Wednesday, 13 December 2017

1980s World Darts Championships

This week I am taking a look back at the World Darts Championships in the 1980s. A decade dominated by Eric Bristow, cigarettes and alcohol, and a ten year period that saw the sport rise and fall. There were a few dodgy number ones along the way too.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

1989: When Cloughie attacked

It really should have been Lee Chapman making the headlines after Nottingham Forest's 5-2 win over Queens Park Rangers in the Littlewoods Cup quarter final. Scoring a hat-trick by half-time, and later adding a fourth goal, Chapman had helped Nottingham Forest progress to the last four. Yet it was manager Brian Clough who would dominate the front and back pages, not only the day after, but for days to come.

Monday, 20 November 2017

1982 World Cup draw

The independent state of FIFA can be accused of a lot of things - probably best I don't expand on those for fear of legal action - but something that cannot be levelled at the governing body is that they don't know how to turn the World Cup draw into an event. Normally a very, very, very long event, that will probably last longer than England's three matches in Russia next year.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

1986-87 Ashes: Botham's Brisbane brilliance

After losing to India and New Zealand during the summer of 1986, hopes were not high for England's Ashes tour to Australia. But inspired by the brilliance of Ian Botham, an unexpected win at the Gabba laid the foundations for a wonderful winter.

Even by his standards, Ian Botham had crammed a lot into the twelve months before the start of the 1986/87 Ashes tour. A charity walk from John O'Groats to Land's End; an eventful and harrowing trip to the Caribbean; a two month ban in the English summer after he had admitted smoking cannabis; and his resignation from Somerset, after he felt betrayed at the treatment of his close friends Viv Richards and Joel Garner, who had been sacked by the county.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

89 The Film

As a 13-year-old Arsenal fan watching the 1988/89 Liverpool-Arsenal title decider at home with my dad, I think I knew at the time that nothing would ever beat the explosion of elation and joy that I experienced when Michael Thomas calmly slotted home past Bruce Grobbelaar, on May 26, 1989.

So, when I first started writing this blog a little over five years ago, I made a pact with myself; Arsenal winning the title at Anfield would be the last ever piece I compiled before hanging my keyboard up.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

1986 World Cup qualification: Northern Ireland

When the draw was made for the 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign, England manager Bobby Robson was taking nothing for granted. With two to qualify from England, Romania, Northern Ireland, Finland and Turkey, the press claimed it "easy pickings". But Robson urged caution.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

1984/85 UEFA Cup: Tottenham v Real Madrid

With Tottenham and Real Madrid going head-to-head in the 2017/18 Champions League, this week I am taking a look back to their 1985 UEFA Cup quarter final, and two particularly harrowing games for Steve Perryman.

It said a lot regarding the recent fortunes of Real Madrid that, in the eyes of many, they went into their 1985 UEFA Cup quarter final with Tottenham as underdogs. A recent run of just one win in ten matches had seen the club slip out of the race for La Liga, something not made easier by the fact that Terry Venables' Barcelona were on their way to the title. Manager Amancio Amaro was under heaps of pressure, especially with President Luis de Carlos standing down, and Ramon Mendoza expected to take his place in the summer of '85.

Monday, 23 October 2017

1983/84: Aston Villa v Birmingham City

The Second City derby is still a passionate affair, but it is unlikely that any fixture in the modern era can match the one contested between Aston Villa and Birmingham City in October 1983.

It was never likely to be a quiet affair. When ex-Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders took his Birmingham City team to Villa Park on October 15, 1983, he wasn't taking many shrinking violets with him. Tony Coton, Pat Van Den Hauwe, Noel Blake, Robert Hopkins, Howard Gayle, and Mick Harford are individuals that are often mentioned in a Who's Who of football's bad boys. But it wasn't all one way traffic. Colin Gibson and Steve McMahon would give as good as they got.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

1985-88 Rugby League World Cup

With the 2017 Rugby League World Cup about to start, this week I am taking a look back at the 1985-88 tournament, as Australia continued their domination of the sport.

Although the Rugby League World Cup had been running since 1954, the irregular staging of the tournament had not helped the event establish itself in the sporting calendar. Indeed, after the 1977 tournament, it would be another eight years before the International Board decided to resuscitate the concept. A Paris meeting in May 1985 saw the five member nations of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, and Papua New Guinea agree to take part in a ninth World Cup, although a change in format meant that it was now a three-year event.

Friday, 6 October 2017

1986: Arsenal lose to Watford on consecutive days

Arsenal have suffered at the hands of Watford in recent seasons, but at least they didn’t lose twice to the same club on consecutive days.

