Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Animated Reptiles & The Good Memories Too - 2004

At the conclusion of my last post, I stated that researching the events of 2004 would be interesting, because I couldn’t remember much about it. Well, to my horror, 2004 (and also 2005) yields some of the most disturbing personal memories for me.

The fellow “Scoop Troop” members know only too well that I used to manage a snooker hall in Dundee during 2004 - 2006. To pass the time during quiet day shifts, I used to tune the t.v.’s into Music Channels. 2004 was the year of the most irritating advertisements ever, in my opinion ! “Crazy Frog” and “Sweetie the Chick” and other mindless creations of that ilk used to drive me to distraction, and looking back at this year has brought all those bad memories back ! But surprisingly, 2004 was actually a memorable year for some decent reasons too. Let’s step back six years, and check it out …


Terror reigned in Spain in 2004. On March 11th, bomb blasts tore through a number of trains at rush hour, the death toll totalled almost 200. Spain’s government was accused of suppressing evidence that Islamic extremists were responsible. In the aftermath of these events, just days later the Socialists took a surprise election victory.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan passed away. There was a national funeral in June, held in Washington. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also died in this year, on the 11th November in Paris. His body was returned to the West Bank town of Ramallah, where thousands of Palestinians paid their last respects.

The Cornish village of Boscastle was struck by torrential rainfall in the late summer. Six inches of precipitation fell in a two hour period, leaving a trail of devastation as waterways burst their banks, and sewers flooded. Many homes and businesses were ruined by the flood waters, which took days to subside.

Fathers 4 Justice” mounted their campaigns around the country. An outburst in York Minster where two vagabonds dressed as “Superman” left worshippers stunned as they took to the lectern. Elsewhere, another member of the group, Jason Hatch donned a “Batman” suit and scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace, one of a series of events in this year highlighting the lax security surrounding the Royal Family.

The year ended on a sad note, with catastrophic loss of life when a tsunami struck numerous countries around the Indian Ocean. Homes and livelihoods were shattered, and tens of thousands were killed.

Although it was not until 2005 / 06 when it really dominated the share of “Social Networking” sites, “Facebook” was launched in February of 2004. Despite having tens of millions of users worldwide, it was not until September 2009 that the site first turned over a profit.

And finally … in Dundee, Scotland, a new student poker society was formed in September of this year. “D.U.P.S.” (Dundee University Poker Society) was fashioned in the summer vacation of 2004, and had a successful opening season, fronted by the “Scoop Troop’s” very own Dom Field. Founder members included shady characters such as Will Walsh, Neil Stephenson and Iain Boxer. Good times.


I opened this posting voicing my disgust at the musical equivalent of syrup of figs, namely the “Crazy Frog”. Unfortunately, the vast majority of U.K. number one singles during this year were of a similar quality. It was ironic, that in such a poor year for music, we lost one of the true promoters of new music, former Radio 1 D.J. John Peel, who passed away in October.

The first new number one of the year came from portly Glaswegian, Michelle McManus, with “All This Time” which succeeded Gary Jules, the Christmas 2003 number one, and hung in at the top until the 1st February. McManus, the winner of the second series of reality show “Pop Idol” stayed at the top for three weeks, but soon faded into obscurity. The runners up, Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes joined forces for a cover of “The Beatles’” classic “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which went in for a short spell at the top in mid February.

In March, the hugely successful five piece boyband “Westlife” became a four piece, after Brian McFadden left to pursue a solo career, having a number one later in the year with “Real To Me”. "Westlife" continued to have success for some time after, including the first ever “U.K. Download Chart Number One” in September with “Flying Without Wings”. However, downloads were not recognised in the official music charts until 2005.

