Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Yes this is a bit late and you’ve already read everyone else’s summation of the Premier League season by now, but time is money, and nobody pays me shit for this. But these are always fun to do and read, to see the opinions of other people and compare notes. So indulge me a little, why don’t you?

It was another thrilling season in England, even though it all came to an end a bit soon and we were left with a fairly non-descript final day of the season, with very little to play for.

Still there were plenty of talking points to come from the season, and in the interest of fairness to every club in the division, I shall be dividing up these awards into one for the top six, and one for the rest of the league. Poor Everton, I honestly had no idea which section to put you in initially. But you end up in the rest for this season.

 

TEAM/MANAGER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – Chelsea/Antonio Conte

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Not a bad start to life in England for Conte

Some might put these as two categories, but I fail to see why you would treat manager and team performance as separate things as they are somewhat co-dependent. Some might have fancied Spurs to edge this award as their ‘success’ was far less expected than that of Chelsea, but Conte’s achievements have been fantastic in his first season in English football.

This was a largely similar squad last season finished down in tenth and was in all sorts of disarray. Conte deserves credit not only for turning around the fortunes of these players, helping them rediscover their form, but realising that changes could and should be made and simply implementing them with little fuss.

He changed English football’s way of thinking from insisting on a flat-back-four, with his switch to a back three system helping Chelsea overcome a shaky start to go on a 13-game winning run, which essentially had the title wrapped up by the turn of the year, regardless of how game Tottenham’s pursuit of them was.

The Rest – Bournemouth/Eddie Howe

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Eddie Howe enhanced his burgeoning this reputation this season

There was often little to choose between the remainder of the teams in the division, given they all had runs in the season where things were good, and then a subsequent slide down the table. Everton basically matched expectations to be the bridge between the two, Southampton managed top-half again, but were largely uninspiring, and West Brom (the runaway winners of this award for a while) simply hit 40 points and we went back to forgetting about them.

Bournemouth by no means had a fantastic season, but a final position in the top-half, despite many (including myself) worrying that second-season-syndrome would kick in and relegation could be in the offing.

With key players repeatedly being laid low with major injuries and results faltering, that fate did look a distinct possibility at one point, but Howe marshalled a still relatively inexperienced team at this level away from danger and led the side to their finest ever league finish. You can’t say fairer than that.

 

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – N’golo Kante (Chelsea)

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The best player in the Premier League. Another sterling season for Kante

The choice between pundits was between Kante and Eden Hazard for the gong, but I’ll plump with the majority and go for the little French midfielder, who was the difference for Chelsea and has won back-to-back titles with different clubs, which is impressive on its own.

His energy has allowed the likes of Hazard to focus on wreaking havoc in attacking positions instead of being coaxed into defensive duties, and helped improve the previously flagging performances of Nemanja Matic.

Plus, his arrival was probably key in John Obi Mikel no longer playing Premier League football anymore. These are always things to be celebrated.

The Rest – Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

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It is surely a matter of time until Lukaku ends up at a top club

I wouldn’t call it a cop out. You might, but I wouldn’t, as Lukaku has not just continued to motor along at a level that is honestly beneath him, but improved his record and reputation even further by enjoying his finest ever goal-scoring season.

Goals may not be everything and he still has plenty of detractors wondering if his all-round game is yet good enough for the move up he clearly so desperately craves, but 25 goals is not an easy tally to record in the Premier League and he would have claimed the Golden Boot were it not for the crazy late-season form of Harry Kane.

Lukaku was the standout player of the sides outside of the top six. How long that is the case remains to be seen.

 

MOST IMPROVED

Top Six – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

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Captain in shithousery. Future captain of Man Utd?

Sure some might call for Christian Eriksen at this point, but it’s only this season that people have actually begun to notice how much he does for this Spurs team. Plus as a fan, I’m far more aware of what he has been doing, so he’s just motoring along just nicely for me.

Instead I’ve gone for Herrera, who has gone from popular yet flawed midfielder struggling to hold down a place under Louis van Gaal, to being probably the most important player in this Manchester United team.

Having been underappreciated by management staff since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao, Jose Mourinho has seen him as the ideal partner to help Paul Pogba shine – only to complete outshine his more illustrious teammate.

