So that’s it. The curtain has fallen on another season in English football and what a season it has been too! We’ve seen Manchester United look as though they would win every conceivable trophy and yet their season ends with ultimate disappointment. Liverpool’s recent form was the stuff of champions but in a campaign that looked to be promising so much, they ended up winning nothing.
In one of the most intriguing relegation battles ever witnessed it was heartache for West Brom and Middlesbrough and Alan Shearer failed to create the fairytale dreamed up in Geordie land as trips to Scunthorpe and Peterborough await the three relegated clubs.
To summarise it’s fair to say that over the past ten months we’ve witnessed both the exceptionally good and the terribly bad but there’s certainly never been a dull moment in England’s top flight. So as the Premier League wave’s goodbye to leave us in a state of depression, here’s a look back at some of the highlights of the season in England.
After a summer full of transfer speculation, Ronaldo stayed while Robbie Keane swapped White Hart Lane for Anfield. Throughout August it had looked rather ominous that Gareth Barry would be joining Keane at Liverpool, although in true Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Cristiano Ronaldo Kyle Lafferty fashion, the deal eventually fell flat on its face.
Meanwhile there was actually some football played in August too would you believe with Chelsea on top of the pile at the end of the month and looking every bit potential Premier League winners under Luiz Felipe Scolari.
After a steady if not overly impressive start to the defence of their title, Manchester United lost out to Zenit St. Petersburg in the European Super Cup in Monaco and Stoke revealed their secret weapon for the season – and no I’m not referring to the signing of Dave Kitson.
The transfer window should always close on 31st August right? Well Richard Scudamore obviously forgot to slam it shut when he went to bed that Monday night and look what managed to sneak in the following day.
The footballing world was in a state of shock as Man City suddenly became mega rich and it was party time for their fans as Robinho signed for the club, yes that’s Manchester City Rob, not Chelsea, for £32 million. Elsewhere, well just next door in fact, Sir Alex did his fair share of last minute window shopping too as sulky silky striker Dimitar Berbatov eventually got his ‘dream’ move.
Alan Curbishley and Kevin Keegan were the first manager’s to walk away from the Premier League with Gianfranco Zola (along with Steve Clarke) stepping in at West Ham and Joe Kinnear arriving at Newcastle with a for sale sign visibly on display outside St James’ Park.
There was plenty of clowning around at Sunderland with Roy Keane at the forefront while Tottenham were sliding into disarray. Further north Manchester United were six points off the pace down in the deepest, darkest doldrums of…eleventh place and Hull pulled off a truly remarkable feat by beating Arsenal at the Emirates.
When Harry met Sally Levy and consequently left Pompey things finally started to look up for Spurs. Bentley scored this goal and Zaki scored that goal, a marvellous strike that would incidentally induce the Wigan man into many Fantasy teams across the country.
October also saw the now rather infamous Joe Kinnear rant. As if you need reminding, the then Newcastle boss swore at a group of assembled journalists an amazing 52 times! F*** me, indeed!
Back to matters on the pitch and Liverpool were looking every bit serious title challengers with four straight wins. Among them was a victory over Chelsea that brought to an end the Blues 86 game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge. Benitez clearly meant business.
November instigated all that chat about Arsenal’s young guns and how they may just go on to achieve world domination…well sort of. Although a 3-0 victory over an experienced Wigan side in the Carling Cup certainly made everyone stand up and take notice.
Manchester United would lose ground in their pursuit of the title by slipping up at Arsenal although it wasn’t so rosy for the Gunners a couple of weeks later as Aston Villa showed their credentials for a top four finish with a surprise 2-0 victory at the Emirates.
Elsewhere remember I mentioned Scudamore’s window antics earlier? Well it’s lucky FA headquarters isn’t based in Merseyside or the transfer situation could have got a whole lot worse as yet another Liverpool player’s home was burgled.
Oh and have I mentioned Heurelho Gomes yet? Well another gift-wrapped Gomes gaffe afforded Fulham a win against Spurs at Craven Cottage, bringing an end to Harry Redknapp’s honeymoon period at the club.
You wouldn’t believe what the talk of this month was! Well rather than lauding fantastic strikes or enthralling finales the press seemed to be more concerned with a certain Roy Keane and his facial hair to be exact.
And Keane was to be in the headlines once again later in the month as he resigned from beleaguered Sunderland with Paul Ince not far behind him in the queue at the doll office. Ricky Sbragia and Sam Allardyce would be announced as their respective replacements charged with the job of staving off the threat of relegation.
December should be a time for festive cheer although try telling that to Andy Griffin and Ricardo Fuller. Yet despite probably not being on each other’s Christmas card list on this occasion, who knows, they may just exchange a present or two next year.
How can I possibly move onto January without mentioning that half-time team talk. Was Brown inspired? Outrageous? Outright stupid? I’ll let you decide on that one.
In other news Manchester United travelled to Japan to compete for the FIFA World Club Cup, a tournament they would end up winning by beating Ecuadorian’s Liga de Quito (yeah them) 1-0 in the final. Question marks surrounded United’s ability to cope with the ensuing fixture pile-up and Cesc Fabregas took his place on the long-term casualty list at Arsenal.