In this modern world of ours, it seems that Arsenal are only ever a couple of defeats away from a full-blown crisis. An unwanted reverse can now lead to torn badges appearing in newspapers, as the cracks in the Arsenal fan base expand, Twitter explodes, and even fans of other teams reach for the popcorn and turn to AFTV for some entertainment.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

1985: Wales v Scotland (Football)

Wales failing to qualify for the 1986 World Cup was a devastating blow to their supporters. But the tragic death of Scotland manager Jock Stein put everything into perspective.

Although many would say Scotland have had a monopoly on footballing tales of so near and yet so far, surely no one could digest as much disappointment as Welsh football fans in the 1980s. Missing out on World Cup qualification in 1982 on goal difference, and a minute away from Euro 84, the last thing the Welsh nation needed was another agonising near miss during their 1986 World Cup qualification campaign. But the pain of September 10, 1985, would soon be a new chapter of Welsh woe.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

1986: Full Members' Cup

Chelsea and Manchester City are now contesting for major honours domestically and in Europe, but in 1986 things were a lot different.

English football in 1985 was constantly hitting new levels of rock bottom. Violence and decaying stadia combined to make the match day experience an often unpleasant occasion, and with deaths at Birmingham, Bradford, and Brussels in May, the sport had seemingly reached the point of no return. It was little wonder that attendances were dropping across the country, and you didn't need to be Bergerac to deduce that Margaret Thatcher and her Government would have been quite happy if the problem child faded into obscurity.

Monday, 18 September 2017

1984: County Championship drama

Essex recently won their first County Championship in 25 years. But for sheer drama, surely nothing could match their 1984 triumph.

As far as I know, no one has ever written a film based on the County Championship. But if a budding writer wanted to take a step into uncharted territory, and pen the first Hollywood blockbuster on this subject, then the person involved would do themselves a big favour by taking a look at the events of the 1984 season. A campaign running from April to September, came down to the penultimate ball of a match in Somerset, with the fate of two counties hanging in the Taunton air.

Monday, 11 September 2017

1984: Dave Bassett at Crystal Palace

Frank de Boer may have only lasted 77 days at Crystal Palace before parting company with the club. But in 1984, Dave Bassett only just managed to make it past the 77 hour mark at Selhurst Park.

Friday, 8 September 2017

April 25, 1984: Britain's night of misery

After the night of April 11, 1984, there remained a strong possibility that all three European club finals would be the exclusive property of Great Britain; an exciting prospect, especially for anyone who had taken the 50/1 odds at offer for all six British teams to progress from their semi-finals. It wasn’t meant to be, though.

The story of how six became two involves a complex web of intimidation, corruption, disgraceful behaviour, violence, bribery, and heartbreak, an evening that the Daily Express described as Britain's night of misery. Yet this mini drama series was not only restricted to 1984; years later there would be anger, disgust, and tragedy added to the plot line.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Sports videos of the 1980s

I've recently started the process of converting a number of my classic videos to DVD. So this week I'm taking a look back at some of my favourite sports videos of the 1980s. If you have any other suggestions, then please feel free to add them to the comments section.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

1989: Mick Quinn's Newcastle debut

It was hardly the welcome that Mick Quinn would have dreamed of when he signed for Newcastle in the summer of 1989. Walking through the city after agreeing terms with the club, Quinn stumbled upon a protest group called the Boardbusters, who, as their name would suggest, were not best pleased with the members of the Newcastle United boardroom. Relegated from Division One in the previous campaign, many were prepared to boycott matches at St. James' Park in order to get their views across to the directors.

Monday, 24 July 2017

1980s: Opening day League matches

A look back this week at some memorable opening day League matches of the 1980s. Including a dream start for a newly promoted team, a couple of false dawns for Manchester United, and Liverpool starting as they intended to go on.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Sporting celebrations of the 1980s: Part 2

When I wrote a blog in October 2013 about sporting celebrations of the 1980s, I thought there may well be room for a volume two at some point. So without further ado, here it is. Including two world champions, an ecstatic manager, a jig around a corner flag in Yorkshire, and a golfer making a splash. I wonder if there is a volume three in this?

