Peter Corrigan: A dream year: Fred, Paula, Johnno and Monty
Sunday 02 January 2005
Uncertainty is sport's vital ingredient. Without it, sport would be as tedious as the rest of our lives. That air of mystery is essential to its appeal.
This is why those few of us in possession of a genuine gift to see into the future have to be careful. To tell all we know would ruin everything. It would also be dangerous. Do you think bookmakers would let us live?
For this reason, the following contains events that will certainly happen, but for my protection, they are mixed up with some ludicrous prophesies.
England's cricketers extend their unbeaten run to 16 by taking the Third, Fourth and Fifth Tests against South Africa. "Now for the Ashes," says captain Michael Vaughan, quietly. Exeter knock a weakened Manchester United out of the FA Cup in a sensational tie at Old Trafford. "We're more interested in the Champions' League and the Premiership," claims Sir Alex Ferguson. United then shake the world by selling Wayne Rooney to Chelsea for £40m. "Look what selling him did for Everton," reasons Fergie. Tony Blair pledges £1bn to school sport.
Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-0 (Van Nistelrooy 2, Smith) at Highbury. Arsène Wenger fumes as traffic delays the pizza delivery man. Rooney absconds from Stamford Bridge and is recaptured on the M3 trying to hitch to Manchester. Sven Goran Eriksson resumes work when England meet Holland in a friendly at Villa Park. "I can't wait to make some substitutions," he says. England lose 2-0. New England Patriots win Super Bowl XXXIX which, sadly, is not sponsored by Castlemaine XXXX. Still without Jonny Wilkinson, England lose to Wales on the opening day of the Six Nations. They go on to lose to France at Twickenham and Ireland in Dublin.
The Queen demands an immediate improvement or a return of all the rugby squad's OBEs to Buckingham Palace. England beat Italy and Scotland. "Big deal," says the Queen. France win the Six Nations. In the World Cup qualifiers, England get a valiant home draw against Northern Ireland and then lose to mighty Azerbaijan but still look certain of qualifying. At Cheltenham, the great Best Mate wins the Gold Cup and Rooster Booster wins the Champion Hurdle. Tony Blair pledges another £1bn to school sport.
Manchester United beat Chelsea 1-0 (Rooney og 48, sent off 51) at Old Trafford to get within one point of the top. Tiger Woods wins the Masters, his first major for two years. Ireland's Hedgehunter, who fell at the final fence in the previous year, wins the Grand National at 20-1. His trainer, Willie Mullins, has warned that whenever the horse looked in tiptop shape he didn't run well. In the paddock, Hedgehunter looked as if he'd been on the piss all night, so the wise punters piled in. Tony Blair offers to sell schools some sports grounds for the bargain price of £2bn.
Manchester United win the Premiership, with Chelsea second and Liverpool third, before going on to win the Champions' League by beating Barcelona 2-0 (Van Nistelrooy, Giggs) in the final in Istanbul. Arsenal win the FA Cup by beating Birmingham City at the Millennium Stadium. "This is the prize we really wanted," says manager Wenger.Leicester beat Toulouse at Murrayfield to win the Heineken Cup final.
Martin Johnson is called up by Sir Clive Woodward to captain the Lions, who cause chaos when they arrive in New Zealand. "We were only expecting one planeload, not three," say the All Blacks. Motivator, trained by Michael Bell, wins the Derby by a short head from Dubawi, Godolphin's hot favourite. Ernie Els beats Tiger Woods in a play-off to win the US Open at Pinehurst. Tim Henman goes out in the first round at Wimbledon. Henman Hill sold for redevelopment.
Having lost narrowly to a Daniel Carter penalty in the last minute of the First Test, the Lions hit back to beat New Zealand in the Second and Third Tests and win the series. Martin Johnson announces his retirement. "I can't face any more bus rides down the Mall," he says. Maria Sharapova wins Wimbledon again, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first-ever all-Russian final. Colin Montgomerie wins The Open at St Andrews, but prize-giving is delayed while he decides which girlfriend to kiss. The 2012 Olympics are awarded to Paris. London mourns. England's cricketers are poised to beat Australia in the First Test at Lord's when rain wipes out the last two days.
Australia win the Second Test at Edgbaston (Ponting 233, Warne 6 for 38). Paula Radcliffe runs away with the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki. "It's such a relief not to offend anyone by collapsing," she says. Kelly Holmes makes do with only one gold, in the 1500m, because she's been busy. England win the Third Test at Old Trafford (Strauss 234, Harmison 5 for 27). The football season kicks off with Jose Mourinho pledging to win the Premiership and the Champions' League. "We would have won them both last season if the owner hadn't bought Rooney," he says. The Fourth Test at Trent Bridge is rained off without a ball bowled.
Wales beat England 1-0 (Savage) at the Millennium Stadium. The battle for the Ashes is down to the Fifth and final Test at The Oval, and in one of the finest matches ever England emerge triumphant after back-to-back centuries from Andy Flintoff and five-wicket hauls for Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones.
After drawing 0-0 against a stubborn Northern Ireland in Belfast, England need wins in difficult home games against Austria and Poland but can manage only a draw in each. Wales go on to beat Northern Ireland, Poland and Azerbaijan to pip England for the automatic qualification spot.
Sven Goran Eriksson is called before the new chairman of the Football Association, John Prescott, who was appointed by the Government after the FA failed to agree on a successor to Geoff Thomson. They had consulted Eriksson and had come up with a short-list of Kimberly Quinn, Jordan and Abi Titmuss, which Whitehall did not consider suitable. Prescott demands an explanation for England's failure. Eriksson claims it was because we didn't have a winter break. Prescott suggests that the only winter break we all need is from England.
At the conclusion of the Parliamentary inquiry into the failure of the London 2012 Olympic Bid, Tony Blair comments: "How the hell are we going to regenerate Hackney now?" He rants and raves about how sport has cost us dearly in money and worldwide humiliation. It is diplomatically pointed out that our sport has been suffering world-wide humiliation for years because the Government contribute 10 times less per head to sport than most advanced countries - particularly France, whose capital will host the Games in 2012 because it deserves to. "Forget all my promises about school sport," he thunders. We already had, Prime Minister.
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