This season will have to really go some to even come close to 2011/12. Kieran Mather recalls some of the highlights, lowlights, wonderment and tragedy of an unforgettable campaign.
Anfield Cat – In February, a game was interrupted in the 12th minute when a stray cat named Kenny wandered into the Spurs penalty area. Within minutes it had a Twitter account and is still credited with the title “cutest at Anfield since Torres” award by our resident Liverpool fan at work.
Gary Neville’s Monday Night Football – From his orgasmic commentary gold when Torres scored at the Nou Camp to providing in depth, intelligent analysis, the Ratboy of Old Trafford has proven to be a punditry revelation. And never once has he said “you don’t save those!”
“Not in my lifetime” – In September 2009 Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed their Manchester rivals’ chances of ever going into a derby as favourites. Two years later it happened and far worse yet for the Dark Lord a comprehensive double helped secure City the title.
90 points not enough – If any supporter was asked in August where they might expect their team to finish should they amass an impressive ninety points the answer would be one of two – 1st or 2nd.
Sheffield United however became one of a very exclusive list of clubs who have achieved a 90 point tally and failed to get promoted.
Fabio Capello resigns – When the FA decided to strip John Terry of his England captaincy Capello spat his very expensive dummy out to a collective ambivalence from a nation who never took him to their hearts.
4th Spot not enough – It happened to Everton a few years ago when Liverpool triumphed in Istanbul and this season Tottenham suffered the same blow at the hands of lady luck. Chelsea finished 6th in the Premier League but their Champion’s League win in Munich ensured Roberto Di Matteo’s men would play with Europe’s elite next season edging out their London rivals. Something which may have led to the Spurs boss Harry Redknapps’ exit from White Heart Lane weeks later.
Pray For Muamba – In an FA cup-tie with Tottenham Hotspur in March a 23 year old lad suffered a cardiac arrest. A professional footballer. A fully fit professional sportsman. In what was a massive wake up call for football and its health screening processes huge support was given to those connected with the club and Fabrice Muamba himself. The incident really pulled football together and the phrase “pray for Muamba” would be something football fans will recall for years to come.
Sacked in 3rd – In League 1 on 15th February, after a 0-1 defeat to promotion chasing rivals Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town announced the sacking of manager Lee Clarke, the manager behind the club’s record breaking unbeaten run. Two weeks later Sheffield Wednesday chairman Milan Mandaric sacked Gary Megson, replacing him with Dave Jones. Both clubs were in 3rd when they made the managerial changes, both had just played against Sheffield United (Wednesday beat them 1-0) and both ended up with promotion. If your team is lying in third spot at any point this season be encouraged. Your manager however should be less so.
Gary Speed MBE 8/9/68 – 27/11/11 – On the 28th November football fans around the country woke up astounded to the news that Gary Speed had taken his only life. The Premier League legend had played 15 seasons for 5 clubs and was well respected within the game. Football united to mourn the passing with impeccably held memorials held up and down the country in honour of the popular Welshman.
Cardiff City see red – The Malaysian owners announced that the man with the money Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee would invest over £100million in the club in the coming years. Fantastic eh? Well not for the traditionalists due to a bizarre condition attached. Cardiff will now be the “Red Dragons” rather than the Bluebirds, play in red rather than blue and have a new crest which depicts the Welsh dragon predominantly. The bluebird is still there, however its inclusion is minor. The reasoning is this will make the club more accessible to the Eastern Asian community. Proof if you ever needed it that football is just about viable business models now rather than sport. A clubs identity raped for commercial purposes, held ransom by money.
FA chose Hodgson – Who will be England’s next manager? Always a talking point, always a few names in the frame, but this time there only seemed to be one man for the job. The other managers tipped him, the bookies tipped him, the pundits favoured and wanted him, the fans were screaming out for him. Thankfully the FA disregarded all of this and appointed Roy Hodgson over Harry Redknapp,.
The new man was branded the safe bet, the yes man and the cheap option for the FA, the governing body that will never please anyone so might as well have appointed Neil Warnock and Ian Holloway for joint roles and packed them off to Poland & Ukraine to be outstanding ambassadors for a country and game.
Crawley Town – After being promoted to the Football League last season the Red Devils (not you. There are other clubs with the nickname, and other Uniteds too you know) claimed their second successive promotion. Despite offloading talented striker Tyrone Barnett and overcoming set backs such as having five players suspended at one point (we’ll cover that one later) Crawley finished third and continue their progression up the league pyramid.
