How much do you really remember of 2015? FFT's sideways glance pt.II
If you missed part one, you didn’t miss much (just five months, don’t worry). Anyway, it’s here. If not, moving swiftly on...
Summer = JOB SWAP FRENZY! Real Madrid kick us off: after firing Carlo Ancelotti for aggressive eyebrow-raising, they appointed the one person not to have managed them yet – Rafa Benitez. West Ham claimed they were "two hours from getting Benitez", so his signature was a real coup for the 10-time European Cup winners.
Steve McClaren joined Newcastle's board of directors and was immediately appointed manager, having got the nod from the board's newest member. His deal until 2018 could extend to 2023 – but only if he's successful. He's shrewd, is Mike Ashley.
And as July beckoned, Leicester sacked Nigel Pearson, the unhinged architect of their success. Who's cut out for a relegation battle? Claudio Ranieri, you say? That's it, they're going down.
The World Cup gave women's football a new audience. Naturally, England suffered semi-final heartbreak, as a brilliant sliding interception from Laura Bassett morphed, slow-motion, into a catastrophically unlucky tragicomical own goal that gifted Japan passage to the final with virtually the last kick of the game. The USA triumphed 5-2, Carli Lloyd scoring a 15-minute hat-trick in her 804th cap, one goal from the halfway line.
In the men's game, Chile's Copa America shootout victory over Argentina meant Lionel Messi still hasn't won a major international tournament – just four Champions Leagues, seven league titles, four Ballons d'Or and a handful of other trinkets. Pitiful.
Also in the Copa America, well-known South American nation Jamaica and their eight recently repatriated England-born players lost 1-0, 1-0 and 1-0 – not bad, mind, with Championship defenders up against Messi & Co. Besides, they were in a hurry to get to the Gold Cup, where they beat the USA to reach the final less than a fortnight before the 2015/16 Premier League season began. Wes Morgan is now 90% masking tape, 10% adrenaline.
Transfers! Arda Turan booked a six-month holiday by joining embargoed Barcelona, who couldn't play him or fellow signing Aleix Vidal for six months. Manchester United splashed out on Morstian Schneidsteiger and Sunderland mistakenly committed to four years of Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Coates in defence. Chelsea gave Radamel Falcao a home, then bid and bid and bid but ultimately left John Stones unturned. Allan Nyom's move to Watford ended a six-year loan at Granada, Udinese's other happy hostage.
Fabian Delph invented the transfer W-turn. The midfielder almost joined Manchester City, then committed to Aston Villa, then signed for City after all, making Villa's kit launch, featuring Delph front and centre and tugging on his captain's armband, somewhat awkward. Maybe he was trying to take it off.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 11, 2015
Raheem Sterling also joined City, despite advice to stay at Liverpool from manager Brendan Rodgers, club champion Mark Lawrenson and supporters who called the 20-year-old greedy for leaving Liverpool to join a bigger club, five years after he left QPR to join Liverpool. An open letter from one bitter fan begins: "Dear Raheem, you have finally leaving us." Says it all, really.
There's just time for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw, which pits Spain against Italy, Wales against the Republic of Ireland and England against Scotland. Lock up your crossbars.
FourFourTwo announces that fans are owed a good season, and boy do we get it. First, though, Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro is castigated by Mourinho, then fired, for treating Eden Hazard on the pitch (i.e. her job). She'll get her revenge, though, when Mourinho is sacked and given a choice of jobs while she prepares a court case with a sinister media watching her every move. Hmm.
New West Ham manager Slaven Bilic picked 16-year-old Reece Oxford, already their youngest-ever player, to start at Arsenal on the opening day. Oxford impressed in a 2-0 away win. This football lark's easy.
Transfer deadline day saw Real Madrid swoop for David de Gea and pay tribute to his first season at Old Trafford by making a dog's breakfast of it. Manchester United weren't made to return the present they'd bought with the De Gea money, though, teenager Anthony Martial arriving for what will end up being a £58m fee. Spurned by Stones, Chelsea bought Papy Djilobodji, who hasn't been seen since.
Iceland qualified for Euro 2016, the island nation's biggest sporting success outside fishing or Spandex-clad behemoths pulling trucks with a rope. The Czech Republic's qualification continued their bizarre record of reaching all six European Championships since their formation, but only one World Cup – and that was in Germany. Travellers, Czechs? Not so much.