Ah January. The month when the transfer window reopens, excitement grows and anticipation builds. It was certainly made all the more interesting with Man City’s millions as the club fervently pursued AC Milan’s Kaka, the Brazilian eventually opting to shun ADUG’s pile of money bottle it. With the biggest names in world football linked with a possible move to Eastlands, Mark Hughes finally plunged into the market to announce the signing of proverbial world beater…Wayne Bridge.
Charles Insomnia, I mean N’Zogbia, became so riled at Joe Kinnear’s misinterpretation of his name that he eventually decided to jump ship and join Steve Bruce’s Wigan and amongst some of the other big-name January February signings, Arsenal finally managed to land Andrei Arshavin while Robbie Keane rejoined Spurs.
Back to matters on the pitch and Liverpool would lose their grip on the title as they failed to win a league match in the New Year allowing Manchester United to gain a three point lead at the top. Following United’s 5-0 victory over West Brom, Edwin van der Sar broke Petr Cech’s shut-out record with 11 successive clean sheets – a run he would extend to an extraordinary 14 matches.
January would also see Harry Redknapp proclaim his wife is better than Darren Bent, Cristiano Ronaldo winning the World Player of the Year award and a certain Rafa Benitez went on a rant too.
February would signal the end of ‘Big Phil’ Scolari’s reign at Chelsea. Gene Hackman’s body double just couldn’t cut it in the Premier League and was quickly replaced by one of Roman Abramovich’s Russian mates.
While Liverpool continued to stutter in the title race it was full steam ahead for Manchester United and Ryan Giggs continued his quite remarkable record of having scored in every season of the Premier League since its 1992 inception.
After months of rehabilitation and recovery, February also brought about the emotional return of Arsenal striker Eduardo, 51 weeks after that Martin Taylor horror tackle. On the international stage David Beckham picked up his record equalling 108th England cap with the national side being taught a footballing lesson by Euro 2008 winners Spain in the process.
At the beginning of March Manchester United picked up their second piece silverware (or third depending on how you look at it) with the Carling Cup and all the talk was centred around a truly unprecedented quintuple charge. Although in an efficient performance of real potency, Liverpool upset the applecart at Old Trafford and crushed United 4-1 to reignite their title aspirations.
Aston Villa’s flailing hopes of grabbing that precious fourth Champions League spot were dealt another hammer blow by Tottenham to make it seven without a win and a settlement in the Carlos Tevez affair was finally reached.
In Europe the English clubs were undoubtedly starting to get right up Platini’s nose as Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Elsewhere in March Wayne Rooney decided to pick a fight with one of Tim Cahill’s age-old adversaries and there was the alleged Fabregas/Horton spitting spat too.
In a considerably eventful month of April Alan Shearer dominated the headlines as he returned to Newcastle as manager to replace Joe Kinnear with all April fools conspiracies eventually put to bed.
A star was born in Federico Macheda, the young Italian announcing himself to the world with a cameo performance against Aston Villa to grab all three-points for the champions and put them back on the title trail.
Speaking about United that Carlos Tevez does get about a bit doesn’t he. The Argentine striker found himself splashed all over the back pages once again as question marks over his future at Old Trafford began to surface. While in one of the games of the Premier League season Andrei Arshavin grabbed four goals as Arsenal and Liverpool played out a thriller at Anfield. Woeful defending or not, this match proved exactly why we adore this league so much.
A much maligned PFA Player of the Year award was handed to Ryan Giggs and a valiant Manchester City bowed out of the UEFA Cup at the quarter-final stage. In the Champions League Chelsea came out on top against Liverpool while Arsenal and Manchester United booked their place in the semi-finals.
And so it came down to the final month of the season. The battle to avoid the drop just as intense as Liverpool’s pursuit of Manchester United the media furore surrounding Susan Boyle and relegation still loomed large for some seven clubs.
Although before we discuss the last day of the Premier League campaign let’s give it up for Steven Gerrard who picked up the Football Writers Player of the Year while Joey Barton set himself up for a fundamentally bleak future in football with his latest display of hot-headedness.
On the penultimate weekend of the season Manchester United could celebrate their 18th top flight title despite only drawing with Arsenal so it all boiled down to relegation issues on ‘Survival Sunday’. While West Brom were already down much was made of Sir Alex Ferguson fielding a weakened team against Hull but the kids did alright and it would be Middlesbrough and Newcastle who would go down without as much as a whimper.
In the Champions League there was controversy all over the place at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United brushed Arsenal aside to meet Barcelona in the ultimate final in Rome. Although it was not to be for Ferguson’s side and the Catalans, inspired by the brilliance of Iniesta and Xavi proved too strong for United at the Stadio Olympico.
The FA Cup would pit Chelsea against Everton with the Merseyside club appearing in their first FA Cup final in some 14 years. In the sweltering heat of Wembley Stadium despite Louis Saha’s record-breaking 25th second strike, Chelsea asserted their supremacy on the match and Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard ensured the trophy would be heading to West London.