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An alternate universe inside the complex mind of one man…

What a scintillating Premier League 09-10 Season!

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After a few seasons of relative boredom in which we are seeing the same pattern again and again from the title winner, the Big Four in the league, as well as how the relegation battles have been shaped, finally we have a season worthy to be dubbed one of the best ever seasons of all time. The BPL season which has just been concluded with the crowning of their new Champions Chelsea was truly a scintillating season. Not only the title race was a heartstopping one, all the way to the penultimate match-day of the season, but the race to the coveted 4th spot was also equally mesmerizing and heartstopping. Besides the business end of the table, even the wrong end of the table provided a somewhat entertaining relegation battle as well as a sad and real story about the plight of a Premier League club being humiliated due to financial mismanagement in the past…

From the beginning of the season, there have been moments that actually determine how the season would pan out. First, we have Carlo Ancelotti being hired to lead Chelsea back to glory after Guus Hiddink’s face saving 6month tenure which landed the FA Cup. To be frank, I was quite skeptical with the appointment of Ancelotti. He’s the manager who have been failing with an aged AC Milan team in the past few seasons, and now he’s taking over a team which is also going to face or even already facing the same aging problem, Chelsea. I didn’t see them as champions, and instead I saw Manchester United’s domination to continue on, and there won’t be any excitement at all.

Manchester City also splurged on plenty of players such as Adebayor, Kolo Toure, and more importantly Carlos Tevez (and yes, Jolen Lescott… Sigh…). As a Manchester City fan, it is really great to see how Man City are massively upgrading their squad with the newfound wealth from the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG). It seemed that this season is the season in which not only Man City are finally able to shake off their mediocre status, but this might be the season to dream big and challenge Man Utd’s domination at the top of the table directly! I started to dream big about Man City’s prospects this season.

The first match day started, and I remember looking at the match between Tottenham and Liverpool. In light of Liverpool’s massive but futile title challenge in the previous season and how Tottenham once again failed to deliver, I felt that this game is a goner. Liverpool was certainly going to win this match. But my, how I was proven wrong, as Tottenham triumphantly beating Liverpool 2-0 and with their new center back Sebastien Bassong scoring on his debut. This turned out to be a perfect omen on what Tottenham was about to achieve this season, of course at the expense of my beloved Man City, Aston Villa, and Liverpool.

The following match days also proved how Liverpool huffed and puffed over the sheer expectations placed on them prior to the start of the season due to again, their performances in the previous season. But no thanks to the financial state which is increasingly in disarray, they weren’t able to secure any meaningful reinforcement besides the flop Alberto Aquilani who arrived injured for 6 months and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who was not a flop, but not the kind of signing that a team challenging for the title would make. The failure and inability of them to reinforce their squad properly proved to be at least one of the main catalysts of their downfall, as epitomized by their embarrassing knockouts in the Cup competitions.

By this time, it was almost Christmas time, and everyone started to celebrate the increasingly secularized celebration. However, there wasn’t to be an unforgettable Christmas in the positive sense for anyone associated with Portsmouth, especially the fans. OK, maybe it should have been mentioned somewhere above, but I will mention it now. Upon the takeover by Sulaiman al Fahim, an Emirate tycoon who was one of the main players in the aforementioned ADUG takeover f Man City in the previous season, there was an air of optimism among Pompey fans, as they thought they were becoming the second Man City. As an average fan, I also thought that that since Sulaiman al Fahim is one of the main players in ADUG, Portsmouth would be able to achieve many great things, and perhaps greater than the apex of their season of all time when they won the FA Cup in 2008, which was ironically one of the main causes why they slumped to such an extent. But Sulaiman Al Fahim soon left and replaced by a rather mysterious figure called Ali al Faraj, which some sections of the media claimed that such person doesn’t even exist, and before anyone could blink, the club changed hands again to Balram Chainrai, a Hong Kong businessman and soon, it became the first club in the Premier League to enter administration. I was really surprised at how the club’s fortune changed in such a short period of time, and the rest, as they say is a history, a history which I believe even Southampton fans won’t dare ridicule.

