Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Turning Japanese & Manufactured Pop ... Must Be 2002 !

As a new year dawned, so too did a hope that there would be a renewed optimism and a fresh start. 2001 had been a dreadful year both home and abroad; the threat of terror still loomed, however, more encouragingly it looked like the “Foot and Mouth” epidemic was finally under control.


The big news story of the summer in the U.K. was the tragic Soham murders where two innocent schoolgirls were cruelly killed by their school caretaker. 16 months later, he was jailed for their murders.

Britain could breathe more easily, and restrictions were lifted as the country was declared free of “Foot and Mouth” disease in January. However, the lasting damage had already been done to the Farming and Tourist industry alike, and many businesses had already gone under the previous year.

A common sight in the dark Autumn evenings was that of picketing firefighters, huddled around braziers in towns and cities across the U.K. This was the biggest industrial clash for over a decade, as Unions battled during the year for a substantial increase in basic salary for its members. Talks between the government and union beaks were not fruitful, and there were infamous scenes of ageing “Green Goddess” fire appliances, which were manned by members of the armed forces. The dispute and 48 hour strikes continued beyond the end of the year, and were finally resolved early in 2003.

Although 2002 is widely remembered for the death of the Queen Mother on the Saturday of Easter weekend, not so many remember that her daughter, Princess Margaret also died just seven weeks earlier, in February. As a nation “mourned” its loss, and began to sympathise with the Royal family, in ways not previously seen since before the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, a scandal was to hit the House of Windsor. Paul Burrell, the former butler to Diana was cleared of theft, following a bitter legal dispute, and once again, stormy waters surrounded the Royals, in a trying year.


2002 was undoubtedly the year when the face of the U.K. music scene changed massively. Previously, back in 1993, "Mr Blobby" bridged a pretty murky gulf between the pop charts and Saturday evening television, his visit (to the music scene at least) was brief. However, the flirtation between tv and music was to set deep foundations in 2002, which have continued to flourish to this day. Gone were the days of dodgy Michael Bolton wannabes (who were Greengrocers and the like by day) who donned a wig for three minutes of fame on “Stars In Their Eyes”, because the ITV reality show “Pop Idol” hit the screen in 2002, and was an instant hit. When you get the media onside, and with the British public hungry for the reality format, the show (and its spin offs in various guises) was onto a sure fire winner. Although “Popstars” ran in 2001, and generated two successful bands (“Hear ‘Say” and “Liberty X”), “Pop Idol” was the big money spinner, pitching G.G.G.Gareth Gates and eventual winner Will Young in the final. Their debut single releases, “Evergreen” / “Anything Is Possible” (a double “A-Side”) for Young, and a cover of “Unchained Melody” a month later for Gates, were not only the biggest selling hits of the year, but also the decade. Third placed man Darius Danesh also enjoyed a couple of years in the limelight thanks to the show. Not long after the dust had settled on “Pop Idol” then a new series, “Popstars: The Rivals” began and culminated in a new Boyband – “One True Voice” and a new Girl Band “Girls Aloud” who went head to head in the race for the Christmas number one, a resounding victory for the girls with “Sound of the Underground”, and they still continue to have top five hits and number one albums by the bucket load, unlike their male counterparts, who now work in a string of menial jobs after the public realised they weren’t actually very good !

There was plenty of sentimental slush in the charts, with a big seller from Enrique Iglesias entitled “Hero” which sat at number one for the entire month of February in the U.K. Former "Boyzone" main man Ronan Keating assaulted our ear drums with “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, while a collaboration between former “Destiny’s Child” singer Kelly Rowland and U.S. rapper “Nelly” entitled “Dilemma” was also a big hitter in the charts.

Daniel Bedingfield enjoyed a string of hit singles, which he claimed he had produced by himself in his bedroom ! His debut “Gotta Get Through This” was the first number one of 2002, and he ended 2002 as he began the year, with a number one in December, the slower “If You’re Not The One”. Another memorable debut came from Colombian singer-songwriter “Shakira” with the unmistakable “Whenever, Wherever”, if only for the line “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble – so you don’t confuse them, with mountains !”

