Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 31 December 2007

2007 and all that...

So here we are at the end of 2007 (at least it is in the UK - if you live in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Thailand, China or Japan, it's now 2008). It's been a busy year for us and an eventful one for football generally. We'll bet a princely sum you've probably forgotten a lot about this year, so let us guide you gently by the hand down memory lane to remind you of all those things that happened while you had your back turned...

Alex McLeish became Scotland manager and promptly left again. Having taken over from Walter Smith in January he guided the Scots to within a gnat's whisker of a place in the Euro 2008 finals, but when the Italians pipped him to it, he stepped down. A great shame, but it seems the lure of the Premier League is stronger now than ever it was...

David Beckham announced he was heading off to the States to join LA Galaxy. It's fair to say he's had a minor impact on the field during his short stay so far, but his impact off it has been much, much greater. Interest in the MLS got a huge boost on the back of his arrival, to say nothing of Galaxy's commerical dealings in the States and around the world. Much is expected of him in his second season, and who knows - it might even reignite the England career we thought was over.

Italian football went into meltdown as violence raged in the stands and out on the streets. A police officer was killed during a fight between 'supporters' of Catania and Palermo and all fixtures were soon after postponed until a full investigation was carried out. Things haven't improved since the status quo was restored.

West Ham United stunned the football world by signing a couple of Argentineans - Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez. Many thought it was a sneaky, underhanded way of breaking in a couple of big-name internationals that could be sold onto to a bigger club like Man United or Liverpool further down the line. Tch, as if... The novelty soon wore off, though, as West Ham were found guilty of breaking Premier League rules due to the way they'd conducted the deal. Though many expected a huge points penalty to be given out, instead The Hammers were made to pay out a record sum by way of punishment. And that was that - everything was sorted out to the satisfaction of every other club in Britain and no harm was done. Tch, as if...

England supplied three out of the four Champions League semi-finalists, but by the time the Final arrived only one was left, and even they couldn't lift the trophy. Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool all flew the flag with pride, but in the end Fillipo Inzaghi's two goals blew The Reds out of the water in a thrilling climax to the competition that ended 2-1 to Milan.

Wembley Stadium made its long-awaited comeback by hosting the FA Cup Final once again. Sadly the match itself didn't live up to its incredible surroundings as Chelsea beat Man United 1-0. It was in fact the Carling Cup Final that had more incident. Chelsea came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a brace from Didier Drogba, but while he was finding the net, John Terry was taking a boot to the head and being carried off and John Obi Mikel, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor all got a red card for their efforts. Who said it was it was the FA Cup Final's less interesting counterpart?

In April, we heard the sad news of the death of 1966 World Cup winner Alan Ball who died from a heart attack. We also said goodbye in 2007 to Seville's Antonio Puerta and just yesterday, Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell, both of whom collapsed and died suddenly during matches they were playing in. They will all be greatly missed.

Back in England, the managerial merry-go-round whirled round faster than ever before, throwing off many a coach who thought they could hold on a little bit longer. Fulham parted company with Chris Coleman and later Lawrie Sanchez, Bolton went their separate ways from Sam Allardyce and later Sammy Lee. Sven Goran Eriksson arrived at Man City and promptly started spending the many millions of disgraced former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while Martin Jol made way for Juande Ramos at Spurs and Steve Bruce left Birmingham City. Even England lost their coach - Steve McLaren holding the door open for the aforementioned Italian.

In the Premier League, it was goodbye Charlton, Watford and Sheffield United and hello Derby, Sunderland and Birmingham. Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player since Andy Gray to win the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year awards as well as the PFA Fans' Player of the Year and Football Writers' Player of the Year awards too.

Transfer-wise, it was all change with the biggest headline of all going to the departure of Thierry Henry from Arsenal to Barcelona. Elsewhere, Tottenham shelled out £16 million for Charlton's Darren Bent, Man United finally picked up Bayern Munich's Owen Hargreaves and Liverpool splashed the cash to snap up Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun.

On the international front, England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 along with the other home nations, but elsewhere Iraq amazed the football world with a win in the Asian Cup while Brazil less unexpectedly lifted the Copa America once again despite a strong challenge from favourites Argentina.

Towards the end of the year, Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric found themselves arrested in the ongoing investigation into transfer irregularities and AC Milan became the first European team to win the FIFA World Club Cup.

All in all, it's fair to say that 2007 has given us lots to write about and we hope that in our 266 posts, we've done that sufficiently well to entertain, inform and please you. If we have, we've done what we set out to. If not, stick with us - our aim is to do even better next year.

That just leaves us to say an enormous thank you to all of you that have visited SPAOTP during 2007. We can't tell you how much we appreciate your interest, your comments, your compliments and your involvement in the site. We'd particularly like to single out Adam, Chris (B Squad), P.Shaw, Keving, Flicktokick, The Gaffer, Kedge, Kris and Emma, Chris C Paul, Sp3ktor, Sven, Duffman, Soccer Shout Phil, Blulu, HaveYouSeenLucky and Ratonbox as our most frequent and valued supporters, but if your name doesn't appear on the list, don't worry - we know you're out there and we can't wait to be of service to you again into the new year!

So that's it. We're drawing a line under 2007 and starting anew with 2008. Let's raise a toast to another great twelve months of football and whoever you support, may your team win and may it do so often...

Happy New Year from Some People Are On The Pitch!

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