To say that 2014 was a memorable year in sports is an understatement of the highest order. We saw incredible comebacks, stunning winners and the inevitable near-misses that broke the hearts of players, fans and supporters the world over.
But what will 2015 bring in terms of sporting memories? Who will make that indelible mark on the world’s collective sporting consciousness? Who will be the victors and who will be the vanquished?
We decided to send our resident sports hound, John Lawless, on a mission to discover what we can expect from our favourite sports in 2015…we hope you enjoy.
Chelsea will destroy all-comers in the Premier League. The ‘Mourinho effect’ may have taken till this season to have a real impact, but the newly self-styled ‘Happy One’ now has his Stamford Bridge superstars firing on all cylinders. Though it may be a little too much to ask for them to win all four major honours (League, CL, FA Cup & League Cup), they have the squad to compete on all fronts and, in Eden Hazard, one of the Premier Leagues most exciting and talented footballers. If they can keep him and their aging (though still outstanding) defence fit, then it should be a walk in the park for the blues. Leicester, Burnley and West Brom will all go down. Probably.
City, United, Arsenal, Tottenham & Liverpool will all be in with a shout of the top four (as usual) but Liverpool will be hampered by their distinct lack of a replacement for Stevie G. Arsene Wenger will say the season has been a success, even though it hasn’t. Mauricio Potchettino will do the unthinkable and be a manager at Spurs for longer than half a season. Louis Van Gaal will still sound a little like a Dutch Yoda and spend ludicrous amounts of money on aging players in the forlorn hope that he can compete with Chelsea and Man City and Manuel Pellegrini will insist that ‘next year’ will be City’s big year in the Champions League, before retracting the statement altogether and leaving the club to once again manage Real Madrid.
The transfer record will also get smashed. The ø6m spent by Real Madrid on Gareth Bale will pale into insignificance when either Man City or perhaps even Man United splash ñ00m-plus on an increasingly disgruntled and unhappy Lionel Messi. And if not Leo, then maybe Sergio Aguero will return to Spain in a multi-gazillion pound deal that sees Ronaldo going the other way…’He’ll never play for City!’ I hear you cry. Never say never.
The women’s game should see Stephanie Roche win the FIFA goal of the year award for this effort (if it doesn’t win then FIFA really are the fixed up hovel we thought they were). And hopefully a continuing trend of participation up and down the UK and beyond, coupled with the BBC and BT Sport’s decisions to televise more women’s football, should lead to a greater appreciation of the game nationwide and hopefully more goals like Stephanie’s. Women power!
Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray will both struggle with injuries all season long, but Nadal will still win the French Open with ease. Novak Djokovic will have the same haircut as last year and probably win at least one Grand Slam title (probably the Australian Open) and Roger Federer will announce his retirement from the sport following a resounding straight sets victory in the Wimbledon final against (insert name here). The ‘Fed Express’ will go out on a high with a staggering 18 Grand Slam titles to his name and the words ‘greatest of all time’ ringing in his ears. The changing of the guard will slowly begin to take effect and a whole raft of ‘the next Roger Federer’ statements will be made by the likes of John McEnroe, Tim Henman and Sue Barker.
In the women’s game we can expect to see proceedings once again being dominated by Serena Williams; a woman who appears to defy the aging process like some kind of Benjamin Button hybrid with mean tennis skills! Are you sure she isn’t getting younger? Ivanovic, Kvitova and Sharapova will all attempt to steal the Americans thunder, but all will most certainly fail when it matters most. Even in her 30’s the American continues to dominate all-comers and should finish the year at number one, before threatening to retire and then changing her mind. Again. After all, if it ain’t broke…
This year should all be about one man and one man alone – Rory McIlroy. On his best days the young Northern Irishman is capable of taming any golf course in the world and arguably the observable universe. Don’t be surprised if he completes the seemingly impossible and wins all four of golf’s Majors. That said, there are a couple of pretenders to McIlroy’s crown. Jordan Spieth and the inimitable Rickie Fowler both had top 5 finishes in major tournaments last season with Fowler achieving back-to-back runners-up spots in the US Open and The Open Championship. Expect both to be there or thereabouts come tee-time and don’t discount Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose. Tiger Woods, who’s he again?
From a female perspective, expect the year to once again be dominated by the youngsters. Teenagers took the majority of the honours last year as Lydia Ko was crowned LPGA Tour number one and England’s Charley Hull became the youngest winner of the order of merit on the European Tour at just 18. Keep an eye out for Michelle Wie too, who after years of ‘next big thing’ chatter surrounded her, finally made the breakthrough at the US Women’s Open last year. Wie to go Michelle. Sorry.
In all honesty, not much will change in 2015. Mercedes dominated 2014 as expected, and with an additional 40hp in the car, 2015 looks to be heading the same way. Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren are all in periods of transition and do not look like threatening the Championship this year. The dark horse may be Williams. Their third place finish has guaranteed them a huge influx of cash to spend on development and they also have the same Mercedes engine as the champions; they just need to build a better car. All in all it should be a straight shoot-out between Hamilton and Rosberg and I am going to put my neck on the block and say that the Brit will just shade it against the German. Sorry Leute.
