Our hopes for 2013 ~ part 1
From some WSC contributors
Oddly, for the Premier League to continue down the road of unpredictability that the top teams have been kind enough to experiment with in recent weeks. Granted, you can still make a good stab at where the upsets will come but it's been quite refreshing to see the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea not just produce win after win. I've no doubt that come May the table will look exactly the same as every other year but for the time being I'm enjoying looking forward to the highlights on a Saturday night.
That Twitter sets up some sort of filter to prevent professional footballers' outpourings from ever reaching the public eye. Footballers have their own floors in hotels, their curtained-off areas in planes and their VIP lounges in nightclubs, so they don't have to put up with the general public spouting ill-informed shite at them in their spare time. It can't be all that difficult to make sure We have similar respite from Them as well.
I have two hopes for next year if that's not greedy. My first is that assistant referees show more flexibility on the offside rule and only flag when a player is clearly offside, rather than waving their flag at a hair's-breadth infringement solely in order to reconnect themselves to the game after a long period of inactivity. My second is that Roman Abramovich suddenly tires of football and tosses his ownership of Chelsea aside like a cracked bauble. Overnight, the job of football manager would gain something in terms of security on a worldwide basis. I hope he suddenly becomes interested in something else and buys up all the stuff for that – possibly country music radio stations or Skylanders. He's just gained control of the world's biggest nickel mine so maybe he could hire Coldplay for a year-long residency. Is that three hopes?
That something is done about the Europa League. Expanding the Champions League even more would create sporting dyspepsia on a European scale, so why not make it a straight knockout with no seeds?
While much of the focus is on the damage Sky has done to football, clubs continue to miss a trick when it comes to the great opportunity that TV revenue provides. Gate receipts are no longer the lifeblood for Premier League clubs. So why not reward supporters? Would a club like Wigan really suffer in the long-term if they made season tickets dirt cheap or, dare I utter it, free for children? Or would a generation of young fans become hooked on the club for life and be prepared to dip their hand in their pocket when the lean times inevitably come? I hope against hope that clubs wake up to these possibilities in 2013.
The Scottish FA to employ a manager that doesn't try to win games by boring the opposition – and fans – to death. After the negative tactics of Craig Levein and his revolutionary 4-6-0 formation, it would be nice to see some exciting, attacking football from the boys in blue.
In November my "other" team Turbine Potsdam made an early exit from the Women's Champions League against Arsenal Ladies. The Gunners' 6-4 aggregate win was both unexpected and thoroughly deserved. My hope for 2013 is that they seize this opportunity to raise the profile of the women's game by reaching the final which will be played as Stamford Bridge and that, in this event, the media finally stop ignoring women's football. The women's game has progressed enormously in recent years both in terms of fitness and skill levels and it is time for the nation's football correspondents to take off their Premier League-tinted specs and see for themselves.
That the recent Marouane Fellaini/Ryan Shawcross coming together and David Moyes's reaction to the events might act as a tipping point. No one should try to justify Fellaini's behaviour and Shawcross's conduct provides neither an excuse or legitimacy. But the defender did illustrate the cause of the frustration that found such brutal and unjustifiable expression in Fellaini's actions. My hope is that clubs, referees and players will combine to remove the ugly shenanigans of pulling, pushing, blocking and other cheating seen at every corner kick in every match. And, of course, managers own up when their own players are guilty.
Fox Soccer pundit Warren Barton wakes up on New Year's Day with a strange feeling. Oh no, Warren's lost his voice! Worse still, it's a one-off, long-term malady that doctors can neither diagnose nor cure. He is advised to quit television work immediately. A shaman tells him that his voice will only return if he stays away from television studios for the rest of his life. Warren has no choice but to follow the advice and the football world becomes a slightly better place.
The defeat in Russia and draw at home to Northern Ireland in October have put Portuguese qualification for the 2014 World Cup in jeopardy. The hope is that the Selecção can pull their fingers out and clinch at least a play-off place in Group F, behind likely winners Russia. Portugal haven't missed a major tournament since the France 98. It would be doubly disappointing not to be at a party hosted by their Brazilian brothers.
A return to bulging nets. They are becoming a thing of the past, especially when goals are scored from close range. This is because nets no longer seem to be pegged down. I've seen games delayed for less at grassroots level but the back of the net rarely bulges at the Etihad Stadium when a goal is scored. Instead, it rises a good few inches above the ground. The problem could be solved by tent pegs, so Roberto Mancini need only send David Platt down to Millets.
On the subject...