Monday, 29 April 2013

1984-85: Neville Southall

As someone who played over ten years of youth football as a goalkeeper, I've often had a lot of admiration for anyone mad and/or brave enough to play in that position. Sometimes the respect has been grudging; as an Arsenal fan, Peter Schmeichel broke my heart on many occasions, but I'll argue with anyone that he was just as influential a player in United's successes as any others such as Cantona and Keane. Often the love has been based on a purely biased view; Pat Jennings, John Lukic, David Seaman, Jens Lehmann, even Alex Manninger for a few glorious months in 1998 (but never ever Manuel Almunia I can assure you). On the whole though, my appreciation of a decent goalkeeper has always lived within me, and when I was growing up in the 1980s there was one man who I wanted to be more than most: Neville Southall.

Monday, 22 April 2013

1985 London Marathon: Steve Jones

As I settled down to watch my first ever London Marathon in 1985 - or Mars London Marathon to give the sponsors a mention - little did I know that I was sat slap bang in the middle of an exciting period for British athletics in this gruelling event. After the friendly tie between Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen in the inaugural running in 1981, the London Marathon had been the exclusive property of Britain's male athletes, not forgetting Joyce Smith's twin victories in 1981 and 1982. Hugh Jones had triumphed in 1982, Mike Gratton in 1983, and in 1984 Charlie Spedding completed a fine hat-trick of British wins. By 1985 however, there was a new British cab on the rank, a Welshman so driven that it hurts just reading about some of his exploits. Stephen Henry Jones didn't let much get in his way, not even stomach cramps as it would transpire on April 21, 1985, and his win in London was part of a golden year in which the man from Ebbw Vale could do no wrong.

Monday, 15 April 2013

1986 World Snooker Championships

Heard the one about the 150/1 outsider from Bradford, who had never won a match at the World Snooker Championship, but turned up to the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in 1986 and shocked the world? A 33-year-old father of six, former gas board labourer, wannabe music star, donning multi-coloured shoes and battling through pain to pull off one of the surprise sporting stories of the 1980s? Introducing Joe Johnson.

Monday, 8 April 2013

1984-85 FA Cup: Semi-finals

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here, here, here, here, here and here.

If you've ever made it through any of my past blogs, you may well have guessed by now that when it comes to the 1980s I can perhaps get a little too nostalgic about a decade of sport that was far from perfect. Although my judgement on most issues may be clouded by childhood memories of events, in an era when I didn't seem to have a worry in the world, I will argue with anyone that the FA Cup in this period was far better than anything we can offer today. And at this time of year, when the weather picks up (usually) and the clocks go forward, I often find myself dreamily recalling the semi-final stage of the competition in years gone by.

Monday, 1 April 2013

1988 US Masters: Sandy Lyle

European golf was certainly in rude health during the 1980s, a fact reflected in one major tournament in particular; the US Masters. From Seve Ballesteros' victory in 1980 through to Nick Faldo's win in 1989, the green jacket sat on the shoulders of a European golfer five times, as the Augusta National became a home from home for the continent's finest players. By the time of the 1988 tournament, Ballesteros had won the tournament twice - and should and could have won again in 1986 and 1987 - and Bernhard Langer's first major in 1985 was the ideal start to a year in which Europe won back the Ryder Cup after a 28-year hiatus. Despite this success, there was one thing was missing for British golf fans, namely a first winner from the home nations. Step forward Sandy Lyle.