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.