Eminem followed up a successful 2001 with two number ones in 2002, “Without Me” and “Lose Yourself”. There was also a massive posthumous U.K. number one in Autumn for Elvis, with a “Little Less Conversation” in a stomping remix by “JXL”. Once again, the charts didn’t escape the dodgy holiday hits, with “Aserje” by the irritating “Las Ketchup” living long in the memory, even after the last Deutsche beach towel had been removed from the sun loungers at the end of the summer season !


World Cup

2002 was the year when pubs in the U.K. were granted permission to throw open their doors at 6.00am on certain days, so that footie fans could support their teams in the World Cup, held in Japan and Korea. England and the Republic of Ireland held the most interest for the home nations, and of course Argentina, Cameroon and Sweden for the Scots, their team having failed to qualify.

I remember vividly writing a preview for the tournament for the Dundee University student newspaper “The Student Times”, prior to the start of the competition, and just hope that no one put money on my tips. Having confidently suggested that France would trounce their group, they promptly lost 1-0 to Senegal in the opening fixture, and went on to finish bottom in Group A, with only one point from a goal-less draw with Uruguay to show for their efforts. And they didn’t even hit the back of the net once ! A huge fall from grace for the reigning champions.

I also stated that Argentina would thrive on the competition in the “Group of Death” and would go on to win the tournament, however, they too fell at the group stages, after going down 1-0 to England courtesy of a David Beckham penalty, an 88th minute goal from Hernan Crespo to draw one all with Sweden wasn’t enough to prevent them from finishing third in the group, which saw the Swedes, and the team led by a Swede, go through to the knockout stage.

Other notable acts to go out at the group stages included Portugal, Cameroon and Russia. Group H was a surprise, with Japan taking top spot, with Belgium second, while Mexico topped their group ahead of the Italians. No one expected South Korea to win their group, even on home soil, as they headed the U.S.A. in Group D, leaving the Poles and Portugal to return home to Europe. Brazil and Spain, as expected, topped their groups, while Denmark and surprise package, Senegal triumphed in Group A.

The knockout stages saw Ireland go out 3-2 on penalties after a credible one-all draw with Spain. England set up a quarter final tie with Brazil after comprehensively beating Denmark 3-0. They eventually went out 2-1 to Brazil, after going a goal up from Michael Owen. The match will be remembered for David Seaman’s goalkeeping error, when Ronaldinho beat him from 42 yards with a lobbed free kick. The big shock in the quarters was Spain going out on penalties to South Korea, who pushed Germany all the way, until eventually going 1-0 down. Brazil made it to the final after overcoming surprise package, Turkey, in the other semi, 1-0.

Two goals from eventual tournament top scorer, Ronaldo, sealed a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final, a record breaking fifth victory for the entertaining South Americans.

General Sport

In domestic football, it was a rare trophy-less season for Manchester United, as Arsenal won the two major English trophies. They took the Premiership title with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, courtesy of Sylvain Wiltord’s strike. This victory came four days after their F.A. Cup win, a 2-0 victory over Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium, a rare goal from Ray Parlour breaking the deadlock, and a late sealer from Freddie Ljungberg.

Bayer Leverkusen were surprise finalists in the Champions League, after putting Liverpool out in the quarter finals, with a 4-3 aggregate win. They went on to deny Manchester United a place in the final. Leverkusen’s dream ended with a 2-1 loss in the final, at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Real Madrid took the trophy, thanks largely to a wonder goal from Zinedine Zidane.

Liverpool took the runners up spot in the Premiership, edging Manchester United to their worst placing for several seasons. Newcastle took the final Champions League qualifying slot in fourth, with Leeds fifth. Derby County, Leicester City and Ipswich Town were relegated, although interestingly, Ipswich qualified for the following seasons U.E.F.A. Cup through the fair play draw. Taking up residence in the Premiership the following season would be Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City, who had been yo-yoing the divisions for some years, along with West Brom and Birmingham. The other domestic trophy, the Worthington Cup, was won by Blackburn Rovers, their first major honours since winning the Premiership in 1994/95.

In Scotland, Celtic again took the S.P.L. title, but couldn’t replicate their form of the previous year in the cup competitions, but to their fans, they had won the one that mattered, by a massive 18 points, losing only one league match all season. Livingstone were the best of the non Old Firm clubs, finishing a surprise third, a distant 45 points behind the winners. Perth based club St. Johnstone went down, to be replaced the following season by Partick Thistle. Rangers took the C.I.S. Cup with a 4-1 win over Ayr United, and McLeish’s men took a dramatic 3-2 win in the Scottish Cup at Hampden in an all Old Firm final.

