Massed ranks of WSC writers and interviewees reflect on the best and worst of 2000

Jim Rosenthal
– Premier League highlights acquired by ITV
– Cardiff losing at Gillingham to ensure Oxford United avoid relegation
– Playing for the Cookham Dean Parents against 12-year-old son Tom (lost 8-7)

– Hearing the country I had backed to win Euro 2000 (Italy) had lost in the final in extra time. They were still leading with two minutes to go when I boarded a flight home after the French grand prix.
– Oxford United’s owner Firoz Kassam telling the fans after the Luton game to “piss off” unless they gave him their support. The club’s “saviour” is taking us into the fast lane out of the League.
– Sitting in the stadiums of Florence, Rome and Turin and hearing the racist abuse directed at black players of Manchester United, Arsenal and England

Hope for 2001
– It stops raining and English clubs go all the way in the Champions League.

Simon Inglis
– Paul Merson staying at Villa after all those worrisome wantaway stories during the summer silly season. I think I’ve fallen a little bit in love with the Merse (which is why I can really understand why it so hurts for Spurs fans to see Ginola in a Villa shirt).
– Stanley C and Benito C departing Villa after weeks of desperately dull speculation. Score 20 goals a season and then make demands. Not the other way around.
– Ipswich and Charlton in the Premiership. Shows that community spirit and good management can still give those pesky fat cats a good run for their money.

– FA Cup final day; bad enough to lose, bad enough to lose to Chelsea, bad enough to lose to Chelsea in a piss-poor match; but that business afterwards with Dennis Wise and his baby, well that just about topped it off (I wish no harm on the child himself, naturally).
– England v Germany, the last match at Wembley. Got drenched being interviewed by BBC on gantry 100ft in the air. England then laughable, but still more impressive than the fireworks display after the match. As farewell parties go, a squib immersed in a barrel of water sitting on the bed of the ocean could not have been damper.
– The demolition of the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park. Most disappointments in football pass quickly. This, however, marked the genuine end of an era for many Villa fans. The old place will never be the same again.

Hope for 2001
– That ITV will surprise us all and spawn a worthy, watchable successor to Match of the Day.

Phil Ball
– Atlético Madrid’s relegation to the Spanish Second Division. Jesús Gil’s face on the final day belongs in the Prado, alongside the best of Goya’s portraits.
– Alan Buckley’s long overdue departure from Grimsby. Pretty football, crawling down cul-de-sacs. Hard towns need a bit of blood and thunder.
– Figo’s defection to Madrid. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Barcelona. Maybe it’s not the centre of the universe after all?

– Van Gaal’s departure from Barcelona. No more Sunday night gems from the “poisonous one”, spoken in an accent that defied all phonetic theory.
– Watching England’s limp performance against Germany in a Spanish bar. Irony and cynicism aside, the scenes at the end were genuinely hard to take for anyone remotely connected with the game in England. To cap it all, I was sitting with a German, though he did buy me a drink.
– Jack Lester’s departure from a hard-up Grimsby Town to Nottingham Forest for a paltry £300,000.

Hope for 2001
– Man Utd put out a full squad for their third round FA Cup tie and get stuffed by some Third Division outfit.

Gary Oliver
– Livingston 0 Raith Rovers 4 on September 16. The best result and performance by a Raith team for years (but see below).
– Celtic’s travails under former director of golf Kenny Dalglish, who can no longer fool even some of the people all of the time.
– The amazing odds of 10-3 offered for Romania to beat England. My thanks to both William Hill and Phil Neville.

– Within a fortnight, Livingston had signed Rovers’ three star performers. For a pittance.
– Ex-Ranger Derek Johnstone as the new host of Football First, Scottish Television’s Sunday round-up of First Division goals. Not only ignorant of his subject, Derek is so wooden he ought to be inspected for termites.
– Players involving their children in trophy presentations and laps of honour. I’m running out of sick bags.