He might be an awful shithouse of a player for fans of the opposition and his tendency to flop to the ground does grate somewhat. But you can’t knock what he’s doing in general and try to enjoy the other, more pleasing aspects of a game that has come on leaps and bounds.

The Rest – Joshua King (Bournemouth)

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King’s improvement have seen him linked with a big move

No contest here, as quite frankly this time last year, I had serious doubts about Josh King making a long-term career as a Premier League footballer, with the inkling being he would be more at home in the Championship.

Even a few months into the season I could have been forgiven for harbouring that point of view as he struggled to break into the first-team at Bournemouth, but once he took his chance, he really broke into a fine footballer.

Nobody doubted his desire or his running, but there seemed to be an issue with the final ball, the final pass and for an attacking player his returns previously were just not good enough to warrant a regular place in a top flight side.

This season it all appears to have come together for him and a leap from six to 16 Premier League goals is a testament to the work he has done away from the pitch. Plus a man with such a basic English name being a Norwegian international can only make you more endearing.

 

BEST SIGNING

Top Six – Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur)

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Wanyama’s success at Spurs has surprised a lot of people

“No Kante? But you made him your player of the season!” I hear you cry. But I’m not on board for the same player winning two awards, and this is my page and I’ll do what I want. So there.

Anyhoo, Wanyama’s arrival at Spurs was met with very little fanfare really, more an acknowledgement that he would be a useful addition to the Tottenham squad with the added burden of Champions League football and Eric Dier having been quite frankly run into the ground over the course of the previous campaign and European Championships with England.

So few people expected Wanyama to essentially oust Dier from a midfield spot he had suddenly looked extremely comfortable in, with many at Spurs putting the Kenyan powerhouse among their star performers throughout an impressive season that saw many steal the headlines.

At just a reported £9m, Wanyama was nearly a third of the price of Kante, and was just as important to another side that exceeded expectations to leave the Manchester clubs in their wake, despite all pre-season talk of the title heading back up north.

Acknowledgements to Sadio Mane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who certainly exceeded expectations as well, but it’s Wanyama who gets the nod here.

The Rest – Joe Allen (Stoke City)

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Allen continued his good form over from Euro 2016 with Stoke

I really wish I could bend my rules and include January signings. But they only played half a season, so I can only apologise for not including Wilfred Ndidi or Kamil Grosicki. This goes double, because the summer transfer window last year was tragically bad, making it rather difficult to pick a winner for this ‘award’.

There’s a sense that if some of the sides in the division hadn’t twisted so much last summer, we may not have been talking about half the division as serious relegation candidates at some point in the season. Because there was an awful lot of crap signed, and for a lot of money as well.

Fernando Llorente did fairly well, but annoyed people for not sprinting much. Christian Benteke finished with a decent tally for Palace, but yet we still expected more from him. Few others jumped out.

So it’s Joe Allen that wins this one. Humble upon arriving with that price tag despite never really impressing at Liverpool, with his stock boosted once more by an impressive showing at the Euros with Wales.

He did pretty well, became an integral part of a Stoke side a lot of us forgot were in the Premier League and improved his goal-scoring record. Hilariously, only Peter Crouch scored more goals for the Potters this season. Allen even got a brace in one game.

 

WORST SIGNING

Top Six – Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)

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We thought Mustafi would be a big player for Arsenal. We were wrong

Remember how I mentioned last summer’s transfer activity was a bit rubbish? This goes for the top six as well, with a gluttony of candidates available for this. Claudio Bravo, John Stones, Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko, Michy Batshuayi, the list goes on. This is just the ‘bad’ ones, let alone those that just didn’t live up to expectations.

While many would expect Sissoko to win this, there was always a sense that he was brought in to bolster an already strong squad, replacing Nacer Chadli more than any first-team regular.

Mustafi on the other hand was supposed to – along with the equally disappointing Granit Xhaka – be the final works in the Arsenal puzzle, the expesive, established stars that bounced them into a serious title tilt, with the gold up for grabs following Leicester’s unexpected success.

