Sam Wallace: An amazing season of cats, dogs and fireworks

 

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The Independent Online

Avere il braccino: it is the Italian phrase that Roberto Mancini started using in interviews and press conferences around the turn of the year and it means, literally "the arm grows short".

Or, in other words, it is the failure to seize the moment. Yet in the end Chelsea and Mancini's Manchester City, for all the problems both have endured this season, for all the wobbles at times, were truly magnificent when it really mattered.

It has been an extraordinary season. There has been Carlos Tevez's refusal to come on in Munich; Arsenal's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in August and then City's 6-1 win there in October; Harry Redknapp's court case; the second occasion upon which John Terry has lost the England captaincy; Fabio Capello's departure; small mammals invading the pitch during games and any number of incidents involving Mario Balotelli.

That is before we even consider the occasions when it became considerably more serious than we bargained for, in the case of Gary Speed's suicide and the collapse – and miraculous recovery – of Fabrice Muamba. For the rest of it, the great riotous cast of characters in English football have lived up to their billing. It's just a shame it has to end. These are my memories of the moments that mattered, and some that didn't.

 

City fireworks

24 October: "It is important children should not mess with fireworks. They can be very dangerous if they are not used in the right way. People should follow the firework code."

Wise words from Manchester's new "fireworks ambassador", Mario Balotelli, just days after he has to escape through a window of his burning house after fireworks were let off in his bathroom. He blames "a friend".

 

A cat's chants

"A cat, a cat / A cat, a cat, a cat" [to the rhythm of "Attack, attack / Attack, attack, attack"]: inspired chant by the Kop when a cat ran on to the Anfield pitch during Liverpool against Tottenham Hotspur on 6 February.

Harry's dog day

Day nine, trial of Harry Redknapp on two counts of cheating the public purse, Southwark Crown Court. Counsel for the prosecution, Mr John Black QC, asks why, in naming his Monaco bank account Rosie47, after his dog and the last two digits of his year of birth, the Tottenham manager had felt it necessary to add the final two numbers. Redknapp: "Because there was another Rosie account [at the bank]." Black: "Perhaps named after someone else's dog?" Redknapp: "Could be. Or it could be someone else's wife. If she was half as nice as Rosie was, then he would have had a good wife."

 

Sing Africa

12 February: Zambia win the African Nations Cup final 8-7 on penalties against the Ivory Coast in dramatic fashion. The match includes the Zambia team singing together throughout the whole penalty shoot-out and, in the taking of his penalty, a run-up by Kolo Touré that is only marginally shorter than those Curtly Ambrose used to make. Touré is the first of 15 penalty-takers not to score.

 

The wisdom of Sir Dave

14 February: "Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said, 'You're liars,' and they actually stole it. It was called Fifa. Fifty years later another gang came along called Uefa and stole a bit more." How Sir Dave Richards, Premier League chairman, summarised his view of the history of football in three sentences for the benefit of a conference audience in Qatar. Later he fell into a "water feature".

Goal of the season

24 March: Out on the right side of Manchester City's area, Peter Crouch took one touch with the inside of his foot and another to send the ball dipping over goalkeeper Joe Hart's head and into the far corner of the net. A stunning strike.

 

Liam the lip

30 April: Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0. Liam Gallagher finds his way into the Etihad Stadium press conference room to give an impromptu speech in which he suggests Sir Alex Ferguson has been "on the whisky".

Even given his track record, the Oasis frontman still proved less trouble during the title celebrations than Tevez.

 

Fans pitch in

13 May: grown men slide on their knees on the Etihad pitch. Some hug stewards. One waves what looks like part of the goal above his head. City winning the title in injury time prompted one of the best-natured pitch invasions in memory. They even cleared off the pitch of their own accord.

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