'Hulk'll bury Finn' to be one of the big 2012 stories, all fun intended

I have decided to beat the rush and submit a very early review of 2012. Please accept it with a large dose of salt.

Hulk's move from Porto to Chelsea will help rejuvenate 'punny' headlines across English sports sections, or so says our columnist, Will Batchelor.
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On the last day of the year, it is traditional to look back at the highlights of the past 12 months. However, someone else has already done that.


Therefore, I have decided to beat the rush and submit a very early review of 2012. Please accept it with a large dose of salt, and my best wishes for the new year.

The start of 2012 was enlivened by a record-breaking transfer window in football.

Chelsea broke the bank to sign Hulk, the Brazilian forward, from Porto. Pun-loving newspapers then broke the dictionary to write amusing headlines about him: Incredible Hulk (when he first scored, obviously), Incredible Sulk (when he was first dropped), Incredible Bulk (when he was photographed shirtless, from a slightly unflattering angle) and, my personal favourite, Hulk'll Bury Finn (when he scored a hat-trick against Bolton's Finnish goalie, Jussi Jaaskelainen).

Meanwhile, David Beckham's move to Paris Saint-Germain also shattered a record, for most boutiques visited by a WAG in a single day, and Robbie Keane claimed the highest number of clubs he allegedly "dreamed about playing for as a boy", when he signed for some nouveau riche outfit in a former Soviet mining town.

By February, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for racial abuse came to an end, but manager Kenny Dalglish denied using the saga to foster a "siege mentality" among players at Anfield. At least, we think that is what he said. It is hard to understand a Glaswegian shouting from behind a portcullis while Glen Johnson pours boiling oil on you from one of the new turrets.

April saw Grand National once again provide racing's greatest spectacle: that charge of mighty beasts, decked in bright silks, their nostrils flared and flanks lathered with sweat as they hurtle towards their goal. And, once they reached Aintree, some of the spectators even watched the racing.

In May, the greatest prize in European club football was decided at the historic Stadionul National in Bucharest. At least, that is how fans of Manchester City and Manchester United described the Europa League. There was another European cup final in May - something called the Champions League - but they said it did not really matter, and who had even heard of Munich or this "Barcelona" team anyway.

Then they began to cry.

June saw football's European Championships kick off in Poland and Ukraine, with Spain red hot favourites to lift the trophy. But, remember, this is football, so we had to expect the unexpected. In the 38th minute of their third qualifying game, for example, Spain lost possession of the ball for a full 30 seconds, until a panicking left-back booted it into row Z. White knuckle stuff.

The only people who did not expect Spain to win were the English, who once again rested the nation's hope on a single player with a broken foot.

When they crashed out in the quarters, manager Fabio Capello repeated his criticism of people representing nations they were not born in. Or, as he put it: "Is no fair. You no see no foreign people in England shirt."

In July, the Tour de France was won by a nervous looking chap with bulging neck veins and a fiery temper.

In August, the Olympic Games provided the ultimate test of strength, endurance and sheer willpower as people from around the globe struggled to move across London. The British organisers kept their promise not to compete with Beijing in terms of the grandeur of the opening and closing ceremonies.

To be fair, they were both lovely events, and we must once again thank Ted Miggins, of the Hammersmith Rotary Club, for such a fascinating slide show, and of course Patel's Newagents for providing both boxes of sparklers.

In October, the Americas continued their incredible dominance of World Series baseball, with a USA/Canadian-based team picking up the trophy yet again. When will Europe or Asia break its duck?

And in November and December, we hunkered down to the serious business of pretending to care about snooker and trying to predict the winner of the Premier League after a dozen games.

Nicholson is missing the point in London

“Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home.”

That legendary put-down came from Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, after Sir Alex Ferguson claimed Manchester United had played the best football that season (2001/02).

Wenger was talking figuratively, of course. Nobody would claim that the relative beauty of one’s spouse has a direct effect on sporting achievement, would they?

Well, they might if the sport in question was darts.

This week, Paul Nicholson appeared to blame his exit from the PDC World Championships on the sheer comeliness of his opponent’s missus.

“The Asset”, as Nicholson likes to be known (and some would say he is half right), claimed to have been distracted by the crowd’s raucous cries of approval which filled London’s Alexandra Palace every time the cameras zoomed in on Dana Verhaegen, the girlfriend of his Belgian opponent, Kim Huybrechts.

“Every single time they put the camera on her,” he moaned, “they [the spectators] were shouting, and it was on my throw every time.

“How is that fair?”

While some assume that Nicholson was simply playing the pantomime villain, I believe he may have a point. Darts requires less athleticism than most sports, but far greater concentration. Once players realise they can disrupt their opponent’s focus by bringing along a beautiful companion to stoke the crowd, they will all be doing it.

Before we know it, the front row of a darts match will look more like the Miss World finals

This must be a bad thing – although, for the life of me, I am struggling to work out why. Anyway, the PDC must act now before it is too late.

Let’s kick the beauty out of darts.