Finally a competent partner for Laurent Koscielny had arrived in the form of Mustafi. Well, that was the thinking anyway, as the German was cumbersome, clumsy, slow and just looked all over the place as Arsenal’s defence looked worse, not better for his arrival.

For £35m, you expect so much better. You at least expect him to not end the season potentially as fourth choice, with youngster Rob Holding and the returning Per Mertesacker looking far more composed at the back for the Gunners.

The Rest – Ahmed Musa (Leicester City)

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It has not gone well for Musa at Leicester. Pitifully bad, in fact

The first signal of Leicester’s intent to not simply slip away into the pack once again after their shock title win. Also the first signal as to why they did.

Musa was the first player Leicester broke their transfer record to sign last summer. Islam Slimani came next, another striker in a team with a couple of stars already in their attack, with Shinzi Okazaki hardly disgracing himself either. So you already you wondered how things were going to fit together.

Slimani at least grabbed a handful of goals when he managed to be fit, but Musa on the other hand was an unmitigated let-down. Like, to the point where you forgot he was even there come the end of the season. Never before has a black player wished they were back in Russia.

 

YOUNG PLAYER

Top Six – Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

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When will Alli get a challenge for this award? He should be a shining example

We all know how good Dele Alli is. We all know what a good season he had. Want to know why he won this? Because no other young player was quite frankly given anything that could be deemed a regular chance.

Gabriel Jesus may well be fantastic when he gets a full season behind him, and Hector Bellerin could well get back to his previous levels, but there are very few opportunities being offered to young players of any nationality, let alone English.

The success of England’s under 19s at the World Cup will hopefully lead to change, but with all the money going round in the game, clubs are always more likely to sign established stars than give a youngster a chance. They will keep signing promising kids, loan them out a tonne and eventually they’ll be able to toddle off somewhere in their 20s, failing to have kicked on and disillusioned with a nomadic lifestyle and a lack of chances at the place that was supposed to be home.

The Rest – Tom Davies (Everton)

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Davies is evidence of what can happen when faith is put in youth

It’s not just the money men by the way. The rest of the division is not much better for giving young players a chance, with only a couple of clubs seeming like a place to be given that chance to impress in the Premier League.

Southampton have developed a reputation for it, and Everton have also thankfully taken it upon themselves to give their impressive academy a chance to shine, with Tom Davies being the pick of the bunch.

The youngster has taken to life as a Premier League regular like a duck to water, pouring shame on Ross Barkley in the process. Davies looks comfortable and willing to kick on, with a number of Everton fans now happy to see Barkley moved on if it means Davies can be the main man driving forward from the midfield.

Alfie Mawson deserves a mention as well, but frankly the pool is still far too small to choose from. Given the disaster of last season’s transfer window, it is perhaps more pertinent to look to the academies for ways to improve the squads.

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This has been very much a fascinating season in the Premier League, with goals aplenty being fired in to raise the excitement levels at both the top and bottom of the table.

There may be no surprise package like Leicester City this season, but the gap separating the top six sides in the division stands at just ten points at the time of writing, with each one having enjoyed spells of playing fine football and scoring freely.

Goals are a major part of football of course. Without goals, teams don’t win games and therefore don’t win titles. And yet there seems to be an even bigger affinity towards goals and goalscorers than ever, with the currency of definitive strikes earning players more plaudits than they necessarily deserve.

 

Defenders for instance appear to gain far more credence for their contributions at the other end of the pitch, than for doing their job in preventing the goals going in at the other end of the pitch.

For instance, Nathan Ake was tipped to become a roaring success when he returns to Chelsea next season, touted for a first-team berth after scoring twice in three games. These goals came in Bournemouth’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Liverpool and their defeat to Southampton, and marks an impressive achievement for a defender to score in such regular fashion.

The point however is that Bournemouth conceded three times in both of those matches. Despite Ake giving some extra impetus to the attacking ranks going forward, he was also part of a defence that shipped six goals in 180 minutes. Yet Ake was being talked about as potentially forcing his way into a Chelsea defence that was already into their extraordinary run of victories, with an incredibly lean defensive record at the heart of that.

