Obviously, in an ideal world I’d say “knickers” to football and go for the alpaca (see left), but this isn’t really an option and, besides, this place remains a football blog rather than an alpaca blog (although I’m open to suggestion on this subject as well). Anyway, I’m still a little feverish, so here are a handful of hopes for 2008.
1. That the BBC and ITV take the European Championships as seriously as they should do, even though England aren’t there. The big television companies should welcome the opportunity to get away from the jingoistic nonsense that has blighted every major international football tournament since at least 1996. They should grasp the nettle and do something that journalists should pride themselves in doing – telling you things that you didn’t already know. Obviously it will be much easier for them to go on and on about how many of the players of view are from the the Premier League and “how much poorer” the competition will be for England not being there, but hope springs eternal.
2. Somebody, please, other than Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool to win a domestic trophy. I am fully resigned to the fact that it is now asking too much for anyone other than the aforementioned foursome to win the Premier League or, indeed, take the top four places in the Premier League table, but I don’t think that it’s asking too much for somebody else to win the FA Cup or the League Cup. West Ham United bottled it in the FA Cup two years ago, and the jury is still out on whether Spurs are good enough to beat Arsenal’s academy team (this is how far we’ve come).
3. Milan to get knocked out of the Champions League at the earliest opportunity. Everybody knows that Maldini is too old, that Ronaldo is too fat and that there are too many anonymous players in the current Milan team. It’s a damning indictment on the current age that a team so average, below half-way in Serie A, have become a trophy winning machine, with just enough genuinely great players (such as Kaka – and even he manages to annoy with me with his seemingly constant exhortations to Jesus) to be able to keep grinding out the major trophies. Over the last two or three years I have come to the opinion that European football ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Milan are living proof of that. If we can get rid of them early on, it will be a sign that there’s life in the cadaver yet.
4. Leave Fabio Capello to get on with the job of managing the England football team. Look, I remain steadfast in my belief that the England football team is in a slow, terminal decline but, in taking on Fabio Capello, the FA have at least given themselves a degree of a chance of winning a major trophy. They have got a coach that is of the calibre of the coaches that appear on peoples wish lists – the likes of Mourinho or Wenger. So, this message is for the English press (and I know that it will be ignored), leave him alone, and let him get on with his job.
5. I know that this might be pushing the boat out a little too far, but can we get rid of the two-footed studs up tackles that seem to be happening in every single match at the moment. Look, I know that at the current rate football will have completely converted into competitive pinball by approximately the year 2020, but can professional players stop trying to commit ABH on each other, please? Oh, and while I’m about it, a rule which says that only the captain can speak to the referee or anyone on the opposition team would be nice, as well.