In April and May, the top of the singles charts was dominated by what could only be described as dross, and it seems as if the record buying public had certainly taken leave of their senses, for a while at least ! Firstly “Eamon” hit the top spot for a long four week stint, in a profanity-ridden tirade entitled “F**k It (I Don’t Want You Back)”. In fact, it even beat the Smokie and Roy “Chubby” Brown single of 1995 “Living Next Door To Alice” for the most expletives used in a number one single. Following this tawdry dirge, an equally lewd “answer” song from “Frankee” took over from “Eamon” at the head of the hit parade with “F**k You Right Back” ! It remained at the top for three weeks, but sold less than half the number of copies as the predecessor. Both artists released further singles, which flopped, relegating them to one hit wonder status, alongside the likes of Mathew Wilder, “Rednex” and Joe Dolce !

Several popular bands and artists from years gone by made notable comebacks in 2004. Eighties “New Romantic” icons “Duran Duran” were very well received, as were “The Cure”, “Depeche Mode” and former “Smiths” frontman “Morrissey”, who all released top ten singles. Also, after getting back into the limelight, Peter Andre re-released his 1996 cheese-fest “Mysterious Girl”, this time getting it all the way to the top of the charts.

Dance remixes of previous “classic” chart hits were big in 2004. In February, "L.M.C." rehashed former U2 hit “With Or Without You” to produce “Take Me To The Clouds Above” which hit the top for a fortnight in February. One of the biggest hits of the year came from Swedish producer, Eric Prydz, who reworked the 1982 Steve Winwood track “Valerie” to become “Call On Me”. This song, with a very suggestive video took a total of six weeks at number one in September and October, although they were broken up by Robbie WilliamsRadio” after three weeks, before returning to the top for their second three week stint a week later. Other notable number ones were cover tracks (although not dance versions), such as the “Girls Aloud” take on “The Pretenders” 1994 track “I’ll Stand By You”, which was then followed by the biggest seller of the year with “Band Aid 20’s” updated release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” which stayed at the top for the whole of December.

It was a European Championships year in the world of international football, but no one could have predicted the eventual outcome of this tournament. We had the usual armchair experts telling us that it would finally be Spain’s year, and the Germans would walk it. And of course, the usual England tabloid trash, of how the “38 years of hurt” (as it was then) would be coming to an end. Certainly no one tipped the 150/1 outsiders Greece to get all the way to the final, let alone beat the superstar laced Portugal outfit in their own back yard. The Greeks arrived at Euro 2004 having never won a match whatsoever in a major tournament, yet this was almost forgotten by the time Angelos Charisteas scored the only goal in a 1-0 win in the final. Their tournament started and finished with wins over Scolari’s Portugal, in an action packed month of football.

The “big names” tended not to fare so well in Euro 2004. Spain and Russia both exited the tournament as third and fourth placed teams in Group A, while Portugal and Greece went through. While there were fewer surprises in Group B, England managed to throw away a 1-0 lead in the match against France, to concede a free kick followed by a penalty, both of which were converted by Zinedine Zidane, the French seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. However, both teams qualified from the group (the French erasing some of the pain of World Cup 2002). Wayne Rooney was instrumental in helping the English to a 3-0 win over Switzerland and a 4-2 defeat of Croatia. Group C saw a three way tie at the top, with Sweden, Italy and Denmark all level on points, having drawn with one another, and beating their other opponent, Bulgaria. Italy went out in slightly contentious circumstances after Denmark and Sweden drew 2-2, with the Italians citing it as match fixing, although this was not proven. The final pool, Group D saw the Czech Republic and Holland go through, with the biggest fallers being Germany. The Czech’s were the only team in the group stages to win all their matches, the pick of the bunch being a 3-2 win over Holland. In fact, I remember myself and old adversary Ross MacMahon enjoying a good return in the bookies after putting a “Holland Half Time, Czech Republic Full Time” bet on, which duly came in !

