As the 2011/2012 Premier League seasons nears its climax, the leading contenders have emerged for the coveted Manager of the Year gongs (the League Managers Association award and the Barclays Manager of the Season award). Of course, the result is dependent on how the last few games of the season pan out, but let’s take a look at eight likely candidates.
Harry Redknapp – Tottenham Hotspur
For a while, there was a three-horse race for the league title, with Redknapp’s attacking Tottenham side challenging Manchester United and Manchester City for the first two-thirds of the season. He can deny it all he wants, but since the rumours of Redknapp leaving Tottenham to become England manager, his team has stuttered and have recently slipped to 4th place behind rivals Arsenal.
However, if Redknapp was to be named manager of the season, it would be entirely justified, as he has turned the London side into a cohesive team capable of playing quick, direct football and has beaten the likes of Newcastle (5-0), Liverpool (4-0) and Arsenal (2-1). Add to that an FA Cup semi-final and it’s easy to see why Redknapp is a leading contender.
Alan Pardew – Newcastle United
It would be fair to say that Alan Pardew was not a universally popular choice when he was appointed as manager in December 2010, but he has far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Incredibly, it is just goal difference that sees Newcastle sit outside the Champions League places.
Pardew has made astute decisions in the transfer market: with eight goals in his last six matches, the January purchase of Papiss Demba Cisse for £8m is looking like money well spent, and the free transfer of Demba Ba, who has scored 16 goals so far this season, was arguably the best piece of business in the league this year.
Brendan Rodgers – Swansea
At the time of writing, Swansea sit 14th in the Premier League with 39 points after 32 games. This is impressive in itself, especially given that pundits and journalists predicted they were near-certainties to be relegated, but it is the style in which they have amassed these points that has won them so many plaudits. Their quick-passing, attacking style has even seen them compared to Barcelona.
Rodgers has worked miracles with the small budget allocated to him this campaign (around £8.5m) and the addition of Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson on loan in January was a masterstroke.
Paul Lambert – Norwich City
Norwich City, like Swansea, have been a surprise package this season. After guiding the club to back-to-back promotions from League One and the Championship, Lambert’s team sit 10th in the league and are in with an outside chance of achieving European qualification (they are just four points off 7th place).
Norwich City are a team that plays in the style of the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder – hard working, difficult to beat and not afraid to ‘give it a go’. While Lambert is certainly not a flashy manager (in fact, he can come across as quite dour in interviews), his team’s efforts in the league this season have been fantastic (plus, they have beaten Rodgers’ Swansea home and away this season).
David Moyes – Everton
The popular Scot recently celebrated ten years in charge at Everton and, once again, his team are finishing the season strongly. In 2012, they have lost just four league games and have taken maximum points from their games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. They currently sit 7th in the league, ahead of their big-spending city rivals who they face in a potentially season-defining FA Cup semi-final.
Moyes has worked miracles with the tiny budget he has been allocated (he has spent just £6.5m this season), thanks in part to the shrewd signings of Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson.
Roberto Mancini – Manchester City
The Italian has, for the most part, dealt admirably with the inflated egos at Manchester City, and turned them into a side that sat at the top of the Premier League for much of the season. At one point, his team looked unbeatable and were scoring goals at will.
Although it looks as though the red half of Manchester will be celebrating the league title this season, City’s amazing 6-1 win at Old Trafford will live long in the memory and provide hope for a successful 2012/2013 campaign… with or without Tevez and Balotelli.
Sir Alex Ferguson – Manchester United
Despite their failure in the Champions League and Europa Cup this season, the unflappable Ferguson looks to have guided Manchester United to their fifth league title in six years. With this season being described as a ‘disappointment’ by Sir Alex himself, it seems likely that last year’s manager of the season will not be this year’s.
Was bringing Paul Scholes out of retirement a sign of weakness, as claimed by Patrick Viera, or a stroke of genius? Perhaps the final league table will best answer that question. Once again, the Premier League’s greatest manager has managed to outfox and outmanoeuvre his rivals with a squad that is far from United’s best.
Steve Kean – Blackburn Rovers
A surprise inclusion in this list is Steve Kean, but if he manages to keep Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, in spite of the barrage of criticism and abuse he has faced from his own club’s fans, it will be testament to his ability to keep his players united and his sheer gritty determination. It is admirable that he has kept his dignity during the height of the vicious abuse and it was nice to see his fellow managers Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Harry Redknapp offer him their public support.
As it stands, only goal difference keeps Kean’s team in the relegation zone, so it goes without saying that the remaining six matches are crucial as to whether or not Blackburn stay up and if he can be considered the manager of the season.
So, who should win? Please leave your thoughts below. Personally, I reckon Moyes will named manager of the season for being consistently brilliant over the last few years, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Redknapp or Lambert won.