Sunday, 31 January 2010

2009 - The Journey Is At An End

So, here we are at the last year of the decade we’ve come to know (and accept, rather than love), as the noughties. A year in which several big news stories from across the Atlantic dominated the headlines, reality pop continued its stranglehold in the charts; despite a short apathetic respite; and the usual mixture of surprise success and miserable failure in sport.


155 passengers and crew were rescued from New York’s “Hudson River” after the quick thinking actions of the pilot saved their lives, and possibly hundreds of others on the ground. The engines on board the airliner were disabled after a swarm of birds were sucked into the air intakes, and some quick thinking and cool-headed skill saw the plane glide onto the surface of the water, avoiding possible catastrophe. The following month, tragedy did strike in the commercial aviation industry, with nine passengers killed and a further 84 injured when a “Turkish Airlines” plane crashed on landing at Amsterdam Airport. The summer saw yet another catastrophic plane crash, this time involving an “Air France” craft which went off the radar over the Atlantic Ocean whilst en-route from Brazil to France. 228 people were on board, and the grim task of recovering bodies occurred the following week.

The first of the two major snowfalls of the year came in February – at the time it was the heaviest and most disruptive winter weather for almost twenty years, obviously ensuring chaos wherever you went. This was fairly insignificant, however, compared to the winter weather which returned on the 17th December. The snow fell heavily across the country, and continued to fall until well into 2010, with the first truly white Christmas for many years. The cold snap saw travel chaos (with many Christmas getaways postponed or cancelled as roads and airports closed); power supplies were cut (in one West Yorkshire conurbation, the supply of gas was cut for six days between Boxing Day and New Year) and thousands of school children enjoyed longer than anticipated Christmas holidays as their schools were unable to open. There was once again another summer washout, although not in the scale of the 2007 floods, areas such as Cumbria, in particular the market town of Cockermouth, were especially badly hit. This was particularly insulting, as from the early spring, all met-office predictions were for a glorious “barbecue summer”.

There were tragic times once again for those in the public eye. Newly wed reality tv star Jade Goody, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2008, died in February. Conservative leader, David Cameron, suffered the loss of his six year old son, Ivan, who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He passed away in a London hospital in March. There was no respite from the bad news, as actress, Natasha Richardson, was killed in a skiing accident in April, while fellow thespian, veteran actor Edward Woodward passed away at the age of 79 from pneumonia. September saw the passing of celebrity chef Keith Floyd, who suffered a heart attack; and the same day, “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze lost his two year battle with Pancreatic Cancer. There was disbelief in October as we learned of the passing of “Boyzone” singer Stephen Gately, who died of natural causes while on holiday in Majorca.

The summer months were dogged by the appalling greed of M.P.’s and their expenses claims. Representatives from all of the major parties were embarrassed by their behaviour, and Health Minister, Phil Hope, pledged to repay over £41,000 in second home allowances. Fellow M.P. Shahid Malik stood down as Justice Minister after his financial activities came to light. Tory leader, David Cameron, enforced those from within his party who had made excessive claims to repay items, such as the infamous claim for “cleaning out a moat” ! Commons Speaker Michael Martin also quit in the light of the expenses scandal, making him the first person in over 300 years to effectively be forced out of the role.

The death of Michael Jackson in June sparked worldwide mourning, and conspiracy theories and much media hysteria. Jackson, 50, died seemingly in peace at his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Many of his albums, and the single “Man In The Mirror” sold in their thousands, and dominated the music charts worldwide for much of the summer. Jackson was laid to rest, and a memorial service held, the following month.

Political debate show “Question Time” drew its largest viewing audience for many years, as B.N.P. leader Nick Griffin appeared, to a hostile crowd both outside the studio, and on the programme itself. He later submitted an official complaint to the B.B.C. for what he described as being faced by a “lynch mob”.


As ever, the Christmas number one “X-Factor” hangover continued as ever, with Alexandra Burke sitting obstinately at number one at the start of the year. It was a female soloist from the other side of the Atlantic that knocked her from the summit, the somewhat singular “Lady Gaga” taking the mantle with her debut “Just Dance”, which stayed there for the whole of January, and propelling her to instant fame and success. It was a productive month for female artists – “Girls Aloud” scored their twentieth consecutive top ten hit with “The Loving Kind”, while “The Saturdays”, comprising mainly of the female members of “S-Club Juniors” and support act to the previous years tour by the aforementioned “Girls Aloud” scored their biggest hit to date with “Issues”, which made it to number four. “Beyonce” also made her return to the top ten of the U.K. singles chart with “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”. “Lady Gaga” was finally dislodged in early February by another lady – chirpy cockney Lily Allen, with her first release from her new album “It’s Not Me, It’s You” which was the electronic influenced “The Fear”.

