And so, another 365 days have been left behind and we look forward to a World Cup year. I didn’t want to leave 2013 without some reflection on what was a year of footballing change—both generally and personally.
Managers, colours, crests and names all succumbed to the march of time and the folly of the rich; my own peace was finally made with changes that had occurred at my chosen team some eight years ago—only for a brush with Shinji Kagawa and Japanese TV to set my footballing world spinning on its axis again.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement must rank high on the list of big events in 2013. Typical of the man to bow out with a bang, taking what was generally perceived to be the worst Manchester United team for years to the title and still finding the time and energy to give an incredible show of incandescent rage during United’s UEFA Champions League tie against Real Madrid.
David Moyes has found things tough as the new man in charge of things at Old Trafford, so far. Jose Mourinho meanwhile, who many had as the favourite to take over from Ferguson, orchestrated his own downfall at Real Madrid but seems a pale version of his old self now he is back in the Chelsea hotseat.
There was a changing of the guard at the head of the European football table, with Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” being usurped by a more physical and high-speed teutonic version practised by Bayern Munich.
We had upsets. Bradford City defeating Arsenal on the way to a League Cup Final and Wigan’s glorious FA Cup win both brought that word “romance” back in to a game that still seems intent on eating itself alive.
Countering the joy that those cup runs gave us, though, were the heritage-shredding antics of Cardiff City’s owner Vincent Tan.
The price that supporters in South Wales paid to reach the promised land of the Barclays Premier League was to see the “Bluebirds” run out at home games in red shirts with a dragon added to their crest. The sacking of popular manager Malky Mackay at the end of the year only served to show that the “colourful” Malaysian businessman is no lover of sentiment and as owner of the football club, will do as he pleases.
Sadly, the protests against Mackay’s sacking appeared to be much more vociferous than those that occurred when blue became red. This will, of course, be skewed by the much higher profile that a club “enjoys” in the top flight.
Hull City owner Assem Allam also showed that he was intent on exercising his right to do as he damn well pleases by applying for a formal name-change of that club to Hull City Tigers—something discussed in my recent post here.
The complicated yarn that Coventry City’s owners spun in 2013 also shows no sign of unravelling yet. Presently, due to issues between the owners and the landlords of the Ricoh Arena, the club are playing their home games over 30 miles away in Northampton and attendances have plummeted to record lows. In the absence of any major news source giving the Coventry story much time or space, the website 200% has covered this extensively and brilliantly.
All these stories have been played out amidst the build up to the FIFA World Cup, itself plagued problems in 2013.
We are well used to stories and rumour of stadia not being ready in time for the World Cup. Brazil 2014, however, has brought us news of massive protests against the government and the tragic deaths of stadium construction site workers. The fires of these events were further stoked by the exposé on the treatment of those working on sites in Qatar as they prepare for the controversial 2022 event. FIFA has much work to do.
A Grumpy 2013.
And so, to my personal journey in 2013.
A journey that started with a return to Old Trafford as a paying “customer” for the first time since the Glazer family takeover and ended with trips to both Manchester clubs with a media pass.
Along the way, I was fortunate to have had work published by InBedWithMaradona—with a piece on the 1980 FA Trophy final, having made fortuitous contact with a former Mossley player who featured that day; with BackPageFootball on FC United of Manchester and, along with regular posts on Bleacher Report and Football Republik, I also became the featured blogger for scoreboard manufacturer SportsScorer.
A couple of highlights of the year were journalist Paolo Bandini naming my article for BettingExpert as one of his “must reads” for July and also be asked to feature on a new project called “The Football Pink” – an e-magazine that earned me a startling review from SoccerSouls website, who called my article “Who’d be a Referee?” “Breath-taking.” (That one is a keeper!) and venerable site The Two Unfortunates were also kind, linking back to this “burgeoning” site.
Which leaves a story about Shinji Kagawa, Japanese Television and Clive Tyldesley still to be told…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(to be continued…)