We have asked all our sporting experts to look back on 2017 and look forward to the coming year for their respective sports…
FOOTBALL – with our Football Insider Graeme Bailey
Moment of the Year – We have to remember this is for the whole of 2017, but I would have to say Antonio Conte’s Premier League title win – yes I know Man City are well on their way, however, that achievement in his debut season was brilliant….let’s see what Pep can do in 2018.
Performance of the year – Has to be Harry Kane – proving himself as a world class performer, he took his second consecutive Golden Boot and broke the Premier League goals record for 2017. He is emerging as a true great with the world at his feet, and with the World Cup coming up next year – long may it continue.
One to watch in 2018 – I often go on about this boy but Manchester City’s Phil Foden is a wonderful player and it is when he becomes a star rather than if, but it is his team-mate at City Kevin De Bruyne who I think could finally get the recognition as a true world class performer.
HORSE RACING – with our expert The Duke
Moment of the year – When I think back to the most surprising part of this year, it would be way back in January when the Jockey Club officially announced it would try and shut Kempton Park to make way for housing. I think that was an unacceptable and disgraceful decision from an organisation that is meant to protect the interests of horse racing. That’s worth contemplating at this time of year especially.
Performance of the year – Aidan O’Brien has been superlative as a trainer this year and he has to be right up there. If I was Australian, I’d say Winx as she has been incredible, but as the Aussies are spanking us Brits in the cricket I can’t give them more things to cheer about. As such, it has to be Enable. She won five Group 1s and more so than Winx, the opposition she faced was truly top class. In the Arc alone, of the first ten home only one had never won a Group or Grade 1. The pair could meet next year at Royal Ascot of which a few firms are already offering odds. That would be some race.
One to watch in 2018 – Joseph O’Brien. Like father, like son, he has made tremendous gains in 2017 including training the Melbourne Cup winner. There’s more to come from this incredibly talented young trainer
BOXING – with the main man Tim Rickson
Moment of the year – Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko April 29 2017 produced one of the most epic heavyweight battles of all-time. They fought a cautious chess match for the first four rounds. In the fifth, Joshua turned up the heat and barraged Klitschko to the canvas. However, the old master rose up and dominated Joshua for the remainder of the round, with the Watford man just making it to the bell. Both men were wary of each other for the following few rounds until a reinvigorated Joshua again flicked on a switch and crashed Klitschko to the canvas. Klitschko rose again but Joshua decked him for a second time, then continued to bombard the Ukrainian with unanswered shots until the referee called a halt to the exhilarating see-saw contest.
Performance of the year – On August 19th, Terence Crawford unified the super-lightweight division by defeating WBA and IBF champion Julius Indongo in Lincoln, Nebraska to add to his WBC and WBO belts. “Bud’s” third-round knockout – a perfect left hook to the body – meant he became the first undisputed champion to hold all four belts since the legendary Kostya Tszyu back in 2004. He is one of only four boxers in history to achieve this remarkable feat after Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins, and Cecilia Brækhus, and was rightly ranked as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
One to Watch in 2018 – Josh Kelly. The 23-year-old welterweight is undoubtedly Britain’s most exciting prospect right now. Trainer Adam Booth recently described his student as the most talented fighter he’s ever worked with. The 5-foot 10-inch fighter is known by his alias “Pretty Boy”, which is shared with the formidable Floyd Mayweather, but it’s not foolish to believe, even at this early stage, that the Rio 2016 Olympian could possibly go on to replicate the American’s success. The Sunderland-born puncher excites fight fans with his blistering speed and flair, a style which prompted Hearn into offering a new, lucrative three-year deal.
RUGBY – with our expert Ben Hampshire
Moment of the Year – We only get the privilege of witnessing British & Irish Lions rugby every four years and this tour was a rare and special display; after a first victory over the all conquering All Blacks since 1993 in the second Test, our moment of the year has to be the stunned silence of a packed Eden Park as Owen Farrell landed a long-range penalty three minutes from time to secure a famous series draw for the tourists in New Zealand.
Performance of the Year – Throughout 2017 there have been a number of impressive performances and displays of solo brilliance, but you would have to go some way to top Scotland’s record-breaking 53-24 triumph over Australia – not only a remarkable result, but a real marker of their intent to rise up the world order in 2018 – watch out Six Nations.
One to Watch in 2018 – I’m taking an overseas and homegrown player to watch, with Rieko Ioane a box office star on the international scene for New Zealand with 11 tries in 11 Test starts this season. Meanwhile, on the home front, look no further than Sam Underhill – the Bath Rugby flanker’s brief foray onto the England stage thus far has shown glimmers of his ability, but rest assured, there is so much more to come from this monstrous ball-winning, big carrying, hard-hitting back rower in 2018.
GOLF – with our resident pro Cliff Jackson
Moment of the Year – This is pretty easy, has to be Sergio Garcia breaking his Major duck when he took the green jacket with his brilliant performance at The Masters, and is one that will live long in the memory for everyone who witnessed it.
Performance of the Year – Again, hate to state the obvious but the performance by Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale was simply stunning and a joy to behold. The way he came to Britain and dealt with the conditions was brilliant. Such a likeable person but a golfer who is quickly becoming one of the all-time greats. He is a wonderful player and one I will never get sick of seeing.
One to Watch in 2018 – Well this is more complicated, put simply I would pick out Justin Thomas – someone who I think could go on to have a brilliant season, continuing where he finished off 2017 and it would be remiss not to mention Tiger. Tiger Woods showed in his return that he can still compete when injury free, if he can get back to anywhere near his best, it will be fascinating to see him compete. Also the Ryder Cup next year is surely going to be the sporting event of 2018!
NFL – from our resident NFL Pickers
Moment of the Year – This is one which looking back could become one of those momentous moments in sport, but in March Oakland Raiders confirmed they were doing it, they would be moving to Las Vegas. Imagine a world class team playing in the most famous sporting venue of them all Las Vegas. Remarkable.
Performance of the Year – Has to be the historic comeback from from New England in the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots’ 25-point comeback is the largest comeback in history, and Super Bowl LI was the first to be decided in overtime.
One to Watch in 2018 – We are going to pick out one player here – Jimmy Garoppolo. Traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a mere second round pick by the New England Patriots. He has shown true quality in the few games he has played, and we could be seeing the birth of a true great. Also we need to keep an eye on Minnesota Vikings – they could create history by becoming the first side ever to win a Super Bowl in their own stadium.