The UK has suffered the worst bout of cold, dank and miserable weather since 1968. Maybe that’s why the mood at the end of the 2012/13 Premier League season was so morose. Even yesterday’s Football League Championship Playoff – a game that is usually one of the greatest of the year – was a complete whitewash.
Many will say the title race ended on April 22nd when Manchester United trounced Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford. But that doesn’t tell the whole story; United won the league months ago, and without moving out of first gear. So with no last day title excitement to look forward to, maybe we could immerse ourselves in the relegation battle? Wigan spoiled that one for us. March 14th was the date. The newly crowned FA Cup Winners trounced by Arsenal at The Emirates to join Reading and QPR playing Championship football next season.
So the fans were left with absolutely nothing to cheer for at the end of a season that resembled a damp squid. The German domination of the Champions League showed the Brits that there was another level of football to attain, and we were still star gazing at the Spaniards. But the Premier League has never been about silky skills and tactical genius.
This is what the Premier League is all about…
Chelsea started the season on a high. Roberto Di Matteo had stepped into the fold and delivered Roman Abramovich his first Champions League trophy. The deliverance of the Holy Grail followed by a permanent appointment – it wouldn’t last long. Chelsea stuttered and spluttered their way through the first half of the season, becoming the first European Champions to fail to make it out of the group stages. Abramovich has no patience – Di Matteo was out and much to the delight of the fans Rafa Benitez was given temporary control.
The Chelsea fans hurled abuse at Benitez all year long. But Manuel got his head down, stuck to his guns and managed to win the Europa Cup – despite being outclassed by Benfica in the final – a last minute goal by Branislav Ivanovic meaning Chelsea would make it back-to-back European titles. That victory made Fernando Torres the current holder of the World Cup, European Championships, Champions League and Europa Cup. Not bad for the Phantom of the Opera star who couldn’t hit a barn door from two-yards.
The reward for the former Liverpool boss – Rafa Benitez joined Jupp Heynckes as the two European Cup winners who would be told to leave the club and replaced by younger models, after achieving what most young managers only dream of. But that’s life in the top-notch world of football these days. The board is blind. They cannot see what is in front of them. Manchester United own the Premier League and they do so because of the consistency in their choice of manager. Once again the constant merry go round of the Premier League managers shuffle dominated the season.
When will they ever learn?
Ten managers went in total. Six were sacked, two left after their contract had expired, one left by mutual consent (code for sacked) and one rather special gentlemen decided to retire.
We have already spoken about the rash departure of Di Matteo. Mark Hughes was given millions to spend by QPR. It’s not the first time that the Welshman has been handed a blank check book and it’s not the first time he has spent his money on complete and utter rubbish. The money grabbers came in, the club went downhill and Hughes was once again sacked – something that seems to happen every season. Now I’m a Sparky lover. He was a terrific player, but he just isn’t a great manager. If he were he would be able to hold down a job longer than two seasons. And yet he will once again manage a Premier League club when one becomes available. This is what they do. The up and comers from the lower leagues don’t get a chance as the board go through the same regurgitated nonsense time after time.
“Mm…maybe we should go with Mark Hughes? He was one hell of a player. Never won anything as a manager and has been sacked at almost every club he has managed. He’ll be a perfect choice. Give that man a blank checkbook.”
Sparky’s fire was dowsed and in came Harry Redknapp to try and save QPR. He had no chance, and it was written on his face all season. QPR were relegated and I don’t think Redknapp will be there long.
Nigel Adkins was ousted out at St Mary’s and replaced by Mauricio Pochettino – a man who cannot speak a word of English. I guess in the world of football people speak with their feet and verbal communication is just so overrated. Brian McDermott left Reading and he was replaced by…yes you’ve guessed it Nigel Adkins. I’m surprised Hughes didn’t get both jobs to be honest. I don’t care if you put Alex Ferguson in charge or Southampton and Pep Guardiola in charge of Reading. They don’t win matches because they are shit and it has nothing to do with the abilities of their manager.
Roberto Mancini was another player to leave. Yet another victim of the big boys mentality that Manchester City now believe they own with there billions. His much publicized spats with Mario Balotelli not helping his cause. Quite possibly one the most ordinary players I have ever seen in my life was shipped off to AC Milan for multi millions. I’ll give him a season and he will upset someone before earning another couple of million at another club stupid enough to hire a player who wouldn’t look out of place on the pitches of the Sunday League.
