THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

From some WSC contributors

icon afcwimbmkdBest ~ I'm afraid it would take a quirkier character than me to provide an honest answer that looks beyond the drama of the domestic cup competitions in 2013. When Swansea City are the overwhelming favourites to end a Cinderella story in a cup final then you know the tournament has delivered. And yet, Bradford City's dramatic journey to February's League Cup final was a mere appetiser for Wigan Athletic's Wembley heroics in May. As moments go, Ben Watson's stoppage-time winner after coming off the bench with ten minutes remaining was about as good as it gets.

Worst ~ Wolves becoming the first team in a generation to suffer back-to-back relegations from the top two divisions of English football. The scale of incompetence is a tale too tedious to recount fully here but matters reached their nadir in the spring with Molineux riots and the symbolic image of Roger Johnson unable to give his shirt away to the fans. In truth, there was something incongruous about Wolves establishing themselves in the Premier League as the city was so gripped by recession. The subsequent decline of both club and city, the two more intertwined than most, felt rather more fitting. Adam Bate

Best ~ When Mark Robins left Coventry City in February, I idly hoped for the appointment of Zdenek Zeman, believing that a suicidal commitment to attacking football would lighten some of the gloom around the club. Across three games in August, Coventry City scored 13 goals and conceded eight, suggesting Steven Pressley was a more than satisfactory replacement.

Worst ~ The return of José Mourinho to the Premier League; his self-regarding grandstanding, egged on by a popular media which regularly confuses narcissism with charisma, is grindingly predictable and almost impossible to avoid. Ed Wilson

Best ~ While on honeymoon, my wife and I accidentally got caught up in the procession to mark Nice's last game at the Stade du Ray. Even as a regular at games across the UK and Europe, I've never quite experienced anything quite like the atmosphere on that French street on a late summer's afternoon, as for half an hour fans streamed past us with flares, banners and non-stop singing. Ben Watson's winner for Wigan in the FA Cup comes a very close second - I've never seen a pub move from disinterest to willing on a Wigan victory in such a short space of time.

Worst ~ With Exeter City swatting aside Bradford 4-1 and sitting eight points clear in the play-offs, I'd already started mentally booking out days for the play-off semis. What followed was a spectacular collapse that even the England cricket team might consider poor, as we scored just one more point over the whole season, each match more depressing than the last. Gary Andrews

Best ~ The domino effect of Alex Ferguson retiring appears to have galvanised all the teams in the Premier League into thinking that they can win any match, no matter who the opponents are. The frightful braying from many armchair Manchester United fans calling for David Moyes's dismissal would be comic if they didn't have the same sense of entitlement as 1980s Young Conservatives. On a personal level, Luton Town's infamously chunky centre-half Steve McNulty suddenly turning into Luis Suárez to lash home a 30-yard volley in a 3-0 win over Southport convinced me that, finally, this could be the season we get back into the League. Luton's Twitter feed showed McNulty's shot being aired on various European "Goal of the week" montages, though none taught me the Spanish for "tight-shirted".

Worst ~ The sheer mundanity of the match-fixing scandal – results allegedly being thrown at Conference South level was depressing, but hearing Sam Sodje claim Premier League players could be bribed over bookings, throw-ins and the like was just farcical. Who can actually justify spot bets on the time of the first throw-in? By the power of Ray Winstone's spinning charmlessness, surely the bookies can see that if they publicise such first-fly-down-a-window trivialities, they're going to end up susceptible to rigging. Also, the banal state of Match of the Day is now at breaking point, typified by Gary Lineker claiming it's more of a family entertainment show than a serious football vehicle. Because, of course, football is such a minority sport that it needs to bring in fresh legions of armchair fans. John Earls

Best ~ When Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor and his St Mirren counterpart Stewart Gilmour vetoed a horribly convoluted new League structure that Scottish football fans didn't want; with the SPL and SFL subsequently merging to become the SPFL, and finally agreeing to implement play-offs for promotion into their leagues, from the Highland League and the new Lowland League.

Worst ~ The new SPFL renaming its divisions the Premiership, the Championship, League One and League Two. Merging two league bodies is a perfect opportunity to reintroduce common sense into division names, but copying the English system indicates that the SPFL thinks that the success of League football south of the border is due to, rather than in spite of, the ludicrously illogical names of its divisions. Mark Poole

Best ~ David Moyes's Goodison Park farewell was a rare thing in football: a dignified, classy send-off for a departing manager who, whatever the revisionists are now saying, deserves great credit for reviving an ailing club. That said, Roberto Martínez's impact since replacing him has stripped bare the notion that Moyes was somehow bigger than "overachieving" Everton. The sight of three Southampton players in an England squad was also refreshing – and something that would surely never have happened under the London-centric Sven-Göran Eriksson and Fabio Capello.

Worst ~ The spectacle of a self-indulgent Luis Suárez marking his first game at Anfield after his long ban by bringing his daughter and nine-day-old son on to the pitch with him before kick-off. Yes, he may be a very good father – and may even tell his little ones off for biting – but this was surely the "jumping the shark" moment for the modern practice of players' children appearing on the pitch. Simon Hart

Best ~ With so much madness afoot in the game overall, forgive me for taking the rare opportunity to bathe in the warm glow of my own team, Leyton Orient's, frequently wonderful football in 2013. The highpoint of which has to be standing on a packed away end at Griffin Park in September and seeing Shaun Batt speed away from his marker and bury the ball in the bottom corner of the net in front of us to seal the 2-0 win over Brentford that gave us our record-breaking eighth win out of eight at the start of the season.

