How much do you really remember of 2015? FFT's sideways glance pt.I
Right, no dawdling, sit up at the back, we've a lot to get through.
A long time ago in a galaxy that's, well, this one...
New Year's Day, and a hungover Chelsea were picking up empty Prosecco bottles and tripping over sleeping bags while Tottenham simply got on with things. Jose Mourinho, party hat askew, blamed the 5-3 defeat on not getting a penalty at 1-0, one his own player didn't appeal for. It's a fun year ahead.
The first day of the year brought the return of Tony Pulis – West Brom his latest victims – and Garth Crooks' Team of the Week. The BBC became aware in 2015 of its absurdity, promoting Crooks' round-up with tweets mocking his ultra-attacking formations, but long before the Fantasy Football-esque 2-3-5 line-ups came the most unrealistic team of all, his New Year's Day XI featuring goalscorers Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. For God's sake, Garth, it doesn't work.
Lampard angered New York City FC supporters by hanging around at Manchester City until halfway through the MLS season, while Gerrard announced he was swapping Liverpool for Los Angeles, prompting many to call him, without irony, the last one-club man. They are a dying breed, though: soon, Xavi had left Barcelona to please their benign Qatari overlords by passing to nobody because his Al Sadd team-mates didn't spot the run.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated winning the Ballon d'Or in typically understated fashion, Cardiff City returned to playing in blue (in front of empty red seats), Newcastle hit DEFCON Carver and in one mad FA Cup weekend Bradford won at Chelsea, Middlesbrough at Manchester City and Leicester at Spurs, while Manchester United drew 0-0 with Cambridge.
Transfer news! New Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew signed Shola Ameobi while possibly drunk, and another former one-club man Victor Valdes looked forward to a rich, fulfilling career at Manchester United. Meanwhile, second-tier Norwich appointed Alex Neil, a Scottish zombie movie extra who's inexplicably only a year older than leading man Wes Hoolahan.
Abroad, Luis Enrique faced criticism for losing to David Moyes' Real Sociedad and upsetting Lionel Messi, though winning the treble months later relieved the pressure a tad. Bayern Munich lost 4-1 to Wolfsburg in their first match post-winter break, conceding as many goals as they did in the first half of the season. Sepp Blatter welcomed Prince Ali's challenge for the FIFA presidency thus: "Do they not say that to win without peril is to triumph without glory?"
It'll probably be fine.
February 2: QPR chairman Tony Fernandes tweets: "No more cheque book. Bought all the players manager asked for in the summer."
February 3: QPR manager Harry Redknapp resigns, citing a dicky knee.
In tribute to his stricken comrade, R's midfielder Joey Barton followed up seven consecutive yellow cards with a straight red against Hull. The boy just needs a hug.
No Valentine's Day cuddles for Paul Lambert, sacked by Aston Villa after 25 games with just 12 goals on the bored – sorry, board – to usher in Tim Sherwood. The Sun printed a candidate for all-time worst headline, 'IT SHER SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT'.
The Premier League announced a multi-billion TV deal that can only be described as titanic. But surely this Premier ship (sorry) can't sink – not while mid-table teams can entice the likes of Yohan Cabaye to Selhurst Park, Andre Ayew to Swansea, Europe's leading chance-creator Dimitri Payet to West Ham and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke. Xherdan, Shaqiri, Stoke – nope, it still sounds wrong.
In the Africa Cup of Nations, Equatorial Guinea progressed from unexpected hosts to unexpected semi-finalists, before bowing out amid crowd trouble. Ivory Coast's olden generation finally lifted the trophy, leaving defeated Ghana coach Avram Grant to wonder why, when it comes to penalty shootouts, his players hate him.
The month's most depressing headline: 'Robbie Savage escapes driving ban because he'd be abused on public transport.'
