Arthur C. Clarke informs us that January 1st 2001 is the real first day of the third millennium. He has a vested interest, having written a book called 2001. No doubt, if he'd written a book called '1974: A Space Odyssey' we would have heard a lot from him around Christmas 1973. 'Oh yeah, '74's the big one, believe me, I've done the maths. $8:95 from all good book stores, by the way.'
I am actually grateful for Sir Arthur's intervention, as it gives me the opportunity to write a facetious column rather than one that attempts to grapple with vital issues facing world football. Anyway, at this momentous time, does the world really need another piece about David Beckham? Full backs / wing backs? John Gregory? Ken Bates?
So here it is: The Arthur C. Clarke Memorial Column: Football in the Third Millennium: Predictions, Fears, Tangential Speculations, Irrelevant Asides, Gratuitous Sexual References.
April 23rd 2010 The myth that French managers are more intelligent and tactically astute than English managers will finally be exploded. At a press conference after an Arsenal v Liverpool Second Division relegation battle, Arsene Wenger says 'It is important that we play as a team. They scored two goals, we scored one. We lost. I didn't see the incident clearly, but my players definitely thought it was a penalty.'
Gerard Houllier says 'This is something to build on. We are maybe two years away from having a team that can compete for the league. Or the FA Vase at least.' Scales will fall from eyes: these people have been getting away with murder for years simply because they wear spectacles and have strong French accents.
May 9th 2020 Manchester United win their 23rd consecutive Premiership Title at their new stadium the Fergiedome in Santa Monica, California. The crowd of 22,000 which consists exclusively of supermodels, rock singers and movie stars and their attendant publicists, chakra coaches, yoga teachers, nutritionists, personal asssitans, tantric gurus, colonic irrigationists and fluffers. American people claim that they now have the Soccer World Champions.
On the same day, Manchester City play a game against the Middleton Horse and Jockey Second XI, lose, and as a consequence are relegated to the Third Divison of the North Manchester Pub League. The crowd of 79,000 sing ironic yet strangely moving songs about not having won anything for 44 years. And that was only the League Cup.
April 14th 2030 Something sensible escapes David Mellor's lips. Having locked himself out of his car, he says : 'Oh god, I'm such an idiot.'
2037 Football replaces war as a means of solving international disputes. America complains to FIFA about the referee after being beaten 2 -1 by Iraq in the Oil Embargo Cup. FIFA reject the US's claims. America bombs the bejaysus out of Iraq for a while, just for the hell of it.
2039 After a hegemony that stretched for 1860 to 2040, with one brief hiatus around 1980, long shorts finally go out of fashion. Conjuring up memories of Chrissy Waddle and Hamburg-era Kevin Keegan, Nike bring back the thigh-strangling 'microshort'. These shiny hotpants almost become the sports fashion item of the 2040s, until an Ipswich fan dies of thrombosis trying to squeeze into the pair Paul Mariner wore in the 1981 UEFA Cup Final win against AZ67 Alkmar.
2086 New Wembley opens. Due to an oversight by the structural engineer, all the stands face away from the pitch. Manchester City relocate.
2113 In a move brought about by corporate America's impatience with flagging TV ratings, soccer merges with ice hockey. A statement from Bud Lauer, commissioner of the newly formed World Sockey League reads: 'The synergies enabled by this co-operative fusion of two great sports allow strategic consolidation of revenue streams, mutual database enrichment and arrogant disregard of anyone who dares to stand in our way. The additional benefit, the fact we can probably fire some people, also makes us feel pretty groovy, as firing people is what we like doing best.'
2114 Manchester United win inaugural Sockey World Series.
2240 The convergence of the sciences of cryogenics, genetic engineering and quantum physics allow for Germany to restage the 1966 World Cup Final and conclusively prove that the ball didn't cross the line. England lose the subsequent FIFA-mandated replay on penalties.
2320 All empires rise and fall. Sky TV is now the world's only superpower, having bought America from Mexico in a leveraged buy out. The Premier League is re-instated. Southampton and Coventry City narrowly avoid relegation.
2500 Stuart Pearce announces retirement.
2600 Intelligent football-playing life is discovered somewhere just outside the Horsehead Nebula. We know they are intelligent because they wear glasses, speak with markedly foreign-sounding accents and often remind us about the importance of playing as a team. Chelsea instantly sign fourteen of their players. 'How are you coping with the language problem, Dakron?' asks a Sky reporter before a vital cup clash with Spurs. 'Fleem nyoo par nin teety bax' replies the tenacious three-legged central midfielder.
2746 Due to changes in footballing theory, the tap-in is now regarded as the highest form of the sport. Goal of the Season is won by Gary Thompson of West Bromwich Albion for his ungainly 'shin-in' from six inches out in a league game against Barnsley. Goals by a descendant of Niall Quinn take six of the next seven places.
December 2999 A Sports columnist breathes a sigh of relief. It's time to retrieve the millennium column from the old hard drive, change a few dates and names, send it to his editor and go to the pub. Said editor calls him on his cell phone, irate: 'Where are these gratuitous sexual references you promised everyone?' Columnist responds: 'Oh God sorry. Breasts. Put that in somewhere.'
December 3000 a pedant who lives in Sri Lanka reminds everyone that January 1st 3001 is the real first day of the new millennium. Everybody is too busy attaining total astral consciousness to give a damn. There's also that Derby County v Everton match on TV.