The festive season can be extremely cruel, like five minutes of added time to Alex Ferguson when he’s losing.
It gives you a false sense of hope. Those last few moments of the year build up your expectations, give you new resolve, convince you that for all the crap you’ve had in the past year, the joy of the last two weeks could turn things around.
But just like in Manchester United’s defeat to Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup last weekend, things often stay exactly the way they are. You end up with nothing, and subsequently feel cruelly denied, or in Fergie’s case, ”insulted”.
When the whistles were blown to celebrate the New Year and mark full-time at Old Trafford, the last few moments of hope and promise disintegrated, and we all crashed back to the harsh reality of life and English football respectively.
Yes, football can be a wonderful analogy of life sometimes. But thankfully, unlike the festive season, football doesn’t mess with our emotions (even though injury time and offsides sometimes do).
The football season so far has served up more than enough joy and spectacle to last the year, and there is genuine promise of more to come in 2010.
The EPL will probably reach its tightest, most dramatic finish ever in May, the Champions League will be contested by some fantastic footballing sides, and after all that, there’s the World Cup.
Ianyway, there’s more to football than just competitions. As much as it is a team game, individual players are the ones that add magic to football, and I believe we will witness the rise to prominence of some amazing young talents in 2010. Here are some of those players that I think will be bringing us real, lasting joy in the coming year:
Edin Dzeko, 23
He’s already brought much cheer to Wolfsburg and German football fans with his truckload of goals (36 in 42 matches last season, to be precise), but it won’t be for much longer.
With Wolfsburg out of the Champions League, the big Bosnian might be leaving Germany even before the end of the season.
Manchester United have expressed an interest, and Dzeko’s goals and excellent hold-up play would be exactly what they need whenever Dimitar Berbatov decides to take the day off (which is pretty much every other game).
Yoann Gourcuff, 23
Next year, Gourcuff will finally have the chance to showcase his Zinedine Zidane imitation act on the biggest stages. Bordeaux are in the Champions League knockout phase, and he is becoming a fixture in the French national team that were handed (merci beaucoup, Monsieur Thierry Henry) a spot in the World Cup. He will not disappoint.
Joe Hart, 22
Birmingham City have been on an amazing run, and much of that is due to the young stopper’s excellence. Not only does he have amazing reactions, he has supreme confidence, a quality all great goalkeepers possess.
His best moment for me was his save against Chelsea, when he thwarted an unmarked Frank Lampard, of all people, from six yards out and as Lamps stood there shaking his head in disbelief, you could see Hart mouth the words ”F*** off” to him. Very classy. That alone should get him on the plane to South Africa.
Scott Dann, 22
Another member of the outstanding Birmingham rearguard, the centreback has been excellent alongside Roger Johnson, even forcing the more established Liam Ridgewell into an unaccustomed left-back role.
Only time will tell if he’s a one (or half) season wonder, but he sure looks like the real deal at the moment.
Milos Krasic, 25
The Serbian has been an absolute class act on the right wing for CSKA Moscow throughout their Champions League campaign so far, and he’s also one of the star performers of the Serbian national side that qualified for South Africa as group winners.
He has fantastic dribbling ability and excellent quality on the final ball. Definitely one to look out for in both competitions coming up this year, but just like Berbatov already has, he might need to do something about his mop.
Aaron Lennon, 22
The shortest player in the Premier League is doing a good job of staying under the radar. He’s dodged the pressure of possibly leading England’s charge down the right flank in South Africa as well as he’s been dodging defenders.
But even at 168cm, Lennon has been frightening the daylights out of opposition full-backs all season. Just ask Wigan’s Erik Edman (FYI, Lennon bagged four assists and a goal in 79 minutes against Edman).
He’ll be one to look out for simply because it’s so much fun watching him run at defenders. He simply destroys them, and he never stops for the whole 90 minutes. Can’t wait to see him do the same in South Africa.
Have your say!
I had a much longer list of young, up-and-coming players I wanted to include in this list, but sadly there wasn’t enough space in my column last Wednesday.
But how about you guys tell me who else should we look out for in 2010? Have you spotted any potential Ronaldos or Messis recently?