Sunday, December 24, 2006

A fitting finish to a fabulous 2006

There’s a story about Sir Alex Ferguson and the Christmas season. Managers always seem to moan about the heavy fixtures during the year end (I think 4 matches in 8 days was the average over the past few years), and Fergie is certainly no different in this respect.

What is nice to note is that over the past 20 years he’s put himself under the same restrictions he imposes on his squad, particularly so over the Yuletide season where gaiety and merry-making seem to be top-priority for so many citizens of the world, with the exception of Premiership players.

Rumor has it that Fergie espouses an even tighter rein on players during this season – a bit of turkey, perhaps an extra slice of pie, but absolutely no wine or alcohol of any sort. None for the players, and none for Fergie.

A trivial point perhaps, but yet further proof of why he’s perhaps the most successful football manager Britain has ever seen.

Add another new salute to the growing list of accolades if you wish: 2,000 goals over 20 seasons (Cristiano Ronaldo’s first recorded against Aston Villa a few hours ago); an average of 100 goals a season, and an altogether excellent record!

It's a good thing when he's smiling more often than he's frothing at the mouth

And what an excellent year 2006 has been, for football, the fans of the game, and of course for my beloved Manchester United. Here are some of my observations on the year:

Time of the Year
Certainly between June 9th and July 10th, 2006, during which Germany hosted an amazing World Cup. It certainly started with aplomb, peaked earlier than necessary, and somehow lost steam in the latter stages of the tournament. But what a time it was.

Hope of the Year
The splendid Zinedine Zidane, and the slow but sure awakening of Les Blues. Zidane and the other ‘venerables’ (Thuram, Makelele and Barthez) cajoled, prodded and pushed on an otherwise uninterested French team and their uninspired manager to the heights of glory, reaching the Finals in some style. That it was to be Zidane's final football match ever was even more remarkable.

Tragedy of the Year
That damned headbutt! Paradoxically, and against all reasoning and romanticism, Zidane’s last physical action on the green was to be the one that sent him packing in shame. It is sickeningly sad that the memory of Horacio Elizondo brandishing the red card, and of Zizou walking desolately to the dressing room will forever live on in infamy whenever this World Cup is recalled.

Au revoir, Zizou
Comedy of the Year
Sven Goran Erickson, David Beckham, the hoopla over Rooney’s metatarsal, WAGs, and the farce of the English hope in Germany. Too much has already been said about this. Way too much!

Underachievement of the Year
Jose Pekerman and his prodigious Argentine team. Their swashbuckling football, a delicate mixture of aristocracy and artistry, should have brought them further than their eventual exit. A quarterfinal loss, even on penalties, was no way for this brand of football to fade out.

Revelation of the Year
My beloved Manchester United. How wrong I was time and time again. And how glad I am to admit they’re certainly as good as they are painted to be.

Ronaldo has gotten with the programme. Vidic is the rock we so badly needed for so many seasons, and with Ferdinand, Heinze, Evra, Neville and van der Sar in the form that they’re in, Man Utd are certainly doing the business on the pitch.

It’s more heartening personally to see the likes of Scholes, Giggs and Solksjaer in the fine form that they’re in. The old guard is not facing as quickly as many thought they would.

If they keep it going, we’ve got a good second half of the season to look forward to.

Departure of the Year
There are a few here: Michael Schumacher after a glittering career in Formula 1, where he’s set almost every record worth noting. Zinedine Zidane’s infamous exit from a glorious career in football. And Andre Agassi’s farewell to tennis.

Saddest of all is the passing of the irrepressible Crocodile Hunter. Rest in peace, Steve – crikey, it’s been good!

Goal of the Year
I have to say, clearly and without question, this has to be Esteban Cambiasso’s goal vs. Serbia & Montenegro in the group stages. 24 passes, exquisite touches, patience, flair, invention, guile, team-work, and a perfect finish. It was the perfect goal, and one to put alongside Diego Maradona’s stunner against England in 1986. Have a drool at it once again, here.

"They'll be playing this in training manuals all over the world"

A few hours ago I would have been tempted to name Didier Drogba’s goal vs. Everton as the 2nd best strike of the year, but then I watched Paul Scholes stun the Villa Park crowd and those of us watching at home with that fine, orgasmic volley. This is my choice for number 2. It was so good, I had to mention it.

