Danny Hall's Sheffield United Column: My end of season awards - best moment, game and, of course, player
On Friday evening, 11 months and 22 days since it kicked off on a pleasant weekend on the south coast at Bournemouth, a memorable and historic season will be recapped by Sheffield United.
The club's official channels will carry a virtual awards evening, forced online thanks to the Covid-19 crisis and the rules around social distancing. But after the conclusion of a campaign that will not be forgotten for some time to come for a variety of seasons, the competition for some of the awards is no less fierce.
I wrote on these pages recently that as many as 10 Blades stars could conceivably have a claim to the 'player of the year' gong, had the season ended when it should have. But there were so many good memories throughout the campaign, that I decided to host my own awards. So, with no further ado and absolutely no actual trophies or prestige at stake, here are my picks.
Goal of the season
One of the easiest choices. Honorable mentions for George Baldock for his solo effort at Norwich, and Lys Mousset for his goal against Manchester United. Baldock's away at Spurs may have been, to most observers at least, a shanked cross, but the build-up was sublime. But there can only be one winner... and that, for me, is Baldock's fellow wing-back, Enda Stevens, for his stunner at home to Brighton. To find the top corner from that angle, and at that pace, makes him a worthy recipient.
Save of the season
Dean Henderson's triple save against Norwich. No description really necessary. His save against Todd Cantwell away at Norwich was also superb, and I do feel there is a risk that some of his stops in a United shirt looked ordinary because he made them seem so easy. A goalkeeper that will go far in the game, and a shoo-in for the young player of the year award too.
Performance of the season
Individually, John Fleck was superb away at Manchester City, considering the calibre of player he was up against, but the display of the season has to be the team effort in the 3-0 win over Chelsea at Bramall Lane. Yes, United had hardly any possession. But they took their chances clinically when they got them, and kept the likes of Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic and Co. quiet at the other end.
Moment of the season
Another incredibly tough one. It's hard to overlook David McGoldrick's first Premier League goal in that Chelsea game - if only there was a full house in attendance, to lift the roof off Bramall Lane - and VAR ruling out West Ham's equaliser was a particular highlight. But it's impossible to look further than Billy Sharp's equaliser at Bournemouth. A boyhood Blade, scoring his first Premier League goal, in the last minute, on the opening day of the season, away from home... what a moment. The picture of Sharp sprinting towards the Blades fans, arms stretched out wide while supporters tumbled over seats, is iconic. And the result really set the tone for what followed throughout the season.
In the media, we are incredibly well looked after - in the Premier League especially - and it is difficult to complain about any game when we are housed, fed and watered. But Bournemouth just edge this one, purely for the almost inhabitable press box at the Vitality Stadium. Even my colleagues of a reasonable size struggled to wedge themselves out at full-time. A honourable mention to Everton, too, which one member of United's excellent media team still has nightmares about today.
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Wow.
Quote of the season
McGoldrick's post-match views on VAR, aired loudly in the mixed zone at Spurs after he was robbed of his first Premier League goal, lives long in the memory, but it has to be Wilder's pre-match quote before the Leicester away game, when asked about Jamie Vardy. "I go to the pub quite often and people... watch the TV up in the corner and go: 'Yeah, that could have been me''. Well, it wasn't you. It wasn't you because you didn't do it. You didn't get off the canvas like Jamie Vardy... So you deserve to be in the pub and have the career that you've had, not the one that Jamie Vardy's got. So shut up.”
Game of the season
It didn't go the way United will have wanted, especially when they were 2-0 up at half-time, but the 3-3 draw against Manchester United had everything. A packed Bramall Lane, an electric atmosphere and as complete a first-half performance as I have seen from a Blades side. Then the quickfire three-goal blast from the visitors, and the thrill of a late equaliser that felt more like a winner. At the end of it, as I sat down to write about the game, it was difficult to work out how to view the game - positive or negative? Point gained or two dropped? Months later, now the dust has settled, it was just a bloody good game.
Player of the season
The big one... my pick is Chris Basham. No player epitomises this team more than Basham, in my view; hugely talented, but also with a willingness to run through brick walls and also the humility to have a laugh, a joke and a beer after the game too. Watching him maraud through the Manchester City midfield at the Etihad was a bizarre experience - especially after watching him in the League One days - and he seems to finally be getting the recognition he deserves, after being voted in Alan Shearer's team of the season recently. This award won't please him as much as that one, but it's no less deserved.