Well, nothing lasts forever... it's been a blast! Sportsmail's brilliant columnist bows out after almost a decade at the top
It's time to bid you a fond farewell. This is my final column for Sportsmail. It has been an absolute privilege and an honour to be allowed to sound off on this page without compromise for nearly a decade, but an exciting adventure beckons and life moves on.
I’m joining BT Sport to present four live TV shows a week for the new channel when the football season starts.
The idea was to leave you with a lasting message of great significance. So I dusted off the archive, revisited the remains of some 2,000 articles and tried to examine just how much the world has changed in that time.
The hair is grey: Little has changed in the footballing world as Jose Mourinho gets set for his Chelsea return
More from Des Kelly for the Daily Mail...
- Des Kelly: When it came to the most important tick of his career clock, Sir Alex bowed out at the perfect moment 10/05/13
- DES KELLY: The idea that governing bodies are serious about exposing drug cheats is a myth... the cover-up makes my blood boil 03/05/13
- Des Kelly: Sorry Liverpool, this isn't a conspiracy by the PM, FA, MI5, British Dental Association, and Society Against Cannibalism in Sport 26/04/13
- Des Kelly: An immense river of humanity will flow through London... the marathon must produce mighty roar of defiance 19/04/13
- DES KELLY: Fans come a distant second to Cup cash 12/04/13
- Des Kelly: Forget his politics... is Paolo really up to the job? 05/04/13
- Des Kelly: The evidence is so subtle many missed it... is this bonfire a case of smoke and mirrors? 29/03/13
- Des Kelly: British taxpayers have just handed West Ham a stadium worth half a billion pounds... where's my bit of this £630m council house? 22/03/13
- DES KELLY: No English clubs left in the Champions League - We're doomed! Well, until next time 15/03/13
- VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
The answer is frustratingly little. In the opening months, this column dealt with the scourge of diving, the lack of homegrown talent in the Premier League, Paolo Di Canio’s fascist tendencies, Jose Mourinho’s self-love and yet another Audley Harrison ‘comeback’. It seems the same annoying little stones have been lodged in sport’s shoes for the best part of 10 years.
My first offering was a piece on the unerring habit of one-eyed football managers to blame a defeat on the referee, an official’s raised flag, a Football Association vendetta, the colour of the shirts, or even the ball itself, rather than the quality of their own work.
I said Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger could stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and their perspective was so skewed they would swear the tower was perfectly upright — and the rest of the buildings were at a precarious angle.
There’s nothing in that statement I’d change, except swap the name of the retired Ferguson for any other manager you care to nominate.
Tiger Woods was there, too. I ridiculed the idea that the golfer had bought a yacht the size of half a football pitch and named it ‘Privacy’. He even announced he wanted to be ‘anonymous’.
A quote from the comic Lenny Bruce sprung to mind: ‘The only person who really wants to stay anonymous is the guy who knocks up your daughter.’ Which reminds me. I must check what happened to Woods after that.
There was also an item on my fervent conviction London would stage a magnificent Olympics if they won the bid to host the 2012 Games.
Spectacular: The London Olympics went off with a bang last year as the country came together to celebrate
‘The London Olympics would be one of the most extraordinary public celebrations Britain has seen. Think Euro 96, Commonwealth Games, a dozen London marathons and the Silver and Golden Jubilees all rolled into one. Then add a bit more.’
It was an opinion bravely offered eight years before the event, knowing it would not be remembered should it prove to be wrong. As it turned out, my only crime was I underplayed it, for once.
Forgive this nostalgic and indulgent dig through the cuttings. It’s my last day. Obviously, for balance, I was going to list the less prescient and more deluded articles that deserved to be not thrown on to a bonfire, but hurled there with considerable force. Sadly, space prevents this.
However I must applaud the unsung heroes of the department that limit catastrophes reaching the public domain. Occasional slip-ups can occur, despite my relentless fact-checking. For instance, it seems Sir Winston Churchill did not win the World Cup in 1966 after all. Yes, that surprised me as well.
Luckily, sub-editors are on hand to spot these tiny indiscretions. And if I kept all the promises made to staff about ‘owing them a pint’ following every correction, the nation’s brewery trade would be in rude health.
Fergie time: Des (L) with the now retired Manchester United manager at a League Manager's Association event
Ain't no mountain: Des at the summit of Kilimanjaro with Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd and Chris Kamara
All over the world: Des Kelly's time at the Daily Mail has taken him from Boston (above) to Celtic Manor (below)
Unfortunately, I have not been able to pay all those debts, but the Daily Mail sports desk is too professional to bear a grudge and spoil this last column by deliberately inserting a mishtake.
Most of all, my appreciation goes out to you, dear reader, for your kind letters, emails, tweets, gifts, indecent proposals and anonymous death threats.