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Nathan Ake to walk into this current Chelsea team? Please…

Virgil van Dijk is another who has benefitted from an impressive record in front of goal, which his prowess earning him links to the majority of the top clubs in England, should he look to leave Southampton.

While he has always proved competent at the back as well, it was not until he started scoring goals as well that those rumours arose. An article written after The Saints’ recent 4-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur claimed van Dijk’s stock had risen after scoring the opener, absolving from any blame for the following capitulation against a side who had a less than stellar record away from home this season.

It was not until he had managed the ultimate disgrace by being sent off late on in the next home defeat to West Brom that he was finally called out on a poor run of form, with Charlie Nicholas freed of the shackles of praise to criticise his recent performances. His display against Spurs saw him easily beaten to the ball by Dele Alli for Spurs’ equaliser, before a dreadful waft of a leg during Victor Wanyama’s surge into the box saw fellow centre-back Jose Fonte forced into a last-ditch block.

Defenders who rarely score seem to receive less praise than those more successful at the other end of the pitch, with the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Jan Vertonghen and even Ragnar Klavan overlooked for their performances this campaign.

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Would Van Dijk be as highly rated without the regular goals?

It’s not just defenders who are able to paper over cracks with goals however. The aforementioned Alli has perhaps avoided censure for some of his displays this season due to his ability to pop up with a goal every now and then. He has perhaps not been as creative as some of his fellow attacking midfielders however, with even Harry Kane creating more chances this season.

Paul Pogba likewise was receiving heavy criticism until he started finding the back of the net, with only goals deemed worthy of ‘paying back the transfer fee’. It feels ridiculous that no successful passes, tackles or simple positional awareness is worthy of being considered fiscally appropriate, despite those all being important parts of midfielder’s job.

Then you come to the propensity of pundits and co-commentators to simply pick goalscorers as their winners of the Man of the Match award, frequently referring them to having ‘turned the game’ with their goal, essentially picking a moment of the match, as opposed to somebody who has enjoyed 90 minutes of all-round play.

One instance that sticks in the memory (sorry Saints fans, I don’t mean to pick on you) was Southampton’s 3-0 victory over West Ham this season, in which the co-commentator gave the award to Charlie Austin, despite claiming he barely touched the ball in the opening 40 minutes before his opener. Despite players like Oriol Romeu, Ryan Bertrand and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg distinctly enjoying superior games, it was the one stick out moment for that particular pundit (name escapes me) and the opening scorer was given the award.

 

As stated, goals are important to win football matches and I would never knock any player for scoring goals and aiding their team’s efforts to win a game.

However there are many different facets to winning a game of football and goals are just one part of it. Too much attention is solely paid to that part of things, allowing many players to paper over the cracks in their game by merely contributing to that final 5% of the match.

 

Share the same views? Or vary from that passionately? Feel free to add your comments below!

TDD

It has been staple viewing for any football fan over the past few years to tune in to Sky Sports News and watch the drama unfold on Transfer Deadline Day, as clubs across England battle among themselves to get last minute business done and strengthen their squads ahead of the coming season.

It was entertainment for one and all to basically see these multi-million pound businesses realising that they hadn’t done their business correctly and there was still work to be done with just hours on the clock remaining. All by fax, apparently.

Sky Sports News was the place to be at on the final day of August and January, with their raft of reporters scouring the length of England to bring you the breaking news as and when every major deal broke and every surprise transfer leapt into materialisation.

But now it appears that the bubble has burst and it feels as though Sky Sports News has jumped the shark with it’s sensationalising of the final day of transfer dealings.

The people at Sky appeared to catch on to how popular the reporting of this day had become and opted to dress it up a little bit. Suddenly this was no longer a news programme, but had drifted into the realms of entertainment. The integrity of this news show has slowly disintegrated before our very eyes.

This has been something that has appeared to be on the way since HQ was added to the title of the channel, with the sofas and fancy gadgets supposed to engage the audience more and make it seem less of a ‘news’ show – but with Transfer Deadline Day, it really reached it’s zenith.

Even just those little things that drew us in at the start have slowly lost their appeal, becoming tired and repetitive to the point that you feel like it’s holding the show back. Any entertainment show (which this has become now) knows when a joke has become stale and freshens things up appropriately and it is time for SSN to address these things.

