Father Christmas has some decisions to make on whose behaviour in 2013 has been good and whose has been bad. Goal picks out some of the year's best and worst examples
All may be forgotten in the eyes of many Liverpool fans as he pumps out goals like tin cans on a conveyor belt but it was only this summer that Suarez was doing his best to engineer a "promised" move to a Champions League side. And yes, it is remarkable that he has shot to the top of the scoring charts after so few games; but, lest we forget, he missed those matches due to his decision to bite a fellow human being. As much as he clearly needs someone to give him a new chew-toy, the Uruguayan will have to do better before Father Christmas fixes him up with anything.
Everybody has time for Michael Laudrup. One of the finest players around in his pomp - and still able to turn on the style in training to show his Swans how it's done - few people want him to fail. And succeed he has! Having built exceptionally on Brendan Rodgers' work, the Dane led a thrilling Swansea City side to Capital One Cup glory and now qualification for the Europa League knockouts. All the while, nothing summed him up better than his classy recognition of Bradford City's heroic efforts immediately after beating them at Wembley.
Perhaps the only Manchester United player on an upward trajectory under new manager David Moyes, it has not been an especially flattering year off the pitch for the England forward. His relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson deteriorated into a mind-games battle in which Rooney was clearly outmatched and led to a deathly awkward summer of behind-the-scenes scrambles to get out of Dodge. When his gamble failed to pay off, it then segued into painful and poorly veiled evasions of any kind of verbal commitment towards the club.
Lambert's is the kind of story that you rarely see in football these days - and his rapid rise from obscurity to England international, scoring with his very first touch for the Three Lions, saw the words "beetroot factory" almost written out of print. His continued success at an ever-more-impressive Southampton, where he has proved himself so much more than the dismissive 'target man' label, and his grateful attitude make him impossible to dislike.
|NAUGHTY: EDEN HAZARD & CHARLIE MORGAN
One of the most unexpected and divisive (though admittedly mostly on tribalistic lines) incidents of 2013 came in the Capital One Cup semi-finals. With time running out for Chelsea, Hazard kicked out in an attempt to recover the ball from under a ballboy, earning himself a red card and much scorn. It quickly transpired that Swansea City fan Charlie Morgan, the youngster in question, had declared on Twitter pre-game his masterplan to waste time if his side needed it. Did his idiotic behaviour make Hazard right for kicking a teenager? No. Both can have a thimbleful of dust for Christmas.
|NICE: ASHLEY YOUNG & TYRONE MINGS
Expecting serial diver Young to be on the naughty list? Think again. While he is one of the most prone to theatrics, everybody in football tries it. But not everybody goes the extra mile for fans. Earlier in December, the Manchester United winger reached out on Twitter to make a cancer patient's wish for a last trip to Old Trafford come true, showing more than enough heart for Santa. Similarly, Ipswich Town youngster Mings saw a Trotters supporter's lament that he was too "skint" to attend a home game and got in touch with him to buy him some tickets. There are
good guys in this game of ours.
Though he is doing better, overall, at Blackpool than one might expect from a manager who was once spotted on the touchline with a tactical note reading simply: 'Shoot', Ince's tenure has taken a turn for the ridiculous. The Tangerines have dropped out of the Championship play-off places after some disastrous away results - with consecutive losses at Yeovil Town and Derby County featuring no fewer than five
red cards for his players. Truly, a violent streak that would make St Nick turn redder than his costume.
Though it is a little unfortunate and unfair for one person to be held up into the spotlight as an example for a whole group, there is no denying that Rogers' coming-out message in February was a heartwarming step forward for tolerance in football. The USA international's bravery and honesty was met with a pleasingly supportive reception from football in general as the sport continues to edge around truly confronting one of its largest remaining taboos. Now with LA Galaxy, the winger more than merits a good haul from Santa.
Every time you think that Ashley's Newcastle reign is about to quieten down, something always pops up to surprise and astonish you. Over the summer, it was the alarming reappointment of potty-mouthed Joe Kinnear as director of football, who blustered embarrassingly about his contacts but produced just the one loan signing. Since then, the Magpies owner has begun a crusade against media outlets everywhere, cracking down on local papers and now seeking to charge for interview access. His unwelcome shenanigans may never end.
England may have crashed out of the European Championships this summer but things might have been different had they brought the Women's Super League's top goalscorer with them. The national side struggled but Dowie led the way as the women's game made strides at club level, firing 13 goals in 14 games as Liverpool lifted the title. Manchester City Ladies have made waves in the transfer market since then, signing several England regulars, but Dowie - niece of manager Iain - is setting the pace in a competition that merits more attention.
The atmosphere at the KC Stadium should be jubilant - Steve Bruce's side are more than punching their weight in the Premier League. Instead, it is poisonous. Allam's bullheaded assertion that changing the club's name to Hull Tigers is going to bring in waves of new revenue has supporters outraged; rightly so. Even more damaging has been his response to the 'City Til We Die' protestors, irritatedly telling them that they "can die when they want" as he threatens to pull all investment should his wish not be granted. After much generosity, Hull fans are now seeing his nasty side.
As a Muslim, Belounis may not celebrate Christmas himself, but his long-overdue return from the clutches of Qatar's kefala system was an early present for many campaigners. Trapped in the country without an exit visa for 19 months, the football world was extraordinarily slow to act on his case, which highlights one of the plethora of ethical concerns surrounding Fifa's decision to hand Qatar the World Cup. Regardless of the wider issues, though, the Frenchman certainly deserves to be merry now.