Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Boxing Day 1983: Tottenham 2 Arsenal 4

It's about beating Spurs. So said Tony Adams on this Sky Premier League promo back in 1996. Some of us already knew this though, way before the summer in which football apparently "came home". From an early age, my Dad had subtlety told me in no uncertain terms that Arsenal were to be my team, and that if we were to win only two matches in a season, then the derby games against our North London friends were the ones to win. He wasn't aggressive about it, he didn't teach me any abusive songs about that lot - I would discover enough of those myself - but he insisted that at no cost could we afford to lose any matches against them.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

1984/85: India v England - Gower's Glory

For my piece on the first Test of the series, please click here.

England didn't have much time to lick their wounds after their crushing defeat in the first Test at Bombay. Just two days later, the same XI - except for Vic Marks replacing Pat Pocock - won the first one day international at Pune, causing the home fans to show their disgust by hurling objects on to the field, almost causing a postponement in the process.

Amongst the mayhem, another century from a rejuvenated Mike Gatting led England home, justifying Gower's decision to install the Middlesex man as his vice-captain at the start of the tour. A drawn match in Bombay against North Zone, with a decent return of 3/29 by Richard Ellison in the first innings, and a century from Tim Robinson, gave England slight cause for optimism as the second Test at Delhi neared. On and off the field though, not all was well.

Monday, 10 December 2012

SPOTY: It was better in the 80s

"Once, this show was the flagship TV event of the sporting year, a straightforward retrospective clips-fest. In recent years, however, it has been meddled with, overhauled and modernised to the extent that it has become barely watchable." These are not my words, but they might as well be, as they neatly sum up my feelings on the once great BBC Sports Personality of The Year show (or the Sports Review of the Year as it was once known). 

David Stubbs of the Guardian wrote this accurate preview prior to the 2011 programme, and his description provided me with some reassurance that it wasn't just me who felt this way. This blog naturally steers me to waffling on about how great a decade the 80s were, often avoiding some painful truths in the shape of Thatcher, mass unemployment, football violence, and the impending threat of a nuclear war. Surely though when it comes to the Sports Personality of The Year, I can't be accused of being completely biased towards my childhood years?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

1984/85 FA Cup: Second round

The second round proper of the FA Cup is the classic Jim Bowen style "let's look what you could have won" stage of the competition. A round where teams from the lower divisions know that they are just one win away from a potential day out at a glamorous location, such as Old Trafford, Ashburton Grove (That1980sSportsBlogger doesn't like referring to it as the E word), Anfield, et al. The round can be such a tease that losing will hurt that little bit more, to chairmen, managers, players and supporters alike. Just like the semi-final, it is not a round to lose in.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sporting firsts of the 1980s

It is always a significant moment in your life when something special happens for the first time. Excluding the obvious life changing incidents - first kiss, first slow dance, first ahem, you know what I mean - there are often occasions in sport alone that stand out as unique and historic. The sporting equivalent of being the first to reach the South Pole, climb Everest, or land on the moon. Now, That1980sSportsBlogger will admit to a little bias on this subject, but the 1980s contained a fair few notable firsts in a decade rich in sporting drama. Some of the below may not seem all that remarkable in this modern era of sport, but I can assure you, back in the eighties some of these achievements left you open mouthed in astonishment. For any of the younger readers, you probably had to be there.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

1986: Lloyd Honeyghan v Don Curry

The triumph of the underdog is such a key component of sport, after all if the favourite won every single time then where would the fun be in that? Of course if you're on the receiving end of such an upset (the words Walsall, York and Wrexham immediately spring to mind) then you fail to see the romance of the occasion, but to everyone else, the sight of a sporting David toppling Goliath brings a warm feeling to the heart. And if the underdog in question happens to be an English boxer (born in Jamaica) travelling to America, to fight an undefeated and undisputed champion, then the sense of elation felt at such a victory leaves a smile on your face for years to come. Step forward Lloyd Honeyghan.