The winner of the first series of reality series “American Idol”, Kelly Clarkson scored her first U.K. number one in March with the squawking “My Life Would Suck Without You”, taken from her fourth studio album. The same month, for the first time in fourteen years, the official “Comic Relief” single failed to get to number one; the dubious honour belonging to “The Saturdays” with a cover of “Depeche Mode’s” “Just Can’t Get Enough”, although, like in a number of other occasions, the unofficial release did make the top spot, this year being “Barry Islands In The Stream”. In a month of movers and shakers, “Lady Gaga” proved she was no one hit wonder, with her second number one, the aptly named “Poker Face”. While there was also a high energy number two debut from “The Noissettes” with “Don’t Upset The Rhythm”. They also had a brace of top forty hits later in the year with “Never Forget You” and “Wild Young Hearts”; coming from their album with the same name as the latter. Another great debut album came from “La Roux” whose self titled album spawned several hit singles – “In For The Kill”; “Bulletproof” (number one a week in June) and “I’m Not Your Toy”.

Dizzee Rascal” had one of the most memorable stomping anthems of the summer with the massive number one smash hit “Bonkers”, which displaced comeback band “Black Eyed Peas” with “Boom Boom Pow”, although the latter did return to the top in June; largely thanks to being used by “Britain’s Got Talent” winners, “Diversity” in their dance routine.

The death of Michael Jackson in June saw both the album and singles charts dominated by his back catalogue in July. On 5th July, 37 of the top 100 singles were Michael Jackson hits, the highest of which was “Man In The Mirror” which peaked at number two, fended off at the top by “Evacuate The Dancefloor” from European dance outfit “Cascada”. Newcomers, "JLS" also enjoyed a stint at number one in July with “Beat Again”, but by the start of August, it was again the turn of “Black Eyed Peas” to take centre stage. Despite “I Gotta Feeling” hanging about in the top ten for seven weeks previous, it finally reached the top spot on the first weekend of August.

September saw more debut artists, and established acts vying for the ultimate accolade in the singles chart. “Pixie Lott” scored her second number one of the year (her first being debut “Mama Do” in June) with “Boys And Girls”. This saw a record climb of 72 places in one week to land the top slot. This was a week of fierce competition and big sales figures, as “Mika” made his chart return after an eighteen month absence with “We Are Golden”, and dance act “Mini Viva” landed huge download sales with their maiden track “Left My Heart In Tokyo”.

The big talking point in music came in the battle for the Christmas number one. The dominance and slightly stale lack of surprise brought about by the last few years of reality pop acts (especially the “X-Factor” winner) monopolising the top of the charts at the festive period saw a campaign to break with tradition. A “Facebook” group, made up of approximately 1,000,000 members lobbied for the public to download 1992 “Rage Against The Machine” track “Killing In The Name Of”. Although sales were neck and neck in the race for the top spot, it was a victory against Simon Cowell’s license to print money, as “X-Factor” winner Joe McElderry was forced to play second fiddle with a cover of Miley Cirus’ “The Climb” which charted at number two. The victory was bittersweet, though, as McElderry did indeed climb to number one to be at the top in time for the new decade; perhaps fitting though in a year of big hitting debuts that a new act should be at number one.


The England national team were in dominant form, in their march towards World Cup 2010 qualification, beating all who stood in their way, averaging over 3.5 goals a game in their competitive matches played during the 2008/09 season. While the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerard were banging them in, some of the “fringe” squad members also came to the fore; with standout performances from Jermaine Defoe, Joe Cole and a fine hat-trick in the match against Croatia from Theo Walcott saw him finally live up to the hype which had surrounded him since his shock inclusion in the World Cup 2006 finals squad.

In the Premier League, Manchester United successfully defended the title, their winning margin four points over runners up, Liverpool, who had a run of impressive results at the business end of the season, but it was a case of too little too late. Chelsea were a further three points behind Liverpool, with Arsenal a distant eleven points off the West London club in fourth. The dominance of the “Big Four” had looked set to be broken at last, after Aston Villa had occupied a “Champions League” qualifying slot for much of the season, until they stumbled at the end of the year, winning only twice in their last thirteen league games, and slid down the table to sixth, a point behind Everton.