And, of course, Wayne Rooney matched and then broke Bobby Charlton's England goalscoring record, both times from the penalty spot. The FA has ignored our suggestion to introduce some competition by picking Charlton and Gary Lineker in friendlies and letting them take spot-kicks.
UEFA's extension of the European Championship to 24 sides, making it an icosikaitetragon, was justified as motivated minnows, from Albania to Wales, made it to France. Northern Ireland even topped their group. Oddly, Cyprus's win in Israel meant Wales' historic qualification came with their only defeat of the campaign.
But the Dutch... oh, the Dutch. Despite fast-tracking boss Danny Blind after Guus Hiddink struggled, the third-best team in last year's World Cup won't be in a tournament featuring more than half of the professional teams in Europe. Fine effort.
Elsewhere, Sepp Blatter somehow managed to dig himself an even deeper hole. In throwing Michel Platini under the bus – supposedly the Frenchman wanted Qatar to host the World Cup, much to Blatter's secret dismay as he rescued kittens and nuns from a burning building – the FIFA president revealed it had been "agreed" Russia would host in 2018 and the USA in 2022, meaning other countries' bids were pointless. FA chief Greg Dyke wants his £21 million back. He may have to settle for a £10 gift card.
Boca Juniors won Argentina's ludicrous 30-team league and then its cup a few days later amid refereeing controversy. Carlos Tevez, having joined from Juventus, became the first player to win two domestic doubles in a year. More importantly, he was the first player to make the FFT100 while playing in Argentina. He'll treasure that.
An ungrateful Villa sacked Tim Sherwood after he took them to Wembley (by winning one match) and kept them up (because Hull's form fell off a cliff) before taking one point from nine. Brendan Rodgers became a casualty of Jurgen Klopp's availability, while Sunderland hired Sam Allardyce and newspapers fawningly serialised his autobiography. He goes on to lose eight of his first 11 games. Nobody mentions this.
While title contenders laboured and Jose Mourinho's press conferences jumped the shark, three orcas and a small aquarium, Jamie Vardy put summer controversy behind him to score in his 11th straight Premier League game. Suddenly everyone was an expert on Jimmy Dunne, who went one better for Sheffield United in the 1930s. Dunne's record remains, so he can be forgotten for another few decades until somebody new starts banging them in.
In the Euro 2016 play-offs, wins for Sweden, Ukraine, Hungary and the Republic of Ireland meant that in France we'll get to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Gabor Kiraly's jogging bottoms and the Boys in Green's supporters being relentlessly patronised. Sadly, Scotland are the only British Isles team not invited to the party, but all the cool kids hang out with Guernsey and the Isle of Man anyway.
Gary Neville went to Valencia. Garry Monk went to the Job Centre. Louis van Gaal's reputation went to pot, as a miserable Manchester United side suffered their most consecutive defeats since 1961 and tumbled out of the Champions League into the sweet embrace of death. No, wait – the Europa League. That's the one.
Van Gaal soon felt Jose Mourinho's hot breath on the back of his neck, as the Portuguese moaner-in-chief, having gradually lost the plot and quickly found the exit, put Chelsea behind him by immediately setting his sights on taking the United job from the man who made him.
Chelsea tried to remember what they usually do in this situation and found Hiddink on speed dial. Since he was last at Stamford Bridge, the Dutchman has resigned acrimoniously from Turkey after failing to reach Euro 2012; joined, retired, unretired and resigned from Anzhi Makhachkala; and been fired by his own country after leaving them up a certain creek without a certain instrument. The only way is up!
For Leicester, the only way is down – but only because they can't go any higher. Sitting unfairly in their shadow, relegation-tipped Watford went into Christmas one point off the Champions League spots, proving once and for all that the way to succeed after promotion is to change manager and sign 16 players, including four thirtysomething journeymen, in the summer. Harry Redknapp would approve (the knee's fine now, by the way).
The Euro 2016 draw was drawn. Having finally escaped England's shadow, Wales were paired with... England. Italy boss Antonio Conte confused Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland with Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland, the prat, while both teams got a tough draw and France an easy one. Obviously.
Michel Platini, though, will have to imagine their campaign in his head. Team Blattini received an eight-year ban from all football-related activities, so it's straight to bed without TV. He and Sepp can't even play Disgraced Ex-Footballer Top Trumps ("Marlon King, 1/10 for Decision-Making").
What a year it's been. And we didn't mention Ian Wright's mad scientist specs once.