At last – sport has a spring in its step
Spring is about to give a much-needed boost to the sporting calendar.
Apart from the occasional big event, such as the Australian Open and the Super Bowl, the period between November and March offers pretty thin pickings for armchair sports fans.
Even rugby union’s Six Nations competition is now a long, drawn-out affair, meaning there really are some weekends when we should go outside and take a walk because there is simply nothing worth watching on TV.
But come the end of March, and things start looking up.
Formula 1 is revving up for its new campaign, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 26th, following swiftly by the first major of the golf season, the Masters at Augusta (April 6-9th).
The 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign is reignited towards the end of the month. England boss Gareth Southgate has gone back to the future by selecting 34-year-old Jermaine Defoe.
The Sunderland striker’s last international match was in November 2013, but he’ll be hoping to feature against Lithuania at Wembley on March 27th.
With Leicester’s Jamie Vardy not finding last season’s form, and Tottenham’s Harry Kane injured, goal threats from midfield inclujding Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Delle Alli will be key for the Three Lions.
Domestically, if Chelsea continue in their current form, we will not have to wait until May to know who will be crowned the Premier League Champions this season.
Brighton and Newcastle look to have the Championship’s automatic promotion spots sewn up, but they’ve both suffered wobbles in recent weeks and can’t take their eye of the pursuing pack.
With the Six Nations having drawn to its conclusion, the attention of rugby union fans switches to this summer’s eagerly awaited British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
It begins in early June, with three Tests against the mighty All Blacks scheduled for June 24th, July 1st and 8th.
The Lions are again being coached by Warren Gatland, who led them to a 2-1 series win in Australia four years ago.
But the Kiwi will know that the best British and Irish talents have their work cut out against the 2011 and 2015 World Cup winners.
Maybe it’s just me, but watching Andy Murray trying to win at Wimbledon was more compelling than seeing him actually take the title in 2013, then again last year.
Nonetheless, the British sporting summer will reach its peak in July as the Scot goes for his third men’s singles crown in SW19.
He’d be a popular winner again, but perhaps not as acclaimed as Roger Federer, who’ll be going for his eighth title at the age of 35, having won the Australian Open in January.
Coincidentally, Serena Williams, also 35, will also be chasing an eighth ladies singles crown, having also won in Melbourne.
West Ham’s current home will return to it’s original use when the London Stadium hosts the Anniversary Games in July, followed by the World Athletics and ParaAthletics Championships in August.
The Worlds will offer British athletics fans their final chance to see quadruple Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah competing on the track before his switch to road racing.
He’ll be hoping the controversy over claims that his coach Alberto Salazar has at least infringed the spirit of anti-doping rules won’t spoil his track farewell in London.
Another all-time great hanging up his spikes after the Worlds is Usain Bolt; the Jamaican will be aiming to go out with yet more sprint golds to add to his astounding collection.
The real reason why March properly kicks off the sporting year is those five lights going out in Melbourne to start the new Formula 1 season.
New cars, new drivers and even new rules are waiting for us on the 26th of March. Last year we said goodbye to the German Grand Prix, Jenson Button and Manor racing who folded.
This year, we say hello to Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren, Lance Stroll at Williams and myriad technical rule changes.
The arrival of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes has fans rubbing their hands with excitement.
The Finn has already confirmed his talents at Williams, but how will he measure up against new team-mate and triple F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – surely the best driver of the current era?
Bottas’s predecessor Nico Rosberg took the drivers crown last season but promptly retired, not wishing to face another year of battling Hamilton for the title.