As another Premier League season drew to a close, there were a number of endings we would do well to reflect on.
Endings happen every day. But yesterday saw more than most.
The headline news was Sir Alex Ferguson drawing the curtain on his Manchester United reign. Much has been and will continue to be written about his legacy; and rightly so. And yet to think yesterday was all about one man’s ending is to lose sight of countless others, all equally as important to the people involved.
So yes, 19 May 2013 will be remember as the day that arguably the greatest manager of all time gave his last team-talk, and felt his last moments of joy and exasperation, at healthy leads built and ultimately thrown away.
Yesterday was the last time fans would see Paul Scholes effortlessly spray the ball 60 yards. It was the last time Jamie Carragher would marshal a defence he has served with aplomb. And it was the last time a man once hailed as the best of a generation would attempt to add to his outstanding goal-tally.
Of all of yesterday’s farewells, Michael Owen’s was perhaps the saddest. Not in the emotion it prompted, but in the fact that he appeared for only 28 minutes for Stoke against Southampton. This was a microcosm not just of this season but of many.
Owen’s career did not pan out the way he or anyone else would have thought. That it ended was inevitable; that it did so in cameo form (a role he has long since been reduced to) would once have been dismissed out of hand.
But the endings were not just for players. Managers also said goodbye, and not just 71-year-olds. David Moyes bid farewell to the side he has worked wonders with for 11 years. He will now take up another role, hoping his next farewell is far away and at a time of his choosing.
And then there is Rafael Benitez. The unwanted man. The “interim” manager. And yet he leaves Chelsea having done everything asked of him. He has won a trophy, allowing the fans to modify rather than discard their song about being champions of Europe. And he has secured a Champions League place, giving whoever is to replace him the perfect spring-board for future success.
He may never be liked by all, but he has slowly won over a few. Perhaps in light of the situation that was the best he could hope for.
And finally there are the clubs – Reading, QPR and Wigan Athletic – who bid the top flight farewell for at least one season.
In the case of the Latics, they take the FA Cup with them. In the case of Reading, they take a manager who knows how to navigate the unpredictable waters of the Championship. And in the case of QPR, well, who knows?
Next season fans will start over again. They will welcome rather than say goodbye. But yesterday saw a number of amazing stories end, stories we would do well to remember.
Thank goodness football fans have long memories.