You can dislike the punditry, but Merse is an impossible man to loath. 'It'd be like hating a shaggy dog that runs up to you and wants you to throw it a stick,' say the boys...
It's a decent afternoon Mailbox, with thoughts on Paulinho, Nani, the future of women's football and yet more of your annoyances. These will be the last of them...
The Hillsborough verdict
23 years and still fighting. It's not over, obviously, but this was a hell of a step. Keep buying the Justice Collective single, by the way - it's not just for Christmas.
Roberto Mancini takes impending disaster well
Yeah, yeah, Aguerrooooooooo and all that. Very special, I'm sure. However, the real moment of the final day came some 25 minutes before Sergio popped up, when Jamie Mackie put QPR into the lead, thus making it look like one of the great chokes in Premier League history was unfolding in front of our very eyes. With massive pots of cash at his disposal, Roberto Mancini would've looked like something of a goon, so it was hardly a surprise that he reacted with some gusto. And by 'gusto' I mean he started yelling 'F*CK YOU! F*CK YOU! F*CK YOU!' at nobody in particular. A phenomenal moment, that frankly has not received enough attention. In some ways it was a shame that City won in the end - imagine what he'd have done otherwise.
Herve Renard carries Joseph Musonda after Zambia win the ACoN
Throughout the Africa Cup of Nations, big Herve had become something of a heartthrob. With his pristine white shirt, flowing locks and sensational cheekbones, thousands must have fantasised about being gathered up in his strong arms and carried to a safe place. Luckily for injured defender Joseph Musonda, he discovered what that would be like. After Zambia won the final on penalties against the Ivory Coast, Musonda (who had twanged a hamstring earlier in the game) wanted to join in the already-emotional celebrations, understandably, so Herve did what a gentleman should and carried him down the touchline. If it hasn't been slowed down and soundtracked with 'Wind Beneath My Wings' somewhere on the internet, something is wrong. Make do with 'I Will Always Love You' for now.
The Barclays Premier League loses a spokesman
Schadenfreude is often a very ugly thing. Laughing at the misfortune of others is neither big nor clever, particularly a man losing his job. Of course, this is no reason to stop doing it, and the most powerful moments of schadenfreude come when someone who is so terrifically pleased with themselves, so certain that their way is correct and everyone else is wrong, falls on their face. So it was when Owen Coyle, proponent of 'pretty football' and spokesman for the Barclays Premier League, turned out not to be the miracle-worker that he liked to portray himself as, and took Bolton down to the npower Championship. Don't sink to our level by laughing, or even grinning.
A Manchester City fan cries
Are you familiar with the name John Millington? No? You might remember more clearly the Manchester City fan who cried after City, seemingly in the process of throwing the title away, lost at Swansea in March. That result meant United went above their rivals, but only by a point, and there were ten games of the season remaining, making the sight of a grown adult human crying even more ludicrous. However, Mr Millington was not weeping apparently, explaining on Twitter shortly after becoming a national laughing stock; "I wasent crying , just frustrated." Sure you wasent, John.
Thierry Henry scores on his Arsenal return
One moment that could justifiably have reduced big, tough, hairy men to tears was Thierry's comeback. So many things made this perfect. His statue, not long unveiled outside. The uncertainty about whether this return would work, whether it was simply a sentimental mistake. That it was a typical Henry goal, slipping behind the defence on the left, opening his body to gently push it past the keeper. It was against Leeds, who nobody likes. It won Arsenal the game. It just meant so much to him - he was only there to help Arsenal out and maybe keep himself in shape. But most of all it allayed so many fears in one moment - Arsenal fans must have wondered if this Henry, a man whose best years were some time ago, would spoil the memory of the old Henry, but that one goal made sure nothing would be ruined. It was all going to be OK.
Athletic Bilbao pull Manchester United's pants down
Call us football hipsters if you like, but F365 colleague Matthew Stanger and I travelled over to Manchester to watch Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao against Manchester United in the Europa League, and they were astonishing. United were poor, but they were made to look poor - pulled left, right and other directions that they didn't know existed by a hugely exciting young Bilbao side. At the time, it looked like Bielsa might have been on the verge of something pretty special, but Javi Martinez went to Bayern Munich, Fernando Llorente is killing time until he can leave next summer and Bilbao are a bit of a shambles, having spent much of this season hovering a little too close to the relegation zone for their liking with a defence as watertight as a paper sieve. Still, for those 90 minutes...
Andrea Pirlo's panenka penalty
Some people gave the impression that this largely sedentary presence, loafing around in the centre of midfield and controlling the Euro 2012 quarter-final between Italy and England was a surprise, some sort of new talent sprung on an unsuspecting world. Those appeared to include the England players that were, in theory, supposed to be stopping Andrea Pirlo from playing. His penalty in the shootout, a 'Panenka' chip down the middle of the goal that left Joe Hart grasping, was about the best way to cap a glorious performance. Despite ostensibly being an England fan, I laughed at how magnificent it was. And then Pirlo went off and grew a beard. What a hero.
For two moments really, that sum up both his outrageous talent and towering self-regard (the first justifying the second). Firstly, after Sweden were eliminated from Euro 2012 he was asked who he thought would win the tournament. He replied: "I don't give a sh*t, I'm going on holiday." Difficult to argue with that. And then there's The Goal. Immediately after Zlatan scored The Goal against England, I wrote this: 'If that didn't fill you with joy, make you bow down, jump out of your seat or just laugh at the absolute outrageousness of even trying something like that, then go away. Look for something else to entertain you. Don't read this website again because you're clearly watching the wrong sport.' I can only assume, since you're still reading this website, that you concur.
The Harry Redknapp trial
Take your pick really - from learning that he named a bank account after his dog, to the tale that he went to Monaco to open said bank account without really knowing why, to his claims that he can't write. It was a goldmine of guff, in some ways made all the funnier after his acquittal. Also notable for the post-trial press bundle outside the court, at which The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt's Dictaphone died halfway through Redknapp's statement. Speaking of whom...
Oliver Holt wears an Alice band
A chilly morning in November. I wake up, and hear rumours that Holt, chief sports writer for The Daily Mirror and friend of Football365, is passing the plastic croissants on Sunday Supplement, and he's wearing an Alice band. I leap out of bed. I turn on the television. I am not disappointed. Oliver has form for this sort of grooming, for he donned a similar item some years back, that time apparently in tribute to David Beckham, but this time it was in tribute to nobody but himself. Marvellously, this has led to Neil Custis, football correspondent for The Sun and Fleet Street's ball-breaker in chief, referring to Mr Holt exclusively as 'Alice'. It's simple, it's a little bit immature, it does the job perfectly.
Leeds United 3 Nottingham Forest 7
Because it's my list and I can write what I like.
Special mentions to Ashley Cole insisting on sitting down at John Terry's trial despite being asked by the judge to stand, Celtic beating Barcelona and Rod Stewart crying, Graham Westley informing his Preston players of the team for a game via text message at 2am, Phil Jones's assorted gurns, Mario Balotelli hugging his mum after the Euro 2012 semi-final and Fabrice Muamba pulling through.
Nick Miller - celebrate the arrival of 2013 by following him on Twitter