Monday, 12 November 2012

1984: India v England First Test

England's 1984-85 tour of India was never going to be easy. Thrashed 5-0 at home by the West Indies in the summer of 84, and unable to defeat the Sri Lankans in a supposedly easy one-off Test at Lord's, confidence was understandably low as the plane departed for Asia. A plane that did not contain Ian Botham (opted out) and Graham Gooch and John Emburey (South African rebel tour bans). Without these key players, and with a struggling skipper at the helm - David Gower had a W0 D3 L6 record as captain - expectations were unsurprisingly low for England's hopes in the subcontinent. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

1988: England v Australia (Rugby Union)

Sport had an uncanny way of seeping into my consciousness during the 1980s. Take rugby union for example. Sat minding my own business one Saturday in 1985, I soon became engrossed in a Five Nations match between Wales and England at Cardiff. As a 9-year-old English boy, the result that day may have been far from ideal (England lost 24-15), and the mistake made by Chris Martin on that April afternoon was mind-blowingly inept, but the sport had managed to grab my attention, so much so that I was disappointed that it was the final Five Nations match of the season. Mind you, the England team at the time were hardly world beaters, so it probably spared me further embarrassment for a year at least.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

1984/85 FA Cup: First round

With the first round proper of the FA Cup starting this week, it is time for another dose of 80s nostalgia, as we look back on the equivalent stage of the competition back in 1984. A round full of shocks and thrashings, a sacking, a trip to a coal mine, police escorts, and many other FA Cup style quirks that make me yearn for the good old days.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sporting what ifs of the 1980s

The life of That1980sSportsBlogger has produced enough what if moments to fill a blog or two, albeit probably not that interesting to anyone who doesn't know me (how does that differ from this blog I hear you ask). What if I hadn't gone to that nightclub in Northampton on that fateful evening of December 1, 1995, where unbeknown to me, the future Mrs That1980sSportsBlogger was located? What if my parents had decided to move to New Zealand when I was barely out of nappies, as they were carefully considering? What if my dad had been a Tottenham supporter? All of those what ifs, and in particular the last one, are quite scary to comprehend, as my life as I know it today would be very different indeed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

1987: Allan Lamb's final over heroics

Following the England cricket team had been a less than joyous affair after my 1985 Ashes introduction. The relationship between me and the team was distant, as the West Indies crushed us 5-0 in the Caribbean, and we followed this up with home series defeats against India and New Zealand.

In less than a year England had gone from Ashes winners to a shambles, replaced David Gower as skipper with Mike Gatting, seen their star all-rounder (Ian Botham) banned for 63 days in the summer for puffing on the funny fags, and used 25 players in the process, as England's selectors tried hopelessly to come up with a winning solution.

Little wonder then that when the 1986-87 Ashes tour began, Martin Johnson, writing for The Independent stated that "There are only three things wrong with the English team - they can't bat, they can't bowl, and they can't field." Some felt that was being a little kind.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Famous for five minutes: Albert Kidd

Mention the name Albert Kidd to any football fan in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and you will get a variety of responses. Speak to a Celtic or Hibs fan and it is odds on that a broad grin will spread across the face of your new found friend, as their eyes glaze over in a nostalgic way, remembering a joyous occasion. But tread carefully elsewhere. Say those two simple words in the maroon section of Edinburgh and you will not be so popular. For the reasons behind this we have to go all the way back to May 3, 1986, a day of joy and celebration for Celtic, tears and despair for Hearts, and a massive shot of Schadenfreude for any Hibs supporters fortunate enough to be alive on that memorable day.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

1980 US Masters: Seve Ballesteros

Realistically there is only one sport I can write about this week. I know that golf, and in particular the 1987 Ryder Cup, was the subject of my blog last week, but the events at Medinah, and the subsequent dose of delight it has provided to us European fans, only provided me with one option: a Seve related blog. Europe's fine win was a fitting tribute to the great man, his spirit evident in such a startling fightback that, just thinking about it, gives me an instant bout of goosebumps. The man who did so much to establish European golf worldwide would have been so proud of the Miracle of Medinah, so I thought it appropriate to rewind to a time when Seve claimed Europe's first US Masters title in 1980, the catalyst to so many European triumphs that followed.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Ryder Cup 1987

