For all fans of the English Premier League, the 2010-11 season will be remembered for having as many highs and lows as a James Durbin-Scotty McCreery duet.
It doesn’t matter what club you support, your fingernails would’ve been given a good gnashing from this emotional rollercoaster season.
It wasn’t quite the same in Spain, where La Liga ended utterly predictably – with Jose Mourinho waging war with the entire city of Barcelona, UEFA, referees in general, his own chairman and his best player. And oh, Barcelona won the league too.
Over in Italy, stats showed that during the match between AC Milan and Juventus, two of the greatest teams in Italian football, the ball was only in play for 44 minutes.
To be fair, their hair gets in their faces pretty often in Italy, so I suppose to give them more than half the game to tuck it back into those headbands after one of their many theatrical tumbles isn’t asking too much (why female fans find that so attractive, I’ll never know. I guess it helps to have names like “Fabio” or “Alessandro”).
While the quality of the game in England has progressed significantly beyond the head tennis of yesteryear, it is the developments off the pitch that have truly made this a memorable season. Here are some of the highlights:
Blue Moon rising
The season started out with Manchester City gleefully fulfilling their tag of noisy neighbours with a summer spending spree that can only be described as brash and reckless (and reasonably successful, as much as I hate to admit).
Disregarding their already over-sized squad, manager Roberto Mancini spent a fortune in transfer fees and wages on Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jerome Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov while threatening to buy every other superstar player; and then complained about how clubs were jacking up their prices when negotiating with City.
It’s a well-known negotiation tactic. You go around looking at Lamborghinis, and when you settle on the Proton, you complain about not getting a discount. Doesn’t always work, though.
The Rooney saga
Whatever affinity there was left for the snarling Scouser evaporated when Wayne Rooney announced he wanted to leave Manchester United, the club that had stuck by him through his many indiscretions – personal, professional and unmentionable.
United’s season looked doomed as even Alex Ferguson took to contritely begging the Roonatic to stay.
But Ferguson somehow turned it around, not only convincing Rooney to stay, but also reversing his poor post-World Cup form with a much-needed holiday in Dubai and a training stint in at the Nike HQ in Oregon,the United States, away from a baying public in Britain.
I don’t know about you, but that feels so long ago now.
Ray to go
Sometimes it almost feels like Roman Abramovich is working against Chelsea, like he’s a closet United fan or something.
Right when Chelsea seemed almost invincible early on in the season, Abramovich inexplicably sacked Carlo Ancelotti’s trusted right-hand man Ray Wilkins.
Sure, Wilkins looks like the secret love child of Dr Evil and Jack Nicholson, but he was by all accounts a fantastic, influential character for the Blues.
It was no surprise then that in the space of a couple of months, Chelsea suffered a fatal loss of form. Ancelotti’s authority had been undermined, his closest ally had been unceremoniously dumped, and he had a misfiring £50mil (RM250mil) striker forced on him (not in that way).
In spite of all that meddling from above, Ancelotti kept Chelsea in the title race all the way to the second last game of the season. And Abramovich’s response to that? Sack him, of course!
And who could forget the sexist row that gave us the perfect example of a self-contradicting phrase?
When denouncing West Ham chairperson Karren Brady’s complaints that football was sexist, football pundit Richard Keys uttered the phrase that will now forever remain in football folklore:
“Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”
That’s like me saying: “You think I’m tryna be black? Hells no!”
As I’m sure we all remember, Keys and his partner-in-crime Andy Gray’s well-concealed neanderthalic perception of women was unwittingly uncovered by Sian Massey, an up-and-coming match official who was having her big break running the line for a Premier League match between Wolves and Liverpool.
That’s when Keys and Gray – thinking their microphones were off – expressed what seemed like genuine incredulity and disdain over the idea that a woman be allowed to help run a man’s game.
Other behind-the-scenes footage and stories from crew members soon emerged to provide even more evidence of their sexist, juvenile behaviour which included another Keys classic, when he insisted a poor Jamie Redknapp answer a question on whether he “smashed it” – in reference to Redknapp’s ex-girlfriend.
Personally, I’m glad they were both sacked, regardless of how good they were at their jobs.
There was also the Roy Hodgson affair at Liverpool, which would have been more comedy than tragedy had it not involved a guy as nice as him, or a club with the tradition of Liverpool FC.
Having had its heart and soul almost completely ripped out by Rafa Benitez during his final season pretending he wasn’t waiting to be paid severance, and Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s terrible ownership, there was only one person to go back to – King Kenny.
Since new owners Fenway Sports Group returned Kenny Dalglish to his rightful throne, Liverpool have managed something many thought impossible over the last five years – win without Steven Gerrard.
The Merseysiders’ form was second only to Chelsea after Dalglish took over, before they suspiciously started throwing points away as if they didn’t want Europa League football. At least Spurs’ manager Harry Redknapp openly declared he didn’t want it.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool were better at throwing it away than Spurs, who couldn’t get anything right after bowing out from their fairytale European cup run.
Fairytale cup runs
The season will also be remembered for Spurs’ dream run in the Champions League and Stoke City’s heart-warming journey to Wembley for the FA Cup final.
Unfortunately, both teams failed to last the distance, but watching a grown man decked in Stoke City colours choking back tears as he was being interviewed about his team reaching the finals is something I’ll remember for a long time.
Speaking of cup runs, one underdog that did make it all the way was Birmingham City, the relegated Carling Cup champions.
Even for a die-hard United fan like myself, it was painful watching Arsenal lose that way, with another comical defensive mix-up handing Birmingham the trophy in the last minute. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
There were tears from the outstanding Jack Wilshere, and it’s easy to pinpoint that moment as the one where Arsenal’s resolve – on all four trophy fronts – was broken.
Even after the season has ended, the drama continues.
United fans would like to remember this season for their 19th league title and becoming the new occupants of a certain perch, but that memory will be slightly tainted now.
A Premier League player recently obtained a court injunction, John Terry style, to avoid being revealed in the media as the married footballer who had an affair with Welsh glamour model (which basically means people have seen her boobs) Imogen Thomas.
That, of course, didn’t stop Twitterers from revealing his identity online, so even before the big non-secret was finally revealed in mainstream media two days ago, everyone knew.
To avoid wading into the murky territory of court injunctions, we won’t reveal the player’s name here, but we will say his name rhymes with Bryan Diggs.