Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wimbledon 1987: Pat Cash

It would be no exaggeration to state that, from a male perspective, Wimbledon in the mid-80s was owned by one man: Boris Becker. After winning the singles title as an unseeded player in 1985, Becker proved to the world that this triumph was no fluke, retaining his crown in 1986 by beating Ivan Lendl in the final. Come 1987, the 1986 finalists were again expected to make the final with the bookies, Becker an extremely skinny 4/5 to make it three in a row, and world number one Ivan Lendl at 3/1 to finally add Wimbledon to his grand slam title haul. The rest of the field were way down in the betting: Stefan Edberg 10/1 and the Australian Pat Cash 16/1 looking attractive each-way bets at a push. Even if you were not of a gambling persuasion, it was hard to look beyond the two front runners: the Swedes Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg had never progressed past the fourth round in their previous Wimbledon visits; Jimmy Connors was past his peak; others, such as Yannick Noah, were unproven on grass; and no one else in the top 16 seeds at Wimbledon had even won a grand slam singles event.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

1987: Frank Bruno v Joe Bugner

Not all British heavyweight clashes are as naff, classless and tacky as Haye-Chisora. In relatively recent years, I can recall a couple of 'Battle of Britain' bouts that I was genuinely excited about: Lewis v Mason, and Lewis v Bruno. But before these fights, there was another in 1987 that was just as eagerly anticipated, between 25-year-old Frank Bruno and the much travelled 37-year-old Joe Bugner. It was a fight that wasn't supposed to happen, a fight that saw one promoter take his first steps into the boxing world, and one which would provide Bruno with the chance to silence his critics, temporarily at least.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Keith Deller: 1983 World Darts Champion

Sporting legacies are all well and good, but there is something to be said for that one occasion in a sporting career where everything seems to click for the competitor involved. A one-off performance when all falls into place, or a tournament where for some reason, the participant can do no wrong, and is fully in the zone. So for every Davis or Hendry, there will always be a Joe Johnson; Sampras may have dominated Wimbledon, but for two glorious weeks in 1996, Richard Krajicek reached levels that he probably didn't know existed in his game; and Bristow may have ruled world darts in the early to mid-eighties, though for one magical week in 1983 in Stoke-on-Trent, Keith Deller, a 23-year-old from Ipswich, shocked the darting world by becoming the first qualifier to win the World Championship, and the youngest winner at that.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Euro 88: England v Ireland

We're going all the way. Not my words, the lyrical masterpiece of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, "sung" by the England football squad prior to the Euro 88 finals. As events unfolded the words of this song could not have been further from the truth; in hindsight 'Don't Come Home Too Soon' by Del Amitri might have been more appropriate. As performances go England had a shocker, both in the recording studio, and more pertinently for England fans, on the pitch too.