69 When football curses go bad
Pride comes before a fall, and in football all it takes is a little recognition from your fellow professionals and it's all downhill from there. First Robert Pires did his knee, then Roy Keane's hamstring twangs and now David Beckham breaks his foot. There is no doubt about it; a new curse has struck English football. The curse of the player of the year!
Six players were nominated as the shortlist for the player of the year just a few weeks ago, and within three weeks half of the candidates are on crutches.
The award seemed likely to go to Beckham. He single-handedly developed a cure for German measles, stopped the proliferation of land mines and carried an average England side through the qualifying stages for the world cup (I don't think any of that was true). For developing into England's Maradona, without the unhealthy vitamin substitutes, the prize was sure to go to Saint David.
Then Ruud van Nistelrooy started outscoring everyone in Europe and the Premiership, considering his recovery from a year long injury crisis, this was remarkable.
Finally one of those nasty French types remembered how to play football and with a series of superb strikes still couldn't get Arsenal past the last sixteen in the Champions League.
Keane and Hasselbaink are the outsiders with another prolific Henry season being rewarded with a nomination. For my money the award will go to van Nistelrooy – at least then there won't be an issue with mounting some tricky steps on crutches, prooably.
It is well documented that the Manager of the Month curse means that an award will shortly precede a fairly catastrophic sequence of results, and it isn't a myth, just look at this seasons awards.
August; Bolton won the award and were top of the table with maximum points, just 2 wins in the next 22 games saw them plummet towards relegation, which a late revival may yet see them avoid.
September; John Gregory won the award for Aston Villa and was out of the Villa job before the season was out. But just four wins from the fifteen games after the award suggests he jumped before he was pushed.
October; Tottenham, followed by three wins and four defeats in November and December when Glenn Hoddle's team hit relegation form, picking up 11 points from 9 games.
November; Liverpool, followed by three wins from the next eleven games, a blip, which may already have cost them the title.
December; Newcastle, Bobby Robson provides the only example of a decent months results following this award, with 5 wins in the next 7 games.
January Southampton, only one win in the next eight games after January.
February Newcastle, followed by a collapse in form with only one win in the next six games, leaving them clinging on to fourth place.
March; Liverpool, followed by immediate elimination from the Champions League.
It is no coincidence that the managers of Manchester United and Arsenal are both chasing double trophy wins and neither have won manager of the month!
Michael Owen was the nations darling after the World Cup in France (1998), voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year just a matter of months later, before suffering from his hamstrings for most of the subsequent time (the odd sojourn against the Germans notwithstanding).
As for George Burley, who was the majority choice for last year's manager of the year. The ultimate football lesson of relegation seems the most likely for this follow up season.
In football it seems the glittering prize ceremony must be paid for and the bill is usually already in the post to the winner.