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A number of things we can almost guarantee will occur in January 2015.
The January transfer window will swing open in the very first moment of the New Year, a single second after midnight on Thursday January 1, 2015. Of this we can be absolutely sure. Unless it happens at some point on January 3rd for seemingly no reason at all, in which case the whole darned game is jiggered.
And if that window’s open, then tradition dictates that QPR’s Harry Redknapp will start the month in traditional fashion by driving at the speed of David Pleat and insisting that he “ain’t interested in signin’ nuffink, boys. Honestly.”
On the first day of January, as tradition also dictates, there is some football. And in it, Stoke beat Manchester United, Hull beat Everton, despite Everton having 99.7% possession but only 0.3% of it in Hull’s 18-yard box and only one hopeful pop on goal, while there are probably also wins for West Ham, Liverpool, Burnley, Swansea and Southampton. Aston Villa continue to set pulses racing by almost scoring a goal against Crystal Palace, but it ends 0-0.
Meanwhile, Manchester City beat Sunderland to close the gap on leaders Chelsea, for a couple of hours at least. Jose Mourinho’s team extend their lead again with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham, but are left rueing Christian Eriksen’s equaliser from the spot in the 27th minute of injury time, with Chelsea down to eight men. By that point Mourinho himself has been sent to the stands for effing and jeffing darkly in a foreign language, but watches from a grassy knoll down Tottenham High Road.
In the early days of January, we should finally receive confirmation of the compensation package agreed between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United that took Alan Pardew back to Selhurst Park. (And to be honest, some of us won’t sleep until we do.) A figure of £4.5m is likely to be reported, which Mike Ashley will pay in full just as soon as Wonga wire the money into his account. And with that issue settled, the corpulent sock billionaire will give the Geordie nation what they apparently want (at least according to the press pack down south) by appointing Wor Alun Shearer as Pardew’s replacement, with Ant and Dec as his assistants and Geoff from Byker Grove as chief scout.
At some point around now, that ghostly old grey chap whose name still evades us will have been replaced as West Brom manager by either Tony Pulis, Tim Sherwood, Derek McInnes, Dick Advocaat, Victor Pereira, Dave Jones, Mike Phelan, Brian McDermott, Keith Downing, Steve McClaren, Uncle Tom Cobleigh, Michael Laudrup, Neil Lennon, Alex McLeish, Billy Davies, Pepe Mel, Gianfranco Zola, Gareth Southgate, Martin Jol or any one of a million other names supposedly in the frame but who FFT really can’t be bothered to type out here. Or Sven maybe. Hopefully. That would be good.
On or around January 9, Harry Redknapp will kickstart the Great January Window Shopping Sale by accidentally selling Charlie Austin to Liverpool, having mistakenly pushed the ‘GET SHOT’ button on his iPhone instead of the one marked ‘AVE A PUNT, H’. Still, the British record £59.8m Liverpool pay softens the blow.
Suspecting his players only perform when all hope is lost, Sunderland owner Ellis Short replaces Gus Poyet with Paolo Di Canio for the rest of January, mothballing the nice Uruguayan in a cupboard while ‘Il Duce’ goes about his business of alienating and abusing everyone while possibly goose-stepping around.
Predictably, Southampton sell their entire first-team squad to Liverpool and Tottenham on January 10, for a fee believed to be in the region of £168m. “Sh*t happensh,” explains their Dutch stereotype manager Ronald Koeman, who buys Bournemouth’s entire first team in time to face Manchester United the following day.
With the next raft of games, Chelsea and Manchester City both win again to romp onwards, as do Di Canio’s Sunderland, Burnley, Swansea, West Brom, Spurs and Aston Villa, whose 3-0 win at Leicester comes courtesy of a Wes Morgan hat-trick. In the Sunday games, Bournemouth win at Old Trafford and Stoke only have to clear their throats to win at Arsenal.