Although Europe's 1985 victory had provided many with the evidence that the balance of world golfing power was shifting, there was still one final hurdle left to overcome - winning the Ryder Cup in America. Sixty years of hurt doesn't even come close to describing the fortunes of visiting Ryder Cup teams to the land of the free (the newly released You Win Again by the Bee Gees would have been an appropriate team song before 1987). Europe had come painfully close to ending their American hoodoo in 1983, just a single point separating the teams after three days of intense golf. Led by Tony Jacklin once more, many felt that the time had arrived for Europe to finally conquer their Everest. Jacklin was certainly optimistic about Europe's prospects: "I have been coming to America for 20 years and this is the first time I have arrived believing that we really, really can win."

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Good and bad of TV sport in the 80s

I think it was about two years ago when I realised that I was turning into a grumpy old man. My daughter started moaning that there was nothing to watch on TV, which led to me to turn to her and start a sentence with the dreaded words "When I was your age...". The line of my argument that day, was that she didn't know just how different it was when I were a lad, with just three channels to choose from (pre-1982), no dedicated channels for kids, and that she didn't have a dad who, once he discovered the beauty of a remote control, has rarely since relinquished control of it. At least my dad liked his sport though, allowing us to watch hours of the stuff through the 1980s. But sport on TV in the 1980s was a different beast to the coverage we are fed in the modern era, so much so that if you tried telling the youth of today how it was back in the day, then I think they'd look at us as if we were aliens. So this blog is an attempt to rewind the VHS cassette, and highlight the best and worst bits of following sport on TV in the 1980s.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

1985: NatWest Trophy Final

If you're a reader of a certain age, then I'm sure you can remember a time when the end of season one-day final at Lord's was a special occasion in the domestic cricket season. Tickets would be sold out for the final weeks in advance (as I found out to my cost when trying to see Northants v Warwickshire in 1995), and every match seemed to go down to the wire in the gloaming of St. John's Wood. Of course, this wasn't always the case, but the beauty of writing this blog is that it allows me to remember my sporting childhood in a more favourable light than maybe was the case. However, in the heyday of the 80s, the NatWest final (or Gillette if you're even older than me), was a must see event, and the 1985 final between Essex and Nottinghamshire would join the hall of fame of classic finals.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

1984: England v Finland

As Roy Hodgson prepares this week for his first World Cup qualifier against Moldova, my mind inevitably drifted back to the 1980s, and the equivalent scenario facing Bobby Robson. At least Hodgson has not been in the job for long enough to earn the kind of reputation that Robson had gained after England's failed 1984 European Championship campaign. To say that Robson's stock was low at the time, was a bit like saying England's fans liked the odd beer and squabble - in other words, a blatant understatement. Therefore, failure to qualify for the 1986 World Cup was plainly not
an option.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

1983 US Open: Jo Durie

There are certain sporting events of the past that I'm not sure will ever happen again in my lifetime: England winning the football World Cup; a Scotsman winning the 100m Olympic final; a team going through a whole season of top flight football undefeated. Of course, these things could occur in the next 60 years or so, but in my opinion they are highly unlikely.

However, anything is possible. What about a British female tennis player progressing to the semi-finals of a grand slam singles tournament? Hopefully this should happen before my innings is over, and Laura Robson's recent form is encouraging, but it is a full 29 years since a British female has reached the last four of a grand slam singles tournament. As the US Open began earlier this week, I decided to cast my mind back to Jo Durie's fine run to the semi-finals of the 1983 event, an achievement that appears to grow and grow as the years roll on.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

1980s commentary moments

A slight change of format this week. No dedicated blog on the one event, as I doff my cap slightly to the Guardian's excellent Joy of Six column, and pick my six favourite commentary moments of the 1980s (although, unlike the Joy of Six, this is my definitive top six). There are a few that I've had to cut from my final list, and these may turn up one day in a volume two blog, but for now please enjoy my pick of the 80s. They are in no particular order, but I simply had to start with this one first....