Around the same period, things got a little bit tough for Mark Hughes in Man City in which they equaled the all time draw records of 7 consecutive games in the top division. Actually, I think Mark Hughes was perfectly on course to clinch that coveted 4th place or even better than that as to think about it, Mar Hughes had 35 points at the halfway point of the season, and Tottenham, the team who clinched the spot has 70 points now, and even Tottenham manages to secure that number of points, had Hughes continued on, Man City would be the one clinching the spot due to superior goal difference. I mean, look at how Mark Hughes’ team performed at home especially. Those high scoring games would do a world of good to Man City’s goal difference record. Sadly, the board wants all things instant and they decided that Mark Hughes has failed and it’s time for him to go. Actually, with a newly assembled team, Mark Hughes has done a great job and Roberto Mancini replaced him, a man with no real experience in England, and again, the rest is history… Bye2 4th spot, welcome oh so mighty Europa League!

If the sacking of Mark Hughes is not enough, the board also decided that Man City’s captain Richard Dunne was not “Galactico” enough to don the sky blue shirt, let alone leading the team out as their Captain, and he was soon put in the transfer market, in which Aston Villa was only too happy to get him for a steal at a mere 5 million pounds. That proved t be a suicidal move as his departure left such a vacuum in Man City’s defence that it became as porous as a sponge. However, fate has its way of twisting such that Richard Dunne would be back at the penultimate day of the season to lift Man City as high as possible, 5th place by scoring an own goal which proved to be the winning goal against Blackburn. Nonetheless, I think the sale of Richard Dunne was not a rational decision…

Then New Year time for all of us. 2009 turned to 2010. At this time, it is traditionally the time whereby all the races in the league, especially the title race right at the top heats up. Despite the fact that Chelsea was perched in a relative comfort at the top of the table, there was a sense of deja vu from the past, (it was with Arsenal) in which Man Utd would suddenly wake up from their half season slumber and start to surge up the table while their rivals start to run out of gas and simply slowly fade before being overtaken. Even last season,Rafa Benitez was the latest victim with his infamous “Rafa Rant”, reminiscence to the infamous implosion of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle in 1996. True enough, Man Utd started to rapidly surge up the table and Rooney was in the form of his life, scoring a hatful of goals week in week out, and Man Utd fans even started to declare “Ronaldo WHO?”. As a side personal note, the sudden burst of impressive form for Rooney prompted even a Liverpool fan acquaintance to praise Rooney non stop which irritated me to no end.

Meanwhile, also true to people’s and my earlier expectations about Man Utd’s habit of second half of the season surge up the table, this is compounded by the general consensus of football fans that Chelsea’s squad is too old to last the race and they will at a point of time simply crash and burn, and Chelsea started to drop more and more points and the image of Ancelotti managing Chelsea resembled more of him managing AC Milan, as well as Chelsea’s average age resembled that of AC Milan. At this point of time, had someone challenged me to place a bet on Man Utd winning the title, I would have done that.

Chelsea’s problems and their supposed free fall were compounded by the infamous super injunction failure of John Terry to keep his dark little dirty secret off the public view. Suddenly, the already ferocious media world was filled by the sensational news about how John Terry had an affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex partner in the past, Vanessa Perroncel. The last thing that Chelsea wanted was a scandal in the squad, let alone a huge one affecting their captain, affecting Mr. Chelsea himself! The effect was apparent when Chelsea hosted Man City in an expected EXPLOSIVE match with THAT infamous “phantom handshake” between Terry and Bridge when they came face to face and Chelsea was defeated 4-2 in front of their own fans. While Man Utd continued to catch up with them!

