2008 slightly skewed: January to March

IT is an undeniable fact that, were it not for the Gubbometer, this blog would have about eight readers. My interest in sport does extend beyond making mildly sarcastic comments about the last 10 minutes of Match of the Day, though. (Not very far, but it does.)

And to prove it, I have cobbled together a highly-personalised, subjective and utterly biased sporting review of 2008, missing out lots of major sporting events and including incidents that many would dismiss as irrelevant – all while munching my way through half-a-box of After Eight mints. I hope you enjoy it.

January

At the start of every year, it is the job of any self-respecting sports journalist to ask the question: “Will a British player finally win Wimbledon?” (As it turned out, the answer in 2008 was ‘yes’ – but it wasn’t the player we thought it might be.)

So when Andy Murray won the Qatar Open on January 5, the inevitable question was asked. And the inevitable answer was provided by Rafael Nadal, who beat Murray in straight sets in the quarter-finals on Centre Court just under six months later.

January is also the FA Cup’s big month. I’ve heard it suggested by many a reporter that third-round weekend is the most exciting part of the football season. Not for Reading striker Dave Kitson, who insisted: “We are not going to win the FA Cup, and I do not give two shits about it, to be honest with you.”

Manchester City must have wished they felt the same after they became the first team in history to be knocked out of the competition by a stray balloon. They went a goal down at Sheffield United after Lee Martin’s cross hit a balloon, deceived Michael Ball and fell for Luton Shelton to score. The balloons had been brought to the game by Sheffield-based City season-ticket holder Barry Hatch.

“They were only intended to add to the atmosphere but I had a few choice words said to me,” Hatch told the Manchester Evening News.

Despite that, the most absurd sporting sight of the month was a truly abysmal European Challenge Cup rugby union clash between Castres and Leeds Carnegie. With an hour gone, and both sets of players slowly sinking into a swamp of a pitch, the game was still 0-0. Eventually, Castres managed to win 13-3, but the match was so grim that Sky Sports might have considered showing it in a double bill with The Seventh Seal.

February

Bury director Iain Mills got a mention on Radio One’s Newsbeat, having resigned from his post because someone complained about him wearing shorts in the club’s hospitality suite.

Mills, who weighs 21 stone, said that he couldn’t wear a suit, because the sweat started pouring off him if he did.

“It’s not as if I turn up in a G-string; then they would have something bto complain about,” he told the Bury Times, his interviewer presumably gagging on the other end of the line.

February was also the month that the Premier League started to get serious about plans to play a round of fixtures abroad. Curiously, only the Middle East and the Far East seemed to be considered as venues. Hilariously, league chief executive Richard Scudamore felt the need to make a statement confirming that English top-flight games would not be played in war zones.

“There are 200 cities that would call themselves event destination cities,” he said. “And Baghdad is not one of them.”

March

One of the most popular posts on this blog remains the tale of the chap who posted the Champions League quarter-final draw on the Liverpool Echo’s message board – 90 minutes before it was made.

This led to suggestions that the draw might have been rigged, although UEFA could not have been more vehement in their denials.

Pretty much everyone I have spoken to about this since believes that the guy who posted the draw just made a lucky guess. (The chances of getting the whole quarter-final draw right are 1 in 191.) UEFA spokesman William Gaillard suggested that the chap in question must have psychic powers.

England’s rugby union set-up was in meltdown by March. (It’s not looking much better now.) The World Cup finalists got nowhere near winning the Six Nations title. Instead, the had to watch Shaun Edwards – who was knocked back for a place in England’s senior coaching set-up – help Wales win it instead.

There was disappointment for Rio Ferdinand, who was forced to pull out of a celebrity table tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall because of something to do with helping Manchester United’s bid to win the Premier League and the Champions League.

“I’m gutted because I like a game of TT and was hoping to come and put a few people in their places,” Ferdinand told The Times.

Perhaps the organisers should have asked John Batchelor along instead. The former toilet paper magnate and racing driver would probably have fancied trying his hand at table tennis. And it would have distracted him from his ludicrous attempts to take control at Mansfield Town and change their name to Harchester United, the side from Sky One’s football soap Dream Team.

Thankfully, he failed.

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