Well, this is what they call the silly season…
SOAP STAR OF THE SEASON AWARD:
Although there was a lot of competition for this one, with Northwich Victoria, Farsley Celtic and Halesowen Town all putting in strong bids, they just couldn’t match the story line of the eventual winner, Bournemouth, with constant issues over selling the club and fighting off winding up orders, plus the most dramatic press conference of the season by a long chalk.
LEAST HELPFUL CONTRIBUTION TO ENGLISH FOOTBALL AWARD:
For services to transfer fee inflation, a walkover here for Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid, with his purchase of Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80m. This combined with his purchase of Kaka puts him in pole position for the European award.
CREATIVE USE OF WEAKNESSES AND GAPS IN THE RULES AWARD:
With his second successful shuffling round of ownership, this award goes to Stephen Vaughan of Chester City, whose family bought the club back from the Administrators having paid 15p in the pound to the unfortunate creditors (see ).
FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE AWARD:
Way ahead of the competition in this category was Mark Fry, Administrator of Southampton Leisure Holdings, who insisted that this was an entirely different entity from the club and yet took on the Football League over the club’s 10 points deduction.
The only real competition for this award came from an unsuccessful defendant in a libel case – no names, no pack-drill.
MOST LUDICROUS STATEMENT OF THE YEAR AWARD:
After last year’s world-class effort by Harry ‘The police have to arrest you in order to be able to talk to you’ Redknapp, this was always going to be fiercely contested. But by a whisker it’s a second award to Stephen Vaughan, who in December said “I won’t relinquish control until I know that the party taking over can assure me that they’re going to take this club forward” (2) and later in the season took the club into Voluntary Administration (but see his award above). Currently the FA seem be seeking the assurance now that the Administrator has given control of the club back to the Vaughan family (see postings passim).
Winning this award did however debar him from consideration for the next award.
DIRECTORS SAY THE FUNNIEST THINGS AWARD:
It looked for much of the later part of the season that Graham Turner of Hereford United was going to win this (see ), but he was well beaten by a cracker from Bob Morton of Newcastle Blue Star (with whom I actually have considerable sympathy for his club’s predicament, but perhaps a better appreciation of realpolitik) who, on the day that the club folded for failing to repay a grant to the Football Stadia Improvement Fund stoically persisted “So far as the club is concerned we don’t owe a penny” (4).
OPTIMIST OF THE SEASON AWARD:
It’s surprising just how many people were prepared to join clubs which were in Administration and/or wages were not always certain to be paid. One name sticks out from the crowd though – Matty Clarke. At the time he signed up as manager of Halesowen Town (5), the club were not only under threat of being forced into Administration by their Supporters Trust, they were actually banned by the FA from playing football, their owner Morell Maison was under a personal FA suspension, they owed football creditors money, and were said to have total debts of £250,000 (see  and ).
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE SEASON AWARD
Lots of nominations in this category, but the award goes to a very late entrant, Arab-backed high-rollers Munto Finance. Notts County Supporters Trust members were persuaded to sell up to this company in the hope of becoming another Manchester City, or at least Notts Forest. Munto’s first move was a striker from League 2 rivals Chesterfield – a bid of £50,000, which was rejected as inadequate (8).
COMEBACK KIDS AWARD:
The focus here had to be League 2, with three clubs starting on negative points. Luton just couldn’t manage to overcome a 30 point penalty, but both Bournemouth and Rotherham did amazingly well to overcome 17 point penalties. Bournemouth certainly deserve a lot of credit given all their off-the-pitch problems (see Soap award), but Rotherham are worthy winners given that they also had to play in Sheffield at the Don Valley Stadium.
THE THREATENING TO TAKE HIS BALL AWAY AWARD
There were three contenders for this award – Notts County’s John Armstrong-Holes (but he was disqualified on the grounds that it wasn’t actually his ball), Chester City’s Stephen Vaughan, and the eventual winner, Wycombe Wanderers’ Steve Hayes, who managed to wrest control of the club away from fans (9).
WORD OR PHRASE OF THE SEASON AWARD:
Perennial favourite ‘crisis’ came under a lot of pressure this season from three relative newcomers – ‘meltdown’, ‘troubled’ and the winner by a short head, ‘on the brink‘.