Like I said, besides the title race, even the relegation battle, which usually an average fan even in the UK (unless if they are the fans of the clubs concerned) would not be bothered to care, was quite a classic and quite a closely fought race. This started when Burnley was sucked in to the relegation dogfight with clubs such as West Ham, Wigan, Bolton, and of course Hull City after a decent first half season which included a 1-0 victory over Man Utd (which many pundits consider the beginning of the end for Man Utd, but for me, at that time, it didn’t have any effect). Basically Owen Coyle, Burnley’s manager who brought them to the Premier League in the first place decided to play Judas by going to Bolton, Burnley’s direct title rival to fill the hotseat vacated by Gary Megson. This was the beginning of the end for Burnley as they hired Brian Laws, which even for me, it was the very first time I have heard of that name. He has just left Sheffield Wednesday in an extreme mess, which culminated in their relegation, and thus eventually he also brought Burnley down. Double relegation… Although for Burnley, with their heads up!

Hull City, another team fighting hard for survival sacked the now infamous Phil Brown and hired Iain Dowie. Another team on the freefall after Burnley… But after last season’s extreme fiasco, for me, I have seen this coming and it’s the matter of how soon and not if, the Tigers are going to be relegated from the Premier League. Thus, both Burnley and Hull were eventually relegated together with the doomed Portsmouth…

As for West Ham, it was amazing that they could have survived even with 31 point, in a league where 40 points is considered the safety mark to be targeted by any team trying to avoid relegation. Gianfranco Zola, as much as he’s a likeable character managed to survive the axe as West Ham managed to retain their Premier League status, although it’s more of the chaos in Burnley and Hull that secured his survival, but for how long?

Another special mention must also go to Fulham, who again many fans might have forgotten that they even exist, let alone creating fireworks in the Europa League, considered the poor little cousin of the Champions League. Without much fuss and media attention, Fulham negotiated round after round, top opponents after top opponents, and finally before anyone realizing, they are in the final of the Europa League, and at the time of writing, only needing to beat an erratic Atletico Madrid side to win the trophy and also giving Burnley Europa League qualification through the fair play table. I think Fulham have what it takes to notch a win against Atletico depending on how Atletico performs. Also, I believe Fulham has an upper hand as Fulham has been in the final venue before when they drew 0-0 against Hamburger SV in the first leg of the semi final match.

After such heartstopping moments and exciting chase, the much coveted fourth spot was clinched by Tottenham, which managed to beat Man City 1-0 thanks to a somewhat lucky goal by Peter Crouch, in a direct “Play-off, winners take all” match to decide who qualify to the Champions League next season, and Tottenhm eventually clutched the spot from Liverpool, and not Manchester City…

As for the title race, still fresh in everyone’s minds at the time of writing, was also down to the very last day in which both Man Utd and Chelsea were up against small oppositions (stoke and Wigan respectively at home) and Chelsea of course managed to grab the title after thrashing a hapless Wigan a whopping 8-0 and in the process Drogba claiming the Golden Boot award, while Man Utd managed to gain an expected but futile 4-0 win against Stoke.

A special mention as well for Burnley who managed to beat Tottenham 4-2 in the very last day of their Premier League season at Turf Moor, and as for Chelsea, that’s how you win the Premier League title, same goes for Burnley, that’s how you sign off and say your goodbyes from the Premier League.

Besides the serious stuff, this season has also been littered with funny and even ridiculous moments such as how a naked Tony Pulis headbutted James Beattie in one of Stoke City’s many internal scuffles, and also how Ancelotti swore to the world that he would run around the training ground naked if Chelsea had purchased any player in the January transfer window (which they didn’t) and also another internal scuffle at Hull in which Jimmy Bullard was in a boxing match against Nick Barmby with elderly ladies from the Women Institute as spectators.

All in all, this season has been such a scintillating, exciting, heartstopping and even mind boggling that I believe I ought to write this piece for my own passion, as well as the world. I am not sure if the world eventually reads the thousands of words here, thousands of words which are basically echoing what top football journalists around the world have been saying, (as we talk about the same events) but only with additions of my own perspectives and comments on the issues, but even if the world refuses to read my piece, I would not be deterred and I will continue to write passionately for the sake of the Beautiful Game! Joga Bonito!

One Response

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  1.’s done it again. Superb read!

    Kristin Do

    28/05/2010 at 08:11

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