At the quarter final round, England looked good for their money in the early stages, with Michael Owen notching after only two minutes in the match against Portugal. However, negative tactics from Goran-Eriksson and pressure from Portugal saw Helder Postiga equalise in the 83rd minute. A perfectly good headed effort from Sol Campbell was ruled out in the dying moments, then the match went to extra time. Both sides scored, but with the score level at 2-2 after 120 minutes, it went to the lottery of penalty kicks. These of course, ended 6-5 in Portugal’s favour, the decisive miss coming from Darius Vassell, while goalkeeper Ricardo was the star of the show, scoring the winning penalty. Greece put France out at this stage with a 1-0 win, making a little bit more history, in becoming the first team to defeat both the hosts and the holders in a single tournament. Holland and Sweden played out a goalless 120 minutes, with the Dutch progressing after a 5-4 win in the shootout. Milan Baros scored a fine brace as the Czech Republic swept Denmark aside in a 3-0 hammering.

In the first semi final, Holland and Portugal squared up in an entertaining fixture. Portugal went 2-0 up, with Christiano Ronaldo, who had impressed throughout, scoring from a corner, while Maniche doubled the lead with a spectacular effort. An own goal from Jorge Andrade gave the Netherlands a glimmer of hope, but it was not to be, the match ending 2-1. In the other tie, the Czech Republic’s unbeaten run came to a stuttering halt by the seemingly unstoppable Greeks when Traianos Dellas headed the winning goal in the dying moments of the first half of extra time. This went down as a “Silver Goal”, the first and only one to date in a European Championships game. Days later the dream was completed, while the Portuguese faced a “Greek Tragedy” in the final.

General Sport

Arsenal romped to another Premiership title, with eleven points their winning margin over Chelsea. The Gunners created history in this year by going the whole season unbeaten in the league. The last time a team had gone unbeaten in a top flight league was in 1888/89, when Preston achieved this feat. The closest Arsenal came to losing being in a goalless draw at Old Trafford, where Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a last minute penalty, in a match soured by ugly scenes, resulting in a huge fracas on the pitch. Arsenal’s Lauren was banned for four matches, Martin Keown for three games and Ray Parlour for one. Manchester United’s Christiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs were also fined for their behaviour in the aftermath of the game. The match is also well remembered for the rumoured bust up after the game, when United gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson was hit in the face by a pizza and some soup, launched at him by angered Arsenal players !

Manchester United won the F.A. Cup, comprehensively beating Millwall 3-0 in the final. Other than that, it was a bad year for the “Red Devils”. Finishing third in the league was below par by their standards, as was going out in the knockout stages of the Champion's League to eventual winners Porto (the reigning U.E.F.A. Cup holders), which elevated the worldwide status of their manager, Jose Mourinho. Arsenal lost out in the quarter finals of the competition to city rivals Chelsea, who themselves were on the end of a beating in the semi finals to French outfit Monaco. After the megabucks spent at the West London club, a runners up spot in the Premiership was not quite what owner Roman Abramovich had in mind, and coach Claudio Ranieri was given his marching orders at the end of the season, and the aforementioned Jose Mourinho was duly employed to spearhead the 2004/05 campaign. Another high profile manager to be given his cards in this year was the Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier, who cleared his desk after six memorable years at the helm of the Merseyside club, and was replaced swiftly by Valencia boss Rafael Benitez, whose C.V. boasted U.E.F.A. Cup wins and the La Liga title. The Carling Cup was taken by Middlesbrough with a 2-1 win over Bolton, their first major trophy for 128 years !

The summer of 2004 warrants a mention for transfer activity of mammoth proportions, Wayne Rooney, the 18 year old revelation of Euro 2004 left boyhood heroes Everton for Manchester United in a £27million deal in the final hours of the August transfer window, while Chelsea shelled out £24million for Marseille striker Didier Drogba, and £20million on Porto defender Ricardo Carvalho in a big hitting double whammy !

