Old Bore's Almanac: The mist clears and a tall, dark stranger appears: The new year brings a chance to ring the changes. Hugh Bateson examines the tea leaves and offers his predictions

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JANUARY: Graeme Souness is sacked by Liverpool and joins the Sun sports staff. He is replaced by Charles Hughes, the Football Association's director of coaching. 'I have spent years and years and millions of pounds on compiling statistics which prove conclusively that managers who never played can sometimes do just as well as those who did,' Hughes says.

England's cricketers leave for the West Indies, with Robin Smith saying: 'It will be a beach party compared with facing Shane Warne.' He breaks a finger in the first over of his first innings, two ribs in the second over and his jaw in the third. Afterwards, he says: 'Now that's what I call a beach party.'

Ireland's rugby union team discover that the American basketball star Shaquille O'Neal has an Irish grandmother and say he will play in the second-row in the Five Nations' Championship. Jack Charlton is disgusted he didn't get there first.

FEBRUARY: Ice dance is the biggest event at the Winter Olympics. With specially commissioned music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice, choreography by Take That and the old Pink Floyd lights show, Torvill and Dean win a thrilling showdown with the American entry, who were also making a comeback - the Detroit Emeralds.

Television executives refuse to show the men's double luge before the 9pm watershed. 'Two men in rubber suits lying on top of each other - it's revolting,' one says.

Liverpool unveil a new formation for the Merseyside derby: 5-0-5. 'Statistics show clearly that midfielders do not score as many goals as forwards or stop as many as defenders, so I have decided to do away with them. The logic is unarguable,' Hughes says. Everton win 7-0.

MARCH: The Five Nations' Championship builds towards a thrilling climax. England travel to Paris. The whole French pack are sent off in the first five minutes. Brian Moore praises England's professionalism in winning 3-0. Wales, who have lost to everyone by 55 points, arrive for the last game at Twickenham where England are on course for a grand slam. England announce a sponsorship deal which brings each player pounds 5,000 every time they attempt to run the ball. A complicated backs move goes horribly wrong in the first minute. Will Carling drops the ball, Ieuan Evans pounces for a try. England 3, Wales 7.

APRIL: Nick Faldo wins the US Masters with a record 20-under-par score, and without a bogey all week. 'I suppose I'm reasonably close to playing passably well,' he says.

An unknown fourteen-year-old, Darren 'The Spotty Potter' Smurf, wins the world snooker championship, beating the 17-year-old Ronnie O'Sullivan 19-0 in the final. 'He's past it now - he'll never be the force he was,' Smurf says of his opponent.

MAY: Arsenal follow Liverpool's lead, and take on Manchester United in the FA Cup final without a midfield - the formation is 9-0-1, and the nine are all centre-halves. Eric Cantona scores a mesmerising, winning goal, picking up the ball on his own goal-line and beating every Arsenal player at least twice (Tony Adams 10 times) before shooting between David Seaman's legs from 35 yards.

JUNE: Rumours about Paul Gascoigne's future reach fever pitch after he is seen at a Rome restaurant with Luciano Pavarotti and no one can tell them apart. Spurs say they are keen to sign either.

China unveil their interest in rugby union, and beat Japan 456-0 in a friendly in Peking. Their coach, a cousin of Mr Ma, says it is all down to training on Mt Everest.

JULY: Goran Ivanisevic sends down 2,000 aces to win Wimbledon without dropping a point on his serve. No rally in the men's tournament lasts more than three shots. More people attend the fortnight than ever before.

The World Cup in the United States breaks all records. There are no goals in the group stage, so the qualifiers for the knock-out stage are drawn by lots - an event which, complete with Mickey Mouse, Dolly Parton and a live link-up to the White House, attracts the biggest domestic television audience of the tournament.

Argentina and Germany reach the final without conceding a goal in open play - Argentina lose in the penalty shoot-out. 'And you wonder why we want to change the rules,' Alan Rothenberg, the driving force behind the game in the US, says.

Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill, who have only spoken to each other through lawyers during the season, stop in the middle of the British Grand Prix, have a stand-up fight in front of the pits, get back in their cars and finish first and second. 'Of course there's no dissent in the team. Damon and Ayrton have a perfect working relationship, and it's all set out in their contracts - Ayrton can whack Damon whenever he wants,' Frank Williams says.

AUGUST: Liverpool start the new football season with a new formation - 0-10-0. 'I've cracked it - this is total football. Everyone just does everything,' Hughes says. They lose their first five games.

SEPTEMBER: England, with Terry Venables running the side from a small lock-up under Waterloo station, start their build-up towards the European Championships with an away friendly against the only team willing to welcome them and their fans - the Antarctic Scientific Explorers' social team. Ian Wright scores a last-minute equaliser.

The National Basketball Association in the United States, ever eager to break new marketing ground, welcomes a new team - the Peking Dragons. There is some suspicion when they take the court for their first game in Chicago with all their players more than 12ft tall. 'Of course it's not drugs. It's all down to their diet - they eat only the bark of the Nepalese dwarf bamboo tree,' their coach says.

OCTOBER: Liverpool, now anchored to the foot of the Premiership, take on Manchester United at Old Trafford by building an 11-man acrobats' pyramid on their goal- line. 'They'll never get past that,' Hughes smirks. Bruce Grobbelaar throws the ball into his own net.

NOVEMBER: Paul Gascoigne is spotted at a sumo basho in Tokyo. 'It's great, man. Do you know just how much money these guys can earn? And the fatter they get the more popular they are - that's the life for me,' he says.

Severiano Ballesteros announces a takeover of golf's European Tour. 'We are playing far too many tournaments in too many silly places like Scotland. I think the tour should have just five tournaments - and they should all be played in hot weather, and within easy driving distance of my house. As should the Ryder Cup, of course.'

DECEMBER: Will Carling announces he is quitting sport for showbusiness, but that he is still available for England. 'It's the incessant demands of club rugby getting in the way of my career that I can't cope with any more,' he says.