That… sums it all up.

There's no doubt that the 2001—2002 season will go down in history. Excitement, surprises, last week of the season thrills and no end of World Class players in English football. This rant will try to be some kind of coherent (not exhaustive) acknowledgement of the efforts that have gone in to giving English football its most enjoyable season for a long, long time.

Thanks to everyone who voted this year in the all things footie awards, this years recipients are…

atf player of the season : Robert Pires

After a long and at times arduous career, 2001/2002 was on the way to being Robert Pires' perfect season. For Arsenal fans it seemed said and done that week in week out Pires would turn in a wonderful, often match winning performance. Subtle, intelligent, devious, fantastic and by all accounts a genuinely nice bloke. It's a tragedy that it all ended like it did. A cruciate knee ligament injury sustained against Newcastle in the FA Cup Quarter Final not only ended Pires' season prematurely but in the cruellest twist of fate, ruled him out of the 2002 World Cup. It's worth noting that before he sustained the injury he still managed to score with a 20-yard sidefooted curler and set up a goal for Dennis Bergkamp.

In France Robert Pires has always been a mercurial figure, brilliant one week and anonymous the next — never quite good enough for national recognition. Just as his profile could not be higher and this majestic talent looked to have matured, it's a crying shame that the unfortunate (for there was no ‘culprit’, no Newcastle scapegoat) injury robbed him of a chance to shine on the biggest stage.

Special Mention : Ruud Van Nistelrooy

atf outstanding young player : John Arne Riise

Nothing less than a spectacular debut season in the Premiership has earned Liverpool's flying full back (and more recently wide midfielder) this well deserved award. Playing on both sides of Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz; Riise has rewarded Liverpool with 8 (often vital) strikes, most of them pretty spectacular. Switching to midfield for the second half of the season, Riise offered some of the width that Liverpool has so desperately lacked and was instrumental in the team securing second place in the Premiership. That's not to ignore his defensive qualities either which are first rate, it's difficult to believe he's still only 22. Two attacking left backs winning young player two years in a row — English club's defences really are getting less boring.

Special Mention : Darius Vassell

atf senior player of the season : David Seaman

When Arsenal signed Richard Wright at the start of the season and David Seaman sustained a back injury, few expected him to be Arsenal's number 1 by May — let alone England's. Seaman will travel to Japan and Korea as Sven Goran Eriksson's first choice 'keeper, safe in the knowledge that his performances this season have been instrumental in securing FA Cup and Premiership winners medals for his club. With strong competition not only from Richard Wright and Stuart Taylor at club level and Nigel Martyn/David James at International ‘safe hands’ really has defied age and made it impossible to put him anywhere but between the sticks.

Special Mention : Marcel Desailly

atf manager of the season : Arsène Wenger

Not only did he lead his team to the double, but he actually had to work for it. No perfect, injury-less season for Arsenal; no less than 9 first team players were out for more than three months. Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour, Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, Matthew Upson and Sol Campbell all tested Wenger's ability to rotate squad players to it's limit. Considered, intelligent and fearless, Wenger has the utmost respect for all his squad and knows exactly what strings to pull and when.

Special Mention : Bobby Robson

atf goal of the season : Dennis Bergkamp

He has scored quite a few memorable goals this year but I've never quite seen anything like his goal against Newcastle at St. James' Park. A touch to take it round Andy O'Brien and a calm sidefoot past one of the Premiership's finest goalkeepers epitomised everything that puts Bergkamp a class above the rest. One of the most technically wonderful and delightfully cheeky goal's you could imagine

Special Mention : Trevor Sinclair (West Ham vs Derby), Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea vs Norwich)

atf team of the season :

Carlo Cudicini
Steve Finnan
Sami Hyypia
Sol Campbell
John Arne Riise
Freddie Ljungberg
Steven Gerrard
Roy Keane
Man Utd
Robert Pires
  Thierry Henry
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Man Utd


Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool)
Laurent Robert (Newcastle)
Eidur Gudjonsen (Chelsea)
Patrick Vieira (Arsenal)
William Gallas (Chelsea)

Special Mentions :

Shay Given (Newcastle)
Damien Duff (Blackburn)
Kevin Nolan (Bolton)
Michael Ricketts (Bolton)
Steed Malbranque (Fulham)

I hear you, I hear you. All you Newcastle fans screaming SHAY GIVEN at me. The standard of 'keeping has been so high this season it would be wrong not to acknowledge all three truly outstanding exponents of the art. Dudek, Given and Cudicini have all been magnificent this season, and instrumental to the success of their respective teams. It's not an exaggeration to say that without Given it's unlikely Newcastle would have achieved so much this season and has been one of their most influential players; likewise Jerzy Dudek for Liverpool.

My reasons for picking Cudicini over both of these are simple; every time I have seen him play he's made 3 or 4 saves that defy logic. Saves that make you wonder if we've got the law of gravity a little wrong and it is possible for some objects to fall faster than others — he seems to see the ball in slow motion. I'd also like to see his hands without gloves on — I'm convinced he has steel fingers.

I'm looking forward to next year already. If it's a thousandth as enjoyable as 2001/2002 I for one will be most chuffed.

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