Odd, isn't it, that when Tony McCoy accepted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award the other night, most of the country would have been seeing him in close-up and hearing him speak for the first time? That's some personality.
In football, meanwhile, a parallel universe rendered invisible by popularity and familiarity, genuine personalities are taken for granted. There can hardly be anyone up and down the land who does not know what Ian Holloway looks and sounds like, because his West Country burr and amusing soundbites have been imitated almost as much as they have been enjoyed in the first half of the season, yet, despite Blackpool continuing to stick out like a certain Fylde coast landmark as a screamingly good story, it appears recognition must wait.
This is not to belittle McCoy's towering achievements, or even to suggest the BBC has an anti-football agenda, just to point out for the umpteenth time that its annual sports awards night has the wrong title. Either change the billing to reflect achievement, or draw up a shortlist that occasionally contains the odd personality. Holloway can have this column's halfway award without further ado. He is far and away the oddest personality of the first half of the season, with Roy Hodgson and Carlos Tevez so far behind they are barely worth mentioning. Blackpool are the team of the first half of the season, too, even if they have lost a little goodwill of late through their short‑sighted decision not to install undersoil heating. West Brom and Bolton have also been better than expected, but since everyone expected Blackpool to be looking forward to nothing more than parachute payments by now the results they have already posted have been a revelation.
Blackpool deserve an award for playing enterprising football as well, proving that even unfancied underdogs can succeed beyond their wildest dreams as long as they are willing to attack their opponents and attempt to score goals. That does not sound like the wildest of dreams, it merely sounds obvious, yet Holloway and Roberto Di Matteo deserve credit for having the courage of their convictions, refusing to follow everyone else's dull logic and not resorting simply to getting men behind the ball in an attempt to bore opponents into submission.
As does Harry Redknapp. Tottenham Hotspur have been an antidote to boredom this season, just about the only top-four club worth watching most of the time, and in Europe in particular they have found sensational form. Gareth Bale has been the player who has made most impact on the first half of the season, even if Samir Nasri has been running him close for consistency, and Spurs have easily been the most entertaining team in England.
One hopes, if Redknapp really is nailed on for the England job when it becomes available, that Fabio Capello is as good as his word and stays at the Football Association until the summer of 2012. That should give Redknapp as much time as he needs to put down a lasting marker at Spurs. If he leaves any time before then it will leave the club with a sense of disappointment and unfinished business. Everyone is keen to see how far this exciting and adventurous Spurs team can go. No one is particularly bothered about how England might fare in Poland and Ukraine and any manager with any sense will be leaving that for Capello and his £6m salary to sort out.
Should Capello make a sudden return to Italy, to Inter or anywhere else, the evidence of the past couple of months suggests the FA should consider Ray Wilkins for his job. He is English, he is available and he was obviously the man making all the difference at Chelsea. Or so it would seem. Despite their alarming recent decline I am still sticking with my original prediction that Chelsea will pip Manchester United to the title, mainly because it is bad form to switch horses mid-race. I no longer know how Chelsea are going to do it but I suspect the transfer window could be key.
At the other end of the table I now look foolish for suggesting Blackpool would go down. There is still time, and the unhappy precedent of Hull City last season, but while sticking with Wigan Athletic and West Ham United for the drop it now seems more likely they will be joined by Wolves. Or even Blackburn Rovers. Neither your correspondent nor Sam Allardyce, it appears, fully factored in the likely effect of uppity Indian poulterers at the start of the season. Thus chastened, I offer only one new prediction for the remainder of the season. Allardyce will move to a team beginning with W. And save them from relegation, obviously.
And so to the team of the first half of the season, based not on form, class or (worse still) statistics. All the players below have either shot to prominence in the latter half of 2010, achieved something beyond expectation or otherwise had good cause to look back with pride on the past few months.
Paul Wilson's team of the season so far
Joe Hart Manchester City
Rafael Manchester United
Nemanja Vidic Manchester United
Vincent Kompany Manchester City
Leighton Baines Everton
Samir Nasri Arsenal
Luka Modric Tottenham Hotspur
Scott Parker West Ham United
Gareth Bale Tottenham Hotspur
Andy Carroll Newcastle United
Johan Elmander Bolton Wanderers
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