The Amex revived – Brighton & Hove Albion completed their move from the Withdean Stadium to the Amex this season. After playing Doncaster 14 years previously at the last ever game at the Goldstone the Seagulls welcomed Rovers again to open up the new stadium in Falmer. The Amex itself has averaged crowds of 20,000 and has plans to expand to 25,000 next season and 30,000 within three seasons. The new ground has certainly revived Brighton’s fortunes. To think they used to play in Gillingham too.
Terry Connor – When Mick McCarthy was released from service at Wolves it might have been thought that his replacement should be someone with nous and experience in order to give the club any chance of survival. Enter Terry Connor and Wanderers were subsequently relegated. Sorry to Wolves fans for this but I’ve put that in a nutshell.
“Why always me?” – A firework set off in the bathroom of Manchester City headline maker Mario Balotelli not only (presumably) baffled the Greater Manchester fire service used to chip pan flames and candle burns but set in motion the unveiling of an iconic t-shirt at Old Trafford, a moment that made even non-City fans piss their sides at the impudence of a new and complicated hero.
Dalglish paid off – When Liverpool decided to part ways with legend Kenny Daliglish it was reported he refused the payout for the remainder of his contract and requested it be put towards the transfer budget. We don’t know if this is something that has been made available for his successor Brendan Rodgers but Kenny, we salute you.
Coventry slip through – Along with Portsmouth, Coventry City became another ‘giant’ to face the ignominy of slipping into English football’s third tier. Further proof – if proof were needed – that no club, no matter its size or tradition, is immune from a dramatic fall from grace.
Carlton Cole takes the charts – If you haven’t heard his song, YouTube it, then please try to define it. I can’t. Good effort though Carlton, however odd it was it’s still better than the Watford crew singing along to Elton John.
Silva and gold – The impish scheming from the Spanish Merlin was a joy to watch.
The courtroom drama – A Sheffield United striker was tried for rape in April and was found guilty. He was sentenced to five years in prison. A Port Vale player was also tried for the same offence but was found innocent. The story was widely discussed on social media and overshadowed football itself for a week or two. The trial could be followed on social media sites such as Twitter, something which shouldn’t be possible I think. Some fans didn’t think the decision was right – they thought a miscarriage of justice had took place – provoking Martin Samuel of The Daily Mail to brand all Blades as a “disgrace”. Mr Samuel has well documented hatred of the Sheffield club and couldn’t wait to have a go.
The Saints go marching in – Like Crawley Town, Southampton achieved back to back promotions. Under Nigel Adkins the Saints were never out of the top 3 of the division and until losing a home fixture to promotion rivals Reading near the close of the season looked like being crowned champions. I don’t think there is a set of fans in the country (bar Portsmouth) that begrudge Southampton their return to the big time.
RDM spinning plates – When Roman Abramovic removed Andre Villas Boas from his position at Stamford Bridge a swift appointment was expected to help steady the seemingly sinking ship. However, unbeaten in his first few games in charge (including a remedial victory over Barcelona over 2 legs) Roberto Di Matteo was given until the end of the season and in doing so delivered a 6th place finish (not bad considered the free fall the club was in) an FA Cup and the previously elusive Champions League trophy. That night in Munich was the one Roman has wanted since investing a few bob in the club and thanks to RDM (and Drogba) he got to lift it with his oily hands.
Redknapp paid Gross – In February after a 5 year probe and £8million investigation the Tottenham Hotspur boss was cleared of tax evasion. It was alleged he hid £189,000 off shore in tax haven Monaco. Co-defendant Milan Mandaric was also cleared of all charges. Now if he was found guilty as tax payers we could all feel aggrieved about this, the fact this investigation cost us millions of pounds and produced no convictions we can all still feel like we’ve been hard done to here.
RVP – Robin Van Persie, what a fantastic season. Numerous assists, man of the match appearances and more than 30 goals and without his sensational contribution Arsenal would have certainly slipped into mid table mediocrity. Arsenal deserved this season from their top player after standing by him through numerous injuries and can now look forward to further remuneration for their loyalty. Oh.
Goal Line Technology – At the end of last season it was announced tests will be carried out across the world and GLT will be rolled out in leagues and tournaments worldwide in years to come.
Aguerooooooo – I swear we’ll never see anything like this again. I hope you drank it in as City won the league in ‘Fergie time’ to the astonishment of a billion-strong audience.