Cricket suffered the deaths of two high profile personalities. Firstly, 32 year old Hansie Cronje, the disgraced former captain of South Africa, who had been banned two years earlier, was killed in a plane crash. Ben Hollioake, a rising England international, perished at the age of 24 in a car crash. It was a fitting tribute that his club side, Surrey, went on to win the county championship later that season. Once again, Australia largely dominated the international scene, once again crushing England in the Ashes series.

Although France claimed a Six Nations Grand Slam, at the same time denying England the title, the England Rugby Union team climbed to top the world rankings table. They became the first European team to beat New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on consecutive weekends, meanwhile France and Ireland also defeated South Africa and Australia. It certainly appeared the tide was turning in favour of the Northern Hemisphere teams, a sign which bode well for the 2003 World Cup, perhaps ?

Tim Henman made it to the semi-finals for the second consecutive year at Wimbledon, although he was well beaten by the eventual champion, Australian, Lleyton Hewitt. Serena Williams took the women’s title.

The postponed Ryder Cup saw Europe’s elite take the title, in a match where Colin Montgomery was in the form of his life, while U.S.A. main man Tiger Woods had a torrid time. While toothless Tiger looked like he would rather be doing anything (even crashing a Cadillac !), Monty took 4.5 points, and an unrivalled 24 birdies. However, in individual events, Woods was again at his best, taking the Masters and US Open, although Ernie Els took his first major since 1997, taking victory at the Open at Muirfield.

Formula One was seen as becoming a bit of a processional traffic jam, as Ferrari took 15 of the 17 race wins. Michael Schumacher taking his third title in a row, and fifth overall. So much was Ferrari’s dominance (much of which was down to team orders which left a sour taste in the mouths of fans), that third placed man in the championship, Juan-Pablo Montoya, scored only 50 points, while Schumacher took 144. Meanwhile, on two wheels, a similar trend occurred with Valentino Rossi dominating for Honda, in another lacklustre season for the neutral observer.

In the world of Boxing, the fight the world had waited to see was announced – Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson. However, it was the events which went on in the run up to it that ended up being of the greatest interest, more so than the fight itself. On 22nd January, the pair were brought together in New York to announce a fight in April in Las Vegas. Then it all went pear shaped, after they started brawling at this launch, then a week later, Tyson was refused a license to fight in Vegas. Eventually, the bout was staged in Memphis in June, with Lewis toying with Tyson for eight rounds, before staging a conclusive knockout.

Over the jumps, “Best Mate” claimed a memorable double, taking the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, while Jim Culloty aboard “Bindaree” took the Grand National in a thrilling dash to the finishing post with “What’s Up Boys”. The star of the flat season was without a doubt “Rock of Gibraltar” who broke all the records with seven straight Group One wins, including memorable victories at “Royal Ascot” and “Glorious Goodwood”.

Snooker celebrated yet another world champion, this time in Peter Ebdon, while Paul Hunter took the “Benson and Hedges Masters” and British Open titles, in a sport dominated by worries over the future, owing to the banning of tobacco sponsorship in U.K. sport.

So 2002 had been a year where the world had again become reunited by four weeks in the summer where little else than 22 men and a leather ball matters for ninety minutes. However, it was clear that there were still major issues in the world of politics; the threat of terror still loomed large, and 2003 was to see the re-ignition of trouble in the Gulf. But that will be described in more detail next time …

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man


Freddy said...

There were so many upsets at the 2002 World Cup - Senegal almost made the semi-finals! Think there will be quite few in South Africa.

Cindy Wilson said...

Yes Mountain Man, I remember your tips in the obscure Student Newpaper, The Student Times. I remember only too well. I had put my entire student loan installment on France beating Senegal on your tip. I would like my money back now, or I shall be emailing Paul McPate to complain.

S. O'Leary said...

Oi agree wit Cindy Wilson. Please email Paul Mcpate and tell him about the fact my team could not play a match due to de Abertay derby, but Mountain Man forced us to play. Oi declare shenanigans. (Shenanigans played in goal for us)

Mountain Man said...

Well I'll give you a chance to lose some more in time for the 2010 cup then !

2003 coming tomorrow, (Friday) been a difficult one to research. Plus I've got all excited by the sudden DUSoP related chat on other forums which has picked up.