Newly promoted Stoke City, who had been tipped widely as favourites for the drop, had a memorable season, finishing comfortably mid table, largely thanks to their stout defending, and the long throw heroics of Rory Delap. The same could not be said for fellow newly promoted club, West Brom, who propped up the table for most of the season. Joining them in “The Championship” the following season were to be two north east clubs – Newcastle United and Middlesbrough. Despite taking just one win from their last 22 league games, a brilliant start to the season (largely thanks to star player, Geovanni), saw top flight virgins Hull City survive by a single point. After an absence of five years from the Premiership, “Championship” winners, Wolverhampton Wanderers were able to prepare for their return in 2009/10, as could Birmingham City. The play off final was taken 1-0 by Burnley, beating third placed Sheffield United in the one off farce. At the bottom, three former top flight clubs – Charlton, Southampton and Norwich continued their descent, going down to “League One”.

Chelsea won the F.A. Cup, beating Everton 2-1 in the final, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. In their two league encounters, both matches had ended goalless, but in the Cup final, Everton took less than a minute to break the deadlock, with Louis Saha scoring after only 25 seconds, which went down as the fastest goal in F.A. Cup Final history. Chelsea showed their class though, with Didier Drogba equalising after 21 minutes, and with eighteen minutes remaining, midfielder Frank Lampard scored the winner. Chelsea felt they should have been awarded a third after Florent Malouda’s shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and allegedly over the line, but their shouts fell on the deaf ears of the officials. The “Carling Cup” was a rather dull affair, with 120 minutes with neither side scoring, Manchester United finally seeing off the challenge of a determined Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 on penalty kicks.

Football stars and fans were also in the news columns for a number of reasons other than for the game itself. Christiano Ronaldo crashed his Ferrari close to Manchester Airport, but walked away unscathed; whilst the car was a right off. Former Celtic and Arsenal striker, John Hartson endured a tough year, battling cancer and undergoing brain surgery. Steven Gerard appeared in court charged with affray after a row with a d.j. over the music being played in a Stockport bar. A man was stabbed in the chest as ugly scenes occurred at Millwall-West Ham cup tie, a dreadful reminder of scenes we thought had been left back in the early 80’s, along with “Doc Martens”; the “Rubiks Cube” and “Nik Kershaw” !

All of the English teams involved in the “Champions League” got through the group stages without too many issues, and indeed, the first knockout round (although Arsenal had to overcome the lottery of a penalty shootout to see off Roma). At the quarter final stage, Chelsea were once again drawn against their old European adversaries, Liverpool; and in two high scoring legs, the Londoners triumphed 7-5 on aggregate. In their quarter final matches, Arsenal and Manchester United beat Villareal and Porto respectively, to set up a mouth watering semi final tie, which United won 4-1 overall, sending them to their second final in as many years. However, it was not to be a repeat of the previous year’s line up, as Spanish giants Barcelona saw off Chelsea on the away goals ruling, after a goalless encounter at the “Nou Camp”, then followed up with a 1-1 draw at “Stamford Bridge”. In the final, Barcelona became the first Spanish team to win a treble, in a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi. Manchester United’s appearance in the final meant that at least one English team had appeared in the Champions League final for five successive years – a strong case for describing the Premiership as being the best (or at least, strongest), league in the world.

Once again, the Scottish Premier League was decided on the last day of the season; regardless of other results, all Rangers needed was a win against Dundee United at Tannadice. There was no drama, and this was comfortably achieved in a 3-0 victory with goals from Pedro Mendes, Kris Boyd and Kyle Lafferty. Celtic finished four points off the top, with their season ending with a stuttering goalless draw to Hearts on the final day. Hearts were third, almost thirty points off the pace, while Inverness Caledonian Thistle went down to the First Division, despite being level on points with Falkirk, their insuperior goal difference sealed their fate, having spent five seasons in the top flight. Their replacements the following season were to be Perth-based club St. Johnstone, who won the First Division with ease. Rangers narrowly won the Scottish Cup, 1-0 against Falkirk, the latter qualifying for the 2009/10 U.E.F.A. Cup, as Rangers were already assured a European place from league qualification. Celtic beat their “Old Firm” rivals 2-0 in the League Cup final, both goals coming in extra time. It was not a particularly good season in Europe for Scottish clubs – Rangers failed to get through the qualifying rounds for the group stages of the Champions League, losing out to the little known FBK Kaunas. Celtic did make it to the group stages, but had a torrid time, finishing bottom of their group, with one win and one draw (a creditable 1-1 scoreline against Manchester United) to their name. Motherwell, Queen of the South and Hibernian all crashed out of the U.E.F.A. Cup after just one round each, failing to make any significant inroads into the tournament.

