MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – The Barclays Premier League is over and few can argue that this was the greatest season in its twenty-year history.
How many leagues have been won in the final minutes and with the final goal of the season? How many leagues have seen battles at top and bottom through the final week? How many leagues have shown us the dizzying highs and sickening lows that the Premiership bestowed us throughout the season?
Odd as it sounds, just six weeks ago, I was unconvinced. The pall of the Luis Suarez and John Terry cases clung to this league like damp wool, heightened by Kenny Dalglish sending out his team in shirts supporting the insupportable. Few of us can forget the horror of Fabrice Muamba's collapse to the turf; the Carlos Tevez debacle that saw him miss six months; and the wretched football on display each week at Molineux, Ewood and Anfield. All of it had me wondering if this year would turn out be a low water mark. And I dare you: sit through Stoke - Villa and tell me this is quality soccer. I dare you.
But bloody hell, football. The final weeks of the season have been exhilarating, and when City won the title, I was among those applauding. It was a moment that stands out for me in a career of covering soccer, and moreover convinced me of the power of sport to change people's lives. Anyone who wasn't moved by the sight of the long-suffering City fans mobbing the field on the final whistle has no heart.
I move on to Munich next, but even after what has been a riveting Champions League season and a brilliant year in the Bundesliga, I'm ready to make my choice: the Premier League delivered the goods this year. I can only hope next season brings more of the same.
As I do each season, I made a bunch of prediction, many of which turned out to be fanciful. While sportswriters are notoriously poor gamblers (and, mercifully, I do not bet), it's fair enough to revisit what I got right and what I got wrong.
I picked Liverpool to be the surprise team of the season, and indeed they were but not in the place that I intended. How Kenny Dalglish can stay in as manager I do not know. I also thought Arsenal would collapse - and indeed they did - but I did not believe they would finish third. The fact remains that they are a very flawed team but thanks to Liverpool and Chelsea, they were able to nick a guaranteed Champions League slot and they deserve praise for it.
The other thing I got wrong was the relegation sides. When I picked my teams, Bolton still had Stuart Holden available. After he went out, well, so did Wanderers. I got Blackburn and Wolves right, but I thought Wigan would join them. I was correct in my assertion that all the promoted teams would stay up, and I did get one other big thing right: I said this would be the most exciting year of all in England .
Numbers for thought
1066 -- Not just the Battle of Hastings (the Norman Conquest), but also the number of goals scored this season in the Premier League, the most ever.
101 -- The number of yards covered by the goal scored by Tim Howard. It was the longest goal of the season.
89 -- The points attained by United , most ever not to win the title.
64 -- The amount, in millions of dollars, that QPR will earn next season by dint of staying up on the final day.
48 -- The amount, in millions, that Bolton is estimated to be losing by going through the relegation trapdoor.
30 -- The number of goals that Robin van Persie scored, winning him the golden boot. He becomes the sixth player in Premiership history to hit that total in a single season.
19 -- The number of hat tricks notched in the Premier League this season -- the most ever to date.
1 -- The chart position the Beatles' "White Album" was in the last time Manchester City won a top flight title, all the way back in 1968.