed quite a sweet man, with a gentle voice and some nice things to say, but his actions (and inaction) on the football side of things directly caused our current predicament. It’s for that rotten impact alone that he receives this award as a representation of my feeling towards what he did.