Thursday, 29 July 2021

1986: Botham's glorious comeback

"Blimey, Beef. Who writes your scripts?" The question asked by Graham Gooch on Thursday August 21 to Ian Botham was a valid one. After all, it was barely believable that a man making his comeback to Test match cricket after a ban would take a wicket with his first ball. But Ian Botham was no ordinary man.

1986 had been a turbulent year in the life of Botham. As the tabloid press circulated around him in the Caribbean attempting to uncover details of his activities away from cricket, on the field things were hardly going smoothly. Hammered 5-0 against the mighty West Indies, the tour ended with Botham suffering at the hands of his great mate Viv Richards, as England's all-rounder tried in vain to equal Dennis Lillee's record for most Test wickets taken.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

1985 Open Championship: Sandy Lyle

Saturday July 12, 1969: as Tony Jacklin celebrates winning the Open Championship, he hurls his ball into the grandstand at Royal Lytham and St Annes. An 11-year-old boy called Alexander Walter Barr Lyle sits in the grandstand as Jacklin's ball flies towards him.

"It landed just a few feet from me," Lyle would later reveal. "It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to play professional golf, play in the Open - and one day win it." 16 years later, the task of ending Britain's drought in their own championship would land at the feet of Sandy Lyle.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

1984 European Championships: Michel Platini's nine goals

As Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated scoring a penalty against Hungary in Portugal's opening match of Euro 2020 - in that typical understated way of his - the goal that clinched three points for his country contained added significance. 

The successful spot kick broke a record held by a man who played a big part in the organisation of Euro 2020. He may have been widely appreciated as a player, but Michel Platini was far from popular in his stint as UEFA President.

Monday, 7 June 2021

1984 European Championships: France v Portugal

There have been a number of memorable European Championship semi-finals in the years I've been immersing myself in all things football. Another chapter of the Danish story against the Netherlands in 1992; England's heartache at Wembley; more Dutch penalty shootout disappointment against ten-man Italy in 2000; the spectacle of Germany-Turkey in 2008.

But you never forget your first. And placing my England hat to one side for the moment, the sheer drama of the France v Portugal semi-final in Marseille during Euro 84 takes some beating. It would be a night dripping in tension, ecstasy and agony, an evening that almost saw a Portuguese pin pop the French bubble. 

Thursday, 27 May 2021

1986: Helmuth Duckadam becomes a hero

Not all penalty shootouts are as free scoring as the recent Europa League final between Villarreal and Manchester United. After 21 successful spot kicks, it would be goalkeeper David de Gea who missed the only penalty, the Spaniards winning 11-10 to claim their first European trophy.

Goalkeepers are often heroes in the drama of a penalty shootout. In Gdansk it was the turn of Geronimo Rulli to assume the role, even finding time to score a penalty, before saving the crucial kick. Conceding eleven penalties and then missing from the spot, De Gea would experience the other end of the emotional scale. Very much more Peter Shilton than Helmuth Duckadam.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

1986: England v New Zealand Second Test

England had battled to draw in the first Test of the 1986 series against New Zealand. But there was little respite as the team prepared to face up to Richard Hadlee at his second home of Trent Bridge.

As England and New Zealand prepared for the second Test of the 1986 series, two all-rounders were very much in the spotlight. Ian Botham, beginning his comeback after his cannabis related ban, was never far from the thoughts of England fans enduring a terrible 1986. New Zealand supporters had no such worries.

Friday, 7 May 2021

FA Cup final day

As another FA Cup final approaches, my mind cannot help but drift back to a happier time for the competition. An era when trying to win the famous old trophy was not seen as a major distraction for clubs involved in multiple competitions, or others trying to stay in or gain entry to the top flight.

We all know money is the root of all evil, and that the Premier League, Champions League and too much live football has destroyed the magic of the cup. But some of us more mature members of the football family can at least hark back to our formative years and remember what it was like to wake up on FA Cup final day with the prospect of hours of television coverage to look forward to.