22 man brawl at Bradford –When promotion chasing Crawley visited strugglers Bradford all hell broke loose resulting in four red cards some of which referee Ian Williamson handed out in the dressing rooms after the game. It isn’t the pretty side of the beautiful game but as much as officials and managers need to publicly condemn it let’s be honest – we love it.
Massive crowds – Record attendances in the Championship, League One and Two showed unequivicably that we are not as Premier League-centric as the media likes to believe. Particular credit must go to Sheffield Wednesday who boasted full capacity crowds of over 39,000 on a few occasions.
Leeds 3-7 Nottingham Forrest – A rivalry stoked by miner’s strikes and affiliations of managerial legend Brian Clough these two teams hate each other. Not many teams bag enough to merit a ‘seven-heaven’ tabloid headline anymore and to do so at fortress Elland Road is very special indeed. Neil Warnock was quoted to be embarrassed, furious and ashamed amongst other strong words directed at his team whilst Steve Cotterill’s men came back down the M1 with 3 points in a very Robin Hood fashion.
Steve Keen carries on regardless – After a testing start to the season Steve Keen was installed as the bookies firm favourite to be the next for the chop. He is in fact still in charge of Blackburn Rovers today. He put up with torrents of abuse but got stuck in and carried on regardless. Unfortunately Rovers didn’t avoid the drop and he has been told if he loses three in a row he will be axed from the Lancashire outfit. The bookies have presumably taken note once again.
Tevez won’t warm up – The Argentine has always been known for his headline-making strikes but this was something else entirely.
Joey Barton – Amongst all the excitement and drama of the finale at the Etihad in May it required something either amazingly spectacular or horrendously stupid to take some of the headlines away from City’s incredible comeback. Enter Joseph Barton. The blithering idiot landed himself with a 12 match ban to go with his red card after lashing out at Tevez, assaulting Aguero, attempting to headbutt Kompany then fronting up to Balotelli.
Liverpool finish 8th – Having contested the Premier League every single season since its formation Liverpool have been one of “the big four.” Consistently challenging for a Champions League spots. This season though the reds rolled in 8th behind nearly half of the Premier League. This came after the Liverpool faithful witnessed only 14 wins. Dalglish was removed as boss to be replaced by ex Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers so the future looks bright at Anfield.
John Terry lifts the trophy – When John Terry lashed out in the Camp Nou and needlessly rammed his knee into the back of the unsuspecting Sanchez there was an uproar. Surely he can’t be allowed to lift the trophy as a suspended player? It was common assault had it been on the high street on a Saturday night. But no the powers that be saw no reason to stop this from happening and John Terry, should Chelsea beat Bayern Munich, would lift the trophy. And that kids, is why when Grimsby Town lift the Premier League trophy in the 2082/83 season the face of John Terry will be “photoshopped” onto the Mariners’ captain’s head.
Huddersfield Towns unbeaten run ends – A run that spanned from January – November 2011 across 2 seasons and saw Huddersfield go unbeaten for 43 games. The record was ended at The Valley when league leaders Charlton beat the Terriers 2-0
Swansea and Norwich impress – Both newly promoted to the Premiership, having only recently discarded their Championship L plates, these two teams arrived in the Premier League predictably considered as relegation fodder. Instead with 12 wins and 11 draws each both these teams finished on 47 points, 11 clear from the drop, but their achievements transcended the stats. It was the manner of their open attacking play that impressed the most.
Hereford United exit the football league – Despite beating promotion chasing Torquay on the final day Hereford slipped out of the football league for the third time. We wish them all the best and a speedy return to the football league.
Stuart Pierce announced for Team GB – Not strictly an English football related one but England’s caretaker manager was announced as the successful candidate for the Team GB role. This involved a group of under 23s blended in with the experienced likes of Giggs, Bellemy and Micah Richards doing what only can be described as an England impression, being knocked out by penalties.
Kompany dismissed! – In an all-Manchester FA Cup 3rd round tie at the Etihad an excellent encounter was completely over-shadowed by the ref. When Vincent Kompany slid in on Nani Chris Foy didn’t think much of it, but when met with the screaming outraged scouser that was Wayne Rooney he suddenly changed his mind. Despite it being a perfectly decent challenge the current laws of the game say Kompany had to go which sparked national debates about what exactly constitutes a red card offense when tackling.