The sporting calendar this year is more or less back to normal, we hope, with the major events back in their usual place. As well as following the sporting seasons in football, golf and tennis, we can look forward to the Winter Olympics next month, the delayed women’s Euros in England in July, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August, and the World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year.
This weekend in England it is the FA Cup third round as the lowest ranked team left in the competition, Kidderminster, host Championship strugglers Reading. The hosts are fifth in the National League North and there will be a 5,000 capacity crowd in Aggborough to see if their side can keep the dream alive.
Elsewhere it was twenty years ago almost to the day that Swindon last played Manchester City. They were regular rivals in the second tier in the 1990s, but it is a City side that has changed beyond all recognition that will take the trip to the County Ground this weekend. On January 5 2002, City won 2-0 at home and since then the two teams have been on completely different trajectories, with the Abu Dhabi billions pouring into City, top of the Premiership, and Swindon trying to get out of League 2.
Chesterfield have a chance to re-live the glory days of their spectacular cup run to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1997, when they visit European champions Chelsea. Chesterfield are 92 places behind their hosts and knocking on the door of a return to the football league and are hoping that history will repeat itself. Back in 1905, Chesterfield were the first visiting team in history to win a League game at Stamford Bridge. They last played 72 years ago, also in the FA Cup, when Chelsea won 3-0.
Also keep an eye on Harrogate Town, as they play in the third round for the first time in their history and host Championship side Luton. Harrogate only turned professional four years ago and have the longest serving league manager in Simon Weaver, now in his 13th year in charge.
And then on Monday it is Man United against Aston Villa, with both sides presumably making the FA Cup a priority this year. Will Steven Gerrard bring some silverware to Villa? Can United end their five year wait for a trophy? Is Ralf Rangnick really the man for United? What is a 4-2-2-2 formation and a double pivot anyway?
Meanwhile, for those of us who have taken down the tree, packed away the decorations and said hello and goodbye to the Kings, January can often be a time not only of watching sport but of getting back into shape after a little too much of the feast. Here are my five top-tips as you resolutely go about this year’s fitness goals.
First and foremost, do sport and exercise that you enjoy. If this is a chore, it won’t last.
Second, as every dietitian will tell you, you can’t out-run a bad diet. Olympic athletes may well be looking at the protein balance in every meal, but the rest of us just need to remember to cut down on fats and sugars, eat more whole foods and whole grains and you know the drill. Perhaps the biggest change most people can make, especially children, is to cut down on fruit juice.
Drinking orange juice is not at all the same as eating an orange. The juice is all sugar, so you might as well be drinking a Coke, but the orange has all the fibre. More fibre means the body is working harder to get the sugar and you feel fuller for longer.
Third, when you tell people your new year resolutions, or do sport and exercise with another person or in a group, you will be far more likely to stick with it.
Fourth, consider fining yourself if you don’t do it. Yes, it really works. Also, reward yourself every two weeks when you have achieved what you set out to do.
Finally, be very specific with your goals. What day, what time, where, who with, how long for, how many times, and so on. Be SMART with your goals, which means they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and have an appropriate Time frame. Make goals that are easy to achieve to start with, then you can re-assess and make them harder.
Making goals are important. The first thing you do when kicking a ball around in the park is make goals. We all need to do the same because when you do, suddenly everything becomes a lot clearer.