11 things we learned from this year's Premier League
Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.
Another season over, where do they go, and why can’t I remember them? But this time quite a lot still lingers in the mind. Some of it interesting, even momentous, and not much of it silly, which means no award for Haircut of the Season. Sorry. They have all become so damn sensible.
Apologies of the Season. Should have come from the back-page hacks, who for the past three years have been saying that Barcelona were the best team the world has ever seen, will ever see, blah blah.
Praise of the Season. Now being lavished on Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga. It won’t last. Oh, how I regret telling myself in the 1980s that this Liverpool team, wow, best team the world will ever see, blah.
Small Apology. Should have come from André Villas-Boas. “Arsenal are on a downward, negative spiral,” he said two months ago, which was so stupid, even at the time. OK, he has only been in football half an hour but he should know how quickly things change, how strong Arsenal really are, how experienced Wenger is, how all such observations can rebound, how suggesting the notion of a negative spiral could lodge in the heads of his own players, which it did.
Best Explanation. From Roberto Mancini, when he realised Man City were not going to retain the title. “If only I had been allowed to buy better players, I would have had a better team.” Brilliant, don’t you think?
Best Sound Bite. “He’s going to shoot himself.” ITV commentator during a Brazil game. Best Real Bite. Or was it? Yes, we all saw Suárez open his jaw, nuzzle the arm of the Chelsea defender, but did we see blood, did we see teeth marks, did we ever even see a picture of any actual damage? Nope. But boy, what a talking point it provided.
Daftest Contract. Alan Pardew being given eight years as manager of Newcastle after a modest run of half-decent results. Clubs, like fans, get easily carried away, conning themselves, thinking this is it forever, we’ve cracked it. I bet it went through the heads of the Sunderland board to give Paolo Di Canio lifetime tenure after they beat Newcastle.
Disappointment of the Season. Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, looked utterly fab early doors, what an arrival, capped by England in November, still only 18, but now where is he?
Surprise of the Season. David Beckham, still playing football. Come on, how does he fit football into his life. It’s a miracle . . .
Second Season Syndrome. Gary Neville as a commentator. Raved about last season, so refreshing, what a football brain. Now fatter and treading water. Still worth listening to, though, especially when he pronounces the word winger with a hard g in the middle. But best linguistically is still Chris Waddle when it comes to a pelanty.
Predictions. Bale will still be at Spurs next season, Mourinho will go to PSG, Wayne Rooney still at Man United. Bound to get one of them right.
Big lumps up front, bullet-headed centre forwards, a thug in midfield to break it all up – they will all return, thanks to the collapse of Barca. Coaches will begin to think hmm, perhaps filling the midfield with titchy ball players and no proper striker isn’t the only way to succeed.
Alex Ferguson to manage another five years at Man United. I did worry during the season when I spotted him getting up from the bench and staggering, thinking it can’t be the red wine, not that early, must be arthritis, hope he doesn’t have to have a knee op. That’s what I had – and it’s still painful. Relieved to hear that in the summer Fergie is having a hip op, which is 90 per cent successful, compared with 80 per cent for knees. Good luck, laddie. Right, see yous all in September. Will try not to stagger.