It's hard to recall a season when the Manager of the Year award has been so hotly contested.
Traditionally, the trophy always went to the coach who had led his team to the title, but when the Premier League brought riches that dramatically widened the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, the achievements of managers with less resources became more valued.
And that's certainly been the case this year.
Manuel Pellegrini is highly likely to end his debut season in England with the Premier League title, but he shouldn't win this award.
While he has, for the most part, led Manchester City with style and dignity to the League Cup and, almost certainly, the Premier League, he has done so from a position of strength.
City have a squad packed with quality, recruited at great expense over a relatively short period of time.
The very fact that the club are currently locked in heated negotiations with Uefa, having failed to adhere to the principles of financial fair-play, is proof of Pellegrini's inherited advantages.
He is an excellent manager who has done everything that could be asked of him, but there are others whose achievements are rather more impressive.
Roberto Martinez, having replaced an iconic manager of such long standing, has cultivated a beguiling style of football while leading an unlikely charge for a place in the Champions League.
He fell short, but not by much. It's worth remembering that there were those who prophesied decline for Everton after the departure of David Moyes. Martinez took the team in the other direction.
Steve Bruce deserves great credit as well. Hull City were everyone's favourite for relegation last summer, but the Tigers have never really been in any trouble all year.
Not only has he safeguarded their future, but he's led them to Wembley for the FA Cup final as well.
Bruce, sneered at by the hipsters for his old-school mentality, has excelled himself.
But when it comes to surpassing expectations, what can be said of Tony Pulis?
After a shambolic summer of aimless recruitment, Crystal Palace won just one of their first 10 games, losing all of the other nine.
They looked so far out of their depth that they were a danger to shipping.
But when Pulis arrived, he brought a defensive stability that was so advanced compared to anything the Palace fans had seen before that it must have looked like alien technology.
It wasn't enough for Pulis to simply save Palace from the drop, an achievement that would have put him on this shortlist anyway.
The former Stoke man put together a run of five consecutive spring-time wins and lifted the club all the way to mid-table, earning millions more in prize money in the process.
Having seen his reputation diminished by a final season of stagnation at Stoke, he has now put himself in a position where any anxious medium-sized club, Newcastle or Aston Villa for example, would seriously consider him as an option.
In any normal year, it would have been enough to land this trophy. But not this year.
This year belongs to Brendan Rodgers. Yes, a late blip may cost Liverpool the title, but who ever seriously thought they would be in that position in the first place?
When Rodgers arrived, Liverpool had been out of the Champions League, and indeed of the top five, for three years.
He took one season to assert his values and his methods and the next to surge up the table, laying waste to teams both big and small.
Liverpool have scored three or more goals in 20 of their 37 league games. After years in their shadow, they humiliated Manchester United and Arsenal. They also beat Manchester City.
The only team they couldn't beat, critically as it turned out, were Chelsea. But they made their supporters dream.
Pulis has transformed a club at the bottom of the table and he deserves the plaudits.
But Rodgers has lifted a fallen giant to its feet and revitalised a city.
Even if he doesn't win the title, he should certainly win this award.
Lifted an apparently doomed Crystal Palace from the bottom of the table to the middle in little over half a season.
Converted Everton from occasionally-pleasing dogs of war to Champions League-place contenders.
Kept Hull City out of danger all season and took them to an FA Cup final clash with Arsenal.
Is set to win the Premier League in his first season with the club. Also won the League Cup.
This article was published on May 8 in The New Paper.
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