No end-of-year awards, just a few memories of 2009.
I wish I'd been at that one...
Burnley v Tottenham, the Carling Cup semi-final second leg in January and one of the most improbable fightbacks of the year. Trailing 4-1 from the first leg, Burnley scored three goals to level the aggregate score before two extra-time goals saved Spurs. Harry Redknapp said it was "embarrassing" and questioned his players' mental strength. Moral of the story for the reporter: never assume a game is dead after the first leg.
Sepp Blatter: a tactical masterclass
The Fifa president was in Manchester in March and held a press conference at the Lowry hotel. It was very dull until he was asked about the latest Fifa corruption allegations surrounding Nicolas Leoz, the Paraguayan Fifa executive. Flustered, Blatter adopted radical evasion tactics. He started speaking Spanish ("Oh, por favor, no, no, no") before handing over to an underling to answer.
The best football film ever made
OK, so the actors playing Billy Bremner and Dave Mackay were carrying way too much timber to be convincing. And all the darkness of David Peace's brilliant original novel was ignored in a cinematic whitewash. But The Damned United was still a cut above the usual sports film and it captured why we love our game, no matter how grubby, disreputable and back-stabbing it gets.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo alongside one another at a Champions League press conference in April. Ronaldo is asked whether he is staying at Manchester United. Ronaldo [with weary disdain]: "Always this question." Ferguson [grumpy]: "I know, always, it's pathetic." Ronaldo: "I'm happy at this club. I think this is the right club for me." Good job no one believed them at the time.
Chelsea: too bureaucratic
Five days before Luiz Felipe Scolari was given the boot at Chelsea on 9 February, the Brazilian coach complained that 1) Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka were incompatible; 2) the missing piece in the jigsaw was Robinho; 3) his team were too "bureaucratic". On reflection the answers to those theories are: wrong; definitely wrong; what? The problem was Big Phil himself.
Most irritating pre-match build-up, Part I
Don't like this lame American sporting tradition that has become fashionable at a few clubs. When the home team is announced, the players are introduced on the digital stadium screens with a short video clip rather than a simple picture. They either turn to face the camera (Arsenal), walk menacingly towards it (Chelsea) or stare balefully into the mid-distance as if wishing they were at another club (West Ham).
Most irritating pre-match build-up, Part II
Who are those shouty men at football clubs who stand on the pitch trying to whip up the crowd? At Wembley they introduced the England team as "YOUR England". No it's not. If it was ours, the tickets wouldn't be so expensive. And the bloke at Arsenal who reads the player's first name and expects the crowd to shout his surname. You get paid to read the teams, mate, so don't ask us to do it.
The best pre-match atmosphere
It is still Anfield by a mile. George Sephton's soothing, old-school DJ tones and his passion for music prove that it pays to keep it simple. Having said that, it is a pity that they have half-time penalty shoot-outs on the pitch for Joe Nobodies. Watching some chubby regional sales manager for Carlsberg wearing a Liverpool replica kit and waving to the Kop demeans a great old stadium.
Best press conference of the year
The day Carlo Ancelotti publicised his book Preferisco La Coppa in Rome in May coincided with the build-up to the Champions League final. Consequently, the room was full of monoglot English reporters frantically persuading their Italian counterparts to translate the juiciest revelation on Roman Abramovich. Ancelotti accepted the inquisition with good grace and donated all the money from the book to charity.
Most confident press conference
When Daniel Sturridge turned up at Chelsea in the summer he certainly sounded the part, cheerily announcing that he was at the club to play in the first team. He said he had taken England Under-20 team-mate Scott Sinclair's advice before joining on a free from Manchester City. As it was pointed out to him, Sinclair never plays. It took until Saturday for Sturridge to get his first league start.
Best post-match outburst
"For Arsenal's club captain, Cesc Fabregas, to spit at my assistant Brian Horton shows you what this club is all about" ... "I was there, I witnessed it. Fabregas spat at our assistant manager. That's their club captain. Hopefully, he's proud of himself. He spat at his feet" ... "Arsène never shakes my hand" ... "Arsène got my goalkeeper booked for time-wasting". Phil Brown. First-class entertainment.
Best new football TV programme
Time of Our Lives on Sky is a gem: three players from a great team of the past and the excellent Jeff Stelling, who coaxes the old boys to speak, then takes a back seat as the memories tumble out. Everton (1960s/early 1970s), Burnley (1960 title-winning team) and Chelsea (1960s/1970s) are among those featured. The stories are about dictatorial chairmen, miserly pay packets and great games. Marvellous.
Knee-jerkers of the year
Uefa's schoolboy attempt to sanction Eduardo da Silva for his admittedly awful dive against Celtic in August. It sounded like an idea conceived after a few too many cocktails in Monte Carlo and comprised of a charge sheet of one paragraph with no video evidence. Crucially, under its own rules, Uefa had to prove that Eduardo intended to deceive the referee. Arsenal presented a 19-page dossier. Uefa lost the case.
No, ta, Qatar
There is a theory doing the rounds that Sepp Blatter is angling for the Nobel Peace Prize (no joke) and in order to win it he would like to deliver a World Cup finals to the Middle East. Top of the list in that case would be Qatar, bidding for 2022. I am sure that Qatar has many advantages but, having visited there with England this year, it is no place for a World Cup. It's basically an air-conditioned desert.
The future boys
Connor Wickham (Ipswich Town), Raheem Sterling (QPR, soon to be Arsenal), Ravel Morrison (Manchester United), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Jordan Obita (Reading) and Jordon Mutch (Birmingham, on loan at Hereford). At one stage or another over the last year I have heard all these young footballers being touted as the next big English hope. It would be great if just one became a great English footballer. Let's hope they all do.
Manchester, so much to answer for
It was Morrissey who sang: "I've been stabbed in the back/so many, many times/I don't have any skin/ But that's just the way it goes." And as a Mancunian he would recognise similar treatment for Mark Hughes at Manchester City. That said, it is time to move on from the Garry Cook-bashing. Although it would be nice if he acknowledged that City went about things the wrong way.Reuse content