Once the crescendo of the summer of 2012 had fizzled out, most believed it would simply not be possible for British sport to ever again enjoy a calendar year with so much success. Wiggo winning the Tour de France, the first Briton to do so. A home Olympics that produced our highest ever medal haul. Super Saturday. More medals in the Paralympics. Chelsea (somehow) had won the Champions League. McIlroy won the PGA. Murray won the US Open.
Surely we would never see a year like that again? Perhaps that may be the case. But perhaps not. This year, over the next 6 months, there is the potential for British sport to equal or perhaps even top the dazzling heights of seven years ago.
Firstly, this season has seen British football clubs dominate Europe in a fashion that brings back memories of decades gone by. Both Spurs and Liverpool are in the Champions League semi-finals, and so an all-English final in Madrid remains a distinct possibility. The same is true in the Europa League, where Arsenal and Chelsea are favourites to progress from their respective semi-final clashes.
It is not only domestic clubs enjoying a continental renaissance. England under Gareth Southgate are an international force to be reckoned with, and will look to follow up last year’s World Cup run with victory in the Nations League.
If we defeat Netherlands in the semifinal and then one of either Portugal or Switzerland a few days later, the Three Lions would pick up their first piece of international “silverware” since 1966. It is certainly not a World Cup win, but it is a start.
There could yet be an English football team lifting a World Cup trophy in 2019, as our Lionesses compete in the Women’s tournament this summer. The USA and France are fairly tipped as favourites, but Phil Neville’s side could yet spring a surprise.
This cricketing summer has also been hotly anticipated for a long while. Not only is the Cricket World Cup being held in England and Wales, but England are the firm favourites to win the tournament, given their simply sensational form in the oneday format over the past few years. Following that up by emerging victorious against Australia in the Ashes (and securing a 5th home series victory in a row) would be an unprecedented achievement for English cricket.
A more unlikely global triumph would come in the form of the Rugby World Cup this autumn. The All Blacks are quite rightly tipped to win their third in a row, while Ireland and Wales look like the pick of the bunch from the northern hemisphere sides.
However, anything can happen in the World Cup, and Eddie Jones’ previous experience of coaching in Japan may just come in handy. Keep key players fit, avoid New Zealand for as long as possible – and we may just have a chance.
In Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton is aiming to become the World Champion for a stunning sixth time this year. He faces a tougher challenge than in 2018, in the form of an improved Ferrari car and a hungry team mate in Valteri Bottas, but Hamilton has the talent and determination to become the second most successful driver of all time come November.
The Athletics World Championships in Doha later this year also serve up a timely reminder that Team GB is brimming with talent ahead of the 2020 Olympics. Medal hopes will rest primarily on Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Asha Philip, Dina AsherSmith and Laura Muir, all of whom will want to build on recent medals and titles.
In the Alps and on the cobbles of Paris, this summer Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome will battle the peloton, and themselves, in order to win the Tour de France. Victory for a British cyclist would be the fifth in a row, a feat simply unthinkable just ten years ago. The other two grand tours, plus the Road World Championships in Yorkshire in September, provide further opportunity for this golden generation of British cycling.
Rory McIlroy will aim to add to his haul of golfing majors in the three remaining ones of the year, boxer Anthony Joshua will defend his world heavyweight titles, England will go for glory in the Netball World Cup in Liverpool this July and track cycling’s super-couple Jason and Laura Kenny will lead Britain into the European Games in Minsk.
Of course, some of these things will not happen. Perhaps even only one or two will come to fruition. But what do we have without hope? What is so wrong with just hoping that maybe, just maybe, 2019 could be a year that goes down in British sporting history?