Monday, 10 July 2017

1983 Open Championship: Faldo, Irwin, and Watson

A look back at the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, and a tale of varying fortunes for Nick Faldo, Hale Irwin, and Tom Watson.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Rous Cup and the demise of the England-Scotland match

Watching the recent World Cup qualifying match between Scotland and England, I turned to my son and started boring him, as usual, with tales of my sporting childhood. Recalling the era where the England-Scotland fixture was an annual event, and a match that was eagerly anticipated, I felt grateful that I had grown up during this period. With so little live football on our televisions, the England-Scotland match was not far behind the FA Cup final in terms of excitement.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

1980s: FA Cup final tackles

Thankfully some FA Cup final traditions remain, but it is probably just as well that tackles like the ones discussed below are no longer part of the game.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Athletics: Women's track world records

Paula Radcliffe expressed anger at the recent announcement by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) that world records set before 2005 were going to be erased from history. Many feel sorry for Radcliffe and others, but for the records that have stood in women's individual track events since the 1980s, there will be less sympathy.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

1987: Players Championship

Jeff Sluman looked set to win the 1987 Players Championship in a play-off against Sandy Lyle, before a drunk spectator plunged into the sporting hall of shame.

It should have been a moment in the spotlight for Jeff Sluman. After seven years as a professional, the 29-year-old stood over a putt on the notorious 17th hole at Sawgrass to claim not just his first tournament on the PGA Tour, but the prestigious Players Championship, an event that despite being relatively new, had such a strong field that some had already dubbed it as the fifth major.

Monday, 8 May 2017

1982/83: Brighton and Hove Albion

After gaining promotion under Alan Mullery in 1978/79, Brighton and Hove Albion had managed to keep their heads above water for the first two years of their life in Division One. After a difficult start to their first season, the club eventually finished in 16th. A great escape in 1980/81 saw the team win their last four games to stay up, although this was followed by the shock resignation of Mullery, after a row with chairman Mike Bamber regarding the transfer of Mark Lawrenson and proposed adjustments to his coaching staff.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Ayrton Senna: The Last Night

I'll let you into a little secret. The moment I pick up a sporting biography I immediately turn to the photo sections of the book. From a young age I loved nothing more than analysing the minutest detail of every picture, picking out the expressions of the athletes involved, and assessing the mental state of the protagonists and spectators.

Therefore, when I was asked to review Ayrton Senna: The Last Night, I jumped at the chance. A photographic portrait of the great man's career, the book, edited by Giorgio Terruzzi, contains over 150 images taken by Ercole Colombo, covering Senna's journey from Formula Three to his three Formula One world championships, and, as the book title indicates, the tragic events of Imola 1994.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Five years of That 1980s Sports Blog

Time flies when you're having fun. I can't believe that it is five years since I published my first blog on sport in the 1980s - an opportunity to vent my spleen regarding Arsenal's loss to York City in 1985 - and in that time I've managed to rattle off 214 more pieces.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

1986/87: Division Four relegation battle

Lincoln City are on the verge of a return to the Football League, but thirty years ago they were not so lucky.

When the Football League announced a series of structural reforms in the game during April 1986, one particular innovation appeared to be long overdue. Out went the antiquated re-election system that would decide whether a club remained in Division Four, the days of the "old boys network" thankfully at an end. In came automatic promotion and relegation between the Fourth Division and the GM Vauxhall Conference, with the champions of the latter replacing the team finishing rock bottom in the Football League.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

1980s: Grand National predictions

Tipping a Grand National winner is a tricky task - the last time I got it right was Mr Frisk in 1990 - so for a bit of fun this week, I've decided to take a look at the predictions made by some of the experts in the 1980s, with regards to the horses that would go on to win the famous race at Aintree.

Monday, 3 April 2017

1987 World Snooker Championship

Looking back at the 1987 World Snooker Championship, as Steve Davis gains some revenge over Joe Johnson, and the sport is dragged into a debate involving the usage of performance enhancing drugs.

There were a number of players with a few points to prove as the 1987 World Snooker Championship commenced on Saturday April 18. None more so than the reigning champion, and the man he had beaten in the 1986 final. For Joe Johnson and Steve Davis, the next few weeks would go a long way to answering any doubts regarding their current standing in the game.

Monday, 27 March 2017

1987 US Masters: Larry Mize

Thirty years ago Larry Mize shocked the golfing world by winning the US Masters. There may have been an element of luck involved in his winning shot, but does he get enough credit for his success?

It seems that Larry Hogan Mize cannot win. Before the 1987 US Masters, the Augusta-born 28-year-old was known for the odd collapse or two, harshly called Larry D. Mize (demise, get it?) after a final round 76 at the 1986 Players' Championship saw him lose the title by one shot. But even after his finest hour, claiming the 1987 US Masters in a play-off against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros, there were doubting voices. Trawl the web for articles on the worst or luckiest player to have won a major, and the name Larry Mize is constantly mentioned.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

1980s: Phoenix from the Flames

As an Arsenal fan who doesn't like international breaks - although I'm starting to see the appeal of them - I thought I'd try and cheer myself up this week. So I've delved back into the Fantasy Football archives, and taken a look at some Phoenix from the Flames clips based on footballing moments of the 1980s.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup: Dawn Run

With the 2017 Cheltenham Festival about to begin, a look back at the Gold Cup in 1986, as Irish mare Dawn Run makes history.