Hope for 2001
– That in May the team which finishes bottom of the SPL should suffer the rightful consequence of its ineptitude and be relegated. Unfortunately, that almost certainly depends on the dreaded Livingston, with their SPL-compliant stadium, becoming First Division champions…

Simon Kuper
– The retirement of that “great servant to his country”, Alan Shearer, from the England team. It’s a tribute to his political clout and nastiness that he sometimes managed to keep Michael Owen out of the side. Now we won’t have to listen to commentators going gooey every time the “England skipper” heroically nets a penalty or scores a hat-trick against Luxembourg.
– The appointment of a foreigner as England manager. Any foreigner. This country is changing.
– Holland 6 Yugoslavia 1.

– Everything to do with England at Euro 2000.
– Staging a big football tournament mostly in Holland. Dutch officials are charmless and unbending but think they are perfect. This made life trying for fans, not to mention the Italian television crew beaten up by Dutch stewards at the final.
– Reports on David Beckham’s life. He’s a footballer, actually.

Hope for 2001
– To wake up one morning and find the old European Cup has come back.

Stephen Wagg
– Leicester coming off the top of the Premiership in October. It’s better to travel in hope than to arrive. Top of the league is for big, boorish corporations.
– Paul Scholes’s goal against Panathinaikos. As an institution Manchester United are abominable, but it was an inspired goal from a wonderful move.
– Charlton back in the Premiership, with no big-bucks backers or signings and a manager who talks sense.

– Losing Match of the Day. Lineker and Hansen know the game and Gary has a gentle dry wit. The worst part was Adam Crozier’s announcement of it – the voice of early 21st century corporate deceit.
– The churlish behaviour of leading managers. Arsène Wenger was more than matched by the gum-chewing gracelessness of Alex Ferguson and an increasingly grumpy Gérard Houllier.
– The despicably snide comments in the football press about mental distress, particularly in relation to Stan Collymore. The idea that people earning above a certain income are not entitled to be depressed is cruel nonsense.

Hope for 2001
– Peter Ridsdale says paying £18 million for Rio Ferdinand shows Leeds have “ambition”. I hope a more sensible interpretation of the word “ambition” can be found.

Patrick Barclay
– Euro 2000. Dieter Hamann told me before the tournament there were two distinct styles
in Germany’s group and that we would see which is best. We did.
– The arrival of Claudio Caniggia shooting Dundee to the kind of national prominence they nearly got in 1963 when losing in the European Cup semi-final.
– Deportivo finally winning the Spanish title.

– David Seaman saving Christian Dailly’s header in the Euro 2000 play-off. Yes, it was in 1999, but it still rankles.
–The disgraceful scenes after France v Portugal, with Figo and co behaving like spoilt children when a penalty decision, which was correct, went against them.
– The BBC losing Premiership highlights and increasing signs that pay-per-view is coming.

Hope for 2001
– As ever, that we see an end to shepherding, in which defenders use their arms to prevent forwards chasing the ball. And that we will find a way of preventing the use of the elbow.

Filippo Ricci
– Cameroon beating Spain in the Olympic final: 11 against nine in extra time. A much needed triumph for African football.
– Lazio v Reggina on the last day of the Italian season, a game that lasted three hours, waiting for the news from Perugia where Juventus eventually lost the championship.
– The likely disappearance of quotas imposed on non-EU players in Italy after Prince Ikpe Ekong, a Nigerian with Reggiana, won a court case against the Italian FA.

– The post match punch from an opponent that led to Bertolotti of Third Division Modena falling into a coma. Unbelievable.
– The fuss over fake passports of South American players in Italy. As we say, “he who created the law, invented the swindle”.
– Ronaldo coming back and rupturing his knee ligament again after eight minutes.

Hope for 2001
– Alessandro Del Piero to go on loan to Cittadella of Serie B and score 20 goals that help them gain promotion.

Ian Plenderleith
– Hristo Stoichkov scoring an effortlessly sublime 30-yarder for Chicago Fire.
– The banner unveiled by the fans greeting Newcastle in Washington, DC: “Welcome NUFC – Texaco Cup Winners, 1975”.
– Sitting in the sold-out 53,000 RFK Stadium in Washington to watch the US v Guatemala in the World Cup. The atmosphere was enhanced by the fact that some dual patriots were supporting both teams.   

