Premier League 2012-2013: The season that was – in bite-sized chunks
Popes and pundits, sackings and songs, Steve Tongue charts the highs and lows of a 2012-13 season in which Luis Suarez was never far from the action
Steve Tongue Author Biography
In an era of 24-hour rolling sports news, as Arsenal’s manager Arsène Wenger says: “We live in a world that needs a drama every day.” There has been enough to keep Jim White of Sky Sports News shouting at the top of his voice all season long, little of it driven by pious recommendations last August that the national sport should take its cue from London’s Olympians.
Race, having raised its ugly head last season, kept staring and glaring, with the independent panel’s judgment on John Terry. Chelsea came out of it badly, then made unproven accusations that the referee Mark Clattenburg had abused two of their players. Reports of some games were forced to dwell upon precisely who had shaken hands with whom, the Premier League ignoring Mark Hughes’s suggestion that the whole pre-match charade should be abandoned.
QPR’s Hughes only just avoided becoming the first Premier League manager sacked, losing by two days to Roberto di Matteo, who unlike his neighbour had not only won some matches but was top of the table for two months. The managers of three relegation candidates would follow in the new year as panic drove the desire to be around come August for the most fabulous riches yet from domestic and overseas broadcasting deals.
For all the criticism of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations – mostly that it would reinforce the status quo – Premier League clubs voted by a small margin to accept some financial restraint of their own, which as only half a dozen made a profit last year seemed sensible.
As for the football, if what turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last campaign was for neutrals too much of a one-horse race, there was interest and romance elsewhere. Swansea City and Bradford City were welcome finalists in a reinvigorated League Cup, even if the game was never a contest. Wigan were popular FA Cup winners, ushering Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini out of the exit then falling through a trap-door themselves.
So on just about every weekend of the season, the football world’s need for a drama a day was more than adequately met.
Best buys: Michu £2m Rayo Vallecano to Swansea. Arouna Kone £2.7m Levante to Wigan.
Spain replaced France as the place to shop for top talent, whatever Newcastle United thought.
Worst buys: Scott Sinclair £6.2m Swansea to Manchester City. Oussama Assaidi £2.3m Heerenven to Liverpool. Swansea bought Michu and his 21 goals for £2m; sold Sinclair and Danny Graham (seven goals all season) for over £11m.
Most eventful games: Reading 5 Arsenal 7; Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3
The League Cup was already perking up before the extraordinary fourth-round match in which Arsenal found themselves 4-0 down in 37 minutes, prompting a number of their supporters to leave the ground. Two goals in the last two minutes then earned them extra-time and ultimately victory. City were only three points behind United when they met in December and even a draw would have been acceptable, before Samir Nasri ducked out of the wall at Robin van Persie’s winning free-kick in the final minute.
Least eventful game: Reading 0 QPR 0. A suitably doom-laden Sunday afternoon affair in which the draw confirmed relegation for both clubs.
Best pundit: Gary Neville. Solid good sense and the master of every gizmo.
Worst prediction: West Ham, Swansea and West Bromwich as bottom three – “Soccer Saturday” presenter Jeff Stelling.
1. Luis Suarez: Despite having captained Uruguay in the Olympics, the Liverpool striker was having none of that Baron de Coubertin nonsense. In January he ended non-League Mansfield Town’s FA Cup dreams by fisting in the winning goal. Three months later, slowly winning support to be the Footballer of the Year, he took a nip at the arm of an astonished Branislav Ivanovic, collecting a 10-match ban.
2. John Terry: Pipping Suarez as most widely booed player anywhere, Chelsea’s captain was given a four-match ban for racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand (which would have been five under new legislation); then retired from international football; missed 16 games with a knee injury; threatened an England comeback, decided against; and popped up when injured again to help lift the Europa League trophy.
Other Bad Boys:
Eden Hazard: hacked at Swansea ball boy.
Alan Pardew: shoved linesman during Tottenham game.
Clint Dempsey: declined to play until Fulham sold him.
Lazio, Inter and Serbia supporters: all guilty of serious racist abuse.
Tweet best deleted: “BUNCHOFTW**S”: Ashley Cole’s comment on the FA after independent panel found his evidence in the Terry case had “evolved” over time.
Good to talk award: Linesman John Brooks, who told Joleon Lescott to applaud Man City fans for paying £62 each at Arsenal.
Not so good to talk: Roy Hodgson telling Underground passengers about Rio Ferdinand’s (lack of) international future.
Most unexpected tipple: Sir Alex Ferguson pours champagne for journalists. (Many of them toasting David Moyes’s arrival).
And farewell from him: Riding off into the sunset with Sir Alex, United legends from the FA Youth Cup class of ’92 David Beckham and (with considerably less fuss) Paul Scholes. Plus Jamie Carragher, future manager, and Michael Owen, new TV analyst.
Sacked manager with best record: Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea – (last season two Cups); this season won 11, lost 6, League position 3rd.
Sacked manager with worst record: Mark Hughes, QPR – won 1 (Walsall), lost 10. League position 20th.
Nicest gesture to visiting fans: Gillingham providing all 28 travelling Accrington supporters with a free burger and chips at half-time at the Priestfield stadium.
Biggest waste of petrol: Peter Odemwingie’s drive from West Bromwich to QPR on deadline day.
Black (country) humour: Wolves fans at Brighton on the last game of the season singing: “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Shrews-bu-ry.” And they are – for the first time in the League since 1984 – after some spectacular mismanagement that began with the sacking of Mick McCarthy, who has since revitalised Ipswich Town.
Worst choice of sponsor: Wonga, the payday loans company, to be the new name on Newcastle United shirts.
Most pessimistic mascot: Little lad at Leeds, asked who his favourite player was, nominated Ross McCormack. “D’you think he’ll score tonight?” “Probably not.” (He was right).
Best support in 5-0 defeat: Bradford City fans at Capital One Cup final. Having already beaten Arsenal and Aston Villa to get to Wembley, the score hardly mattered.
Most clueless owners: Venky’s (Blackburn Rovers).
Zero to hero to zero: Wigan’s Callum McManaman. His tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara was not only as bad as any this season but went unpunished. Unfazed, he was man of match in the FA Cup final, only to be carried off and relegated at the Emirates three days later.
Worst weather forecast: Polish FA neglecting to close Warsaw stadium roof before postponement of game against England.
Least suitable dinner guest: Reginald D Hunter used the n-word, as he regularly does, throughout his speech at the PFA awards dinner.
Underground, on the ground, Wombling free: “Haydon the Womble” was chaired off the pitch after Wimbledon beat Fleetwood to stay up; until the difficulty of carrying a man in a large furry costume resulted in him tumbling to the floor.
Most creative accounting:
1. Chelsea, after loss of £78m in the previous year, spent £75m on new players and declared profit of £1m.
2. Manchester City lost “only” £99m, so can tell Uefa they are moving in the right direction (previous loss: £197m).
Best fancy dress: Dozens, possibly hundreds, of grown men dressed as popes in honour of leading scorer Tom Pope – complete with the tall hats, colourful robes, crooks etc – in Port Vale’s 3,000-strong following at Wycombe on final day of the promotion campaign.
Most embarrassing injury: Oxford United’s Adam Chapman suffered “burnt nipple” bottle-feeding his baby in the night.