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A popular figure at first, Jim White has gradually lost favour with football fans

Things like Jim White to start off. At first there was a lot of charm to the way he got overly excited about the exchanging of contracts between two businesses, the way his voice leapt a couple of octaves upon the breaking of a rumour surrounding a Championship-based player.

It was endearing before the higher-ups sunk their claws into him, making him their designated face of Deadline Day and seemingly giving him a nudge to exaggerate those things that initially gave him appeal, taking it beyond a fun quirk into something far more annoying, as he now attempts to make beige details a fluorescent colour with his words.

For he is now stifled by the fact that things have changed within the football world. Clubs have gotten wise to the daft idea that they should attempt to fit in much of their major business within a 24 hour last-gasp window and now at least try to do their deals earlier on in the transfer window.

They will at least get things done in the final week of allowed business, leaving a host of highly-trained journalists shunted out around the grounds on Deadline Day repeating the same small titbits over and over again in a way supposed to draw some form of interest from the viewer.

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We no longer see this sight after fans took things too far last year

The poor sap stood at the Emirates merely repeating that Arsene Wenger hinted a couple of days ago that something, possibly could happen got the rawest of deals as Arsenal failed to so much as send a player out on loan on the final day of activity.

The man based at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground was faced with a similarly  soul-crushing task as he was entrusted with making young centre-back Tiago Ilori’s loan move to Aston Villa sound like a big deal, presumably cursing the fact he was even there, given the Reds had achieved their transfer business before June even came to an end.

Such was the paucity of things to actually report upon in those final two hours having drafted ‘the big guns’ on, that they even stopped to analyse the traffic numbers on the Sky Sports website, to strangely find that their transfer blog was the most widely visited page there. Quelle Surprise. The delved even further to find that Manchester United (the most widely followed British club worldwide) and their wrapping up of the Anthony Martial transfer was the most popular story from that blog. Cue millions of jaws dropping to the floor at that news.

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Kate Abdo felt wasted in the prime role this year without the rest of Europe involved

Having recovered our mandibles from the carpet, we saw Kate Abdo completely wasted in her role towards the end. Abdo specialises in being multi-lingual and being able to translate news breaking from around Europe, but with the transfer window having shut a day earlier elsewhere in Europe, there was little to do. Especially as we didn’t even get a Scouser to talk to throughout the day.

Why Natalie Sawyer was demoted into an earlier seems strange, as that cheeky, knowing way she presents helps counteract the human time-bomb that is Jim White, dialling back the seriousness of the triviality that surrounds us all without breaking Sky’s sensationalism of the event at hand.

The one plus point of the day was the banning of fans from surrounding the poor reporters stuck outside following the purple dildo incident, with the sad group of delinquents having gotten worse and worse as time has gone on, each doing their best to get their faces on TV, screaming at the top of their lungs that John Walters has signed for their club.

But the reality is that Deadline Day has jumped the shark, as there just genuinely isn’t the drama necessary anymore to dedicate ones’ self to a sick-day in front of Sky Sports News in the hope that something major will occur. Do we honestly think people would give a damn about THAT Saido Berahino tweet if it had happened a day previously? Or if anything interesting had actually happened?

Bringing in ‘esteemed guests’ to provide idle guesswork about everything and anything has done little to whet the appetite, as the whole format has become a very dull affair, in which the vast majority of the participants have devolved into parodies of themselves.

Sky Sports News’ coverage of Transfer Deadline Day is no longer essential viewing, with the mild scraps of information that do occur being able to be recounted in a brief 5 minute read.

This will at least save you several hours wasted in front of a television being shouted at by a man that believes in a hype that has long since died out, with Jim White simply a running, unfunny joke these days and actual news being pushed aside to make way for devolving sideshow that is football.

Armstrong's doping charges make him 2012's biggest loser

Armstrong’s doping charges make him 2012’s biggest loser

For all the great sport and amazing successes that happened over 2012, good cannot exist without the bad, so inevitably a number of sportsmen and women have had some absolute stinkers of a year.

Having reviewed the winners of 2012, it’s now time to visit the losers of the calendar year, those that simply failed to impress anyone with their actions in the sporting world.

