Rodgers, Lambert and Van Persie Were Breath of Fresh Air but Reds Went Stale

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Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent

[bar] FTER a remarkable campaign and with the awards season in full swing, my final column before a summer hiatus is in recognition of the outstanding performers of 2011-12.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON BRENDAN RODGERS Alan Pardew defied all expectations at Newcastle and only narrowly missed out on what would have been a remarkable journey to Champions League qualification. Without wishing to detract from the excellent job he has done, Pardew owes an awful lot to chief scout Graham Carr, who identified several players at bargain prices.

Pardew was a worthy winner of the League Managers Association Manager of the Year award but, for me, Brendan Rodgers edges him out after Swansea's incredible debut season in the Premier League.

Aside from being an engaging presence with the media, Rodgers' innovative style of play proves newly-promoted sides can thrive without cowering to those more established.

Their fearlessness against higher-profile opponents has repeatedly been rewarded -- most recently in beating Liverpool on the final day of the season -- to finish above Norwich, whose manager Paul Lambert deserves greater recognition for their expansive style on a shoestring.

Bigger clubs will come calling for both. Honorary mentions are due for Roberto Mancini for his poise under pressure in guiding Manchester City to their first title in 44 years and Roberto Martinez for masterminding another remarkable escape at Wigan.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON ROBIN VAN PERSIE The Dutchman has finally become the player his talent and technique always suggested he could be. Once an injuryprone hothead, Van Persie played in all 38 Premier League games this season -- scoring 30 goals -- and has become a leader both in example and attitude. Where would Arsenal be without him? Certainly not in third place, that's for sure.

David Silva had a fine season for Manchester City but Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure were their key performers, while Wayne Rooney, Clint Dempsey and Fabricio Coloccini all consistently impressed.

GOAL OF THE SEASON PETER CROUCH (STOKE V MAN CITY) Controlled the ball superbly on his chest before smashing an unstoppable volley past Joe Hart. Flawless technique and struck with complete conviction, Crouch's goal edges out Papa Cisse's second against Chelsea. Gravitydefying swerve gives Cisse's effort an unusual and breathtaking quality but Crouch was in greater control.

GAME OF THE SEASON MAN UTD 1-6 MAN CITY In a season of staggering scorelines, this sent shockwaves around English football as United were thrashed by a rampant City side that showed no mercy. …