I thoroughly enjoyed 2013. It was a footballing year which provided great stories, wonderful inspiration and bucket loads of scandal; just how we like it. More of the same would do very nicely in the next 12 months, thank you very much.
Football is far from being the finished article though. What would make it even better? Here are five of my own personal wishes for 2014…
5. Camera appeals
Goal-line technology is working like a dream. Many feared football would never be the same again, but how can you criticise instantaneous and consistently correct game-affecting decisions being fed into a referee’s wrist watch? You can’t. It’s brilliant.
So let’s take it a step further in 2014, and rally for even greater use of video technology.
The stakes of Premier League football are getting higher every year, yet under the strain of this pressure the standards of officiating have lowered. They need a hand.
I suggest each team’s captain is given one appeal each per half, where they can question any major decision made by a referee. A red card, a penalty, a dive, a pivotal foul, an offside call; it doesn’t matter.
Like in tennis, rugby and cricket, if that appeal is proved frivolous, it’s lost. If it’s upheld and a decision is reversed, the right to question more mistakes remains. It’s fair. And, it’s not rocket science.
Too many career-changing, life-altering, monumentally bad decisions are being made. What difference does an extra minute or two of stoppage time make, if the right decision is reached via a TV referee?
I honestly don’t know what we’re waiting for…
4. Rid the rubbish rules
There are two mind-bogglingly silly rules that need scrapping this instant.
First, if a player wishes to remove his shirt, fling it around his head or chuck it onto the turf in wild celebration, why on Earth can’t we just let them do it? Who’s it harming? As long as they pick it up and put it back on nicely, I don’t for the life of me understand why that’s a yellow card offence. It drives me mad.
Secondly, if a player is injured let’s not punish them by asking them to leave the field and wait for the referee to wave them back on. It’s bonkers. To weaken a side that’s - in most cases - suffered an injury caused by an opponent’s mistimed tackle, seems wholly unfair. And the whole process looks and feels farcical.
If a player goes down, feigning injury to waste time, a good referee will spot it. Every referee, good or bad, should ensure any time that’s lost is added on at the end.
In the words of Kevin Bacon, it’s a no-brainer to ditch this debacle.
3. Spring report
Greg Dyke and his crack team of experts will save English football this spring when they report back with the findings of their FA Commission. Err, good luck with that one lads.
Nobody quite knows what to expect, but I hope they suggest that tweaks need to be made in how we nurture the next generation of talent.
Almost without fail, every coach or manager in the game that I’ve spoken to about ‘the kids coming through’ complains about their attitude. Spoilt, over-protected and given way too much, too soon, the hunger and drive that inspired past generations to make the grade, has by all accounts sadly dissipated.
Let’s stop molly-coddling the best schoolboy players before they’ve achieved anything. Let’s put a wage cap on teenage footballers, until they’ve reached a certain amount of first team appearances. Let’s make the apprentices do chores, like I did in the old days.
Put simply, let’s stop spoiling our best talents. Roughing it toughens youngsters up, and a bit of motivation never hurt anyone.
2. Gunners to end their drought
Biased and self-indulgent this might be, but how I would love to see Arsenal win something in 2014.
I think they deserve to. They have been the most consistent English outfit during the last 12 months, they play lovely football, and Arsene Wenger’s own personal revitalisation as Gunners boss has been a journey worthy of recognition.
Based on what I’ve seen of the team in the 2013 (and that’s a lot) there is no reason why they can’t win a trophy this season. The desire and ability is there. If they can believe in themselves, they have what it takes to break their duck.
While the Manchester monopoly is nice for those involved, having the Gunners back in business surely makes the Premier League a more interesting place. It’s time for them to end this drought.
1. A Messi World Cup
When we reminisce about the greatest World Cups of all-time, we’re drawn towards the 1970 and 1986 finals; tournaments dominated by Pele and Diego Maradona. Wouldn’t it be nice if the 2014 competition sees Lionel Messi take his game to a whole new level?
Cristiano Ronaldo may be outshining the Argentinean at club level this season, but for me Messi is still top dog, the most special talent we have. And, if the little genius can recapture his finest form, and bamboozle the rest of the world in Brazil, nobody who loves football will feel disappointed. A special World Cup, set alight by a special player is what we’re all waiting for.
I’m fed up of people saying Messi can’t be called the greatest until he inspires his country to World Cup glory. I don’t think he needs to do that. Yet, I’d love to see it happen. It would make the summer sparkle.
You just know that a Messi World Cup would be a ripsnorter of a World Cup.
Bet now on Lionel Messi and Argentina to win the 2014 World Cup at odds of 5.75
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