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Seven great reasons to get excited about 2007

By Steven Beacom

So, 2006 is over. It was the year when Italy lifted the World Cup, Barcelona claimed the Champions League, Chelsea made it two titles in a row, Stevie Gerrard had a Cup final named after him, Linfield won everything, Derry City almost did the same and Northern Ireland ended up in FIFA's top 50 after a rollercoaster 12 months. But that was then.

This is now. This is 2007. To mark it, here's my seven New Year wishes for the footballing world.

Ferguson and Mourinho going to the wire: In 2005 and 2006 Chelsea ran away with the Premiership. Not this time. They start the New Year six points behind Manchester United in the title race. The longer it stays that way the crazier Jose Mourinho is going to get, so obviously that will keep us entertained.

Ultimately though, it would be fantastic if the battle between United and Chelsea went down to the wire.

And don't be surprised if Sky manufacture it so that the big game between the two at Stamford Bridge is re-scheduled to make it the last match of the season.

Can you imagine the mind games between Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho? A vote could be held relating to who the United Kingdom public would like to see blow it most! Guaranteed to have more people go to the polls than the next General Election.

Champions League - having a laugh: Liverpool won the best final ever in 2005. Arsenal lost a drab one in 2006. Here's hoping there is another English side in the 2007 decider. It doesn't matter if you want them to win or get stuffed, it creates far more interest in the fixture. I tipped Chelsea to win it at the start of the season and stand by that, but if Liverpool overcome Barcelona, don't be surprised if the Reds go all the way. That would make it six times, wouldn't it?

Come on Rangers, Scottish football needs you: Oh, for the days of Martin O'Neill and Alex McLeish when the Scottish Premier League provided great finishes. These days Rangers are so far behind Celtic, the Bhoys have disappeared out of sight. Shame on Paul Le Guen. The Frenchman is lucky to still be there. It's time he bucked up his ideas - the same goes for his underperforming players.

Healy move: Northern Ireland's finest, David Healy, needs to leave Leeds United. They are on the slide yet Dennis Wise hardly plays the man who could get them out of it. Healy is good enough to play in the Premiership. Wigan, Villa, Fulham, Everton or Sheffield United could do a lot worse. Just ask Spanish hero Carlos Puyol.

Big finish in the Irish League: In England there is a two horse race. Over here, we have three teams going for the title. It's brilliant to see Glentoran and now Portadown contesting the championship after Linfield ran away with everything last year. Here's to all three being in the battle in the last week of the campaign.

Complete the International rescue: My wish is simple really for Northern Ireland - just keep on improving lads, that will do. Oh, and qualify for Euro 2008.

Get Wembley ready: Alright, alright, I'm taking the mick now. Maybe in 2008.

Belfast Telegraph


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