All in the Game: Greatest hits of the season that was

From Erling Haaland’s bamboozling scoring prowess to Big Sam’s admirable self-confidence, there was plenty to dig into this season


“GILBERT & ROSE WEST STAND” – that’s what Southend United called their West stand after it was sponsored by local estate agents Gilbert and Rose. But when it was pointed out that there was an actual serial killer in the middle of the name, they swiftly changed it to ‘The West Stand sponsored by Gilbert And Rose’. Wise.

Pulling no punches

Gary Neville on his very brief and very unsuccessful spell as Valencia gaffer: “I made three mistakes ...”

Roy Keane: “The first one was getting on the plane.”


“I couldn’t stop looking at his teeth – they are amazing. Also, he is massive. I was thinking, ‘I hope my wife and daughter aren’t watching this because they will say ‘look at little dad’.” Derby manager Paul Warne in a tizz after meeting Jurgen Klopp.


Obviously informative

“Declan Rice doesn’t score many, but when he does, they normally end up in the back of the net.” It was another sterling year for Steve McManaman in the BT commentary box.

Biggest Head Award

“There is no one ahead of me in football terms – not Pep, not Klopp, not Arteta. In terms of depth of knowledge, I am up there with them.” Big Sam Allardyce, of course.

No love lost (still)

“Like hugging a hedgehog ... “. Roy Keane on being shown an old clip of Alex Ferguson embracing him after a game.


“The people were weird. You walk around and you don’t know if they’re going to kill you. The food is disgusting. The women look like porcelain. It was horrible. I just told him, ‘darling, I want to kill myself – it’s night-time at two o’clock’.” Jorgelina Cardoso fondly reminiscing about her time in Manchester when her other half Angel Di Maria was with United.

Geography challenged

“Made in South Africa! Valverde of Uruguay!” Steve McManaman after the Uruguayan created Rodrygo’s Champions League goal against Asia’s Chelsea.


“Messi is one of a kind – but Haaland is unique.” Owen Hargreaves caught in no man’s land while trying to decide who is currently the world’s greatest player.

Number: 11

That’s how many league titles Kingsley Coman has won in a row, one for every season in his career – eight with Bayern Munich (the latest on Saturday), two with PSG and one with Juventus. Crikey.

Muddled maths (part one)

“Nine times out of 10 if you give him chances like that, the likelihood is he will score two.” Shaun Wright-Philips struggling to crunch Erling Haaland’s numbers.

Muddled maths (part two)

“I’ve watched Home Alone so many times. It’s on every Christmas, isn’t it? So, four or five times each year.” Every day is Christmas for Jack Grealish.

Not so great expectations

“I don’t expect Spalletti to get Ndombele to walk on water, but if he at least manages to get him swimming, it’d be an extraordinary success.” Paolo Di Canio on Tanguy Ndombele, Napoli’s loan signing from Spurs. In the end, Ndombele walked on water, helping Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years.

Ref rage

“I am never controversial with referees, I have great respect for them. But the red card was fair – I called him an asshole.” Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo holding his hands up.

No magic wand

“I don’t know what people expect – I ain’t David Blaine.” Southampton gaffer Nathan Jones ... who was sacked after just three months in the job.


“You can always resit the Leaving Cert – you can’t resit a World Cup”. Shelbourne’s Jessie Stapleton most excellently refusing to allow a pesky set of exams stand between her and a place in Ireland’s World Cup squad.

Terrace tune

“Bruno said to Jeff Shi, I need a number four,

So Jeff Shi got the credit card, and headed to Turf Moor.

He didn’t want Tarkowski, he didn’t want Ben Mee,

He said he wants the Irish lad, who plays like Maldini.”

Has any Premier League player had a better terrace tune than Wolves’ Nathan Collins? No.

Seething sister

“There is a verse in the bible that says: ‘This man was delivered to you by God’s determined plan ... and you put him to death by nailing him to the cross.’” How angry was Katia with Erik ten Hag for his handling of her bro Cristiano Ronaldo before his departure from Manchester United? She crucified him.

Tetchy tribute

“A really fine footballer. Terrific. What he knew about management, you could box in a thimble.” Martin O’Neill on the managerial abilities of Paolo Di Canio, his successor at Sunderland in 2013.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times