Joy of the Year
There are quite a few to choose from. The absence of Sven Goran Erickson in our sports pages. A month of great football, where I hardly had a sorrowful word from the missus, who as a bonus also joined in the fun and excitement for a few choice matches (bless her!). Fernando Alonso edging Schumacher to his second title, when it seemed - at a point - that the German just might nick that eighth title. A fit again Maradona enthusiastically cheering his country-men on in Germany.

But for me, it certainly has to be the sight of Manchester United sitting deservedly at the top of the Premiership on Christmas. Something achieved out of hard work, industry, and in the face of an increasingly tougher adversary.

Run, Ronnie... Run!

The magic of Christmas never fades after all, I suppose.

God bless Alex Ferguson. God bless Zinedine Zidane. God bless Manchester United. God bless us all.

Happy Christmas, everybody!


Mong said...

Welcome back Keropok!!!!! Nice list, how come got no Match of the Year???? :)

Merry Christmas to you too, my man. Peace on earth!!!!!

Jemima said...

This well-written reflective post maybe about football & sports personalities.. but if I were to use your sub-topics & substitute the subjects with myself & what I have encountered in my daily life in 2006.. although they have nothing to do with sports.. I'm able to.. hehe

I've missed you very much.
Hope you don't leave the blogoshere for too long.. again.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Take care & HUGS!

metria said...

Merry Xmas Keropok!!

Did you get my present yet?

lilyliverbird said...

Nice one. I guess Zidane was my biggest disappointment. I so want him to retire in glory.

My personal tragedy would be when the lil one rolled over.

Merry Christmas Keropok. Hope you have a jolly one.

Kenny Ng said...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year~~~

spiller said...

my goal of the year, for EPL, would be Matt Taylor's awesome strike in Portsmouth's win against Everton.

check it out here:

Merry X'mas & Happy New Year bro!

Dame RoSse said...

dear keropok,

Merry Christmas to you!!!
Happy New Year.

kickciggys said...

a brilliant sum-up of the year...

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year bro!!

anjali* said...

Yeah. God bless Zinedine Zidane. He's the sexiest baldie alive.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2007, dude!

Ariel said...

I'm 2 days late but what the heck...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! :-)

visithra said...

nice summary to the year ;)

a belated christmas wish and an advanced new years wish ;)

hope you have a wonderful time and a blessed year ahead;)

Gallivanter said...

Well written...Happy New Year mate!

Keropok said...

Merry Christmas, folks... and thanks for all the cheese!

Mong, no Match of the Year because there have been many good ones. And I can't remember.

Jemima, will try to be as active in 2007. Key word is 'try'.

Metria, what present? I received NOTHING, which isn't suprising since you gave it to me :)

Lily, I bet you prefer he rolled over after something else, eh ;)

Keropok said...

Kenny, Dame RoSse, Ariel, Visithra... thanks and the same to you too. All the best for 2007!

Spiller, Taylors goal was good. Drogba's vs. Everton too. Frighteningly good!

KickCiggys, come by for some good scotch soon, mate.

Gallivanter, hope you're anjoying the holidays. We should meet up soon.

Keropok said...

Anjali, bald men are the coolest. We've got no hang-ups about anything. And we're aerodynamic too!

Mr D said...

To you and your family all the best for 07. For your team, all the worst :-P hahaha....

I also have to say that baldies rule!! Ask Metria!!

Metria said...

Keropok, I sent you a very nice present courtesy of Optus prepaid.

By the way, you don't qualify as a baldie just yet!

Jemima said...

I’m back to wish you a Happy New Year, my friend.

May 2007 brings us good health, happiness & peace.

Take care always & God Bless.

Keropok said...

Mr D, Metria, a happy New Year to you both. I hope next year we'll be wishing the THREE of you. The Year of the Pig is supposed to be rich, fertile and very prosperous.

Jemima, all the best to you too, my friend. Enjoy 2007!

Keropok said...

Super Ronnie goes ballistic, Chelsea are atrocious

Remember that supercali-something-something-expialidocious, from Mary Poppins?

Well, I got new lyrics for it (see header above). What a performance by my beloved Manchester United, and Christiano Ronaldo.

And what horrendous defending from Chelsea. Long may it continue.

John Terry, we thank you!

Happy New Year, everybody!

A Shabby Singh said...

Happy New Year Keropok. This is a good list. Flop of the year - Shevchenko? Ballack? Bechkam???

Freak & Geek said...

hope it's not too late to wish u happy new year!

stay horny..errkk.. i mean notty as always!

sic6sense said...

hello, its 2007 already. :D

Metria said...

Half of Jan 2007 is almost gone - wasn't that fast?

Why no updates?