James Shield: Sheffield United's alternative awards list for 2022
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As they get set to face Queens Park Rangers on Monday, The Star’s James Shield presents his alternative awards for 2022.
Best Moment: The thrashing of Fulham on the final day of last season is a contender. The same goes for this week’s win over Blackpool, which combined with results elsewhere saw Paul Heckingbottom’s second-placed side open up an 11 point gap over Blackburn Rovers in third. Iliman Ndiaye has taken the breath away numerous times over the course of the past 12 months and it was brilliant to see Oli McBurnie end his long wait for a goal with a brilliant finish at Luton Town in August. But David McGoldrick’s handsome tribute to United and their supporters after calling time on his stay at Bramall Lane over the summer gets the nod. He meant a lot to the club and the club clearly means a lot to him.
Biggest Berk: There can be only one winner. Well, actually there could have been two but for legal reasons we’re probably best to ignore the alternative. Even though they both reared their heads on the same evening. I’m going for Robbie Biggs, or Robert as he was called in court, who shamed Nottingham Forest’s fanbase and football supporters as a whole by deciding it was a good idea to land a nut on United captain Billy Sharp following Forest’s victory in May’s play-off semi-finals. In, it must be remembered, a ground stuffed full of CCTV and television cameras.
Astonishing Agency Work: This might come across as a little unfair. He’s clearly a fine player. Even if, for some unfathomable reasons, the lad has shown it all too rarely on pitches in England and Scotland. But whatever Oliver Burke is paying his representative, he should double it. Treble it in fact. Because whoever could secure him a move to Werder Bremen, after spending most of his time in South Yorkshire on the periphery of United’s squad, they’re clearly capable of conjuring more magic than Ndiaye.
Heartwarming Hero: Some footballers don’t like doing interviews. A few have been known, without naming any names, to disappear from the training ground when they’ve been selected to ‘do the media’, later citing some unexpected appointment or temporary memory loss for their absence. Others, if they are dismayed by the thought of answering questions from journalists, manage to hide their frustration pretty well. Jayden Bogle was politeness personified following Thursday night’s victory at Bloomfield Road. McBurnie, Ben Osborn, Rhian Brewster and others always seem like pretty down to earth blokes too. But Chris Basham is always friendly, engaging and obliging. He gets it and realises we’ve got a job to do too.
Politest Tribute: Okay, so they’ve got a bit of a reputation. But I’ve always found Millwall’s followers a pretty decent and down to earth bunch. Except when I visited The Den for an infamous game nearly three decades ago. Still, that’s another story. My pals and I must have caught them on a bad day though. Because everytime United visit, the number of flat caps you can spot inside the ground never ceases to amaze me. Rain, wind or shine. I’m sure it’s a lovely touch to make those who have made the journey from Up ‘Norf feel totally at home. We’ll see next weekend in the FA Cup I suppose.
The most unlikely comeback: Twelve months ago, we were being told he couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a gigantic banjo. Which, for the sanity of health and safety chiefs was probably no bad thing, given that thousands of United followers were promising to invade the pitch the moment he scored a goal. What a difference a year makes because now McBurnie is viewed as being nigh on indispensable to the club’s cause. Nine in his last 16 outings suggests that’s not wrong either. It just goes to show good things really do come to those who wait.
Trophy for Time-Wasting: Again, there’s a couple of contenders. But seeing as one of those gets the nod in the category below I’ll go for Henry Mauriss, the American businessman who appeared poised to purchase United earlier this year before his proposed takeover withered on the vine like an unwatered grape. It quickly became apparent, even to those of us who keep our money in a piggy bank rather than some overseas fund, that the package he was putting together was so complicated it would probably confuse the Square Mile’s greatest minds. It didn’t get passed by the English Football League. Hopefully, providing the would-be buyer is of good character and intentions, the latest talks Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is involved in do come to fruition. For the good of everyone concerned.
The ‘What Went Wrong There?’ Cup: He could have been a world beater. Okay, I might be getting a little carried away there so let’s just say ‘First name on the team sheet’ at United instead. Certainly ‘Established Premier League striker’ - be that with this club, fingers crossed, or not. The thing is, despite proving he could terrorise some of the best defences in Europe at the beginning of his career with United, when they were a top-flight team, Lys Mousset didn’t possess the focus to do things right off the pitch too. Which eventually caught him up. Okay, he’s probably still got a physique most of his detractors would die for. But it’s definitely not befitting of a professional athlete. After a failed loan spell with Salernitana, Mousset was let go when his contract expired over the summer. Now he’s with Bochum and not playing again either. What a waste of talent. And what a shame.