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Cascarino column: And the winner is...

Annual article: The votes are in, the golden envelopes have been delivered, the nominees are sweating in their tuxedos. Yes, it’s time for HotPress’ annual Casa Awards

Tony Cascarino, 02 Jan 2007

I’m going for Cristiano Ronaldo. I thought that, apart from Cannavaro, he was the best player in the World Cup, and he’s been absolutely fantastic for Man United. For a kid who’s still really young, he’s been exceptional. He’s come on leaps and bounds as a player, and not just creatively. He’s getting goals, he’s mastering his free kicks.

Kevin Doyle of Reading. Cork City must be cursing themselves, letting him go for 80 grand. Now he’s in the international side and a vital part of the team: the next step for him is to form a partnership with Robbie Keane.

For at least three years now, Shay Given has been far and away our best player, saving our backsides over and over again. He suffered a horrific injury – a perforated bowel, no less – and when he was missing against Cyprus, you saw what happened. No-one else comes close to matching his importance to the team.

The one Grosso scored for Italy, in the World Cup semi-final against the Germans, from that slide-rule through ball from Pirlo. It was an absolutely fantastic goal, especially in the circumstances, in a match of such importance.

Steve Coppell, without a doubt. He’s done unbelievably well at Reading, without a whole lot of money to spend. He’s found a few gems on the cheap. He’s a thoughtful manager and I think it’d take a lot to tempt him away from the place. He has the full support and co-operation of his chairman, which always helps.

Me, of course. Nah, I’ll go for my old mucker Andy Townsend, who’s excellent at what he does. And I always enjoy listening to Liam Brady, he talks a lot of sense and his insight into the game is very sharp.

There were a few. The Cup Final was fantastic, the way Steve Gerrard and Liverpool turned it around. Barcelona’s win at Chelsea was great to watch, as well. But the Champions’ League Final between Barca and Arsenal was probably the most dramatic. You could say the referee fucked up by sending Jens Lehmann off – but it was a great game.

BEST SIGNINGAndy Johnson, who Everton picked up for something like £6 million. It looks like a bargain now. That’ll bring them a ton of goals in the long run – he’s a real live wire, and such a hard worker.

Nicolas Anelka coming to Bolton, for I think £8 million, as well as his massive wages. If he couldn’t settle in Paris, Manchester or London, I don’t know what chance he’s got in Bolton. It’s the first time Big Sam has spent serious money, and I think it was a massive risk.

The worst managers are the ones that get sacked quickest, but it’s usually down to bad luck. Ian Dowie only lasted weeks at Charlton, but he’d done very well at Palace. Kevin Blackwell’s time with Leeds was pretty disastrous. Then there’s my old mate Dave O’Leary, who just couldn’t stop whinging and moaning about not being given enough transfer funds, day after day after day. Since Martin O’Neill took over, Villa have been transformed. They look a far hungrier and happier bunch of players. That’s down to the man in charge.

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