As we approach the new year I thought I’d have a round-up of the best and worst bits of 2015. Initially I was going to just write one article but I’ve got a lot of gripes so I’ve split it in two, we’ll start with the best bits of the year before delving into misery, confusion, despair and disappointment.
Tyson Fury and the end of the Klitschko era
Whatever you think of Tyson Fury, nothing can devalue his achievement in ending Wladimir Klitschko’s dominance of the heavyweight division (what has been devalued incidentally is the petition, it used to be something you could use to make those in power take note of important issues that had previously been ignored, now any fool can start one to try and get a boxer removed from an awards show – nonsense). There will be a rematch so essentially it is only a job half done for the ‘Gypsy King’ but either way it was some victory. It wasn’t a fight for the purists but Fury executed his game plan brilliantly as he demonstrated a tactical nous few realised he had beforehand.
The emergence of Anthony Joshua is also worth a mention after he proved he’s more than just a puncher with his win over Dillian Whyte, who could also become a big player in the heavyweight division, and with David Haye returning 2016 could be a great year for British fight fans.
Leicester City looked dead and buried in April but seven wins in their final nine games saw them finish mid table in what I understand is the best ever Premier League relegation escape, mathematically at least. What they have done since is also impressive but as they’ve not actually achieved anything yet we’ll leave that alone for the time being, that’s a conversation we may be able to have at the end of the current season.
Hartlepool United produced a similarly dramatic escape from relegation out of the Football League altogether following Ronnie Moore’s arrival as manager. Pools were 10 points adrift of safety at one stage and had managed a meagre 14 points from their opening 24 games, in the final 22 games they picked up 31 points to finish four points clear of the bottom two – incredible stuff.
England Rugby League
2015 may well go down as a vintage year for Rugby League in England as Leeds Rhinos won the treble in Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock’s final season with the club. The international game usually takes a back seat to club action in the sport, probably due to the fact only three teams – Australia, New Zealand and England – can be considered ‘competitive’ for want of a better word. I’d always considered England the weakest of the three and I had little hope of a series win over the visiting Kiwis after the end of the Super League season but England came away with a 2-1 series win.
They did it without Sam Burgess as well to make the achievement even more impressive, and he should be back in the fold for next year’s Four Nations after a brief and disappointing stint in Rugby Union, but more on that in part 2 of this piece.
I had planned to leave it at three but we’ll finish with a note on Barca. The Camp Nou club lost their way, to a degree at least, when Pep Guardiola went but under Luis Enrique they’re back at the summit. 2015 was the year we really got to see Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez form one of the most incredible attacking partnerships world football has ever seen – nice, and long may it continue.
Obviously there are loads of things I could have mentioned, the inception of the Gonzo Sports Desk for one, but I’ll call it a day here, until tomorrow (or maybe the day after) when we’ll take a look at the low points.