Happy belated New Year readers and welcome to 2021. What on earth was that 2020 I don’t think anyone could have foreseen how much everything would change 12 months ago and makes last years annual new year post with its predictions look like wishful thinking.
2020 was anything but a normal year. Covid-19 first identified in Wuhan, China spread into a worldwide pandemic as officially declared by the WHO on March 12th. Everything changed. We saw horrific scenes as the virus spread into Italy and the UK went into a lockdown of sorts in March and nothing has been the same. We’ve all stayed at home more than we otherwise would have done. There has been the Zoom quizzes with friends and work colleagues and as well as writing, I sued the time to read some books too. There was also the inevitable binging on streaming tv and movies. I still can’t get over the ending to series 2 of The Mandalorian!
All sport was suspended with numerous events such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and more being cancelled but sport got back underway during the summer…
Project Restart saw Premier League and Championship football return in June but absent the presence of fans in the stands. Watching football without the fans in the ground is not the same but given everything that’s gone on football fans should be grateful to have football to watch at all. Although some fans will be more grateful than others…
Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League having finished while some teams that in League One and below that missed out on possible promotion will be feeling disappointed. Aston Villa who pulled off an escape from the drop will have enjoyed it as shrewd summer spending has transformed their fortunes. West Brom and Fulham returned to the Premier League and after a 16-year absence so too did Leeds United. Their style of play dubbed Bielsa ball has been a breath of fresh air at times.
Liverpool won the league title for the first time in 30 years and they come into 2021 top of the Premier League again but the new season has been incredibly unpredictable. They conceded 7 at Aston Villa. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga again as well as the DFB-Pokal and the ultimate prize in European football when it finished in Portugal; the Champions League and beating Barcelona 8-2 along the way. Who do you think won Coach of the year?. Hans Dieter Flick? Nope…Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
As a Newcastle fan, it has been a surreal 2020. There was a lot of hope as talk of a takeover spearheading by Amanda Staveley involving the Rueben brothers and Saudi Arabian PIF fund materialised during the lockdown and received extensive press coverage. After 17 weeks of speculation, the deal was pulled leading to speculation and fan campaigns against perceived Premier League corruption. Something does seem off there especially as they ended 2020 approving a takeover for Burnley in four weeks. What happened there? As for what has been offered on the pitch under Steve Bruce, at times it could send you to sleep.
F1 in 2020 had a chaotic start with the teams arriving in Melbourne for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix only for it to be cancelled at the last minute in confusing circumstances with some having left after a couple of McLaren team members tested positive. What was meant to be a record-breaking 22 race season ended up being 17 races condensed into 23 weeks. While it was predominantly based in Europe, it was an incredible effort to put it all together. The review of the 2020 season is still forthcoming.
The action was worth the wait and having the races to watch this year was better for my mental health than football. On the track, it was an incredible year for Lewis Hamilton. 11 wins, 14 podiums helped him break records on his way to equalling the once thought insurmountable 7 World Championships of Michael Schumacher. The germans record 91 wins and 155 podiums also fell to Hamilton and those records have been extended to 94 and 163 respectively. His success also saw him awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and end in a Knighthood. Five different drivers won races and 12 scored podiums and with the cars staying mostly the same in 2021, what will happen next?
Politics in 2020 has been insane. Literally, everything in 2020 seemed to be political. The decisions took as the UK seemingly dabbled with the concept of herd immunity before going into lockdown and the closing of businesses in March; trying to reopen everything in one fell swoop in July; Dominic Cummings and Barnard Castle; the handling of thousands of contracts worth billions to ‘VIP contacts’; the A-Level fiasco; reopening the schools and doing everything to keep them open as well as the ‘dithering and delay’ before the second national lockdown n November and the Tier system. Everything that has dictated our lives concerning Covid has been political.
Then we saw the protests campaigning for racial equality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The Black Lives Matter movement saw protests across the United States which was badly managed by President Trump as well as protests in various critics around the UK. The knee gesture has been seen in football and other sports with Lewis Hamilton leading the campaign in F1.
For the Conservatives, after their 2019 general Election victory under the promise of ‘Get Brexit Done,’ it was an inevitability the UK would leave the EU in 2020. The Uk formally left on January 31st and the debate was focused on the future relationship. The UK had the option of extending the transition period in June but the decision to not seek that extension in the middle of a pandemic was questionable. However, reflecting on the final weeks of the year, it feels like there was a lot of theatrics from the government.