Worst ~ Almost everything to do with FIFA and future World Cups; the continuing regulatory ineptitude at home that allowed Coventry to be relocated from their home city and to emerge from administration in the hands of the same untrustworthy hedge fund that took them into it; the rebranding delusions at Hull and Cardiff (and, in the latter case, fans' acquiescence in same). Just another normal year, then. Tom Davies

Best ~ A contemptuous, outraged roar from Rangers fans in Ibrox's Govan Stand during Dunfermline's League One visit in November. I hadn't heard it for almost two years and it was gorgeous. It wasn't about venal directors, plummeting share prices or governing bodies. It was because we didn't get a touch-line foul, during a tough game against a big, familiar club. The lower leagues helped revive Rangers, post-liquidation. Their hospitality has been humbling but our presence there swings between freak show and cult. With the future also remaining a worry, to be wholly lost in a game again was downright Proustian.

Worst ~ Boycotting February's Scottish Cup tie at Dundee United. The Rangers support has been amazing since liquidation but this move justified the exploitative rabble-rousing of a boardroom which consistently insulted the club's name. It is nonsensical to blame anyone but Rangers for our current status. But, even as Scotland's football infrastructure was re-arranged to cope with our financial collapse, we took a hissy fit against a club with one league title in their entire history – our players duly boycotted most of the 90 minutes. Alex Anderson

Best ~ Ecuador's qualification for the World Cup. They are a close knit group and the sudden, tragic death of 27-year-old striker Christian Benítez deeply affected each and every one of them. To come back after that and secure the points they needed to qualify was a testament to their strength and resolve, and a fitting tribute to their deceased team-mate.

Worst ~ The death of 14-year old San José supporter Kevin Beltrán, struck by a flare fired by the Corinthians supporters' group Gaviões da Fiel, was a particular low point in a year marked by numerous acts of violence across South America. The continent is more economically and politically stable than it has been for some time, but the persisting division between the rich and the poor has created a disenfranchised lower class whose frustration continues to manifest itself through violence. Football is a convenient conduit. Nick Dorrington

Best ~ Wigan winning the FA Cup. One still clings to any shred of romance one can find in life (I will often be found outside nightclubs at 4am offering single red roses to any woman who appears to be less confident on her feet). Freezing the picture during pre-match interviews with Manchester City's players, there was detectable a very slight jowl wobble on the otherwise straight faces when each one tried saying anything in the nature of "It's anyone's game". City expected to win this game, just as Everton expected to win their quarter final at Goodison Park. This was one of those results that keeps the hallowed turf hallowed.

Worst ~ The active discussion of André Villas-Boas's job security after the trouncing at Manchester City and a narrow home defeat to Newcastle. Television pundits continue to express a concern for the fickleness of chairmen with their managers' employment, while routinely asking each other if one or other manager might be "feeling the pressure". Chris Hughton was asked on Match of the Day, in October, the minute that Norwich slipped into the relegation zone on goal difference, if he was "confident that he was the man to turn things round for Norwich". Regardless of the fact that pundits and the media are often right to speculate in this way - Villas-Boas went on December 17 having lost only 16 games of 80 – it is the disingenuous manner in which people such as Gary Lineker and Dan Walker broach the subject that really furs my loaf. Cameron Carter

Best ~ I've never been a great fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, but his clinical, virtually single-handed destruction of Sweden in the second leg of the World Cup play-off was out of this world. And for once we were spared his normal post-goal posturing when he disappeared under a joyous bundle of team-mates after the third goal went in.

Worst ~ Two moments, both with the insufferable Joseph Blatter as protagonist: his public dissing of Ronaldo at the Oxford Union, and his truncating of the minute's silence for Mandela at the World Cup draw. Embarrassing and illustrative. Phil Town

Best ~ It was one I witnessed as a neutral; Izet Hajrovic's spectacular winning goal for Bosnia in their September World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Zilina. Not only was it a fitting way to decide a compelling game of football, it was arguably the decisive moment in Bosnia's automatic qualification for Brazil. Their 7,000 travelling fans seemed to understand as much.

Worst ~ Wigan's relegation from the Premier League following just days after their FA Cup win. It's always sad to see the smaller, likeable clubs go down. But more depressing is the thought that more managers of clubs outside the top six or seven will adopt the belief that hanging on grimly for top-flight survival justifies not making an effort in domestic cup competitions. James Baxter

Best ~ Cesare Prandelli's Italy team taking a training session at Nuova Quarto Calcio per la Legalità's stadium, ahead of the friendly with France in Naples. Nuova Quarto is the anti-camorra club, set up in an area of the city badly blighted by organised crime. They've had to put up with intimidation, vandalism and theft, but last summer celebrated promotion to the regional Eccellenza leagues. Next stop, Serie D.

Worst ~ Racism continues to mar Italian football. I could pick out a few examples, some from recent weeks. However, the abuse directed at Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng during a game between Milan and Roma on a miserable evening at San Siro last May sticks in the mind. The authorities' attempts to deal with the problem are proving a painful process, as we all knew they would, while the addition of new laws concerning "territorial discrimination", well-intentioned as they are, threaten to sidetrack the debate down a blind alley. Matthew Barker

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