FOOTBALL

Let’s get this clear first and foremost, because Olympic goggles distorted the image of football to a ridiculous level, with the sporting community so enamoured with the London Games that football took on a pariah-like status as the epitome of all that is wrong with sport.

It was somewhat over-the-top that for every good example of sporting excellence that happened over that month over the summer, someone was looking to point out that the game of football often promoted the opposite.

However, football really did have a rotten year, It was year defined by racism, diving, cheating and poor management of the game from the top level.

The Premier League had two separate racism charges levied against star players in Luis Suarez and John Terry, while UEFA took the highroad of fining Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner far more money for wearing sponsored pants than they dished out to entire nations for racist chanting.

Time to up the levels of sportsmanship for 2013 and try at least to preserve some form of positive image.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

Possibly the biggest loser of 2012, as his battle to clear his name against doping allegations came to a very unsuccessful end, as he decided to give it up under overwhelming evidence.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had built up such a compelling argument to show that Armstrong had ‘enforced the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’, with former team-mates on the US Postal tournament coming forward to give damning evidence against their former leader.

WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) relented to the demands of the USADA and stripped Armstrong of all of his historic seven Tour De France titles, amongst every other title won in his now less-glittering career.

Having been regarded as the best cyclist to have ever competed at the start of the year, the words from Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, of;”Armstrong has no place in cycling, he deserves to be forgotten,” remark an incredible descent in fortunes and public opinion. For shame Lance, for shame.

MANNY PACQUIAO

Pacquiao started the year being given an award for being the WBO’s best pound-for-pound boxer of the past decade and ended it unconscious on the canvas having dodged the fight everyone wanted to see.

His award came prior to his bout with Timothy Bradley, who then beat him on points, although this came tempered with controversy as most people keeping their personal scores had Pacquiao comfortably winning, contrary to the views of the judges.

He then continued his blanket refusal to take a simple drugs test in order to set up the ultimate showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr, raising further suspicion on whether he was indeed as clean as he claims, instead choosing to set up a bout with Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time in his career.

This saw him knocked out for the first time since participating in fights outside of Asia, with Marquez’ right hook in the sixth round leaving him motionless on the canvas. Quite the climb-down for Pac-Man.

Idowu was Britain's biggest let-down of an otherwise successful games

Idowu was Britain’s biggest let-down of an otherwise successful games

PHILLIPS IDOWU

With all the expectation and hype going on around the Olympics, there was always likely to be one disappointment for Britain, but it was just the manner that Idowu went about being that disappointment that lands him on this list.

His relationship with Charles Van Commenee had always been a strained one, but Idowu’s decision to warm up for his home Games away from the rest of the Great Britain squad was perplexing, alongside his mysterious injury concerns that nobody was given any indication as how much of an issue they were. That includes his coach, who was cut off from any communication with his star man.  

Still he talked himself up so highly as the man to land the gold in the sandpit, but consequently failed to so much as make the final of Triple Jump, ending his summer early.

Greg Rutherford’s success in the long jump meant he was practically a forgotten man by the time the closing ceremony came upon us.

BADMINTON

It’s almost strange for a sport that has so little stock outside of the Asian continent to lose so much face, but badminton provided the biggest sporting disappointment of the Olympic Games.

With one Chinese pairing the overwhelming favourites, another two Chinese teams, one South Korean and an Indonesian team tried to manufacture their positions in the league table, which had come in to replace the round robin format in order to build more interest in the sport.

Instead fans began to boo when these teams tried to lose matches in order to avoid harder opponents in the next round, with such obviously deliberate attempts to fire the shuttlecock into the net or miss the court entirely.

It was scandalous stuff, saw the teams eliminated from the competition and has potentially irreparably damaged the sport in the eyes of the world.

KEVIN PIETERSEN

Kevin Pietersen has always been a controversial character in the oft prim and proper world of cricket, but 2012 has been more than anyone could have expected from the most divisive superstar in English cricket.

It all started with his retirement from One-Day Internationals due to the punishing and overloaded schedule being placed upon him and his team-mates, with his relationship with the ECB (English Cricket Board) becoming even more strained that it had been.