In Scotland, Henrik Larsson bid an emotional and successful farewell to Celtic after seven glorious seasons. “The Hoops” took the Scottish Premier League, and also the Scottish Cup, beating Dunfermline 3-1 in the final, with the super Swede hitting the back of the net twice, to take his tally for the season to 41. This made his exemplary record of 242 goals in 315 appearances for Celtic, truly an inspirational and outstanding player. The C.I.S. Cup was taken by underdogs Livingston, with a 2-0 win over Hibernian, in a season where Rangers did not feature strongly in any competition.

Going down from the top flight were Wolverhampton Wanderers (one season wonders); Leicester City, and the troubled Leeds United. It is particularly hard to believe that just three seasons after their Champions League semi final appearance, they were relegated to the second tier of English football, with even worse times still to come in the near future. Norwich and West Brom won automatic promotion from the First Division, while Crystal Palace joined them after beating West Ham in the play offs.

It was a year in which many football clubs came unstuck with their finances, as large transfer spending and huge player wage bills, coupled with lower attendances finally got the better of several clubs in the 2003/04 season. One such club was Dundee F.C., after several seasons of living outwith their means, they went into administration in November 2003, with the axe wielding over former stars Georgi Nemsadze, Craig Burley, Julian Speroni, Juan Sara, Beto Carranza and Fabrizio Ravanelli, to name just a few, leaving a skeletal squad of youngsters to fight for survival in the S.P.L. Although they finished a creditable seventh in the league, the same could not be said the following season when they went down with just 33 points, and remain in the First Division to this day. A harsh lesson which many other clubs failed to learn from.

Aside from Euro 2004, the largest sporting event of the year was the Olympic Games, staged in Athens. It was a successful fortnight for “Team G.B.”, bringing home a haul of thirty medals, including nine gold. Britain based their successes in the disciplines of rowing, equestrian, cycling and sailing. However, the highlight of the success came in the 800m and 1500m, with star of the team, Kelly Holmes taking gold medals in both events. In cycling, Bradley Wiggins won three medals, the first Briton to achieve such a haul since 1964, while fellow countryman Chris Hoy took gold in cycling also. Matthew Pinsent took his fourth Olympic rowing title in a dramatic photo finish with the Canadian team. Overall, an Olympic fortnight to remember for all the right reasons.

Just as in 2003, Jonny Wilkinson occupied more column inches than any other Rugby Union star. However, he played in only seven competitive matches during the season, none of which were for England. The legacy of England’s triumph down under left the superstar nursing a career-threatening injury, which culminated in requiring surgery. With the loss of Wilkinson, and the retirement of inspirational captain, Martin Johnson amongst others, England were only third best in Europe following the Six Nations, following losses to both Ireland and France. Ireland enjoyed a good tournament, landing their first “Triple Crown” in 19 years, the win over England at Twickenham being the highlight of their campaign, while Wales too, showed signs of resurgence. It was Scotland left propping up the group, their “Wooden Spoon” fate compelled by a defeat to Italy in Rome, in a less than predictable tournament.

Horse Racing lived up to its titles in this year. The Jump season was all action, while the Flat season, was, well, er, flat ! At Cheltenham, it was a third Gold Cup for “Best Mate”, in perhaps his least convincing victory, but none the less an emotional one, 2004 was the last staging of a three day festival, 2005 was to see the event balloon to a fourth day. Two weeks later, at the Grand National, “Amberleigh House” took the honours in the big race.

It was a successful year for Ronnie O’Sullivan in snooker, landing his second World Championship, and also the Welsh Open. However, rivalling O’Sullivan for media attention was hot property, newcomer Stephen Maguire, he came into the sport as a virtual unknown at the start of 2004, and by the end of the year ended as world number three, the highlight of his year being a win in the British Open in December at York’s Barbican Centre. Yorkshireman, Paul Hunter won his third U.K. Masters tournament in four years, with a close fought 10-9 victory over O’Sullivan in the final, while Peter Ebdon won his first ranking title since the 2002 World Championship, with victory in the Irish Masters.

