SJA BRITISH SPORTS AWARDS 2020: The case for the team of the year

REISS TIGWELL, PAUL SAPPER, MATT HANCOCK-BRUCE and TOM MASTERS make the case for four contenders for our 2020 team of the year, the title won 12 months ago by England’s Men’s Cricket World Cup winning heroes. Find out who wins on December 10th, with this year’s awards broadcast live across our social channels.


It was a record-breaking year for Liverpool FC as they were crowned Premier League champions to end a 30-year wait for a top-flight title.

The Reds started the campaign incredibly, dropping just two points from their opening 27 games – the best ever start of any team in the five major European leagues.

By February, Liverpool boasted a staggering 25 point lead, which stands as the largest in Premier League history. The global pandemic may have prevented them from getting over the line in March, but the Reds were finally able to clinch their first ever Premier League title in June when the season restarted.

It was sealed with a record seven games to spare, surpassing the previous best of five set by rivals Everton, Manchester City, and Manchester United.

Speaking after his team had been crowned champions, manager Jurgen Klopp was overcome with emotion.

He said: “I have no words, it’s unbelievable. It’s much more than I ever thought would be possible. Becoming champions with this club is absolutely incredible.  Tonight we will just enjoy this moment. It’s more than we ever dreamed of.”

The Reds finished the campaign with a club record 99 points, one more than they managed in 1978-79, and the second-highest total in top-flight history.

They ended the season 18 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City and in February matched City’s Premier League record of 18 straight victories.

Klopp’s side managed 24 home league wins in a row, surpassing Bill Shankley’s club record of 21 set in 1972, before Burnley ended the run in July with a 1-1 draw.

That result also prevented the Reds from winning all 19 of their home league games, nevertheless, they were able to boast an unbeaten home record for the third season in a row. They were a class apart from the chasing pack and beat every team in the division – a feat that not even the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 80s could achieve.

Winning their 19th top-flight title was undoubtedly the perfect way to round off what was an incredible and momentous season for Liverpool.


Exeter Chiefs have had a spectacular year, as they became the fourth English club ever to win both the Premiership and Champions Cup in the same year, just a decade after being promoted from the Championship.

Exeter’s Champions Cup win over Racing 92 at Ashton Gate in October was dramatic, as they went down to 14 men after a late yellow card, but managed to hold onto their lead and win 31-27.

Just a week later they defeated Wasps 19-13 in a gruelling match at Twickenham to accomplish their historic double, ten years after having been promoted to the Premiership for the first time in their then 139 year history.

Exeter winger Jack Nowell said: “Our story tells itself. Ten years ago we came up to this competition, and to have been in the final in the last five years in a row just shows the ambition not just from the players, but the coaches, Tony Rowe and the whole board as well.

“There’s not many teams that have done it in this short amount of time.”

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson said: “They deserve it because they have been the best team in Europe by some distance.”

Chiefs’ success has not come through spending large amounts on new players, but from their ability to develop young talents. Key players Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie both came through the academy, while Tomas Francis and Harry Williams were playing in the Championship before their moves, and now play for their national sides.

Shortly after his team’s landmark win at Twickenham, Exeter boss Rob Baxter showed a refusal to grow apathetic and a determination to build on his team’s success in future seasons.

He said: “Now that we’ve won these two trophies, have we achieved everything we’ve wanted to? No we haven’t. There’s always something else to move on to. There’s another game in three weeks’ time and we want to keep moving forward. I want to see young guys come through.

“We’ve got to use our drive and use our ambition and use this group of players, because they are the right age group, to drive us for four or five years.”


For the England men’s cricket team, emulating their success of 2019, a year where their World Cup winning squad was named SJA Team of the Year, was no easy task.

In a year made more difficult by the worldwide pandemic, it nevertheless started brightly for new head coach Chris Silverwood with a mammoth tour of South Africa.

England began the tour with a 3-1 Test series win to claim the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy and a maiden victory in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.

It marked the 500th overseas Test for England and the first time winning three Test matches on a tour of South Africa since 1914. The white ball teams also performed well, drawing the One Day International series 1-1 and winning the T20 International series 2-1.

England returned in July for a series against the West Indies, the players living in a bio-secure bubble away from friends and family and convincing wins in the second and third Tests handed them the last ever Wisden Trophy.

England’s fine summer continued with a 1-0 Test series win over Pakistan and an 2-1 ODI series win over Ireland, before the T20 side secured a 1-1 series draw with Pakistan and a 2-1 series win over Australia, with their only blip of the year so far a 2-1 ODI series defeat to the Aussies.

With another white ball tour of South Africa currently underway, fans will be hoping to see England at their best once more before the close of the year. It’s almost unfair to pick out individual players from a side who have performed so well as a team this year, however it has been a tremendous year for the bowlers.

Jimmy Anderson became the ninth player in history to play 150 test matches and the first fast bowler to reach 600 Test wickets whilst Stuart Broad recorded his 500th Test wicket and was named player of the summer.

Test vice-captain Ben Stokes praised Silverwood’s influence on the bowling.  He said: “He’s brought an amazing, in-depth philosophy into the bowling. His plans, he spends a lot of time thinking about. It is not just turn up on the day and see what happens.”

England are currently the top ranked ODI side in the world and with a tour of India and the T20 World Cup scheduled for 2021, they have an opportunity to make 2021 even more successful.


After a superb Six Nations Grand Slam win in 2019, it would have been hard for England Women’s rugby team to top that in 2020.

Yet this special team has done just that, rising to world number one in November after winning their third Six Nations Grand Slam in four years.

The tournament began in February and was not completed until November, in a bizarre year hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

This did not deter England though as they were in complete control throughout, defeating France 19-13 in Pau in the opening game.

The game against Scotland was delayed by a day due to snow, but this did not put England off as they comfortably won 53-0.

A 27-0 win over Ireland followed, before England wrapped up the Triple Crown with a 66-7 demolition of Wales.

An eight month wait followed before the Italian job was completed, with a 54-0 victory in Parma and a second consecutive Grand Slam for this incredible England side.

Just 20 points were conceded by the Red Roses in the whole competition, whilst they scored an astonishing 34 tries.

World Player of the Year Emily Scarratt was given the inaugural Player of the Tournament award after starring in the centre role, scoring a tournament high 55 points.

Shortly after the delayed Six Nations was concluded, a 33-10 win against France took England to the number one spot in the world rankings just a year before the World Cup in New Zealand.

A narrow 25-23 victory over the same opposition followed a week later, with Scarratt kicking the decisive winning penalty after the clock hit 80 minutes to maintain their unbeaten year.

Captain Scarratt already has one eye on New Zealand, with England facing France, South Africa and Fiji in the group stages next autumn.

She said: “If you were to write anything down as a perfect story, winning a World Cup in New Zealand would be pretty much top of the list.

“It’s a huge year for us, we’re going to have to be adaptable along the way but we all know the prize we want. It’s not going to be a smooth ride but it’s really exciting.”

Reiss, Paul, Matt and Tom are studying for their NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism at News Associates