From Little Pea to Mr Wolf: Dixon's dozen characters that shaped the season

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The Independent Online

With the season nearing its end I have picked 12 of the rich and varied assortment of characters in football that make today's game the spectacle it is. They are key personalities who have shaped this campaign, for good or bad, and made it so memorable. So here's Dixon's dozen, in no particular order:



1 Carlo Ancelotti

The Chelsea manager has stood out for keeping his dignity in difficult circumstances. He won the Double in his first year, but then decisions were taken by the club's owner – like releasing several stars last summer, sacking Ray Wilkins, and spending £50m on Fernando Torres – and Ancelotti had to cope.

Chelsea also had injuries to key players and slipped to 15 points behind Manchester United. Despite leading the team back up to second in the league, Ancelotti is likely to be dismissed because Chelsea have not won anything. They may get a new manager but probably not someone as classy as Ancelotti.



2 Javier Hernandez

"Little Pea" has been a revelation. He looked great in the Community Shield but still I was surprised at how quickly the Mexican settled into English football, and particularly into Manchester United's style of play and the Old Trafford dressing room. His team-mates love him – and no wonder. His movement is exceptional, he works hard and he loves to score. History shows it is harder in the second season, and there's a danger success could go to his head. But he is not a kid and he could not ask for a better manager than Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to keeping him level-headed.



3 Roy Hodgson

It has been a really mixed season for Hodgson. He was not his normal self at Liverpool, and looked like a broken man towards the end of his time at Anfield. Then he went to West Bromwich and was more like his old self. It is never good to hear a manager has been sacked, but sometimes it is the right move. Kenny Dalglish has improved things immensely since Roy was dismissed. It was also a tough call to dismiss Roberto di Matteo at West Brom, but Hodgson came in, has shown what a good manager he is and saved them from relegation,



4 Nigel de Jong

The Manchester City midfielder is like Harvey Keitel's Mr Wolf character in Pulp Fiction in the way he pops up and cleans up other people's mistakes. It might be Carlos Tevez who grabs the headlines at City but other players such as De Jong are just as important. I watched him closely for 10 minutes in the FA Cup final and he was absolutely everywhere, closing down danger and moving into defensive areas when City didn't have the ball, so he would be in a position to win it back.

At times his tackling is overzealous, as we saw in the World Cup final, but for City he does a brilliant job putting out fires all over the pitch.



5 Kenny Dalglish

The revival of Liverpool since King Kenny came back has been one of the stories of the season. That is evident by the way they have climbed the table.

But his effect is not just in the first team – it can be seen across the whole club. For instance, his decision to introduce a couple of young players in the first team has given the place a lift. The reserves and youth-team players all believe they have a chance of playing and that changes the atmosphere. He has also bought a gem in Luis Suarez, who I hear is a real worker in training, which bodes well.



6 Ian Holloway

Ian would probably want all the attention to be on his team, but I think Blackpool is all about the manager. His style is their style – be positive and give it a go.

Holloway and his team have been a refreshing addition to the Premier League. He has proved he is more than just a provider of snappy soundbites, although he does still say things that make great headlines.

I hope they stay up, if only so Holloway can have the chance to go away, think about what he has learnt about the Premier League this season and come back and have another crack at it.



7 David Gold and David Sullivan

This pair have to take joint responsibility for the shambles that is West Ham United. In January they seemed poised to sack Avram Grant but then changed their minds. That indecision and lack of leadership sum up this season at West Ham. The club is in complete turmoil.

Whatever you think of the manager, he deserved to be treated with a bit of respect. But they go and sack him straight after the game at Wigan Athletic last Sunday, instead of behaving with a bit more class and waiting a day or two.



8 Jack Wilshere

The undoubted highlight of the season for Arsenal has been the emergence of Wilshere. His rapid rise is no surprise to those within the club who have known about him for years but all the same he has demonstrated great maturity to take it all in his stride.

What I like about him is his drive to win the ball back and the balance he shows in possession. He has a low centre of gravity and has the ability to run quickly with the ball at his feet. I met him a couple of times this season and he seems to be a really nice, relaxed person. It all goes into making him a complete player.



9 Alan Pardew

Mike Ashley was vilified when he sacked Chris Hughton in December, just when things seemed to be settling down at Newcastle. Alan Pardew came in, and Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool with no time to buy a replacement.

Since then Pardew has got on with the job, quietly and diligently. He has steadied the ship and they have slowly climbed away from trouble to a position of safety with a few games to spare. Pardew seems more focused and mature since his first spell in the Premier League with West Ham a few years ago. He is doing a great job now.



10 David Bernstein

I have nothing personal against Bernstein but as chairman of the Football Association he must take the blame for some terrible decisions this season. From fining Ian Holloway for putting out a weakened side against Aston Villa to gagging managers from saying complimentary things about referees, there have been some ridiculous rulings.

The worst was probably the way the FA allowed Premier League games to be played on the same day as the FA Cup final last Saturday. They could not devise a better way to dilute interest in their prestige tournament if they tried. This week's decision to abstain in the upcoming vote for Fifa president says it all: indecision when the game is crying out for leadership.



11 Anuradha Desai

The boss of Venky's bought Blackburn in December admitting she knew nothing about football and since then the new owners have demonstrated as much.

They sacked Sam Allardyce and appointed the inexperienced Steve Kean, but insist he keeps flying over to India for meetings, even though he has to take training. Oh, and they offered Ronaldinho a fortune to join, but he turned them down. They sum up what can go wrong if you have foreign owners of a club. I would not be that surprised if Blackburn went down tomorrow.



12 Bob Wilson

Bob has been an inspirational person for ages but this year he excelled himself by cycling to all the Premier League grounds at the age of 69 to raise money for the Willow Foundation, the charity he set up 12 years ago in honour of his late daughter, Anna. I joined him for a day and to see him push himself to that extent was amazing.

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