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

The Weekend Dossier
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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 for bad, and made it such a memorable one. 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 them 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, which was great. 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 has 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 deserves to be treated with a bit of respect. But they go and sack him straight after the game at Wigan Athletic on 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. It could not devise a better way to dilute interest in its prestige tournament if it 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 something amazing.

Five Asides

1. If they are good enough for the United squad, they are good enough

It will be wrong if Sir Alex Ferguson is punished for fielding a supposedly weakened United side tomorrow against Blackpool. You name 25 players in your squad and the manager should then pick any team from that pool, in any formation he likes.

2. Survival Sunday will be a real test of nerves

Tomorrow's relegation battles make it a gripping day for the neutral, but a heart-breaking one for some fans. It is too close to call. Blackpool could win at United but go down – or lose and still stay up. That sums it up.

3. Passion not passport important for West Ham

West Ham's owners say they want a British manager but his nationality is unimportant. The key will be someone who knows what they are doing and has some passion for the club. A manager with some West Ham pedigree would be a start.

4. City need to spend again to mount title challenge

Manchester City's owners claim they are not going to spend much money this summer. But they will have to because I don't think that they are good enough to win the Premier League at the moment.

5. Busy summer for Warnock and Lambert

I am fascinated to see how the two promoted teams react this summer. QPR have an experienced manager, Neil Warnock, and supposedly plenty of money, while Norwich are on a shoestring budget with a little-known man, Paul Lambert, at the helm.

Lee Dixon's verdict on all the weekend action

Aston Villa vs Liverpool

Dixon's verdict: Villa played well to win at Arsenal last weekend, taking advantage of the London side's end-of-season slump. Liverpool were poor against Spurs but have generally been impressive in recent weeks.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Draw

Bolton Wanderers vs Manchester City

Dixon's verdict: Bolton were good and bad in equal measure against Blackpool but could hold a Manchester City side who remain inconsistent on their travels. I feel Roberto Mancini's side will have to settle for a point.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Draw

Everton vs Chelsea

Dixon's verdict: Everton looked in end-of-season mode at West Bromwich but David Moyes will be happy to have secured their safety long before the final day. Chelsea will do enough to hold off Man City for second.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Away win

Fulham vs Arsenal

Dixon's verdict: As soon as Fulham sort out their away form they start losing at Craven Cottage! Liverpool started well in Fulham's last home match and a similar start by a hurting Arsenal side could swing the game.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Away win

Manchester United vs Blackpool

Dixon's verdict: Most of the Premier League would like to see Blackpool stay up but they have left themselves with a massive job to do. United's reserves, looking to impress, could make it a miserable afternoon.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Home win

Newcastle United vs West Bromwich Albion

Dixon's verdict: Amid all kinds of injury problems Newcastle seem to have found some form and held Chelsea last week. West Bromwich have long been safe and the Magpies can end the campaign on a high.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Home win

Stoke vs Wigan Athletic

Dixon's verdict: Some of Stoke's players look dead on their feet after the FA Cup final loss and Wigan should be hopeful of taking at least a point. Whether or not they can win, I'm not so sure.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports red button; Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Draw

Tottenham Hotspur vs Birmingham City

Dixon's verdict: After all the fuss about avoiding the Europa League, Spurs did their best to reach the competition with last week's fine win at Anfield. I don't think they will give a desperate Birmingham much here.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Home win

West Ham United vs Sunderland

Dixon's verdict: West Ham's minds will already be on next season after having their relegation confirmed last weekend. A number of young players could feature and, given Sunderland's poor run, the Hammers may well win.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Home win

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Blackburn Rovers

Dixon's verdict: Wolves have really upped their game to take six points from their last two matches, whereas Blackburn have won just once in four months, so it's three points for Mick McCarthy's side for me.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.25pm)

Prediction: Home win

Weekend In Numbers

17: Clean sheets kept by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart

35: Shots without scoring by Sunderland's Steed Malbranque – most in the PL

42: Defensive blocks made by Blackburn centre-back Chris Samba