This came further to a head when defamatory text messages were found sent by him to South Africa’s players during the test series, with derogatory remarks made about then-captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower, with Pietersen having already hinted at retirement from international cricket.

He was subsequently dropped from the team and forced into a grovelling public apology, which the ECB finally accepted to allow him to be part of the ultimately-successful tour of India.

2013 is a year in which Pietersen needs to reintroduce himself as one of the finest batsmen in the game, if he is to win back the trust of the selectors, coaches and fans in English cricket.

Who were your losers of 2012? Joining the discussion at the bottom of the page or on Twitter @SmParker8

There are times where you look at yourself and wonder exactly why you are a football fan.

For all the lying, cheating, bickering, financial negligence, racism and pretention that surrounds the game, it is often swarmed by a black cloud of despair.

So sometimes you need a good news story to remind you what football is really about and why we really dedicate so much of our lives to watching, reading and playing the beautiful game.

That story of late has been the tale of Real Oviedo, a former top flight side in Spain, who through a period of financial mismanagement and boardroom battles found themselves slipping down the leagues and on the brink of complete liquidation.

Having chased the La Liga dream in the late nineties, the board at the time invested heavily, spending outside of their means to no avail, as success did not follow.

The club slipped toward the foot of the Primera table and eventually suffered relegation to La Segunda in 2001, ending a run of 13 consecutive seasons in the top flight.

Their spell in La Segunda lasted a mere two seasons, as crippling debts saw them sell of any precocious talents on their books, seeing them relegated to the tiered Segunda B, before eventual demotion to La Tercera, filled with teams that were only just semi-professional.

This was no place for a team with the history of Oviedo, still boasting the Carlos Tartiere stadium, which holds over 30,000.

They had managed to get themselves promoted out of that division again, but were informed this season that they had a deadline of until November 17th to raise €2million or face complete bankruptcy, a sum unachievable for a forgotten side stranded in Spain’s third tier and run by a group of businessmen with barely a penny to spend between them.

So Oviedo decided to release shares to the general public to an overwhelming response from people all over the globe.

Unofficially fronted by Sid Lowe, Spanish columnist for The Guardian and self-confessed Oviedo fan, started a campaign over Twitter, with the hashtag #SOSRealOviedo going viral quickly as people from all nations snapped up shares to become a little part of Spanish footballing history.

There was no pretence behind the appeal, no lies, no promise of reward. People were informed by all promoting parties that there was no guarantee that the shares they purchased would ever be worth any profit, or even a return on the €13 (£10) they invested.

This was simply a way for the club to stay in existence, with the only reward to gain free tickets to games should you ever visit Oviedo, though four shares bought you the right to attend club AGMs.

But still people continued to be part of the scheme, doing their little part to save Los Carbayones.

Diverting from the understanding that footballers are selfish and self-obsessed, former players Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Michu of Chelsea, Arsenal and Swansea City respectively all offered funds to help save the cash-strapped club.

All had started their professional careers at Oviedo and showed that generosity that we wish to see from multi-millionaires, chipping in to save the people responsible for promoting them on to better things.

They reached their goal of €2m in time to keep the club in existence, with the footballing universe pooling together to save a crucial part of the game, before an unexpected windfall boosted the club even further.

Touched by the global movement to save the club, Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunications entrepreneur estimated as the richest man in the world, invested £1.5m extra into the club to take a controlling stake and give them a secure footing once again with the intention to, “support Oviedo’s players so they can reach their goals and the club can reach the division that corresponds to its history and values.”

This did not smack of any desire to have a footballing plaything, like so many tycoons and oligarchs, but simply of joining forces with the football nation to restore pride to this once respectable club.  

Real Oviedo can now look forward to a future where they can concentrate solely on the football, without having the banks and administrators breathing down the backs of their necks.

Football has it’s many flaws, but it’s strength is the bond that ensnares people of all ages, nationalities, creeds and colours, bringing a sense of togetherness that nothing else can ever achieve.

As a club now owned by Mexican multi-billionaires, Norwegian fishermen and British builders alike, Real Oviedo will stand the test of time as the worldwide club of the people and as the epitome of good that exists in football