Following a hugely memorable 2014 the world of cycling has a hell of a lot to live up to this coming year. However, with the potential for a four-way battle in the Tour de France and a multitude of planned attempts on the hour record to come, 2015 is packed full of cycling potential. Froome, Contador, Quintana and Nibali are all expected to make an appearance in France in July and with only 14km of individual time-trialling and a mere five summit finishes, we can expect a tight and tense battle in the mountains. As for the sprints, Marcel Kittel may have dominated proceedings in 2014, but a resurgent Mark Cavendish will be anxious to make up for lost time following last years crash on the first stage. Also look out for Sir Bradley Wiggins attempting to smash the hour record numerous times throughout the year (he must have a short bucket list).
Now, what we all want to happen this year is for Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to finally get it on! The chances of that happening however remain slim to none existent. Both camps are still insisting on clauses in the contract that would give even the most seasoned divorce lawyer a headache; so don’t go holding your breath. Amir Khan has also staked his claim to get inside the ring with both Mayweather or Pacquiao this year, but the Bolton fighter is unlikely to face either if the ‘fight to end all fights’ goes ahead. If Mayweather vs Pacquiao is on, then Khan may be better taking a step down and facing up to Sheffield’s Kell Brook. A trans-pennine battle would sell out any UK stadium for sure and Brook would prove more than a handful for Khan. In the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko may just lose the very last ounce of respect in the boxing community by side-stepping Manchester’s Tyson Fury and giving up his WBO belt. The Ukrainian, unbeaten in 10 years, would still remain IBF and WBA champion. Pfft! Bring back Lennox Lewis!
For those that follow Union there is an exciting year in the offing. The Six Nations gets underway in February and we expect Ireland and Wales to dominate proceedings. But, the World Cup comes to Britain late in the summer and we have a sneaking suspicion that on home soil the home nations will dominate even more. The crowds and the support should see England go a long long way to redeeming themselves following their poor recent form and a final that sees either Wales or England pit their Rugby wits against the might of the Aussies or the All Blacks is what we will be hoping for. England to bring home the Webb Ellis trophy.
If you follow the League code, international improvements are likely to be made following the disappointment of the four nations. England need to start tipping crucial games in their favour and get over their apparent performance anxiety, stop thinking too much and just play the game. The younger players will soon learn and improve with time and the gap between Australia and New Zealand is closing, they just need to take that final leap to success. Come on lads, make it your year.
Alastair Cook has been usurped as England one-day captain and has said he just wants to ‘enjoy his cricket again’. Good luck with that son. With a number of one-day games to prepare for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, England have a fighting chance of revival following Cooks departure. New captain Eoin Morgan may have a daft name but he does have talent despite having a worse average than Cook in his last 20 matches. Expect to see Kevin Pietersen lift his head above the parapet and say something like ‘I hope I get to play with him’ and ‘I really love his hair, do you think he’ll be my friend?’ before scuttling off back to the Big Bash league and getting paid lots of cash for doing very little at all (it’s just my opinion). Seriously though, England have never got passed the quarter-finals of the competition and Morgan faces an unenviable task in his first major tournament as captain. Good luck skip, you’ll need it.
Don’t judge me! I am pretty sure there are some of you out there now saying ‘Snooker’s not a sport!’, amongst other things, but you would be wrong. Like the more physically demanding sports, you won’t get good unless you practice and have determination to succeed. Snooker players are some of the most determined characters in the sporting world. Trust me, I know. This year on the baize, Ronnie O’Sullivan will win the World Championship and equal Steve Davis‘ tally of six world titles, he will also break Stephen Hendry‘s record haul of centuries and win The Masters at Alexandra Palace (it’s a guarantee, he just has to show up). Judd Trump will continue to ‘entertain’ with his brand of ‘naughty’ snooker (whatever that is – it probably means rubbish, it looks that way) and the world will reverberate with the collective sigh of a nation, as China’s Ding JunHui once again fails to live up to his immense talent and wilts under the pressure and expectation of a billion people. Don’t worry Ding, Ronnie will retire soon.
On the slopes, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship comes to Beaver Creek, USA in February. Expect to see Austrians Marcel Hirscher and Anna Fenninger in and around the best times in the Slalom and Super-G and keep an eye out for Norwegian, Aksel Lund Svindal, who will be looking to defend his downhill title and become the first man to win a medal in five consecutive world championships (the Sir Steve Redgrave of the slopes).
In athletics, the World Championships visit Beijing. It will be the first time that the stadium has been used for an international athletics tournament since the 2008 Olympic games. Expect to see the usual suspects like Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce dominate the sprints and look out for a strong showing from the Kenyan David Rudisha, who, after destroying all-comers at the London Olympics, has gone off the boil in the last 12 months and will be seeking to re-assert his 800m dominance in China. From a British perspective, watch out for James Dasaolu in the sprints and a hopefully resurgent defending champion Christine Ohuruogu to do well. Is it really three years since the London Olympics? Madness!
With a cricket and rugby world cup to look forward to, the world athletics championships, the alpine skiing championships and the usual raft of sports contests and battles throughout the year, 2015 is set to be a bumper campaign of cheers, tears and broken dreams. Just what every sports fan wants. If you have any thoughts on what might happen in the sports world this year, let me know on Twitter or Facebook and tell us your thoughts on who the successes and failures might be in your favourite sports in 2015.