– England’s Euro 2000 performances. Very funny to watch but, in footballing terms, definitely the worst.
– Or perhaps it was their home defeat to Germany, which saw the dissolution of Euro 2000’s sole consoling mantra: “At least we’re better than the Krauts.”
– Then again, it could have been the defeat of Chelsea by Euro-giants St. Gallen (ground capacity 10,000 and a town famous for nothing, not even in Switzerland). Snicker.

Hope for 2001
– Chelsea to go down, Spurs to go bankrupt, Arsenal to go to hell. In any order.

Harry Pearson
– Franz Beckenbauer’s love child.
– Watching Spain v Yugoslavia in Bruges.
– Juninho’s goal against Everton.

– Boro not making Juninho’s loan spell permanent.
– Every aspect of England at Euro 2000.
– The new Wembley.

Hope for 2001
– Sven-Goran Eriksson to be so successful that xenophobes across the land (and especially at the Daily Mail) explode with impotent rage.

Dave Robinson
– Euro 2000. The football was entertaining, except for England and Germany. The supporters were wonderful, except for some of those fromEngland and Germany. Perhaps England and Germany should just be allowed to host tournaments in future and not enter them.
– Civilised behaviour from some chairmen: Peter Ridsdale’s dignified handling of the traumatic events in Turkey; and Steve Gibson’s exemplary, indeed touching, loyalty to Bryan Robson, which Captain Marvel continues to abuse.
– The demolition of Wembley. The trashing of this ancient, crumbling icon ought to symbolise a greater change in the English game. It won’t, of course.

– The increasingly malign domination of the game by a handful of rich, powerful clubs who demand that the League and the FA rearrange games for no other reason than to let them get even more rich and powerful.
– David Mellor is still with us.
– The infiltration into clubs of multinational media companies. It’ll end in tears. As they say at the end of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, “Keep watching the skies”. Or was it “Keep watching Sky”? Worrying, either way.

Hope for 2001
– That Steve Gibson doesn’t run out of cash.

John Williams
– Redondo and McManaman, Old Trafford, Champions League.
– Ipswich v Barnsley, First Division play-off final. Great day, great fans, great match. This was the real footballing send-off for Wembley: forget everything else.
– The conversation with my mum after I cheered Hamann’s goal for Germany against England at Wembley. Telling her Liverpool had signed three Germans, and that we had a duty to support them, was delicious.

– The £37 million spent on Figo by Real Madrid. Apparently, fan democracy at Real is reduced to exactly how much rival candidates are willing to pledge in transfer spend before the presidential elections.
– Radio 5’s never-ending Euro 2000 coverage. Oh, and the self-obsessed Alan Green, the smug and sanctimonious Thatcherite Richard (“God bless”) Littlejohn and the ridiculous Charlie Whelan – a New Labour Derek Hatton for the south?
– Charleroi. England v Germany: brainless rubbish. Slovenia v Yugoslavia: 3-0 up and with the repugnant Mihaljovic sent off, the Slovenians completely lose their nerve and give up what would have been a fantastic win.

Hope for 2001
A determined late run secures Crewe Alexandra promotion to the Premiership.

Cris Freddi
– Paolo Maldini, still the template for left backs. Cristian Chivu, the 19-year-old Romanian who scored against England is now “the Maldini of the Carpathians”. They couldn’t think of any higher praise.
– The return of Romário. Seven goals in two internationals at 34. Stick him alongside Pelé in any all-time Brazilian XI.
– Greece’s Vasilios Hatzipanayis winning his second cap 23 years after his first, breaking the previous world record by eight years, 183 days (since you ask).

– Whoever invented those four extra minutes at the end of the Euro 2000 final.
– Wilko’s boys in Helsinki, the worst England team since 1983. Litmanen’s single piece of skill was worth more than the lot of them.
– That dirty Cameroon side winning the Olympic final against nine-man Spain. José Mari sent off for play acting after Patrick Abanda, a hatchet man on a yellow card, elbowed him in the face. A total scandal.

Hope for 2001
– That Tottenham maintain their postwar se­quence of winning something when the year ends in one. There’s only the FA Cup left.

From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday