Tuesday, 17 December 2013

1985: Ivan Drago v Rocky Balboa

With Christmas Day rapidly approaching, I tried desperately to recall a sporting memory from the festive period, and December 25 in particular. And then it dawned on me; the most famous occasion I could recall actually happened on Christmas Day itself. Admittedly it is a fictitious event, and extremely unrealistic, but this week I have decided to revisit the classic bout between Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa from Rocky IV.

The report below has been written as if the event was real. It is a significant departure from my usual blogs, but I hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I did writing it.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

1988 Australian Open Golf: Nigel Mansell

Heard the one about the British formula one driver who became pally with an Australian golfing legend and wangled his way into the Australian Open? No? Neither had I until recently. So imagine my surprise when I was researching another piece only to stumble across the story of the time in 1988 when Nigel Mansell found himself stood on the first tee at the Royal Sydney Club, playing in the Australian Open, with nerves aplenty, and doubting Thomases watching his every move.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

1986/87 FA Cup: Second round

This piece follows on from my previous blog on the first round of the 1986/87 FA Cup, which you can view here.

"This is the stage of the competition you want to get through more than any other. We all know we're only 90 minutes away from utopia in the third round". So said Chorley manager Ken Wright prior to the 1986/87 FA Cup second round. For the players involved - including a fireman, storeman, British Rail engineer, and sales rep - they could almost smell Old Trafford, Anfield, or Highbury. Just like the semi-final, this would be an agonising round to lose in.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

1980s: England batting collapses

The twin collapses at Brisbane last week reminded English cricket supporters of a certain age of some dark days in the past. The 1990s, and in particular the surrender at Melbourne in 1990, were recalled as examples of an era where England were more than likely to wilt under any kind of pressure. But the 1980s also featured some incredible displays of English catastrophes, the foundations built in the sand for the decade that followed.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

1986/87 Ashes: Chris Broad

The usual suspects apart - Botham, Lamb and Gower - my first few English cricketing heroes were slightly unexpected. Tim Robinson had been part of the foundations behind the 1985 Ashes success, his first innings at Headingley dragging me into a sport which I have subsequently spent far too much time worrying about. And then came Richard Ellison, the icing on the cake at the conclusion of that series, giving me my first taste of Ashes victory. The 1986/87 Ashes tour would provide me with another example of a man in the right form, in the right place, at the best of times; Brian Christopher Broad, or Chris as his mates (like me) call him, was about to write his own chapters in the history of the Ashes.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

1986 World Cup play-off: Belgium v Netherlands

Although matches between the Netherlands and Belgium may not possess quite the same level of rivalry as say Dutch-German meetings, there is no doubting that the Derby der Lage Landen/les Pays-Bas is still of vital importance to both sets of supporters. Even more so when the extra incentive of a place at the World Cup finals is added to the mix, as was the case in the Autumn of 1985. The two-legged play-off between the sides would decide which country would be making the trip to Mexico in 1986. Failure for both just wasn't an option.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

1986/87 FA Cup: First round

This may startle you slightly, but the FA made mistakes back in the 1980s too. Take the first round draw for the FA Cup in October 1986. Twenty-three ties had been drawn out of the velvet bag before Darlington appeared. The only problem was that the north-east team had been wrongly placed in the southern section of the draw, and faced a 600 mile round-trip to Bournemouth. 

Cue panic at Lancaster Gate and an abandonment of the draw. After some jiggery-pokery, Darlington were rightfully placed in the northern section - Halesowen and Oldbury Town shifted to the southern half - and the draw for the first round proper of the 1986/87 FA Cup was concluded, well, properly.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

1984: England v Australia (Rugby Union)

As Australia prepared for the first international leg of their 1984 tour to Britain and Ireland, it was evident that they were in a much healthier state than their old rivals England. The visitors had run a strong New Zealand side close in a 2-1 series loss in the southern hemisphere summer, whereas England's recent run of results were hardly cause for any encouragement.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sporting celebrations of the 1980s

Celebrate good times, come on! There is nothing like a great sporting celebration to get the blood pumping, as all the pressure that has been building inside is finally allowed to disperse, that brief period of time following something special where both athletes and fans experience an overwhelming feeling of elation. This week I am taking a look back at sporting celebrations of the 1980s, five moments where the competitors marked success in an unforgettable manner. A high five if you like.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Dirtiest Race in History

When I started writing this blog eighteen months ago, there were numerous sporting events that immediately sprung to mind when I considered which topics to cover. One certainty was that at some point I would try my very best to research, investigate, and compose a piece about the 1988 Olympics Men's 100 metres final in Seoul. And then I read The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore and realised that, in comparison, my amateur efforts would struggle to qualify from the heats.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

1982: Formula One World Championship

Some F1 seasons are slightly more eventful and exciting than 2013. Take 1982 for example. What it may have lacked in out and out quality, it certainly made up for in incident and talking points. It was rarely dull.

This week we're going to take a look back at the 1982 F1 World Championship. A year that started with a drivers' strike, contained a Grand Prix postponement, involved controversial disqualifications, a boycott, tragedy, last lap dramas, and a world champion who only won one race. Never mind a blog, there is enough material for a whole book from this entertaining period in the sport.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A Question of Sport in the 1980s

As I sit down to watch the new series of A Question of Sport which begins on Friday October 21, it is inevitable that, as ever, nostalgia will engulf me. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the current show, but in my opinion, it suffers in comparison to the quiz programme I grew up watching as a boy. This may be simply because I am an old fool unable to accept that things have to move on and nothing stays the same forever. Yet, I am sure there are many like-minded people out there who will recall with fondness a glorious era for A Question of Sport.

So, this week I am going to take a look back at what made A Question of Sport special for me in the 1980s. From the opening credits, to the time when a reported 19 million tuned in to watch a very royal episode, a few of my memories of a classic 80s television programme.  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

1980: Alan Minter v Marvin Hagler

It wasn't supposed to end like this for either Alan Minter or Marvin Hagler on the night of September 27 1980. Minter had just seen his all too brief grip on the WBA/WBC world middleweight titles end in seven minutes and 45 seconds of punishment, his face a mess, blood streaming from gashes inflicted by the superb Hagler. The American should have been elated, but any such emotions were soon replaced with genuine fear, as bottles and cans of beer headed towards the ring, the new champion fleeing the scene before he could even receive his belts. A shameful end to the story of Minter versus Hagler, but in retrospect perhaps not a surprising conclusion given what had preceded it.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

1980s: League Cup Third round memories

The League Cup Third round produced some dramatic moments in the 1980s, during a prosperous period for the competition. No squad rotation or penalty shoot-outs back then, even allowing for teams having European commitments before the Heysel-related ban (admittedly there were less European matches in comparison to the bloated affairs we witness today, but the smaller squads counteracted this).

This week, I am taking a look back at ten Third round ties from the League Cup in the 1980s, including some ding dong derbies, a shock, a replay marathon, the end of an era and the start of a new one at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson angst, and some record breaking exploits. The following will probably not be made into a Channel 4 'Top Ten Moments of the League Cup Third round in the 1980s' style programme (Channel 5 maybe?), yet hopefully they will highlight just how important the competition was in the distant past, especially as the majority of matches below involve the old-school big five.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

1989: NatWest Trophy Final

After my first NatWest final in 1985, there had been a distinct lack of last over dramas during the next few end of season finals. True, there had been some classy knocks during difficult run chases - Ramprakash and Hadlee spring to mind - but as I sat down to watch the 1989 final between Middlesex and Warwickshire, I yearned for a classic finale played out in a late summer setting of Lord's. As a fan of English cricket, it surely wasn't too much to ask for was it? 1989 certainly owed me one from a cricketing perspective.

Friday, 6 September 2013

1981: Switzerland v England

The World Cup glory of 1966 must have seemed like a distant memory come the early 1980s. Failure to qualify for the 1974 tournament had cost Sir Alf Ramsey his job, with the 1978 qualification campaign thrown into turmoil as soon as Don Revie decided to quit and defect to the United Arab Emirates in 1977. Revie's replacement, Ron Greenwood, narrowly failed to get England to Argentina - kindly pointed out to us in the lyrics of Andy Cameron's Tartan Army ("England cannae dae it, 'Cos they didnae qualify") - so by the time the draw was made for the 1982 qualification matches, England were desperate to get back to the top table of world football.

Friday, 30 August 2013

1980s: Arsenal and the transfer deadline day

I'm sure most of us Arsenal fans would agree that this is Arsene Wenger's most important transfer window since, well, the last one. Failure to invest wisely could spell trouble for both manager and club, and leave plenty of us gnashing our teeth and banging our heads against the nearest brick wall come deadline day. Am I prepared to put myself through another torturous deadline day ordeal on Monday September 2? Of course I am, yet I'm not holding my breath that anything exciting will happen (if you read this after we have signed Di Maria, Ozil and Benzema, then I am happy to be proved wrong).

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

1980 US Open: Borg v McEnroe

Think of the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe duels and generally the mind instantly shoots back to 1980, that classic Wimbledon final, containing that magical tie-break, with the cool Swede eventually coming out on top in five thrilling sets that seemed to define the pair and their rivalry. But barely two months later came another encounter which, as Dennis Norden would have no doubt stated, could have been filed under the category of all-time great matches. The 1980 US Open final may not receive the same plaudits and recognition as the preceding major, certainly not in Britain at least, yet for both men it would mark a significant moment in their respective careers.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

1985 Challenge Cup final: Wigan v Hull

If I think back to the sporting year of 1985, I can instantly relate to Marty McFly and his desperation to return to that period of time. From that world snooker final to Europe's Ryder Cup triumph, via McGuigan's Loftus Road glory, Lyle's Open win, Mansell's breakthrough, to the arrival of Becker at SW19, it was a time of my life when sport seeped into every pore of my body. My discovery of new sports, such as cricket, thanks to England's Ashes victory, seemed almost pre-destined, and has helped make me the slightly obsessive person that I am today.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

1988 US PGA: Jeff Sluman

As the 1988 US PGA championship neared, the golfing nation of America continued to search for their next hero, someone to take over the mantle of world leader in the manner of a Palmer, Nicklaus or Watson. Curtis Strange may have won the 1988 US Open, but there was a feeling of trepidation as the final major of the year approached, that America had been overtaken as the premier force in the sport, and with the continent of Europe scooping three of the last five majors played, plus the last two Ryder Cups, the shift in power seemed significant.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sporting partnerships

The 1980s were littered with double acts, some great, others less so; the Two Ronnies, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, Chas and Dave, Kylie and Jason, Crockett and Tubbs, the list goes on. This week I am going to take a look at some sporting partnerships of the decade, including tales of success and failure, arguments, romance, and record breakers.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

1985 Ashes: Richard Ellison

The 1985 Ashes series was all square with two to play when an unlikely hero arrived on the scene to write his very own brief chapter in the history of Anglo-Australian clashes. With all eyes trained on potential match winners in Botham, Gower, and Border, Richard Mark Ellison stepped forward to play a significant role in regaining the urn for England, and as a ten-year-old boy recently converted to the marvellous spectacle of Test cricket, I was enraptured by the rise of this new star.

Monday, 15 July 2013

1987 Open Championship: Nick Faldo

It is one of the standard components of the numerous talent shows thrust upon us today to hear about a contestant's "journey". You know, the usual tear-filled drivel, typically accompanied by some nauseating soundtrack, highlighting the highs and lows of a competitor's route to where they are now. Had the concept existed in sport in 1987, then for a certain Nick Faldo the back story would have been lengthy and drawn out. For long parts it could have played out with the Road To Nowhere in the background.

Monday, 8 July 2013

1981: First Ashes Test

Friday May 30, 1980: Ian Botham can do no wrong. Before leading England to a three-wicket victory against the West Indies in the Prudential Trophy, Botham was appointed as Test captain for the first two matches of the West Indian summer. His promotion from the ranks was very much based on the school principle of naming your best player as captain - at the time Botham averaged 40.48 with the bat and 18.52 with the ball in his 25 Test match career - and the hope was that Captain Beefy could drag his team with him. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

1989: Australia v Lions Third Test

Try as they might, in the run-up to the deciding Test the Lions could not escape the accusation that the tactics they had employed during the Battle of Ballymore had been over aggressive. The Australian press rounded on the tourists and they were not alone. Coach Bob Dwyer questioned some of the injuries received by his players (a total of 25 stitches in all), and captain Farr-Jones, although openly stating that he saw nothing untoward with the Lions methods, sounded a warning prior to the decider in Sydney: "To me, basically, it's open warfare. They've set the rules. They've set the standards. As far as I'm concerned, if the officials aren't going to control it, we're going to have to do something about it."

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Wimbledon: 1980s A to Z

With the start of Wimbledon this week, I turned my attentions to the tournament I grew up watching in the 1980s. There were so many great players, matches and highlights in this particular decade, that my indecision over which year to cover in my blog led me to compiling my very own 1980s A to Z of Wimbledon.

You may not agree with some or all of my choices, there are bound to be entries that I have missed out, but below are my personal memories of the tournament from 1980-1989:

Monday, 24 June 2013

1989: Australia v Lions Second Test

It is hard to imagine a more depressing scene than the Lions' dressing room at the conclusion of their 30-12 thrashing against Australia in the first Test at Sydney. Out scored by four tries to nil, out fought and out thought, the job of surveying the wreckage and picking up the players must have looked a daunting prospect to coaches McGeechan and Uttley, along with manager Rowlands, but with only six days until the second Test at Brisbane, there was very little time for wallowing in defeat or licking of wounds.

Monday, 17 June 2013

1989: Australia v Lions First Test

From a results point of view there could be no doubting that so far the 1989 Lions tour to Australia had been a roaring success (excuse the obvious pun). Unbeaten in six matches against opposition of varying abilities, the team had at times ground out results with some strong second half displays, but although their record was impressive, not all were convinced that the performances were anything to write home about.

Monday, 10 June 2013

1988 US Open: Curtis Strange

Sunday April 14, 1985: As Curtis Strange walks to the 10th tee at Augusta, he is on the brink of one of the most remarkable sporting comebacks ever. After carding a disastrous first round 80, Strange bounced back with rounds of 65 and 68, and a front nine of 32 (-4) on the Sunday left him four shots clear of the field and in touching distance of his first major. But just as he appears to have one arm in the green jacket, he capitulates on the last six holes, finding water at both 13 and 15, and eventually finishing two shots behind winner Bernhard Langer. Crushing doesn't even come close to describing it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

1989: British and Irish Lions warm-up matches

The eighties had not been all that kind to the British and Irish Lions before 1989. In fact, the decade had been such a disappointment thus far, that David Hands, writing in The Times, described the period as "the toothless eighties", after a 3-1 loss in South Africa in 1980, and a 4-0 crushing against New Zealand in 1983. A proposed tour to South Africa was postponed in 1986, the political issue of apartheid too big to simply sweep under the carpet, so by the time of the 1989 tour to Australia, the arrival of the inaugural World Cup, along with a growth in international tours, led some to question the whole concept of the Lions in an ever changing rugby landscape.

Monday, 20 May 2013

1989 French Open: Chang v Lendl

Any British tennis enthusiasts reading this piece can probably tell you a thing or two about Grand Slam droughts. Andy Murray's success at the US Open in September 2012, ended 76-years of British hurt in the male game, so we can be forgiven for a lack of sympathy when another nation experiences what they perceive as a dry period in the sport. In 1989, America had gone a whopping five years without seeing one of their finest men lift a Grand Slam trophy, which in terms of a country with such a proud tennis history, was an age.

Monday, 13 May 2013

1986: England v New Zealand First Test

I am always thankful that I discovered cricket in 1985. As an English boy, the Ashes triumph of that year was the ideal introduction to the sport, more of a Graham Thorpe debut rather than an Andy Lloyd. From this point onwards, I would sit in front of the television on summer mornings, eagerly waiting for the first few click-clicks of the Soul Limbo theme tune, before Peter West or Tony Lewis would appear, and that would be me sorted for the rest of the day. Had my induction occurred a year either side though, I cannot be 100% sure that my commitment would have been quite so high; the 5-0 thrashing at the hand of the West Indies in 1984 was understandable, but 1986 was downright depressing.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

1984/85 FA Cup final

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

May 1985 was not a particularly pleasant period for English football. On Saturday May 11, what had originally been a day of celebration turned into tragedy at Bradford, as 56 people lost their lives in the horrific fire that swept through the Main Stand at Valley Parade. As the nation heard of the horror at Bradford, news also started to drift through of crowd violence at St Andrews, with Birmingham and Leeds fans involved in running battles. 

Sadly, during the trouble inside the ground, a wall collapsed, killing a 15-year-old boy, and dragging the name of the sport through the mud once more. It was within this climate of angst that the build-up to the 1985 FA Cup final played out, a nation of football fans hoping that the showpiece event could maybe paper over the gaping chasms within the structure of the game at the time.

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.

Monday, 25 March 2013

1980s cricket pitch invasions

Anyone who tuned into Sky's coverage of the first day of the second Test between New Zealand and England at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, may well have noticed something unusual on the outfield during the start of England's innings. A paradise shelduck was patrolling the midwicket/cover region, obviously oblivious to the fact that there was a Test match going off out there, and unaware that within hours he would become a international superstar. Perhaps it is a reflection of this mad, and some may say sad world in which we live, that this bird now has a Twitter account with over a thousand followers (I'm not jealous, honest).

An intruder on the cricketing field of play is not a new phenomenon though; the 1980s alone has numerous examples of pitch invasions, some funny, some not so. This week we take a look back at some of the notable encroachments or plain trespassing on to cricket grounds in the eighties, starting with another animal destined for his five minutes of fame.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

1989: Wales v England (Rugby Union)

Whilst watching Wales dash England's Grand Slam hopes so spectacularly in Cardiff last Saturday, I reminded myself of the fact that this wasn't the first time during my English rugby supporting life that a trip across the Severn Bridge had ended in sporting despair. Defeat against a strong Welsh team that actually claimed the 2013 championship cushioned the blow a tiny bit, yet it was a completely different experience watching championship chasing England leave Cardiff empty handed on March 19, 1989. A loss that still hurts 24 years on.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

1986: Brazilian Grand Prix

A very wise man once wrote in this blog that Nigel Mansell probably didn't want the 1985 Grand Prix season to end. After waiting 72 races to stand highest on the podium at Brands Hatch, Mansell then went and won again in the very next race in South Africa, and although he wasn't able to make it three in a row in Australia, optimism for the 1986 season was nevertheless high. Joined in the Williams team by two-time World Champion Nelson Piquet - who was believed to be on a contract worth a whopping £2 million - it was reasonable to assume that the teamwork between the two fierce rivals was always likely to be lacking. Piquet's desire to be the number one driver in the team, coupled with Mansell's determination to prove himself the equal if not better of his Brazilian team-mate, led to friction throughout the season, and would cause more harm than good to Williams. But before then and just prior to the start of the Formula One season in Brazil, the team was hit by a personal tragedy, one which put any future arguments into perspective.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

1984/85 FA Cup: Sixth round

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

On the face of it, the quarter finals of the 1985 FA Cup were hardly dramatic from a footballing perspective. All four teams expected to progress did so, although one Merseyside giant almost fell by the wayside before recovering to return the form book to its rightful position. But football in the 1980s was a complicated sport, with headlines not just confined to matters on the field of play. 

After the winter related headaches of the previous rounds, surely spring couldn't be any worse? There were even some small rays of sunshine enveloping English football on the Friday before the quarter finals, with the Daily Express reporting 'England Euro hopes rising' prior to a UEFA decision regarding the host nation of Euro 88. What the country needed now was for a quiet few days leading up to the UEFA verdict. What it got however, was anything but.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

1984: New Zealand v England Second Test

If there was to be a contest to decide England's most embarrassing Test match defeat of the 1980s, unfortunately there are quite a number of candidates to choose from. Of the 105 tests played in that decade, England lost 39 matches (37.1% if my calculations are correct). Some of these losses were inevitable from day one - the vast majority of tests against the West Indies immediately spring to mind - others so unnecessary and completely avoidable - Headingley 1989 bringing pain to my fingers as I type - but some were just downright shameful.

