At this time of year, we like to reflect on the last twelve months of Premier League football and hand out the annual awards. One award I would like to focus on is the Manager of the Year for 2013.
During the last twenty years, one manager has dominated this award as his Manchester United team have won trophy after trophy. I am talking about the legend Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who has been Manager of the Season eleven times. His retirement, however, has opened the door for someone else to step up and take the award.
There are many criteria that need to be considered before deciding on the winner. Firstly, we can look at the trophy winners of 2013. Obviously, Sir Alex would be a candidate yet again for winning the Premier League in his final year, although his retirement would rule him out. My first candidate would be Michael Laudrup of Swansea City, who started their second season in the Premier League in fine form, culminating in winning the Capital One Cup for the first time in their history. Their season dipped from that moment on and this season has seen them continue their imposing style of play without getting the results it deserves.
The second criterion would be those managers who kept their teams up against all the odds. Southampton's Nigel Adkins would be a candidate here after his club's horrific start to the season saw them lose eight of their first ten matches. He managed to turn the season around, dragging them away from the relegation zone before being brutally axed by Nicola Cortese. A decision that has since proved correct.
My third criterion focuses on those managers who have exceeded expectation. Two previous winners of the award, Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp, were duly rewarded for Newcastle's highest finish in nine years and for Tottenham breaking into the top four. Last season, there was West Bromwich Albion's Steve Clarke whose early season form had the Baggies dreaming of European football, although it finished disappointingly after they had reached forty points.
This season, the surprise package is Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton. The Saints have amazed all with their high octane and pressing game plan which has been duly rewarded with the call up of three players to the full England team. He has also been praised for the way he has nurtured the young English talent within the club, having the faith to throw them in at the deep end in a competitive League. The test was always going to be the strength in depth once suspensions and injuries took their toll, but Pochettino responded by blooding some more young players.
It is difficult to say whether Liverpool's Brendan Rogers has exceeded expectation as this is always very high at Anfield, but this season could be their best chance of winning the title. If this is not forthcoming, then a Champions League place is a must. The same could be said of Arsene Wenger. For years he has failed to live up to expectations, but this season could see all that forgotten as they head the table by five points. At the other end, Hull's Steve Bruce has performed wonders with a limited budget and squad as they look to be the stand out performers of the promoted teams.
So, putting all these factors into consideration, my manager of the year would be Everton manager Roberto Martinez. Although Wigan Athletic punched above their weight for many seasons, last year saw them fall from the top flight. Martinez, however, still managed to guide them to an FA Cup victory for the first time, beating Manchester City 1-0 to do so. This silverware has also given the Latics a run in this year's Europa League.
This season, Martinez has taken over the reigns at Everton in seamless fashion and has the Toffees competing for a top four place. Something his predecessor, David Moyes, could not manage in his many years at the club. Martinez has already beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford this season as well as taking a point from their visit to the Emirates. I think he is a deserving winner of this year's award.
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