It was not just in football where the media were able to report on incidents other than the sport itself, as one of the biggest names in world sport made a series of gaffes with which journalists were able to have a field day. Golfer Tiger Woods’ private life attracted much speculation. A week after he apologised to his family for letting them down (after a string of adulterous encounters, discovered after he crashed his car in the grounds of his home, leading to an inquisition from the media). Shortly after, his mother-in-law was suddenly admitted to hospital while staying at his Florida home, in a mysterious string of events. On the fairway, Woods failed to win a major, those titles finding their way into the hands of: Angel Cabrera (The U.S. Masters); Lucas Glover (U.S. Open); Stewart Cink (The Open, held at Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire); and Y.E. Yang (P.G.A. Championship).

In cricket, England won the “Ashes” series against Australia 2-1, with the series coming down to a showdown in the fifth test at Lords, with the tie level with a victory apiece and two draws. Although rain delayed play by nearly four hours on the second day, and the likelihood of a draw; thus tying the series, the English batsmen outclassed their opponents and went on to win the test by 197 runs. The 2009 English County Championship was won by Durham, for the second year in succession; “Hampshire Hawks” beat “Sussex Sharks” by five wickets in the final of the “Friends Provident Trophy” and the increasingly popular “Twenty20” Cup was won by “Sussex Sharks” who triumphed over the “Somerset Sabres”.

Although Lewis Hamilton had to drive a sloth-like McLaren in the early part of the Formula One season; Britain did celebrate the driver’s world championship with an unlikely first title for Brawn G.P.’s journeyman driver Jenson Button. The win was especially poignant as Button looked set to be out of the championship before the season even started as Honda folded their Formula One team, and Brawn only took over three weeks before the season began. Button and team mate Rubens Barrichello dominated the first half of the season, accumulating an unbeatable total in the drivers and constructors championships. Their closest rivals were Red Bull, in a season where McLaren, Renault, BMW and Ferrari all struggled with poor cars, driver problems and off track political bickering. Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa, was lucky to escape with his life after being hit by a stray suspension component, which hit him whilst travelling at 190mph, although he was ruled out by injury for the last quarter of the season while he recuperated. Yamaha once again dominated the MotoGP scene, with Valentino Rossi cruising to the title, although his team mate Jorge Lorenzo pushed him close on a number of occasions, before making all too frequent excursions into the scenery !

In other sports headlines, Ireland romped to a Grand Slam and won the Six Nations rugby tournament; while domestically, “Leicester Tigers” won the “Guinness Premiership”. The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa ended in a 2-1 series defeat, with the last test being their sole victory; although this was a marked improvement upon the 2005 tour to New Zealand. In tennis, it was a mainly FedererNadal dominated year once more. Federer won the men’s singles at Wimbledon, defeating Andy Roddick; while the women’s final saw a repeat line up of the previous year, an all Williams affair; although this time Serena avenged defeat upon her sibling, Venus.

So, we could leave it there; and in terms of the noughties we will do. But to tie this series of posts together, I am going to write a quick conclusion in my next post summing up the events of this year so far; and the parallels between present, past and future. I am also going to knock up a short list of some of my favourite bands / hits of the noughties which weren’t perhaps so popular, but I thought were far more awesome than the endless karaoke snore-fest which the charts became as the decade wore on.

Thanks for joining (or putting up with) me during this last month. It’s been an epic journey. The noughties, now we won’t pretend they were some revolutionary period in time like the sixties; but I’ve known worse times ! Right, I think it might be time to move back to the present in this blog, maybe discuss some tips and gambling. I’ll have a look at writing an F1 season preview in the next week or two. It’s got to be an improvement on last year’s effort at least !
Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man


Sunny said...

Hey Scoop Troop,

Great blog. Any chance you could change our link URL to because we got a new site. Thanks a lot have added you in our links section.

Take care,


Mountain Man said...

Hi Sunny,

Cheers mate. Edited the link to your blog.


Mountain Man said...

Is your new site up and running yet ? It's not recognised just now through that link.