Looking back, 2008 was a disappointing year for me.
There were some highlights such as picking up my MBE from The Queen, collecting a UEFA award from the great Michel Platini, helping Fulham stay in the Premiership, getting a move to Sunderland and scoring a few goals, but ultimately it has not been as good as previous years.
That was then. All I’m concerned about now is 2009 and the future.
I don’t have New Year resolutions as such, but I do have hopes and ambitions for the next 12 months.
For starters I want to play more games for Sunderland.
I was delighted to join Sunderland from Fulham in the summer because it is such a big club with a passionate support, but I have not played nearly as much as I had hoped.
I was pleased to come off the bench for 15 minutes against Everton last Sunday, although losing the game 3-0 wasn’t in the script.
It had been a while since I played in the first team and it was great to get a game again.
I don’t want to just be playing a game every two or three weeks though.
My aim is to be involved all the time.
I know there are people who believe that because I haven’t been playing on a regular basis, that I am not as good as I was, and it is up to me to prove them wrong.
Hopefully I will be involved in our FA Cup tie at the weekend against Bolton.
Ever since I was a young lad watching Norman Whiteside score the winning goal for Manchester United at Wembley, it has been my dream to play in an FA Cup final.
I’ve played at all the big stadiums in England, bar Wembley and I would love to play there at
least once before I retire. Portsmouth won the Cup last year, so there is no reason why Sunderland can’t do it in 2009.
This is a big year for me at club level and it is a massive year for Northern Ireland on the international scene.
This is the year we could qualify for the World Cup finals.
Yes, I know we have a lot to do but as far as I am concerned the dream is still alive.
We have the best group of players in my time playing for Northern Ireland and with our magnificent supporters that gives us a chance to emulate the legendary sides of 1982 and 1986.
In my book we have to win all our remaining home games and one or two away, starting in San Marino next month, while hoping the other sides take points off each other.
If it all works out, 2009 is going to be a very special year.
Stevie G will be keen to return to the back pages
There was a lot of surprise in football circles when news broke about the Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard being charged with assault after an alleged incident in a nightclub.
Certainly it’s never nice for a footballer to be on the front pages for a controversy.
I know what it is like myself due to the Prague Five affair. Like me back then, I’m sure Steven Gerrard (pictured) will hope to return to the back pages for his football.
Liverpool have come out and backed him, which I think everyone in football would expect, and now Gerrard will try and get back to doing what he does best, helping his club win matches.
Liverpool fans will just hope that all this and the court case later this month won’t have a detrimental impact on their title dream. The Reds are definitely going to be in the spotlight from now until May.
Another subject that has caused a lot of debate recently happened on the pitch when the Hull manager Phil Brown gave his half-time team talk, during the 5-1 defeat at Manchester City, to his players on the field of play, in front of the Hull fans.
It was obviously in a bid to get a reaction and Phil would argue it had the desired result because from being 4-0 down at the break, Hull obviously improved in the second period. But I would add that I doubt very much if many of the players appreciated it.
It was suggested that Hull players had let their fans down.
And of course fans are entitled to want a good showing from their team, but Hull supporters didn’t do too badly in 2008, did they?
The players got Hull into the Premiership and since being in the top flight they have been one of the most entertaining sides around.
So glad to see Spike’s days aren’t numbered
I was really relieved that the injury Glenn Ferguson sustained during the Boxing Day clash between Linfield and Glentoran was not as serious as first thought.
I know everyone with an interest in Irish League football was waiting to hear the news of the scan on Spike’s knee.
And thankfully it was good news, though not necessarily for defenders.
Having spoken to Spike (right) I know how concerned he was that his career could have been over.
I guess it wouldn’t have been the worst way to end it, scoring twice for the Blues in a 3-0 win over the Glens, but he believes there is lots of football left in him and I’m happy he has the chance to show that.
He’ll be out for a few weeks but when my 45-year-old mate comes back, he’ll no doubt do it with a bang.
Linfield need him. So does the Irish League.