Which proves to be the final straw for Arsene, who finally admits defeat and buys the hairy-arsed midfield destroyer Arsenal so desperately need. Lee Cattermole joins for £27m but receives three red cards in his first two games and is suspended until October.
Having spoken of Brendan Rogers being a great influence, Swansea’s Garry Monk has his teeth whitened and installs a life-sized gold bust of himself in his hallway at home. Results, which had been impressive thus far, instantly tail off when his best striker signs for either Liverpool or Arsenal for maybe £35m.
Wilfried Bony signs for either Liverpool or Arsenal for maybe £35m.
Meanwhile, to address the chronic shortage of strikers among their vast, bloated squad ahead of the Champions League’s knockout stages, Manchester City swoop to sign Alvaro Negredo from Valencia, paying a club record £38.2. Part of that fee is refunded to City when the bean counters discover they still own the player.
And having identified the glaring weaknesses in his slowly evolving Manchester United first XI, Louis van Gaal asks Ed Woodward to buy him a strapping centre half or a feisty defensive midfielder in the January transfer window. Woodward heads to Spain but returns with a novelty straw donkey, a player United don’t need and a receipt for €175m. Welcome home, Gareth Bale, but you can give Cristiano his hair band back now.
In the key games played on the weekend of January 17-18, Chelsea win at Swansea and Manchester City edge a nine-goal thriller with Arsenal by eight goals to one, thus preserving the status quo at the top, while Burnley’s win over Crystal Palace is marred by Sean Dyche venting at such volume that he coughs his larynx, oesophagus and trachea all down his club shirt and tie. Aston Villa almost score against Liverpool but it had already been ruled out for pushing.
Liverpool's game against Villa was most notable for the return of Daniel Sturridge from injury, and oh crikey, what a return it was, football fans – all three goals in a 3-0 win, with a perfect hat-trick of left foot, right foot and diving header?! Why it’s the very definition of Boy’s Own stuff, and it lifts Liverpool up to seventh in the table. You literally couldn't write it, even though we just did. But, of course, this is just nonsensical speculation and none of this will actually happen. You get that, right? Daniel Sturridge won’t be back until March at the very earliest, and even then it’ll only be for half a game, until something else twangs in the wind and he’s out until June. Well, we expect.
But the whole of January is building up to the final day of the month, when the top two meet at Stamford Bridge to decide who probably wins the entire title. With ridiculous irony, Frank Lampard makes the difference at Stamford Bridge, nudging a late winner home with his Johnson to help City leapfrog Chelsea at the top. Refreshingly, this time he celebrates by kissing his badge and blaspheming loudly in front of the Matthew Harding Stand, which responds with spontaneous applause.
Meanwhile, the other key business sees Harry Redknapp enter the final hours of the transfer window having signed absolutely nobody at all. And as he leaves Loftus Road at 10.40pm on January 31, he winds down the window one last time to declare to absolutely no reporters listening: “I’m chuffed wiv what I’ve got, I’m off up the old apples and pears, gorblimey etc and so on.”
As Harry drives out, Peter Odemwingie arrives and tries the doorbell again.
Across London, in what we expect is a villainous bunker lair filled with mirrors and wigs, Daniel Levy sells Harry Kane to some rich foreign club and then spunks every last shred on seven new players Mauricio Pochettino neither wants nor has ever even heard of. Just because he can. And then, for old time’s sake, he polishes his sharp knives and cackles like a crackpot.
Meanwhile, with reassuring predictability, Harry Redknapp finally bolsters his QPR squad by signing Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Danny Ings, Steven Gerrard, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yakubu, Christopher Samba, Samuel Eto’o and Peter Odemwingie, the last deal finalised just as the Old Bow bells clang 11. “It’s not much but it’s summink,” he gorblimeys.
But, in the final act of all January, Harry Redknapp remembers that the January Transfer Window doesn’t actually close until Monday February 2 at 11pm, not in January at all. He sets his alarm an hour earlier and kisses Sandra goodnight.