Thursday, 16 August 2012

1988-89: First Division opening day

Football, whether we like it or not, is now a multi-million pound business. Personally, I'm not totally sure who I should blame for this: Sky, the introduction of the Premier League, Gazza and all his tears, Euro 96, the list goes on. However, there were times in the 70s and early to mid-80s where football was dieing a slow and painful death, as hooliganism along with poor grounds and facilities led to a steady decline in crowd attendances.

Rock bottom had to be reached, and in 1985 it arrived in the shape of Bradford (an accident waiting to happen) and Heysel (a sadly inevitable consequence of the "English disease"). As English football spent the rest of the eighties taking a good long look inwardly, gradually, bit by bit, the game in this country started to get it's house in order.

By the end of the 80s it was becoming apparent that football was beginning to turn a corner, as clubs started to splash the cash and television began to get their hands on the beautiful game.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

1985: 1st Ashes Test

June 1985, and as the English nation tries to get over the shame of Heysel, and prepare itself for the forthcoming Live Aid concert, an Ashes series is about to get under way in Leeds. Think of the Ashes in the modern era and the hype is almost suffocating, Sky's '100 days to go' banner prior to the 2010/11 series a prime example of this.

It wasn't always this way though, as the 1985 series proves. A three-page cricket special in the Daily Express on the morning of the first test, and coverage starting at 10:55am (five minutes build-up!) was as far as the Ashes hype stretched to in Thatcher's Britain.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

1984: Seb Coe 1500m

As Lord Sebastian Newbold Coe appeared on television yet again the other day, a thought occurred to me: How many people only know this man for his role as chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, rather than that of a world-class athlete? Holder of numerous world records in his running career, twice Olympic champion, and still a British record holder in two distances (800 and 1000 metres), Coe quite rightly sits proudly amongst the Olympic heroes of our nation, and should be celebrated accordingly. 

Beating Steve Ovett in the 1500m at the Moscow games was spectacular enough, but the back story to his repeat performance in Los Angeles is even more remarkable. If it wasn't for a very favourable selectorial decision going in his favour, the whole tale would have been over before it began.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

1988 Open Championship: Seve Ballesteros

Sunday 22 July, 1984: A Spaniard stands on the 18th green at St. Andrews, punching the air in sheer joy, with a smile on his face that lights up the world. Some 400 miles away, an 8-year-old boy watches his first ever Open Championship on television, and is immediately captivated by this man, beginning an obsession with Severiano Ballesteros that still goes on to this day.

As the Open Championship returns to Lytham in 2012, it is impossible not to think of Seve, and all that he achieved there. As this blog specialises in 1980s sporting events, it is obvious that Seve's 1988 Open triumph will be the focus of this piece, and not his first major win in 1979 on the same course. It is hard to write about your heroes, but here goes....

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

1987: Stephen Roche

What is the favourite year of your life? What, you don't have one? Surely you must? I'm betting if you ask any sportsman or woman that question, then the chances are that the answer will come that much easier than from the mouths of us mere mortals; Steffi Graf may well say 1988, the year in which she pulled off her Golden Slam; Dennis Taylor would surely reply 1985; Andrew Flintoff 2005; Kelly Holmes 2004. The list goes on and on. But certainly it would be unlikely that if you ever saw Irish cyclist Stephen Roche and asked him to pick his favourite twelve months of his life, that he would answer any differently than 1987.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

1985: European Grand Prix

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. A phrase that trips off the tongue easily enough, but imagine trying to apply this principal 72 times to a certain aspect of your life. For that is the number of attempts that Nigel Mansell, CBE, had to make before achieving his first Grand Prix victory, which could easily be forgotten amongst all that followed for the Englishman. And to make things that much sweeter, Mansell achieved his maiden success on home soil and left a former team principal with a rather large portion of egg on his face.