The type of performance that makes you wonder why you spend so long worrying about such nonsense, filling you with anger, frustration, and a temporary desire never to put yourself through the misery of it again. With England currently touring New Zealand, one particular defeat jumped to the front of the queue whilst I considered pitching the concept of England's top 50 worst Test defeats to Channel Four. Step forward Christchurch 1984; your place in the hall of shame of English cricketing disasters is assured.

Friday, 22 February 2013

1987: Suntory World Matchplay

If you've ever taken the time to read any of my past blogs, you may be of the opinion that this particular blogger doesn't particularly like much about sport in the 21st century. This couldn't be further from the truth. Admittedly I am an child of the eighties, and I will bang on for hours about anything and everything about sport in this decade (as you may be aware), but give me a decent sporting event now and I am still as absorbed and transfixed as I was in my younger days. One example of this is the WGC Match Play Championship in Arizona. The top players in the world of golf, going head-to-head in a form of the game that I have always loved, makes compelling viewing in my opinion, and starts to give me the urge to get back out on the course after weeks of bottling it due to the wintry conditions in England.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

1986 League Cup final: Oxford v QPR

If it didn't matter so much to so many people, you could have been forgiven for sniggering at the state of English football at the start of the 1985/86 season. Banned from Europe due to the events of Heysel, with no TV cameras at matches due to a row between club chairmen and the BBC/ITV bosses, the game seemed to be dying a slow death. Not even the ScreenSport Super Cup could revive the flagging fortunes of football (I am being sarcastic), as attendances dipped and the sport became as marketable as a Sinclair C5. Football may have came home in 1996 and evolved into the well-oiled PR machine that we witness today, but ten years earlier the sump had well and truly fallen off the sport, leaving it juddering and grinding to a halt on the hard shoulder.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

1984/85 FA Cup: Fifth round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here, here, here and here.

Turbulent is as good a word as any to describe the nature of the 1984/85 football season. Hooliganism and crowd disturbances were forever making headlines in Britain, the situation spiralling out of control and hurtling towards the inevitable, sad and unnecessary conclusion at Heysel in May.

The British weather was also contributing to the feeling of chaos surrounding the sport. Over 250 Football League games had been postponed by mid-February, causing fixture congestion that would make the modern-day manager and player wince, and bringing with it the possibility that the season would stretch on and on, finishing just before the start of Live Aid, if you believed some of the more alarmist elements of the press. The FA Cup was heavily involved in this mess; violence and snow blighting the famous old competition throughout the year.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Sporting punch-ups of the 1980s

Sport hurts. Be it emotional pain that never leaves you, such as say, losing the Champions League final after battling bravely with ten men, or missing a last minute penalty in an FA Cup semi-final replay, or physical pain, sport has the tendency to hit you where it hurts. In any 90 minutes, or twelve round fight, or test match session, the emotions of a fan can fluctuate wildly, normally ranging from hope to despair, happiness to heartbreak, stopping off at anger and resignation for a quick drink on the way. So you can only begin to wonder what it must be like for those blessed enough to be taking part in such events.

Throw people and teams together in competition, and you are bound to witness the odd occasion where things boil over a little. A time where the line between good and bad behaviour is overstepped, the boundary between competitiveness and combativeness is blurred, and things can turn slightly ugly. This week we revisit a few of these moments in the 1980s where the sporting mask slipped leading to man and fists colliding. Seconds out....

