A year of snoods, handshakes and World Cup agony – on and off pitch

From the ambush in Angola to two surprise sackings in December, Steve Tongue looks back on another memorable 12 months
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The Independent Football


The year begins with Chelsea two points clear of Manchester United, who lose at home to Leeds in the FA Cup, before beating their noisy neighbours City in the Carling Cup semi-final. As Uefa propose new rules on financial fair play, City come up with a good wheeze after announcing a £93m loss: Sheikh Mansour simply writes off £394m the club owe him, allowing them to claim they are debt-free. Owen Coyle upsets Burnley by leaving to join Bolton as Gary Megson's successor. Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo withdraw from the African Nations' Cup in Angola after the team bus is ambushed and their driver killed.


An eventful month for Chelsea's John Terry. The object of red-top allegations about an affair with Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend, he rides the boos at Burnley to score a late winner but is then summoned to Wembley and stripped of the England captaincy by Fabio Capello in 12 minutes flat. City complete the double over Chelsea after Bridge refuses to shake Terry's hand. United beat Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final but the pitch is blamed for another injury to Michael Owen. Portsmouth go into administration with debts of £70m. Chester are thrown out of the Conference.


England retrieve a half-time deficit before beating Egypt 3-1. Ian Watmore is the latest FA chief executive to depart, voluntarily in his case. Fifa rule out goalline technology on the day a clear Birmingham goal at Portsmouth is missed in an FA Cup quarter-final. As the well-heeled Red Knights plot to buy out the Glazers, United go top of the Premier League and knock Milan out the Champions' League but the month ends with Wayne Rooney's ankle injury. Chelsea go out to Jose Mourinho's Inter. Newcastle's Steven Taylor breaks his jaw after an "incident" with Andy Carroll.


In the most decisive match of the Premier League season, Didier Drogba's offside goal allows Chelsea to win 2-1 at Old Trafford. They then lose at Spurs but United drop points at Blackburn as well as slipping out of the European Cup to Bayern Munich. Lionel Messi carries Barcelona past Arsenal, only to be thwarted by Mourinho's brilliantly organised Inter in the semi-final. Portsmouth reach the FA Cup final as Newcastle prepare to replace them in the Premier League. Wembley's pitch is replaced for the 10th time in three years.


City lose at home to Spurs, who pip them to fourth place. Chelsea complete the Double with Drogba's 37th goal of the season in the FA Cup final. Mourinho completes the Treble with Champions' League victory, then leaves Inter for Real Madrid. Fulham are beaten in the Europa League final. Ominous World Cup signs for England: Lord Triesman is forced out; Capello's team are unimpressive in warm-up games with Mexico (3-1) and Japan (2-1) and Gareth Barry is injured. Capello is linked with the Inter job, so new Club England execs hastily cancel a get-out clause in his contract; both parties commit to two more years.


Cull of seven players from the World Cup squad includes Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott and Darren Bent. Rio Ferdinand hobbles out with a knee injury, England's campaign limps from a disappointing start against USA to worse, culminating in a 4-1 defeat by Germany. The FA ask for a fortnight to consider the manager's future, then confirm him in the job within five days. Capello blames the tiredness of the players plus the refereeing error against Germany and apologises to fans. Fifa reconsider using technology after World Cup embarrassments. Rafa Benitez and Gianfranco Zola are sacked by Liverpool and West Ham.


Start of new season in Europa League, 10 days before the World Cup final. Germany demolish Argentina 4-0 but lose 1-0 to Spain in the semi-final. Dunga is sacked after Brazil lost to Holland, whose wild boys lose the final to the Spanish as Howard Webb shows a record 14 yellow cards and a red. Paul the Octopus tips the right result again, though not the bookings. Roy Hodgson arrives at Liverpool, hoping to persuade Fernando Torres to stay and Mark Hughes is appointed as his replacement at Fulham. Benitez lands on his feet at Inter.


The FA suggest the next coach should be English, then "English-speaking". The English-speaking Martin O'Neill walks out on Aston Villa five days before the first League game, apparently over the owner's refusal to invest sufficiently. World Cup survivors are booed at Wembley during a 2-1 win over Hungary. Capello writes off David Beckham in a TV interview, then says the door is still open. Bookmakers start the season with Newcastle's Chris Hughton favourite in the sack race. Chelsea begin their title defence with two 6-0 wins. The transfer window closes with City having spent £98m.


England begin their European Championship campaign with comfortable wins over Bulgaria (4-0 with a Defoe hat-trick) and Switzerland (3-1) as Capello declares "the past is the past". Rooney, Peter Crouch and Ashley Cole would like to think so after featuring in red-top stories about their private lives. Sepp Blatter suggests abolishing extra-time in World Cup games. Chelsea reach five straight wins before losing at City as Arsenal stutter and Liverpool stall under Hodgson, going through the month without a League win.


Emile Heskey turns down an England recall amid a crop of injuries before a home game with Montenegro, who force a 0-0 draw. Drogba scores in win against Arsenal as usual and Chelsea finish the month five points clear of them. English teams win six games out of seven in Champions' League, the other one being Spurs' 4-3 defeat to Inter with a Gareth Bale hat-trick after being 4-0 down at half-time. Rooney says he wants to leave United, then signs a new five-year contract. Two Fifa executive members are suspended for corruption after articles in The Sunday Times.


England are well-beaten in a friendly against France at Wembley despite a promising debut from Carroll. Chelsea sack Ray Wilkins and start to slide – coincidence? One point from three games leads to United going top after Dimitar Berbatov scores five in a 7-1 win over Blackburn, who are taken over by Indian poultry firm Venky's. Arsenal lose to Spurs after holding a 2-0 half-time lead but all four English clubs qualify for the next stage of the Champions' League, as do City and Liverpool in the Europa League; five of the six as group winners. The word "snood" enters the football lexicon; Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Denilson sport a particularly natty pair.


After spending an estimated £18m in campaigning, England collect two votes in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which goes to Russia; 2022 going to Qatar. Various executive committee members who promised support blame the media for negative publicity. Hughton is sacked at Newcastle – Alan Pardew is the surprise replacement. Sam Allardyce follows at Blackburn to similar bemusement. After Carlos Tevez hands in and then withdraws a transfer request, City waste a chance to spend Christmas on top of the tree, leaving United there with a game in hand. Seasonal greetings to all the above and thanks for the entertainment, intentional and otherwise.