This is the time of year to take stock, as well as stocking. We are roughly halfway through the season, so let's consider the story so far, changes and developments, highlights and lowlights.
Teams wot done well: First, the Premiership. Man Utd, yawn yawn, because it has become boring now that everyone and his hamster are saying they'll run away with the title, despite that defeat by Liverpool. The interesting development this season has been Fergie beginning to hand over the reins to his deputy, Steve McClaren. This could be a complicated plot, as Fergie is such a political animal. But will the board allow him to appoint his own man when he goes off to count his millions?
Fulham are also running away with it in the First Division, yet without any real stars. Their controlled, deliberate, slow passing and careful build-up is not very exciting to watch, but so effective. Amazing how Jean Tigana has changed the habits of a lifetime, ie, stopping his Brit players giving it a big belt every time.
Their supporters appear well pleased, judging by their new chant: "Same old Fulham, taking the piss." A dangerous one that, when eventually they get pissed on. Then, in the Scottish Premier League, there's Celtic under Martin O'Neill, another top man. But I suspect Rangers will eventually catch up.
Cliches coming up: "Sick as a parrot" has gone, along with "over the moon". "Gutted" is still hanging in there. But there are two rather upmarket phrases catching on fast.
First: "It's been well documented . . ." This is what a player says when he is avoiding questions about his drink-driving/low scoring record/high scoring in clubs/large number of red and yellow cards. He will also use the phrase when, in his head, he hears himself about to say something incredibly boring and obvious - such as "Man Utd are a good team" - thus distancing himself from it.
Second: "You can't legislate for that." This is said by a manager when he is trying to avoid giving his own players a bollocking, to rubbish the referee or the other team. He thinks it makes him sound wearily wise, and saves him trying to analyse what actually did go wrong.
Lad wot done really well: Rio Ferdinand, thanks to his £18m move from West Ham to Leeds. It happened in a moment of madness. Things conspired at a particular time to make Leeds think they had to spend some of their euro millions, now, this very minute.
It's a world record for a defender - because it was a silly purchase. One defender does not win or even save a game. He is always part of a unit which, at any time, can be breached. But one striker, or one creative midfield player, can win a game, all on his own, with one single moment of genius. That's why a top forward player has always commanded more money than a top defender.
Names doing nicely: My favourite is John Carew. Straight out of Kipling, yet he's black, Norwegian and plays for Valencia of Spain. I'm also fond of the Leicester goalie, Tim Flowers. He should really be in a Mills & Boon novel.
Interesting discoveries: I've just discovered the relationship between the Leeds players Gary Kelly and Ian Harte. All season, I've been thinking: don't they look alike. Now I realise Kelly is Harte's uncle. And did you know that George Burley, the manager of Ipswich, is Craig Burley's uncle? I'm sure you did.
Tartan triumphs: Two more Scottish managers have arrived in the Premier League this season. Burley brought up Ipswich, and Jefferies has taken over at Bradford. There were four already - Fergie, Graham, Strachan and Smith. That now makes six Scots in all, the most for years, and slightly compensates for the almost total lack of any decent Scottish players. It also ruins the myth that the Premier League has been taken over by European managers.
Lads wot have not done very well: Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, but perhaps they'll pull their socks (or stockings) up.
Lads wot done total rubbish: Carlisle Utd. Don't talk about it.
Unlikely lads: Lee Chadwick, who's been getting a few games for Man Utd and is rated highly by Fergie. The surprise is how he looks - not just the spots and the rabbit teeth, poor lad, but his weedy, deprived frame. Imagine having to strip off each day next to Becks, the most gorgeous human being on the planet. Chadwick reminds me of the drawing in Scouting for Boys that warned you how you'd turn out if you did certain disgusting things.
Lads to watch: I'm orf to the West Indies after Xmas for my summer hols, back in February - by which time, unexpected things will have happened. I'm tipping George Graham to get the boot and be replaced by Hoddle; Becks to get a life peerage in the New Year's Honours, retire from football and join the shadow cabinet, replacing Seb Coe; Venables to get involved in a scandal and be hired by Richard Desmond's Express Group to edit a new magazine, Players Wives Naked; Fergie to buy Carlisle Utd out of his loose change and preserve it for the nation. Happy New Year.