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

1981: England v Scotland (Rugby Union)

If in music terms 1980 had seen England enjoy a smash hit success, then 1981 was always going to be the equivalent of that difficult second album. The 2003 World Cup winning side, and indeed the 2005 Ashes cricket success, have been relatively recent examples of teams reaching their peaks, only for the combination of retirements, injuries, and loss of form leading to a decline in the team's fortunes, as inevitably anything that follows feels very much after the Lord Mayor's show. In this respect, 1981 was never going to be easy for English rugby. The Grand Slam success enjoyed by Bill Beaumont's men in 1980 was their first in 23 years, and only their second since 1928, so it was unrealistic to expect them to repeat this success a year later. The retirements of Roger Uttley and Tony Neary certainly didn't help, leaving a gaping hole in terms of experience within the English pack, and before the Scotland game at Twickenham on February 21 there was more of that to come. By then though, it had become apparent that for England, the only way was down in 1981.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

1984/85 FA Cup: Fourth round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second and third rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here, here and here.

The chaos caused by the new ice age that was sweeping across Britain in January 1985, meant that when the draw was made for the Fourth Round of the FA Cup there were a number of either/ors to be sorted before we could get a clearer picture of the landscape ahead. When the snow cleared, the most appetising tie set before us seemed to be the Liverpool v Tottenham clash, a battle between the current champions and, according to some papers, the champions elect. Although this was chosen as the live FA Cup match on the Sunday, and the tie was undoubtedly the pick of the round, there were enough tales in the other fifteen matches to keep us warm inside, a footballing Ready Brek if you like. A round of big-time Charlies getting their comeuppance, missed penalties, shocks, culture clashes, ticket price hikes, and non-league glory. For this particular blogger however, it is not particularly a weekend of my life that I recall with total fondness.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

1985 Australian Open: Stefan Edberg

Your starter for ten: Which country was the most successful tennis nation in terms of men's grand slam single tournaments won during the 1980s? USA? No, sorry. West Germany? No. The United Kingdom? Now you're just being sarcastic. If you said Sweden, then award yourself top marks. You see, if Google Translate is to be believed then the 1980s really was a fantastiska årtionde for the Swedes, a time of Borg, Wilander, and Edberg, thirteen grand slam titles, seven consecutive Davis Cup final appearances, and three wins in the team event. A decade that started off all about Borg v McEnroe, evolved into Sweden v America, and then Sweden v the rest of the world, as the arrival of the precocious talents of Wilander and Edberg swept across the sport. The 1985 Australian Open was a microcosm of the decade, as Sweden came, saw, and conquered all before them. Borg may have disappeared from the scene, but the baton had been well and truly passed on, and in Melbourne during November-December 1985, there was no stopping the Super Swedes.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

1989 World Darts Championship

Such was the popularity of darts in the UK at the start of the 1980s that it was hardly surprising come the end of the decade that the nation's love affair with the sport had waned considerably. As with any relationship, you have the initial excitement, the buzz of anticipation during those early days when everything is so new and different, but over time you have to be on your guard that things do not become stale and repetitive, otherwise there may be trouble ahead.

In 1989, darts and television were definitely going through a cooling off period. The BDO World Championships was now the only tournament to be shown live on national television, and although the image of the sport was being addressed - this would be the first World Championships where players could not drink alcohol on stage - the writing was on the wall for the marriage. The messy divorce would arrive in 1993, which eventually would lead us to the world of darts that we see today. In 1989 though, this seemed a million miles away, as the world's best players arrived at the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, Surrey, to contest the 12th World Darts Championship.

Friday, 4 January 2013

1984/85 FA Cup: Third round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first and second rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here and here.

Even as one of the biggest 1980s apologists, That1980sSportsBlogger recognises that not all was good when it came to English football in the 1980s. Violence, falling attendances, ageing stadia, poor spectator facilities, and Thatcher's proposed ID scheme, are just a few of the minus points surrounding the national game in a turbulent decade. One thing going for the 1980s though was the fact that the FA Cup was still seen as a great competition, a must-have trophy for players, managers and chairmen alike, and due to this, the Third Round weekend of the FA Cup was one of the highlights of the domestic football calendar. So as most managers prepare to rotate their squads for the irritation of the Third Round of the 2013 FA Cup, we can cast our minds back to a time when the FA Cup mattered. The first few weeks of 1985 even allowed the players to enjoy a winter break. Perhaps the 1980s weren't all that bad after all.