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My alternative review of the season

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Jacqui Oatley | 12:50 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

With the season drawing to a close, I thought I'd reflect on the past nine months or so and pick out some of the incidents and quotes that have stood out in my mind.

I've steered clear of the more traditional awards. Instead I've made up my own categories - just because I felt like it.

So this is my personal take on the 2008-09 season.

Most under-rated manager
Steve Bruce at Wigan. He signs players for bargain prices knowing full well that he has to sell them on once they've proved what good acquisitions they are.

He lost the likes of Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey mid-season and Wigan have understandably struggled to win games since then. But he accepts it's part of the job and still tries to drive the club forward.

In case you're wondering why not Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, it's because he's already receiving plenty of attention for his outstanding achievements this season. There are many other candidates, such as Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, Brentford's Andy Scott and Paul Tisdale at Exeter.

Most under-rated player
Nick Montgomery, Sheffield United midfielder. He's improved a great deal over the years I've watched him. He works so hard putting himself about and doing the dirty jobs that gain very little attention outside of the dressing room.

His team-mate Matt Kilgallon is another one, though Premier League vultures will be waiting to swoop for him if United fail to win the play-off final at Wembley.

Best manager to deal with
Steve Bruce - I've never heard a bad word about him. He's been great for Wigan and vice-versa, but I really hope he gets his chance one day at a club where he's able to build a team and challenge for honours.

Steve Bruce

Also Gianfranco Zola of West Ham. The nicest man around, though from a journalist's point of view that's not the most important thing!

Team that makes me feel tiny
Stoke City. Much has been made of the height and physical strength of their players, who've done brilliantly to avoid relegation, but I felt about 4ft tall in the corridor outside the dressing rooms waiting to do my interviews for Match of the Day. Talk about Land of the Giants!

Darkest horse
Nigel Pearson, Leicester manager. Clearly mistrusting of the media as a whole until he gets to know journalists individually. A totally different character on a social level, as we discovered at a recent awards event!

Coldest ground
Turf Moor, Burnley - January, v Swansea. I surreptitiously used my summariser Brian Little as a wind-break to protect me from the swirling, icy gale. He didn't seem to mind, or notice.

Worst car park to get out of after game
Leicester. I was stuck in there seemingly forever after the Leeds game without making any progress! Will remember to park further away next time.

Worst press box
Scunthorpe. I know that nobody outside the media cares about this, nor should you, but when you hear us broadcasting from this ground and wonder why we sound like we have our elbows jammed into our own ribs, it's because we have.

Best ladies toilets
Gillingham - the ladies' media lavs are very posh and there was no queue!

Worst ladies toilets
Portsmouth - they're well known for having the worst stadium facilities in the Premier League. After queuing for the whole of half time, it's a nightmare to try and clamber over people in the cramped press box for the start of the second half. Very friendly staff and fans, though.

Worst European venue
Donetsk, Ukraine (I covered Spurs v Shakhtar Donetsk there in February). Expensive to get there, freezing beyond belief at that time of year, one of the grottiest airports I've ever seen (I've travelled extensively and nothing comes close to this), shocking food (cold cabbage for breakfast, anyone?) and definitely the worst hotel I've ever stayed in (apart from a brothel in Paris. That's another story).

The RSC Olimpiysky Stadium in Donetsk

If your club gets drawn to play there, it's worth coming up with a great excuse as to why you can't make the trip. The hamster needs feeding, you don't trust your Sky Plus to record Loose Women in your absence or you have to wait in for the delivery of your pizza.

Best to steer clear if possible, especially when it's -8 degrees and you're on an open terrace.

Best bit of gossip
A former team-mate of this high profile ex-international player told me that the player didn't actually qualify for the team he represented with distinction for many years. He'd lied on the form stating he was related to a certain family and it was never investigated.

It's not Tony Cascarino. I wonder how many other similar cases there have been. There are obviously far juicier bits of gossip, but they will never be published on the BBC Sport website or anywhere else!

Rant of the Season
No, not Rafa Benitez's pre-prepared and much-publicised rant about Sir Alex Ferguson, but Wolves manager Mick McCarthy's spontaneous outburst at a press conference after the 1-0 defeat at promotion rivals Reading in January.

Big Mick was at his lyrical best when asked about his views of Neill Collins' early own goal which ended up costing his side the game.

Unintentional put-down of the season
Teenage son of a friend to me: "When you commentate for Match of the Day, do you sit anywhere near the proper commentators?" I was too busy laughing to clip the cheeky monkey round the ear!

Black Country quip of the season
With swine flu very much in the news, a Mexican wave is starting at Molineux before the final game of Wolves' Championship winning season against Doncaster and a fan is heard saying: "We ay gonna catch owt, am we?"

"You don't know you're born" quote of the season
Sean Scannell of Crystal Palace in the May edition of FourFourTwo magazine.
"I've always been a big Chelsea fan. It was back in the days when Marcel Desailly, Mark Hughes and Gianfranco Zola were playing so you can't accuse me of being a glory-hunter." The poor love, having to grow up watching that lot!

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