After the worst electoral defeat since 1983, Labour was always going to be electing a new leader after Jeremy Corbyn announced his intention to step down. As expected 12 months ago, Sir Keir Starmer won the contest ahead of eventual contenders Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. I have liked his forensic questioning of Boris Johnson in PMQs, which is what I expected to happen even if it is really frustrating the Prime Minister never really answers questions directly. That said, some of his decisions have been puzzling I don’t get how Labour could abstain to allowing law enforcement agencies to commit crimes against its citizens, abstaining on lockdown tiers. I don’t get what he is trying to achieve there, I really don’t.
It was because of those abstentions that I didn’t really see my values shared in the labour party anymore. They left me wondering what am I doing paying membership fees and questioning what is the point and decided to leave the party. If Starmer starts discussing policies in the future, gives people something to believe in then that will be the right time for me to seek to return.
There were some positives towards the end of the year; the end of Donald Trump as President of the USA. After he survived his impeachment hearing, I thought he would go on to secure ‘four more years’ in November. However, his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic is potentially the deciding factor that brought him down. Joe Biden will be inaugurated in 2021 and maybe things will seem a little sane now that his Presidency is coming to an end.
In terms of my writing on here, I published 54 posts and reached the landmark 200th post in May and will reach 250 within the first few months of 2021. The majority were football-related as I finished predicting all 380 results of the 2019/20 season along with comparing them to the results predicted by Mark Lawrenson, Charlie Nicholas and the BT Script. I finished 2nd in that comparison but did not keep it going into the new campaign as I started looking towards other. I reviewed all 17 F1 races this year and will hope to do so again in 2021.
Writing on politics remains difficult just trying to keep it relevant by the time I have finished putting it all together. Only 10 posts covered politics. Events move on quicker than I can cover them. Somethings I would have liked to cover included the Labour report into the general election defeat, a review of Starmer’s first six months in post as Labour leader (the 12-month review post is still a possibility) but have not reviewed any of the government’s actions as we head into the second wave of the pandemic or the new relationship with the EU.
Predictions and what to look out for 2021?
Do I dare do this? Go on then!
Hopefully, the news of vaccines being developed against Coronavirus will be a big weapon in suppressing the pandemic and returning to some form of normality. The current advice coming from the UK government to mix and match different vaccines or extending the time between doses which the developers never tested just beggars belief though.
2021 is when we eventually see what Brexit looks like. For those who peddled the utopia of being able to thrive, this is the big time for them, to be proven right. They need it to be right. In fact, we all need them to be right as we will all suffer if they are wrong. Local elections originally scheduled for last year will take place in 2021 and so too will elections for Holyrood in Scotland. Those will be interesting as shouts for a second independence referendum would surely increase if the SNP retain a majority again.
Will Boris Johnson be Prime Minister this time in 12 months? With stories saying he is struggling on the £150,000 salary (who wouldn’t?) but with so much seemingly going wrong it is probably only a matter of time before he decides to leave Downing Street or is challenged.
In Football, we will hopefully have the rescheduled Euro 2020 to look forward to. Scotland qualified for an international tournament for the first time since 1998 and have a crunch meeting with England to look forward to. If it goes ahead this year, it could be an exciting year of football. In terms of the Premier League, you have to imagine Sheffield United will be going down after their poor start and I would bet on West Brm joining them. As for who will win the title, I think it really is too early to say but I would go out on a limb and say it would be hard to go against Liverpool making it two titles in a row.
F1 has a 23 race schedule planned with Saudi Arabia expected to make a debut (but not good enough for the Premier League to allow the PIF fund to have a stake in Newcastle United, cool). Vietnam that was meant to debut in 2020 has its spot left empty so there could bd a different venue hosting round 4 of the season. Can we have a race at Portimao again, please? Provided he does sign a new deal and with the cars being largely similar to 2020 to help teams battle the economic costs of Covid, I can’t see past Lewis Hamilton aiming it an unprecedented 8th world title. I do expect it being a closer battle with red Bull in the Constructors to prevent Mercedes making it an 8th successive crown.
It will be interesting to see how Sergio Perez fares at Red Bull having replaced Alex Albon but also how will the rookies manage. Yuki Tsunoda has been given a chance by red Bull at sister team Alpha Tauri as he becomes the first Japanese driver to race in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi. At has, it will b the battle o the rookies with Nikita Mazepin who perhaps very fortunate to still have his chance (I’m not a fan of his driving style or attitude either) but it will be all eyes on his teammate…Mick Schumacher follows his father’s steps making his debut in 2021.
What will I be doing on the Mind of Rowan in 2021?
I am going to try and keep on writing. I restarted the ‘A Tory Said What’ series of posts at the end of 2020, bringing its launch forward from starting this month. I will try to review each of the F1 races when the season hopefully starts in March and some thoughts on the football developments.
I hope to keep up with it. However, I do have another project in the pipeline as after discussions with a friend I am looking into developing a quiz website! That is hopefully going to go live this month.