Once again we come to May with the end of the season very much amongst us. Yet still, surprisingly, the bottom three and Premier League winner are still to be decided, and now Tottenham have safely survived the threat of being in the fizzy pop, I think it's fair to say it'll be an exciting end to it all. so we come to the end of the season and the awards that come with it; we've already seen glimpses that the FA have already engraved 'Sir Alex Ferguson' into one award, but, in the unlikely event that the manager of the season isn't fixed for this season and staying in Manchester, let's have a look at some real contenders for it.
To start, despite their poor run of late, Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill is in top contention; as, for much of the season, gluing themselves to that 4th spot ahead of familiar faces at Arsenal. O'Neill's worked wonders with a small, young and talented bunch of players and early results illustrated the fantastic man-management that he is renowned for. O'Neill's built a Villa team that are punching way above their weight- on a limited transfer budget- by making small improvements and small change every summer to the squad.
The benefits were clear in early season results, beating teams such as Arsenal at the Emirates was once personal highlight for me. O'Neill has developed and worked with young English players such as Ashley Young, who was signed for £8m a few seasons back, and mentioned that he was going to be one of England's greatest players. Ashley has quite obviously proved that this season after already picking up the PFA Young Player Of The Year award and deservedly so.
I truly believe that the lack of depth in the Villa team was the reason behind their recent slump. A young team cannot expect to defy the odds and keep hold of 4th sport for such a long period of time and I now believe that they are severely suffering a hangover much worse than a lot of us have had over the past year or so. I am sure, though, that the stamina will, in a few seasons, be present in this current Villa squad and one day will break into the top four of the Premier League. and that is why Martin O'Neill is a candidate for this award.
We move to East London for our next contender; West Ham's Gianfranco Zola. It is safe to say that when Zola took over from the manager less club, to my delight, West Ham really were in free-fall. Results went against them every week and, despite not even half the season had passed, West Ham were favourites for the drop. Zola, similarly to O'Neill came in, and, due to the financial crisis that was clear at West Ham, had no money to spend and so was left with the same squad to work with for the whole season. Zola has done a magnificent job despite injuries to key players such as top scorer Carlton Cole, Mark Noble and Dean Ashton and has managed to drag the Hammers not just from safety but within 3 points of a European place in the league.
Zola has only been at the club for 7-8 months or so but in that short period of time has clawed credibility back to East London and now their fans can start to believe in their team again. A key asset Zola has brought in was, notably, Steve Clark of Chelsea who's winning mentality and brilliant coaching skills have worked wonders with West Ham.
With injuries hitting the club, no transfer budget and the club in financial melt down, Zola has managed to turn West Ham into a force worth reckoning and look a real contender for that 7th spot and that is why West Ham's Gianfranco Zola is a contender for the award.
Our next contender may come as a shock to some, and not one that would immediately be thought of as a candidate for the award is Fulham's Roy Hodgson. Before Roy took over, Fulham's Premier League survival for the last 4 years looked uncertain and, at times, they looked down and out but jumped back at the death and grabbed survival from the claws of relegation. Roy's exceptional management of Fulham was present at the end of last season where Fulham managed to clinch 5 wins from their last 9 games to survive including one game where they came from 2-0 down to beat Man. City 3-2 at Eastlands to help them clinch survival. Roy has turned Fulham from a team that were just there to make up the numbers in the league to one that visiting teams fear.
Fulham are now in a position where one win could clinch them European football and achieve their highest ever finish in the Premier League and this is all fallen down to the man management of Roy Hodgson, he has invested a small sum over the previous transfer markets with the biggest being £10m spent on former Everton striker Andy Johnson. Hodgson has ensured that every week his players are fighting for their places and has made the club one in which players want to play for; one notable player is Brede Hangeland that looks a much more of an assured defender than he did last year and has been vital for Fulham's remarkable season.
With Fulham sitting 7th and looking hot favourites for a place in next season's Europa league, Roy has turned Fulham from relegation battlers to a safe and established Premier League side and that is why he is a contender for the award.
Our penultimate contender is in the shape of Everton's David Moyes. Now, there's a lot to say why Moyes should be in contention for this award a lot more than he is. After coming to Everton a fair few seasons back he has spent little and has only had a small squad to work with, but, each season Everton are challenging for the top 7 and more often than not achieve European football. Moyes continues to invest very little in the squad but keeps faith in the young English academy players that continue to impress in the first team. Players such as Dan Gosling have come on leaps and bounds and looking more and more comfortable playing against some of the best players in the world, the risk and faith Moyes has kept in this young English talent has clearly paid off and helping the national team out is always nice as well.
Everton are guaranteed a European spot this season, as they have been for the last few seasons, they knocked out Manchester United to reach the final of the FA Cup and Moyes has done this with a squad of tender age and with little depth in it as well. Moyes has spent little cash at every opportunity handed to him and continues to make small changes as he focuses on the building of the young team he has at his disposal. His faith in young English players is also very encouraging that we might actually have some decent players in the years to come for the national team and Everton are helping this cause. Because of this, Moyes is an obvious candidate for the award.
Our final contender comes to Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Redknapp. For much of this season, Tottenham had been fighting what looked liked a lost battle to stay in the league. The Ramos 'revolution' wasn't really meeting minimum expectations, by a long way and so Harry was drafted in to keep us in the league. Ever since, Harry has worked wonders with the club; his man management and the confidence he unleashed on the players was a breath of fresh air and ever since we have looked like a top side. Under Redknapp, Spurs have only conceded 9 goals at home all season, a current record, have only lost once at home since November and have only lost once to a side in the 'top four', a controversial loss at that as well. Spurs have also defeated the likes of Liverpool and Chealsea at the Lane and have held Arsenal on two accounts. Players such as Heurelho Gomes has come on massively after a horrid start to the season and is now one of the top keepers in the league. Players such as Modric and Ekotto are playing above expectation and looking different players to what they were at the start of the season.
When Redknapp took over, Spurs looked dead after taking just 2 points from the opening 8 games of the season. Since then, Redknapp's work with the defence have resulted in less goals being conceded and a real push for 7th spot is currently at hand. spurs are once again a real force in the league and wins against teams such as Chelsea and Liverpool at home and Man. City and Villa away mean that they can upset anyone. After saving Tottenham's season around, Harry is a contender for Manager of the season.
So there you have, it's been a long read but those are the managers that I believe should be in contention for manager of the season. I have no doubts though that the award will go to Sir Alex despite them almost bottling the league and guiding the current best team in Europe to, almost, another Premier League trophy.