Dawn Run had already confirmed her place in the pantheon of great race horses as the Cheltenham Festival neared in 1986. The only horse to have ever won the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle treble (in 1984), owner Charmian Hill had long set her sights on Cheltenham Gold Cup glory, with the chance for the Paddy Mullins trained horse to create history, and become the first winner of both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. But there would be many hurdles to clear before Dawn Run's date with destiny on March 13, 1986.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

1983: England v Scotland (Rugby Union)

Scotland's record at Twickenham left a lot to be desired, but in 1983 they were able to take advantage of a mentally fragile England.

Michael Jackson was number one in the hit parade with Billie Jean; Britain was slowly getting used to waking up to breakfast television; the press were extremely excited that Prince William had two new teeth; and Arthur Scargill's call for a miners' strike was rejected by NUM members. March 1983, seems a million years ago. To any die hard Scottish rugby union fans that yearn for success at Twickenham, this date, from a different age, represents the last time their country won at England's headquarters.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

1984/85 UEFA Cup: QPR v Partizan Belgrade

There is not much hope of Arsenal overturning their four goal deficit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but in 1984 QPR threw away the same advantage in their UEFA Cup tie with Partizan Belgrade.

The beginning of the 1980s was an exciting time for QPR supporters. Under the management of Terry Venables, the club were FA Cup finalists in 1982, won Division Two at a canter during the 1982/83 campaign, and a fifth-placed finish in their first season back in the top flight saw the team qualify for Europe. But there was trouble ahead.

Monday, 13 February 2017

1985 FA Cup Fifth round: Blackburn v Manchester United

As Manchester United prepare to visit Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round, I'm taking a look back at the same fixture from the 1985 competition. Many thanks to Mick Rathbone for his time in helping me write this piece.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

1986: The tied Test

Australia will soon be touring India to take part in a four Test series, but it is hard to imagine any of their matches being quite as dramatic and exciting as the 1986 Madras Test.

Monday, 23 January 2017

1989 FA Cup Fourth Round: Norwich City v Sutton United

Sutton United will play Leeds United in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend, and they will be hoping it goes a lot better than the last time they reached this stage of the competition in 1989.

Mention Sutton United to football fans, and many will justifiably recall that day at Gander Green Lane in January 1989, when the Conference team shocked 1987 FA Cup winners Coventry. But how many remember the following act in Sutton's FA Cup story that year, the difficult second album, if you like? If Coventry had been Sutton's successful debut in the eyes of the public, then Norwich City away was their Neither Fish Nor Flesh moment.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

1982/83: Graham Taylor and Watford


When the sad news of Graham Taylor passing away broke on January 12, naturally the tributes came flooding in. Whilst many noted that his time in charge of England was troubled, a lot column inches and html paragraphs were dominated with the successes Taylor enjoyed at club level, and in particular his glorious spells at Watford. When you see what Taylor had previously achieved at Lincoln City, and later at Aston Villa, it wasn't hard to see why England came calling in 1990.

Inevitably this blog will focus upon his heyday at Watford in the 1980s, and in particular Taylor's remarkable first season in the top flight during the 1982/83 campaign. To achieve three promotions in five years was one thing, but to then lead an inexperienced set of players to second place in Watford's debut season with the big boys was something else. Watford may have received a lot of criticism for their approach, yet for Taylor and Chairman Elton John, this was a victory for substance over style.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

1986: Jossy's Giants (Series 1)

Something a bit different this week, as I take a look back at series one of the cult BBC1 children's programme Jossy's Giants, in the form of an end of season newspaper report.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

1985 FA Cup Third round: Burton Albion v Leicester City

When Northern Premier League Burton Albion were drawn against Division One Leicester City in the 1985 FA Cup third round, on paper it appeared to be a romantic tie. The typical David v Goliath clash, the outside chance of a shock, and a day in the spotlight for the part-timers of Burton, provided all the classic ingredients required for this stage of the FA Cup. Sadly, the fixture ended up making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

1988: Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy

This article first appeared in issue 262 of The Gooner

There have been a number of awful football competitions organised throughout the history of the sport, from the Anglo-Scottish Cup to the Zenith Data Systems, taking in such delights as the Texaco Cup, ScreenSport Super Cup, and Watney Cup along the way. Fortunately my club, Arsenal, have managed to steer clear of most of these, but in 1988 the club qualified for a cup competition that was organised by the Football League 100 years of the governing body.