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The Casas 2004

The gloves are off and the front-teeth out as Tony Cascarino doles out his annual football awards.

Tony Cascarino, 20 Dec 2004

Best player: In terms of how important he is to his club, it has to be John Terry at Chelsea. If they win the league this season – which I think they will – it’ll be in large part due to his marshalling of their back four. He was good under Ranieri and even better under Mourinho who’s brought him on that extra 5 to 10%, which is the difference between a good and a great player. What’s more, being in his early twenties there’s still room for more improvement.

Best young player: Jermaine Defoe, Sean Wright-Phillips and Fabrice Fabregas have all done fantastically well for their clubs, but Wayne Rooney breaking into the England side and ending up second-highest scorer in Portugal was Roy of the Rovers stuff. My only concern with Wayne is his on the pitch behaviour, which has become increasingly petulant since his move to Manchester United.

Best Ireland player: The £17 million Chelsea spent on Damien Duff looks an absolute bargain now. It’s no exaggeration to say that on present form, he’s the best left-sided player in not just England but Europe and possibly the world. Another enormous plus is his temperament. He gets stuck in, yes, but he doesn’t pick up silly bookings or get sent-off á la Mr. Rooney.

Best goal: The importance and greatness of a goal are often different things, but Zidane’s free-kick against England balanced the two perfectly. France needed a goal and he delivered with a screamer of a shot.

Best manager: José Mourinho – firstly for winning the Champions League with a Porto side that cost less to assemble than Real Madrid spent on David Beckham, and secondly for taking just five months to transform Chelsea into the best team in the Premiership. The jury’s still out on Drogba, but otherwise all of his signings have delivered almost instantly. Their second-half display against Newcastle the other week was the closest thing to total football I’ve seen since the classic Dutch team of the ‘70s. At the other end of the scale, Ian Dowie winning promotion with a Crystal Palace side that was 17th in the First Division at Christmas was a staggering achievement.

Biggest gobshite: I called El-Hadj Diouf an ignorant little coward two weeks ago, which on reflection was a bit kind. Spitting at a fellow player is the lowest of the low and I hope he gets run out of English football.

Best game: Manchester City being three-down to Spurs, having a player sent off and ending up 4-3 winners. Only a Kevin Keegan side could do that!

Best signing: The best value for money is Marcus Bent who’s already paid Everton back the £500,000 they gave Ipswich for him, and Carvahlo who’s worth every penny of the £19.85 million that Chelsea bought him for.

Best supporters: Portsmouth for still singing like they’d won the Premiership when they were 5-0 down at home to Arsenal. Every time I’ve been to Fratton Park the atmosphere’s been amazing.

Best pundit: Some pundits are like players in that they only deliver when it’s a big game, but my old mate Andy Gray comes up with the goods week in, week out.

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