The First & Last ‘Project Restart’ Awards 2020

Oliver McBurnie, Orjan Nyland
Was this the most bizarre moment of Project Restart? | Pool/Getty Images

The most bizarre season of the Premier League is finally at an end; just under a year after it started. At one point we were staring at the bleak possibility of being introduced to Mr Null and Mrs Void, but thankfully we salvaged the finale and it largely didn’t disappoint.

When Project Restart kicked into gear, there were plenty of changes and football looked a bit…well, weird. We all got over it eventually and the teams did too, with some decent games emerging from the early rather turgid affairs. So in keeping with the alternative end to the season, let’s dish out some alternative awards.

Gary NevilleGary Neville
Gary Neville has a field day with all this football action | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Six weeks, 92 games, and all of them available to watch on television. The usual rulebook of televised Premier League games was ripped up, and every game since the restart was shown on the box.

Yes, there was a hefty fee to pay to watch them all, and some of those matches definitely weren’t worth the subscription, but the sight of Gary Lineker gleefully overseeing Premier League matches live – with an air of surprise that he’d even been asked – did warm the heart. Even the fake crowd noise wasn’t that bad.

We already know it won’t happen next season but let’s be honest, us die-hard footy fans loved having back-to-back matches nearly every day.

Jose MourinhoJose Mourinho
The drinks break quickly became a tactical meeting | Pool/Getty Images

Gary Neville had steam coming out of his ears about the drinks breaks, and with good reason. The breaks were just unnecessary and were used to facilitate tactical changes and angry manager rants, rather than any desperation for a drop of H2O. Set amongst the backdrop of pouring rain on a dreary night at Turf Moor, it looked…silly.

Teams looked like a different sides post-drinks, and the whole faff interrupted the flow of the game more than VAR does. There is talk of it remaining for next season. Hmm.

What’s that? It’s for coronavirus-related hygiene protocols because everyone has to be drinking from their own bottles and that? Oh. Well that sounds…sensible. Still sucks though.

Frank Lampard, Olivier Giroud, Ruben Loftus-CheekFrank Lampard, Olivier Giroud, Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Chelsea were one of the winners from the five subs rule | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Okay, so allowing five substitutes had good intentions. Players had been off for three months and were obviously going to take a while to click back into gear, but this was another rule change that had an adverse affect on the entire league.

Teams with larger squads – notably Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United – used this rule to their advantage on numerous occasions, with triple changes at half-time and gamechangers coming on all over the pitch.

You know what happens when you’re a worse, smaller, poorer team? You don’t have gamechangers on the bench.

Orjan NylandOrjan Nyland
First game back and there was drama from the start | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Who remembers that first day back when the Premier League action returned? The 0-0 result doesn’t do this match any justice, because there was plenty of drama – one incident in particular, which arguably went a long way to keeping Aston Villa in the league.

Villa keeper Orjan Nyland spilled a free kick into his own net and fumbled it back around the post in a futile attempt to stop it going over the line. Luckily for him, goal-line technology failed for the first time ever thanks to an incredibly unlikely combination of the wrong people being in the wrong places at the wrong time.

The signal was blocked. The goal wasn’t given. Hawk-Eye owned up afterwards.

Frank Lampard, Jurgen KloppFrank Lampard, Jurgen Klopp
Frank Lampard wasn’t a happy camper the day Liverpool lifted the trophy | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Who doesn’t love an angry touchline joust?

We had to wait until one of the last games of the season for this absolute gem. If fans had been present, we probably would have never heard Frank Lampard directing a torrent of abuse at the Liverpool bench as he got annoyed at, erm, overzealous celebrations.

It’s a toss-up as to which is more amusing; Lampard’s gesticulating or Jurgen Klopp’s utterly baffled face as he was hit with a barrage of angry jargon.

Manchester City v Norwich City  - Premier LeagueManchester City v Norwich City  - Premier League
A familiar sight this season | Visionhaus/Getty Images

We thought VAR was tiresome when fans were in the ground. It’s a whole lot worse when there is no atmosphere and the game grinds to a halt for over a minute whilst the video referees work out if they are going to embarrass their mate on the pitch or not.

Theres no need to list all the mistakes and ridiculously tight offside calls that we’ve had since the restart, you know the worst of them. But suffice it to say, VAR’s debut season was done no favours by the restart. The jury is well and truly still out.

Marcus RashfordMarcus Rashford
Rashy did great work off the pitch during the restart | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford hit the headlines, not for his goalscoring exploits – although they haven’t been bad by any stretch – but for his work at campaigning passionately for free school meals vouchers during the summer holidays.

His work on social media forced a government U-turn and he was heralded as leading the way for footballers helping the community, after some criticism of players’ wages during the pandemic. Go on lad.


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