Sky Sports experts Jamie Carragher, David Gower, Tamsin Greenway and Johnny Nelson on what they think will be the highlights in sport this year – and what they want to change
Football’s big event this year is of course the World Cup. With England, there’s not much enthusiasm in terms of how we are going to do, so it’s a case of hopefully having something to enjoy rather than thinking there is a realistic chance of winning it or going far in the competition.
Unfortunately, that’s just where England are right now. What we want from England is something that can allow us to enjoy the tournament, to win a game and get the fans excited.
On a domestic level, we already know who the Premier League champions will be. Rather than other teams catch Manchester City up and make it a proper title race, I am now hoping that Guardiola’s side can push on and that we end up seeing one of the greatest teams to have ever played in the Premier League.
To actually watch a team that is coached like this, and plays football in this way, makes me believe we could be looking at the start of something really big. I would like to see them become one of the all-time great sides, and to have been a part of that on a personal level in terms of commentating and talking about what we are seeing.
If the Premier League title is going to be won like this, let them really run away with it. Then it becomes something that we will talk about historically. This way, we will all look back at having Guardiola, probably the world’s greatest manager at this point, in the Premier League, these players and the way they are playing.
They are not just winning at the moment, they are also looking unstoppable. There have been a few teams who have done that in the past but, for me, I am looking forward to seeing just how far they can win the league by at the end of the season.
Aside from football, I am also looking forward to another big year for boxing, particularly with Tony Bellew fighting David Haye in May. Tony is a good friend of mine, and that fight is a big deal for us in Liverpool.
I was ringside for their first fight in March, with the best view in the house, and it was brilliant, even if it was unfortunate that Haye suffered that injury to his Achilles. The whole build-up to the fight, and to see someone come out the other side after going in as a massive underdog, was great.
England have a two-Test series against Pakistan in May before the five-Test series against India later in the summer. Both will be interesting.
Pakistan, of course, won the Champions Trophy last year, and will come to England bearing the predictable tag of being unpredictable. You can factor that in straight away, because you never have any idea what they are going to do when they come here.
India are number one in the world right now, and thrashed us a winter ago. There is revenge in the air and there will be lots of points to prove. Whatever is said about the world rankings, which can be misleading at times, when there are points to prove you will have people doing their utmost to do exactly that, especially after the bad winter England have had in Australia.
India are there to be taken off their perch, and they are much better at home than they are away, even if that has changed a little over the years. When we are at home, we have an edge that we need to use.
After an Ashes defeat, you lick your wounds, take a bit of time and then say ‘right, that’s done’. You look ahead to a different challenge and you start again.
I remember someone saying to me when I first walked into a cricket dressing room, that there are more bad days than good. Once you understand that, you are still in the game.
The gap between Australia and England at the moment is only around five per cent. It really isn’t huge, even if it looks that way at the moment. The gap between India and England is big in India, but it does not look that way when they come here.
When you travel, you have a different culture, a different country, a different pitch and that all makes a difference to the way the game is played. It’s not like putting up a boxing ring anywhere in the world.
I am also looking forward to seeing more women’s sport this year. Because there is so much sport on television, the women have more of a platform, and I enjoy watching anything that works for us a nation. I remember watching the women’s hockey during the Rio Olympics and I did not move. I watched that more avidly than I have watched any of the cricket for the last 20 years!
There is a transition that needs to happen for most women’s sports this year. Many of them have a good, solid crowd now, while thousands of women are playing sports like netball, my sport, every week.
The media has put women’s sport out there in terms of the profile and making it seen as serious sport. What I want to see now is payback from the fans out there, for them to say ‘right, let’s go to a game, and let’s take our daughters’.
That needs to happen in most women’s sports. We need to start paying back now, and we can’t keep moaning that there is not enough coverage out there in the media. It is out there, and it is ready for people to to watch. So let’s start giving back and going to a game, let’s support women’s sport and talk about it. It is a two-way thing now.
We have moved past gender, and we are now talking about it as just sport, rather than it always being ‘women’s sport’. I was at the final of the Women’s Cricket World Cup last year and I could not quite believe it. The vibe at Lord’s was amazing, and the whole place was absolutely packed. The game was incredible, too, and in Anya Shrubsole we have a real star, an absolute winner.
2018 will be a huge year for netball. This year is the Commonwealth Games, but before that we have the Quad Series against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It will be a real test for England and will give them a taste of where they are at moving into April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia. From there, they will move forward to the World Cup in Liverpool next year, so this is a really crucial time for England’s players.
The Games are so important because they give us a wider audience and a real opportunity for a wider fanbase. It’s particularly important for England, who were so close at the last Commonwealth Games but just fell short of a bronze medal. The Gold Coast is the home of netball, too, so this one will be pretty special.
I am also looking forward to the Super Bowl next month, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on Anthony Joshua in 2018. I’m not even a big boxing fan but he has brought that star quality back to the sport. He’s made it cool again and you want to watch him, to see what he’s doing.
Just like Jamie, I can’t wait to see Haye and Bellew meet again. Right now, it’s the calm before the storm, and David is trying his hardest to hold his nerve and not get angry at Tony, because that’s what he did last time.
When Tony spoke about the first fight, everybody thought he was crazy. Why would he want to fight David Haye? And he said: ‘He’s hustling you all. He’s no longer the fighter he was.’ Tony got in there and predicted it dead right by saying Haye’s body would fall to pieces. It was like watching a Rocky movie, and the drama was second to none.
I think this second fight will probably be one of the best fights of the year. I expect it will be better than the first fight: more dramatic, more definitive.
We are also talking about potential fights between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, or even Tyson Fury. Joshua will probably fight Joseph Parker next for the WBO title, and if he gets through that then it probably be a Wembley fight against Deontay Wilder. These are big, big fights.
When we first covered George Groves against Carl Froch at Wembley, I could not believe the atmosphere. Then we went back last year for Joshua against Wladimir Klitschko and it was like being on a movie set. It was unreal. It attracted so many people, even if they weren’t interested in boxing. Exactly the same thing could happen again with Joshua, because he really knows how to play the game.
Boxing is in a good place, on both the men’s and the women’s side. I recently saw Katie Taylor and she was dangerous. Forget gender. Her boxing ability, her footwork, her hand-eye co-ordination: it was all on point. She blew me away.
One thing I do want, though, is to see more grassroots boxing. These guys coming through right now are the fighters that are one day going to be our future pay-per-view stars, but it’s hard for them to get a look-in because the majority of fans are looking out for the big shows at Wembley Arena or the O2 Arena. It needs to be spread out and for more kids to be given a chance, because this is a golden era for British boxing.
I am also excited for the gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games. I mentor a young lad called Joe Fraser, who will be competing in Australia, and recently went to see him and the others in action. The strength of these guys is incredible.
Sky Sports will offer a range of world-class sporting events in 2018, including the Premier League and the EFL, golf’s Majors and the Ryder Cup, England cricket, world title fights, every F1 race and much more.