As the grim reality of being back to the 9 to 5 sets in, and the monotony of office life bites, it must be time to review the 2010 footballing year. Feel free to add any more you think I’ve missed off…
1. Blue is the colour
If this had been written six weeks ago, it would have been an unequivocal statement: 2010 was Chelsea’s year. Between January and November 6th they had won 32 of their 41 games in all competitions, winning the Premier League and FA Cup double. Stalling of late, principally due to injuries to key players and the mystical departure of Ray Wilkins, Stamford Bridge prays for redemption.
2. Year of the Messi
Minus a slightly disappointing World Cup, quite simply astounding. Like one of those childish playground games, think of a number, add three, times by two and minus 1. Number of goals by Messi in 2010? Just the 62. He scored two goals in a game 14 times and bagged five hat tricks in addition to this. In one year!
3. Bafana Bafana
Whilst the World Cup may have struggled to ignite on the pitch at times, it was a cultural spectacle to be admired. Africa came of age with a tournament that, despite the doubters and cynics, was run impeccably and without security or safety issues. South Africa, you did your continent proud.
4. Summer lovin?
Players and pundits alike consistently label burnout and fatigue as a crucial issue in the modern game. Is it any coincidence that Tevez aside, the best performers in the Premier League so far this season had the summer off? Carroll, Nasri, Elmander, Bale, Parker. Perhaps the World Cup hangover has allowed alternative heroes to be born.
5. Two, four, six eight
For approaching ten years we have had a big four. Was 2010 the year when this was finally expanded? Spurs qualified for the Champions League, Manchester City continued to splash the cash, and Liverpool let their guard down. Five clubs in the title hunt at Christmas is an untrodden Premier League path.
6. La Liga procession
Over in Spain, the Big Two shows no sign of welcoming new members. Apart from matches against each other, at the time of writing in 2010 Real Madrid and Barcelona combined have won 63 out of 74 matches in La Liga, scoring 207 goals in the process. With the television money skewed in the favour of these two clubs, is there any hope for the days of Deportivo winning the league. It was ten years ago, but it might as well be a lifetime.
7. Make hay, Bale, while the sun shines
Quite a year for the young Welshman. Started with the unenviable record of not being on the winning side in the Premier League amid rumours of a departure to Nottingham Forest, and ended it spoken in the same breath as the deities from the Camp Nou. Goals against Inter Milan helped, but one hopes he remains humble enough to enjoy the sanctity of time in the sun. Bale will know that it might not last forever.
8. Risky business
Premier League management has never been a predictable career. Just ask Phil Brown, Gianfranco Zola, Rafael Benitez, Martin O’Neill, Chris Hughton and Sam Allardyce, all leaving their jobs in 2010. In an era that sees club owners and investors performing an increasingly hands-on role in the desperate grasp for glory, Premier League clubs hold impatience as a virtue.
9. Little brother growing up fast
There was a time when promotion from the Championship led to a perennial struggle for acceptance in the Premier League, the collection of near forty points the magic mark for success. But the gap is getting smaller. In May, Wolves and Birmingham survived with comfort, and this season Newcastle and Blackpool have continued to buck the trend. West Brom have struggled after a dream start, but Blackpool are simply the fairytale.
10. And finally… a plea
Let’s give our foreign imports time to settle. For the last two seasons Johan Elmander has been written off as another expensive foreign flop. Swedish, used to living in France, and moving to England. Given time to settle and flourish, Bolton now see the benefits. Bergkamp, Ronaldo, Tevez, Friedel. All took time to settle into our English game. So next time we are screaming obscenities at our new foreign striker, maybe let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, or at least the time to settle.