Some things in life will always be the same. Everyday existence is seemingly plagued with commonplace rigidity and unadventurous predictability. But there are those who defy expectations – those that stand against the invisible boundaries defining what we think to be concrete. Nowhere is this more prominent than in sport, where athletes continuously make the lives of pundits and bookmakers alike a living hell. With this in mind, as we head for the mid-way point of the 2012 sporting calendar, MouthLondon looks into the top five surprise packages to hit the back pages.
5. Newcastle United Football Club
First to Tyneside, where a club that languished in 12th place in last season’s Premier League now find themselves on the brink of Champions League football. Indeed, manager, Alan Pardew – assisted ably by head scout, Graham Carr, and zero-to-hero chairman, Mike Ashley – has worked wonders this season. Never in their wildest dreams could those affiliated with the North-Western club have realistically anticipated an assault on England’s top six; and yet, this is exactly what 2011-2012 has produced. Through effective balancing of the club’s finances, as well as shrewd transfer acquisitions, the aforementioned Carr and Pardew have kept the Magpies flying high. New recruits have starred alongside seasoned regulars on the pitch to make the current Newcastle side a truly surprise package.
4. Lotus F1 Team
Though the Formula One season is still young, the impressive form of newly-named Lotus has made the rest of the grid take note. 2011 saw Lotus take two early podiums but a tailing off in form resulted in a disappointing season overall. This year, the team have looked to eradicate a repeat of any such capitulation. Lying third in the Constructors Championship ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Lotus have already amassed 57 points – the bulk of them coming in a spectacular podium double in Bahrain. The early signs bode well for Lotus and if they persevere with their challenge to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes for a place amongst F1’s elite, only the sky will be their limit.
3. Bubba Watson: Golf
Perhaps the most defiant, laugh-in-the-face-of-critics sporting individual this year has been Bubba Watson. In April, Watson masterfully navigated his way from the tee-off in Augusta to a career-high ranking of fourth in the world. Indeed, amidst endless talk of Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, and Rory McIlroy, not many would have foreseen Watson’s name imprinted on this year’s Masters trophy. Yet Watson, known for his powerhouse driving and famed for never having had a professional golf lesson in his life, provided one of golf’s biggest surprises by sealing an emotional play-off victory in memorable fashion.