MailOnline is known for having one of the more — how can I put this? — ‘robust’ comment sections in the business, but your wit and generosity on every forum has been remarkable throughout.
Thank you for reading, all the best, and I hope you tune in to my new show during the weeks and months ahead.
The fans hope for too much
Perhaps it’s just as well that England look as if they are playing in black and white these days, because that’s how we see them.
The national side is great or a total disaster. Black or white. Nothing in between.
Trouble brewing: England struggled to a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on Wednesday
Had England comfortably defeated the Republic of Ireland, the consensus would have been they had ‘only’ beaten the Irish. But because they did not overwhelm the opposition, everyone is wringing their hands, Roy Hodgson’s tactics are being written off as disastrously wrong and the players will inevitably be thrashed by Brazil and everyone else, for that matter.
England were uninspired, but it was an end-of-season friendly, with nothing much at stake — quite literally, as it happens, with bookmakers reporting all-time low levels of interest in the match.
Add that a number of key players were absent and the fact Hodgson isn’t spoiled for choice and the claim this was a ‘return to the dark ages’ by a sensible man like Gary Lineker appears harsh, however heartfelt his frustration.
We’ve tried most things without much success, so maybe England should take a look at itself. If the public lowered their expectations and tried to enjoy watching England a bit more, come what may — as the Irish do and many other nations — rather than sighing and moaning, perhaps the fans might be rewarded with freedom and adventure on the field? It’s just a thought.
The FIFA congress is currently being held in Mauritius. Other venues for the FIFA jamboree in recent years include Nassau in the Bahamas; a trip to Sydney, Australia and also Marrakesh in Morocco.
Isn’t it funny how Sepp Blatter and his fellow free-loading executives opt for conference venues that require Speedos and some Factor 30 sunscreen. I await the day they hold a FIFA congress in Croydon, Skegness or Rhyl. But I won’t hold my breath.
Nice trip? President Sepp Blatter in Mauritius to attend the 63rd FIFA Congress held last week
Don’t fret, Brazil will be great 2014 hosts
Over the next few months, countless articles are going to appear asking the same question: ‘Will Brazil be ready for the World Cup?’
I’ve been in Rio de Janeiro for the past couple of weeks and, while this does not qualify me as an instant expert, I can still save you a considerable amount of reading time.
The answer is ‘Yes’.
The World Cup will not be perfect; far from it. There will be a flurry of glitches like this week’s unseemly scramble to tidy up the Maracana prior to England’s friendly.
There will be a proliferation of scare stories about the infrastructure, transport hold-ups and security.
But similar questions were raised before the London 2012 Olympics, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Athens Games in 2004 and, somehow, these all came together.
And if my experience in this vibrant, revitalised city is anything to go by, Brazil is going to be just fine.
Alright on the night: England hope to make the return trip to Brazil for the World Cup next summer
Before I flew in, I trawled through pieces warning of rampant crime and sniffily griping at outdated ‘Copacabana cliches’ about brain-numbing caipirinhas, thongs that could slice cheese and the phenomenon of people playing football on the beach day and night.
Happily they are cliches because they are true. The only preconception that didn’t withstand scrutiny was the idea I could expect to be held up at gunpoint on every street corner.
Not once did I experience any menace or aggression in Rio; not along the previously notorious beach fronts, the samba clubs, the wilder nightspots in the centre or as I attempted to somehow find my way back to base before the sun came up.
A friend of mine, an ex-professional footballer in Brazil, told me: ‘The real Rio cliche is people come here thinking it’s going to be violent like the movie City of God. That image is way out of date. The city suffers from nothing like the problems it used to.’
It’s obviously never going to be wise to stomp through a favela waving an iPhone in the air, or checking the time on a Rolex in the edgy, unmissable Lapa district, but I have felt more unease walking through parts of London than in Rio.
Crowded: Brazil is well known for its favelas but the country will be the ideal host for the World Cup
I went to see Vasco da Gama, one of Rio’s four big clubs, in their league opener. The game was useless, but I was surprised to find the crowd of 20,000 included more women and children than you would see at any top-flight English match. It helps that Vasco let in children and pensioners for free — and 9,000 took advantage of the generous offer.
Right across the city, the people were open, friendly and generous. That’s not happened because the World Cup is coming; it is part of Brazil’s renaissance and a process that has taken many years.
The place was a surprising joy.
It’s not paradise, although it appears to be when you are at the top of Corcovado gazing down on the city underneath the statue of Christ the Redeemer. In fact the theory is Rio looks better from a distance.
But even close up, the place is starting to scrub up rather well.
Certainly, no country on the planet is as obsessed with football as Brazil. It is everywhere, all day and all night. That alone will make the World Cup a success. It will be a chaotic. colourful carnival. I can’t wait.
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