Formula One, a sport never far away from politics endured another challenging year. While Michael Schumacher coasted round to an unprecedented seventh World Championship, off track bickering over the escalating costs of the sport were reaching a head. However, this did little to deter Ferrari, winning 15 races, 13 of which were taken by Schumacher, the other two from team mate Rubens Barrichello. Williams and McLaren both produced poor cars, and their expected challenge faltered, while BAR-Honda and Renault were the best of the rest. In MotoGP, once again Valentino Rossi swept the board in motorcycle racings premier class, despite having transferred to the struggling Yamaha team at the start of the year. He took the first title for the manufacturer since 1992. In World Superbikes, Britain saluted their new World Champion, Sheffield’s James Toseland, who won the title for Ducati.

In a rare feat of brilliance, the England cricket team won eight consecutive test matches, with Andrew “Freddie” Flintoft and Ashley Giles both taking starring roles, beating New Zealand, the West Indies and a brilliant seven wicket victory over South Africa, all on their own grounds. On the county scene, Warwickshire’s batsmen dominated to land their first title since 1995, while Glamorgan took the Totesport One Day League. Leicestershire Foxes won the Twenty20 Cup, now into its second year, beating Surrey in the final, the format attracting legions of new fans, and disgusting some of the older enthusiasts of the game.

17 year old Amir Khan, the big British boxing success of the Athens Olympics dominated the news scene from the noble art, battering his way to a silver medal, following defeat in the final to Cuban Mario Kindelan. In Golf, the shift of power moved away from the U.S.A. in the world rankings, with a thumping win for the European’s on American soil, and Fiji’s Vijay Singh had a fantastic year, winning nine tournaments to top the world rankings table. That is not to say it was a good year for European golfers in the individual disciplines. It was now over five years since a European had won one of the majors (the last being Paul Lawrie at the Open, Carnoustie, in 1999), and only Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington were ranked in the top ten World Golfers in this year. In tennis, Roger Federer was the star of the season, becoming the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to land three Grand Slams in one season. Despite his usual mediocrity at Wimbledon (going out in a poor display in the quarter finals to Mario Ancic), Tim Henman enjoyed his best season to date, while Greg Rusedski fought back following a difficult winter after clearing his name in alleged doping charges, to claw his way back up the ranking tables. After starting the season at 168, he moved back into the top 50 by the close of the season.

So, after stating that I couldn’t remember much about 2004, and beginning to wonder if I would find enough material, I’m actually thinking I may have found too much ! From a personal view, I enjoyed this year, it was one of good sporting memories, and I saw a lot of sport, albeit from the bar at Hustler’s ! I still can’t forgive that damned “Crazy Frog” though. Next, it’s 2005 … “Let’s Be ‘Aving You !
Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man


moDtheGod said...

Tri Dellas - what a legend. Happy memories of him at Bramall Lane, before he was a superstar.

Good times that summer getting to know people who would become lifelong pals. Who'd have thought that it would turn into a weekly tournament with so many members?

I can still remember the hand I went out with in the first ever DUPS tournament.

For 1,000 points and title of "King Of The Universe" - name the winner of the first DUPS tourney.

Mountain Man said...

I really can't remember, I'm thinking it was Darren the skeletor lookalike ? Who didn't come much in the later years ?

Or Graeme McGuire ? He had a good run that year. Think I'm probably wrong on both counts though.

moDtheGod said...

Wrong and wrong.

Mountain Man said...

Third time (un)lucky !

Was it perchance "Geordie James" Lawford ? I seem to remember him fishing his way to an early victory.

If not, then please put me out of my misery ;-)

The Kenster said...

Crazy Frog... nooooooooooo. Ringtones and people doing impressions argh!

That article was good but too long for me, I got to the end of the important football bits and then left it.

Mountain Man said...

Yeah, was thinking it went on a bit ! These posts are getting longer, will try to make 2005 a bit more brief

moDtheGod said...

It was Adrian Dunne.

Mountain Man said...

I remember the name vaguely ... but that is all !