Scott McCarthy: A look at some alternative awards for Brighton's 2017/18 season
The 2017/18 season came to a close with a whimper, but nobody could be too bothered that the Albion players' minds already seemed to be on the beach rather than the pitch at Anfield.
Safety was already assured, which was the target for the campaign and Chris Hughton and the players can look back on a job well done.
From a supporter’s point of view, it’s been a brilliant season and while the club have given out their own awards to worthy winners such as Pascal Gross for player of the season and Jose Izquierdo for goal of the season, here are some alternative 2017/18 awards.
Player of the season: Lewis Dunk was good, Pascal Gross was outstanding but Maty Ryan was simply brilliant. Without him, the Albion’s final points total could have looked very different and with that, so could our finishing position. Most Albion fans will be concerned about bids coming for Dunk in the summer, but Ryan would be much harder to replace. Any top half clubs thinking about replacing their goalkeeper this summer would be mad not to consider him.
Goal of the season: This might as well have been renamed the Jose Izquierdo award as the Colombian could win it with three of his strikes. His goals in both games with West Ham were good but the flowing passing move away at Stoke was one of the best teams goals the Albion have scored in years. If Manchester City scored that, they’d be showing it for years. Breathtaking!
Best home game: Beating Manchester United 1-0 to stay in the Premier League. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
Worst home game: Drawing 1-1 at home to Huddersfield. It’s easy to look back now and say “I told you we’d stay up comfortably”, but when Shane Duffy was having brain freeze and we’d picked up one point out of 12 ahead of those final six games of the season, well, it didn’t look so rosy then.
Best away game: We only won twice on the road and scored only ten times so that is one obvious area of improvement for Hughton to look at next season. Three of those goals came at West Ham, a real “we’ve arrived in the Premier League” moment. Sure, the Hammers were terrible on the night but to hammer an established top flight side in front of nearly 60,000 of their own supporters was the moment we looked like we belonged.
Worst away game: Alan Pardew won a grand total of one league game as West Brom manager. No prizes for guessing who against, two free headers from two set pieces in a game in which the Albion – Glenn Murray aside – looked like they simply couldn’t be bothered.
Best opponents faced: Chelsea were good at the Amex and we got away with facing Manchester City at the start of the season before all their new signings had gelled and then at the end with the title already won. Liverpool were something else though, as an aggregate scoreline of a 9-1 defeat suggests.
Worst opponents faced: Should probably be West Brom but we made them look like Brazil in the aforementioned debacle at the Hawthorns. West Ham were abject on both occasions.
Best opposition player: Philippe Countinho impressed at the Amex before heading off to Barcelona but Eden Hazard ran the show in our two encounters with Chelsea, being genuinely unplayable in the 4-0 home tonking.
Best away day: Football aside, West Brom was superb. Birmingham remains one of the best places in the country for pubs and you could buy shots of brandy inside the Hawthorns which was much needed at half-time. Fingers crossed Aston Villa come up in the play offs for two trips to the second city for them and Wolves next season.
Discovery of the season: Monday Night Football means you can do a double header of racing at either Plumpton or Fontwell Park in the afternoon and make the game at the Amex in the evening. Not particularly good for the wallet, admittedly.
Wish for next season: Survival, obviously. And a few more wins on the road wouldn’t go amiss.