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.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

1987: Northants heartbreak

The choice of my county cricket team was made on a purely geographical basis, as a lot of sports fans often stress should be the method used on such matters. With football I wasn't really given a choice by my dad, who possibly would have disowned me if I had chosen anyone else but Arsenal.

However, he wasn't particularly into county cricket, thus allowing me to make this seismic decision on my own. Growing up in Milton Keynes didn't really give me a great amount of choice, as Buckinghamshire were not, and still are not, a first-class county. My selection was obvious: Northamptonshire.

The first couple of years of my new found devotion were fairly uneventful. And then came 1987. A year so exciting, but ultimately crushing, full of highs and lows aplenty, thrills and spills, and any other good/bad adjectives that you can think to use (elation/deflation, ecstasy/despair, Larkins and Lamb/Love and Hadlee, are some off the top of my head). The kind of year that one can now look on with even a hint of fondness, even though at the time it seemed that it wouldn't be possible to ever watch cricket again.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Euro 1984: English turmoil

Arrogance in sport is a tricky beast to control. Some of the great champions of the past had it in spades: Ali, Bristow, Clough, Thompson, to name a few. Two Portuguese men of the modern era in Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo display levels of cockiness that can be instantly stomach churning. But all of these men can justifiably claim to have earned the right to strut around like peacocks. It is when arrogance is mixed with ignorance that problems can occur, one such example being England's failed attempt to qualify for Euro 1984. Ignorance is supposedly bliss, but for Bobby Robson and English fans, a joyous time this was not.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

1988 Olympics: Daley Thompson

One of the problems with getting old is that there comes a point in your life when you realise that your time has gone. Whereas once you were young, fit and vibrant, you are now middle-aged, tired and aching. Hangovers that used to subside after a couple of hours now stretch into the following evening, and you start to feel wrong about being attracted to Pixie Lott (age 21), and begin to feel more comfortable setting your sights on Kate Humble (age 43).

The worst thing about this state of affairs is that there seems to be no warning about this transformation, which is as scary as it sounds. For a sportsman, once invincible in his arena, this realisation must be the most startling of wake-up calls, a reminder that time waits for no man. Even when that man was one Francis Morgan Ayodélé Thompson.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

1988: England v West Indies

As an England cricket fan growing up in the 1980s there are a fair few entrants in the most disastrous series of that particular decade. For some it has to be the 1989 Ashes, for others the 1983-84 'sex, drugs and rock and roll' tour of New Zealand, and it is pretty hard to look past the whole of the 1986 summer in which England managed to lose home series to both India and New Zealand.

And then there is the English summer of 1988. Never mind the second summer of love, to us English cricket fans 1988 will always be the summer of four captains.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Ryder Cup 1983

Anyone out there remember the Wightman Cup? OK pipe down Barker and Wade. Anyone else? I thought not. For those of you still confused, the Wightman Cup was a tennis competition in the distant past contested annually between the top women from America and the UK. Set up by Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman in 1923, the tournament ran until 1989 with one small problem: America just kept on winning. Overall the Americans led the series 51-10, had won every event from 1979-1989, and had only lost six tournaments post-war. In a nutshell the tournament was a dodo, "the victim of a decade of United States dominance" as the New York Times aptly summed up.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


As an Arsenal fan of nearly 30 years, it is quite hard to put into words just how inept the early to mid-80s team could be. On their day they were a match for anyone, as this 3-1 destruction of Liverpool in September 84 emphasises. But when the mood took them, they were often capable of displaying levels of mediocrity that simply drove Arsenal fans insane.

As Nick Hornby concluded in Fever Pitch: "That Arsenal team – full of cliques and overpaid, over-the-hill stars – would never be bad enough to go down, but never good enough to win anything, and the stasis made you want to scream with frustration." Precisely.