Photo: Action Images
By Jamie Trecker
Last night Gareth Bale completed his sweep of the awards circuit by collecting the Football Writer’s Player of the Year Award here at a posh hotel off Kensington Gardens. It is the most prestigious of the awards, and a throwback to the days when the relationship between the media and the players was very different than it is today.
It is one of the few times of the year that the people who play the game and the people who cover it get together and act chummy. Most of it’s off the record, a lot of it is fueled by alcohol. In years past the, the gala was notorious for its punch-ups and the sheer volume of hangovers it could produce. It’s a very English event: several hundred unwashed scribes poured into the cleanest possible suits, all with exactly the same rep tie. The aim is not to stand out (advice ignored by the American, who was put into his suit by his partner and foolishly wore a bow tie) to avoid embarrassment and then get pissed.
There’s lots of back-slapping. Glasses of lager are sloshed, and it’s a badge of honor to get the next round. If you’re unwary, you can end up holding six pints inside five minutes. The players and managers walk about freely. Rafa Benitez was eagerly explaining, well, something, to anyone in earshot. Andre Villas-Boas was extremely polite. I ended in the urinal next to Roy Hodgson.