Christmas is coming, and so we look forward to the festive football schedule.
But who among the Premier League’s players, managers and even pundits, is deserving of gifts aplenty, and who can expect nothing more than a few lumps of coal?
Tottenham’s incredible nine yellow cards in their 2-2 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season was a record, and served to underline the fact they had lost control of the Premier League title race.
Spurs received four bookings in the final 10 minutes of a heated game, while Eric Dier, on a booking, was lucky not to be sent off for a second dreadful challenge, and Mousa Dembele’s eye gouge on Diego Costa would see him given a retrospective six-game ban.
This game had more needle than a beginners’ sewing kit, with Chelsea aiming, and ultimately succeeding in ensuring their London rivals didn’t get their hands on the Premier League title.
The Leicester players celebrated becoming champions while watching the Tottenham v Chelsea match at Jamie Vardy’s house, but it wasn’t just the England striker’s 24 goals that spearheaded the title drive: Manager Claudio Ranieri’s charm and calm set the tone.
From “We are in Champions League! We are in Champions League man!” to buying his players pizza for a clean sheet, and the infamous “I am dilly ding dilly dong, I am a bell… hey don’t write that Ranieri’s a bell eh!” the Italian negotiated the press, and indeed the season, with brevity.
He’s not quite as gleeful this season, but it was nice while it lasted to have a manager looking like he enjoyed his job.
Sergio Aguero is the kind of footballer you might attribute the “he’s not that kind of player” excuse to – except, clearly, he is.
Earlier this season the world-class striker was caught on video having elbowed Winston Reid, and was retrospectively suspended for three games.
And after a horror challenge on David Luiz, (not for the first time, either) the Manchester City forward has been issued with a four-game ban, and will miss most of December. He’ll have Christmas off, but we wouldn’t count on Santa bringing much.
Gary Neville was one of the Premier League’s most disliked opposition players during his career; a proud Manchester United man, he wasn’t worried about popularity.
But these days he is widely loved in the football world, and it’s because of gestures like these. When it came to Neville’s attention that Great Britain’s football teams needed money to attend next year’s Deaflympics, the former full-back gave £20,000 to ensure they could pay their deposit for the tournament.
The team still needs to raise over £100,000, but Neville’s gesture was an example of the decency of the man. No coal in your stocking this year, Gary. There’ll be a David Beckham poster under the tree.
The year 2015 started well for Jose Mourinho, got better in the middle with a Premier League title, and ended in disgrace, having departed Chelsea for a second time after issues with medical staff and results in general.
This year has been equally turbulent for the two-time Champions League winner, who arrived at Manchester United, signed Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but currently has United sitting only in sixth place.
More importantly however, it’s Jose’s bitterness which precludes him from receiving a glut of gifts this December. Whether it’s an unnecessary comment about Arsene Wenger, another manager, a referee or even his own players, Mourinho seems to have reverted to his bitter type in record time at Old Trafford.
We finish with Jurgen Klopp, who has brought the Premier League so much joy in little over a year. We’re not sure if Father Christmas exists, but we’re sure glad Jurgen does.
Whether it’s 5-4 wins against Borussia Dortmund or Norwich City, strange and wonderful post-match interviews, or the many hugs he doles out to his players on a regular basis, the big man has enriched the league.
Furthermore, he’s not averse to giving, with Liverpool’s defence offering up all three points to Bournemouth as the Anfield side let slip a 3-1 lead at the Vitality Stadium. That’s generosity – there’ll be a new electric guitar for you under the tree this year Jurgen. Merry Christmas.