Sunderland sacked their latest saviour, Gus Poyet. League Cup winners Chelsea exited the Champions League alongside Manchester City and Arsenal, the latter losing to an injury-hit, star-selling Monaco team made up of street urchins, leaving no English team in the quarter-finals for only the second time since Blackburn were in it. The Europa League last eight was an England-free zone, too, as clubs led a Government directive to leave Europe.
Dave Whelan appointed his 23-year-old grandson David Sharpe as Wigan chairman. To the horror of rookie manager Gary Caldwell (nine years his senior), Sharpe later declared his intention to "smash" League One and "get 100 points", adding that his dad could beat up anyone else's dad, he could so, yeah, he's got nunchucks. Sharpe promised a budget "five times more than anyone else" and a 20-goal-a-season striker, because he'd been brought up in the sepia-tinged past of Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington. Kids these days.
Qualification for the 2018 World Cup began, even before the draw took place, which is impressive. The first match was a mere three years, three months and three days before the finals. Sri Lanka were eliminated first, by debutants Bhutan. Oh well, not long until the next one.
Meanwhile Euro 2016 qualifiers continued apace. Mardy Montenegro had to forfeit against Russia but Scotland put six past Gibraltar, Steven Fletcher scoring their first hat-trick in nearly 50 years. They did, though, give Gibraltar a first competitive goal thanks to Gordon Strachan's commendably bonkers 1-2-2-5 formation.
A quiet month – at least until David Cameron forgot what team he supports, yet somehow won the General Election.
With four points separating nine teams and nobody more than seven points from the play-offs or relegation, League One was so enjoyably close that Blackpool decided to join it. The crisis club's season was summed up by on-loan keeper Joe Lewis having to play in an autographed shirt, as there were no spares. Oops.
The season peaked with Nigel Pearson, having taken Leicester off the bottom after 140 days there, calling a journalist an ostrich. There's not much we can add to that, really.
Overseas there were no alarms and no surprises as PSG, Bayern Munich and Juventus won their respective divisions – Juve by 17 points, while the Milan giants finished eighth or below and Parma went bust. Borussia Dortmund reached Europe having been bottom in February, and Hamburg clung to life. In the Eredivisie, PSV's thumping title win was rewarded by their best players leaving.
Back in England, a relieved West Ham gave Sam Allardyce his P45 minutes after the season ended, while he was still smoking a cigarette and reaching for his pants. Villa had an FA Cup final to forget against Arsenal, two weeks after a Europe-bound Southampton thumped them 6-1. Sadio Mane's three-minute hat-trick was simultaneously the fastest in the Premier League and the second-worst in history, behind Luther Blissett's only goals for England (below at 0:44, 0:53 and 1:20).
QPR, Burnley and Hull were replaced by Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich. Having occupied the Championship's three relegation spots every day since December, Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall did go gently into that good night. In their place came play-off victors Preston and goal centurions MK Dons alongside Bristol City, who annihilated League One with 99 points and 96 goals – 14 of them from Aden Flint, including a final-day hat-trick numbering two volleys and a rabona. Aden Flint is a 6ft 6in centre-back.
In League Two, Burton Albion, Shrewsbury, Bury and Southend were promoted to make way for third-tier failures Notts County, Crawley, Leyton Orient and Yeovil. Pity poor Wycombe, who on a meagre budget were 24 seconds from promotion at Wembley before conceding an equaliser and losing 7-6 on penalties. At least their conqueror Phil Brown didn't sing.
At the other end of football's competence scale, Sevilla triumphed 3-2 in an unusually exciting Europa League final against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, giants of Ukraine and tautology, and Barcelona beat Juventus in their Champions League treble-off.
Sepp Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term amid FIFA arrests, which would've made for a far more entertaining film than United Passions. As the closing text should have read, he announced his resignation four days later.
As for Steven Gerrard, he waved goodbye with defeat at Anfield and a goal in Liverpool's 6-1 harrumphing by Stoke, their worst for 50 years. So long, farewell...
... and part two below. Wait, where are you going?