The biggest story of the season was the announcement that Sir Alex Ferguson would retire after 27-years at Manchester United. The United fans started to worry that the dynasty had ended. Who would come in to replace the great man? Please don’t let it be a foreign coach, please make sure he speaks English, please not Mark Hughes! Fortunately, United got David Moyes. A man who seems to be cut out of the same granite that Ferguson was. The United fans can rest easier. Sure Moyes has never won anything, but United are not Reading or Southampton. United aren’t shit and luckily for Moyes his opposition are. Nope…Moyes will do just fine.
One man who was touted for the United job when Ferguson first announced his retirement, several seasons ago, also found himself on the dole. Martin O’Neill given his marching orders at Sunderland and his replacement turned out to be the fascist Paulo Di Canio. I guess that minor note escaped his CV. Who can forget the hilarious video that PaddyPower released during the height of the uproar caused by the appointment of the man from Italy. That left Tony Pulis to leave Stoke by mutual consent, which really means he was sacked. Pulis is a man who has worked miracles at Stoke and it’s another decision that baffles me.
Swansea City shone under the leadership of Michael Laudrup. The Welsh outfit capped a wonderful season by winning the Capital Cup against Bradford City. The Swans will be joined in the top flight next season by their archrivals Cardiff City. It’s great news for the Welsh, let’s just hope they can contain their excitement and make the derby matches something the kids can enjoy and not the thugs that have blighted this match in recent years.
The FA Cup went the way of Wigan Athletic. Roberto Martinez’ side outclassing a below par Manchester City in an excellent David v Goliath clash. A last minute header from super sub Ben Watson reminiscent of the Lawrie Sanchez header that secured FA Cup victory for the Crazy Gang back in 1988 when Wimbledon beat Liverpool. Then just a few days later Wigan are hammered by Arsenal and are relegated.
Robin Van Persie took the golden boot. The Manchester United forward managed to evade injuring himself for an entire season to finally show the world what he can do when fit, fresh and fancy free. Van Persie managed 26 Premier League goals, Luis Suarez scored 23 for Liverpool, Gareth Bale scored 21 for Spurs, Theo Wallcott bagged 14 for Arsenal and Juan Mata pitched in with 12 over at the Bridge.
Any chance Suarez had of winning the golden boot evaporated when he sunk his teeth into the juicy arm of Branislav Ivanovic. The Uruguayan received a 10-match ban for biting an opponent for the second time in his career. Suarez and Liverpool said it was unfair. Quite a contrast when compared to the 11-week ban just dished out to the England rugby star Dylan Hartley for allegedly swearing at the referee and calling him a cheat. Get a grip Liverpool. The Premiership could learn a think or two from the orange colored, big-armed egg chasers.
Gareth Bale made sure everyone knew he was more Harrods than Lidl by becoming only the second player to take the PFA Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year and the Football Writers Player of the Year in the same season. But despite Bale scoring more goal of the season nominations that Matt Le Tissier, Tottenham came away with sweet FA for their troubles and that’s one big reason why you won’t see Bale at White Hart Lane come next season.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the only other player to hold the trio of titles that Bale now has on his Mum’s mantelpiece. He achieved the feat whilst playing for Man United back in 2006/07 and it was Ronaldo who put an end to United’s European dreams…or was it referee Cuneyt Cakir? The referee sending off Nani in an incredulous decision that saw Real Madrid send United packing in the quarterfinals. Bayern Munich did likewise at The Emirates and the semi-finals of the premier European trophy were devoid of English talent for the first time in three-years.
Wayne Rooney started that game on the bench and he would eventually ask for a transfer from the club he joined as a youngster from Everton back in 2004. It remains to be seen whether his former boss David Moyes can persuade him to change his mind and remain at Old Trafford?
Once again the Premier League was the place to be when it came to shelling out the big bucks for foreign talent. Eden Hazard joined Chelsea from Lille for £32m, Oscar followed him from Inter for £25m, RVP made the move from Arsenal to Man Utd for £22m, Arsenal eventually spent some money with a £16m move for Santi Cazorla from Malaga and Javi Garcia joined Man City from Benfica for £16m.
Players heading out of the Premiership included Jamie Carragher who retired at Liverpool, Paul Scholes retiring for the second time at United, Michael Own retiring at Stoke and Phil Neville retiring to join David Moyes at his old club United.
So no Sir Alex Ferguson next year, but we do welcome back the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho, who will begin his second spell under Roman Abramovich. Let’s just hope he wins the Premier League, FA Cup, Capital One Cup, Champions League, Europa Cup and the Beach Volleyball championships otherwise he will be out on his arse – and who would replace him then?
Well Mark Hughes of course.