No awards for the best of this or the worst of that. These are not necessarily even the most important moments of 2011. They just happen to be the bits that stuck in my mind.
Memorable quote No 1
Long before there was the Leveson Inquiry, there was Mario Balotelli. This is from an interview he did with La Gazzetta Dello Sport in January. "English football is as advanced in terms of its stadiums as its press is backward. Football and tits are mixed up in the tabloids. If a girl says, 'I am the girlfriend of that footballer', they all think it's true. Anything goes, and you cannot defend yourself."
Memorable quote No 2Pg 11
"Do me a favour, love." "Did you smash it?" "Just tuck that in for me, would you?" Before January 2011 those would have sounded like lines from the kind of television series that would not cut the mustard for Sky Atlantic. When they were spoken by Sky Sports' prime-time football presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray on leaked off-air footage all ruddy hell broke loose. For a man who had reigned supreme so long at Sky, the strange thing about Keys' downfall was that he did so much to dig the hole deeper, not least an interview on talkSPORT, shortly before he quit. It bore comparison with Alan Partridge's lowest moment in the BBC canteen with Tony Hayers. Keys cited the "dark forces" who had brought him down and vowed that "they will never take those 20 years off us". But Sky has done just that: the pair have been airbrushed from the broadcaster's history.
Memorable quote No 3
"One day my brother Giovanni was in the street, he looked up and said to his girlfriend: 'How nice, Cami, look, they're doing fireworks in Manchester.' But it was me, shooting them off from the ninth floor." That was Mario again, in January. We should have seen it coming.
Memorable quote No 4
He has had a rotten time since January and, yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Fernando Torres' first press conference at Chelsea was a lesson in straight talking. He gave the lie to all those PR bluffers who think they can spin and obfuscate. So much better to tell the truth. Torres did not duck a question at Cobham and was honest about his ambitions, capping it all with the unforgettable line that, in football, "romanticism is over".
Memorable game No 1
Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 4, in February. A four-goal comeback from Newcastle, four down in 26 minutes, capped by Cheick Tioté's equaliser on 87 minutes with Arsenal down to 10 men. "You take a manager's job then lead 4-0 and draw 4-4 and you tell me how you feel," said Arsène Wenger, a little put out.
Memorable goal No 1
Wayne Rooney's overhead kick winner for Manchester United against Manchester City in February. Not as easy as he made it look.
Memorable goal No 2
Jonathan Téhoué for Leyton Orient against Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup. He was asked afterwards if the entry on Wikipedia that he was a cousin of Emmanuel Eboué was correct. Téhoué: "No, but we're both from the Ivory Coast if that helps."
Memorable goal No 3
Scott Parker for West Ham against Liverpool. There were 11 passes and then a sweet improvised volley.
John Terry's reinstatement as the England captain in March was not Fabio Capello's finest hour. Regardless of what you thought about the decision, it was nigh on impossible to figure out from Capello's muddled explanations what his stance actually was. Was it temporary? Permanent? A trial period? Capello struggled so much to make himself understood that in the end it was as if he just gave up and announced Terry's permanent return as captain. Capello's English teacher has been around much more since.
There was not a better two-leg tie than Tottenham's against Milan. Spurs beat them 1-0 in San Siro and then won the tie with a thoroughly Italian 0-0 shutout at White Hart Lane. Harry Redknapp afterwards: "Celebrate? I'm just going to go home and have a bacon sandwich [slightly distracted, turning to press officer Simon Felstein]. Are you going to have a bacon sandwich, Simon?" Felstein: "No. I'm Jewish".
Memorable managerial success
It was in March that Sir Alex Ferguson was banned from the touchline for five matches after he said that Manchester United had needed a "fair referee" in their defeat to Chelsea, in doing so questioning the integrity of Martin Atkinson – who is still yet to officiate at a United game since.
Ashley Cole shooting a work experience student with an air rifle at Chelsea's Cobham training ground was one of the News of the World's last blockbusters. When the history of 21st-century football comes to be written, this moment may well be cited as a tipping point in the excesses of the game. As @DrSamuelJohnson tweeted at the time: "Master Ashley COLE: did betray those who follow'd him, did cuckold she who lov'd him, now SHOOTS he who works for him."
Memorable game No 2
Tottenham 3 Arsenal 3, in April. What's not to like about a north London derby that is 3-2 by half-time? Two teams with nothing to lose and attacking openly.
In the aftermath of another schooling for his team from Barcelona, this time in the Champions League final in May, Sir Alex Ferguson was asked at the end of his post-match press conference by one hopelessly innocent foreign journalist which player he would most like to sign from Barça . "You're trying my patience," he replied. "Stupid question." Then he said: "I'll take Mascherano", and laughed. It was a joke in the sense that – at the time – Mascherano would have been the last player you would pick from Barcelona's embarrassment of riches. But he is not exactly a bad last pick. They are a difficult team to insult.
Having seen Manchester City win their first trophy in 35 years, Garry Cook finally walked the plank in September for a silly email inadvertently sent to Nedum Onuoha's mother. The cover-up was infinitely more damaging than the original cock-up, which was insensitive but could have been saved with a simple, heartfelt apology. Given the entertainment Cook has provided us in the past, it was a disappointingly low-key way for him to go. We will surely now never get to see him attempt a high five with the Queen in the royal box at Wembley.
Along with another reporter, I persuaded Sam Allardyce, during the course of an interview in August, that his Twitter alter ego @TheBig_Sam was a back-handed compliment. Like warranting a puppet on Spitting Image once was.
Memorable game No 3
Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2, in August. An incredible day. It was a couple of weeks later, as Arsenal struggled to a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund, one disgruntled fan shouted "Get Owen Coyle in". Four months on you can see there is such a thing as an overreaction.
Memorable game No 4
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6, in October. "I'm shattered, I can't believe it," Ferguson said. Even MUTV struggled to put a brave face on it. City surely cannot fail to win the title now. Can they?
Memorable game No 5
Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 3, on Saturday. It just makes you wonder what Venky's will think is possible now.Reuse content