2016 - This was the year that was



At the risk of sounding like every other cliché-wrapped bundle of festive round-up codswallop: this year has been quite the rollercoaster. Unprecedented successes have been followed by mind-numbingly predictable failures. Normal orders have been restored, usurped and downright destroyed. Reputations have been fortified in granite and reduced to ruin. And then there was Leicester City. From start to finish, it’s been a year like no other, and for those of you with sporting amnesia, here’s a reminder of why.

The year began in familiar fashion in Melbourne: Djokovic beat Murray. But this far from set the tone for a year of unbridled triumph for our Andy.  A first ever French Open final set Murray laughing all the way to World Number One, winning his second Wimbledon and Olympic titles en route; the latter a feat that no other man had achieved, and a feat that John Inverdale infamously struggled to compute. Thankfully Andy was on hand to correct him: “Erm… Serena Williams, John?”

Murray was by no means alone in treading new Olympic ground.  Jason and Laura Kenny (née Trott) became officially better than the whole of Brazil as they finished the games as the most successful Olympian couple in history, placed 13th in the medal table.  Mo Farah’s historic double-double was cruelly eclipsed by Usain Bolt’s treble-treble, whilst Michael Phelps took his Olympic medal tally into the thousands (probably), and a star was born in the beguiling Simone Biles.  Adam Peaty lost count of the number of times he broke his own word records in the pool. The Brownlees became the first fraternal one-two at the games in 56 years.  Max Whitlock became Britain’s first, and shortly after, second ever gold medallist in gymnastics. And Justin Rose became the first ever gold medal winner in the golf, by virtue of golf becoming the first ever old man’s sport to appear at the Olympics.

On the subject, golf threw up one of the most intriguing stories of the year. No, honestly, it did. When the kind of capitulation that can only happen at Augusta happened at Augusta to poor old Jordan Speith, Danny Willett brought the famous green jacket back to Britain for the first time since Nick Faldo. However, in one of the most dramatic final rounds in recent Masters memory, the young lad from Leeds came from nowhere to win, only to be upstaged by his brother’s antics on social media. PJ Willett’s twitterstorm went viral, as he swung from profanity, via drunkenness, to advising the new Masters champion to refuse the jacket on account of the fact that green makes him look fat. Such was PJ’s newfound fame that he promptly got himself a column writing for National Club Golfer; a job that he promptly lost after penning an ill-timed tirade against American golf fans, incurring the wrath of absolutely everyone in the golfing world – brother included – and single-handedly winning the Ryder Cup for the old enemy. Nice one PJ.

Speaking of the old enemy, England’s year in rugby has had a distinctly Australian flavour to it, and it has been mightily tasty indeed. Having taken over after a dismal World Cup, Eddie Jones has led his adopted nation to unscaled heights: played 13, won 13 in 2016, including the spectacularly delicious whitewash of the Wallabies down under. But Jones can’t take all the credit. Just like successful England teams before them, Jones’ dominance is built upon strong domestic foundations, and Saracens’ all-conquering season is testament to this. With the same backbone – Vunipolas (plural), Itoje, Kruis, and Farrell – as Jones’ England side, Saracens won their first ever European title to add to their defence of the Premiership.

However, for some unknown reason (although we all have our theories), this premise does not translate to football. The Premier league season saw a two-horse race between teams packed full of English grit, quality and raw energy, climax with the most unlikely winners since the Baha Men won a Grammy: Leicester City. Between them and Spurs, they provided the goals of Kane and Vardy, the effervescent energy of Rose and Walker, and the craft, strength and invention of Dier, Drinkwater and Alli. The national side had a strong spine of top, young, in-form talent to take to a major tournament for the first time since 2006. Exciting times... we then stuttered to a draw against a Russian side that would genuinely struggle in League One. Three weeks later we were on the way home, managerless and beaten by a nation with a population smaller than most towns in League One, with the unenviable record of not having won a knock-out game at a tournament since the aforementioned heady days of 2006. Oh, how we all miss the glory days of that 1-0 win over Ecuador. 

Well, you can’t have it all. In a year that gave us so much to marvel at, it’s only right and proper that we get something to grumble about. And it’s only right and proper that it should be our football team that provides it. Sigh.

There’s always 2018. Hmmmm.

Edward Capstick


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