There can be nothing worse than being on the end of a sporting thrashing. I should know, having once played in for a junior football team which lost a match 33-0 (we made the local paper and earned a free trip to Burger King and the local cinema to watch Home Alone, so we did get something out of it).
My embarrassment was fortunately limited, a very local affair that I have tried my best to forget. But many of the participants in the following sporting thrashings were not as lucky as me. Theirs was very much a national or international humbling, played out in front of the watching public, read about by sports fans at the time and since.
1984/85 Scottish Cup: Stirling Albion 20 Selkirk 0
lot of teams were on the receiving end of a shellacking at Anfield in
the 1980s - OPS of Finland, Fulham and Crystal Palace to name a few -
but not many visited Stirling Albion's Annfield Stadium with the same
levels of trepidation. The Second Division side were going through a
pretty ordinary 1984/85 season - just three wins in 16 league matches -
prior to the visit of Scottish Border Amateur League club Selkirk in the
first round of the Scottish Cup. But the events of December 8, 1984
were far from ordinary.
To put it mildly, Selkirk had
an iffy first half, trailing 5-0 at the break. Yet this was a triumph in
comparison to the next 45 minutes. Stirling scored a further 15 goals
past Richard Taylor, the young goalkeeper soon to gain his five minutes
of notoriety due to the events of that day. "The most goals I had ever
conceded before in a match was five," stated Taylor, who also admitted
that he had only become a goalkeeper a year previously. The goalkeeper
with 20-20 vision, as the Daily Express called him, was honest enough to
sum up his experience neatly: "Yesterday was like a nightmare".
Thompson had a more enjoyable day, scoring seven goals, with Willie
Irvine netting five in the rout. "I felt sorry for the Selkirk players
but they accepted their defeat in good humour," said Stirling manager
Alex Smith. "Actually I lost count and thought we only won the match by
19 goals," he added. It wasn't quite Arbroath-Bon Accord, but for Taylor
and his Selkirk team-mates it was bad enough.
1984 Rugby Union: Lavardac 350 Vergt 0
Now on to the most emphatic thrashing of them all. Unhappy at having four of their players suspended, the Third Division French side Vergt opted for the very mature step of taking the field with only eleven players in their next few matches. The results were unsurprisingly disastrous. A 236-0 defeat to Gujan Mestras was awful, but the best (or worst) was still to come.
The laissez-faire approach adopted by Vergt's players hardly helped matters, the eleven reluctant men making no attempt to tackle or win the ball, but their 350-0 defeat to Lavardac was still some achievement. In total, 66 tries were scored - in the days of four points for a try - at an average of one every 72 seconds, Vergt not so much parking the bus, more giving the keys to their opponents and nipping off down the pub.
"We couldn't accept the federation's scandalous decision," stated a Vergt committee man. "We had to react". Well, there can be no disputing that the French team certainly made their point, in a couple of defeats that will take some beating.
1980: West Indies beat Australia by 408 runs
A statement of intent for the decade that followed, the West Indies crushing 408 run victory over Australia sealed their first series win down under, and provided Australia with their biggest defeat in terms of runs since 1929 (when England beat them by 675 runs).
Such a massive defeat didn't look too likely after the Australian's had dismissed the visitors for 328 shortly into day two, Clive Lloyd's fine hundred, and Viv Richards' rapid 76 helping the West Indies to a total that looked competitive but not insurmountable on a good batting strip at Adelaide. However, with Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft to contend with, Australia could only make 203, the heart of their innings ripped out when Roberts removed both Chappell brothers in consecutive deliveries.
With a 125-run lead, the West Indians, already 1-0 up in the series, then ground Australia into the dirt. At first it was Greenidge and Richards that did the damage, a stand of 136 in as many minutes destroying the hosts, as Len Pascoe chose the unwise action of bombarding Richards with bouncers and then sarcastically applauding him when he chose to defend one.
An unhappy Richards allegedly flicked the Vs at Pascoe, and was involved in some heated discussions, but all it succeeded in doing was focusing the mind of the Master Blaster. It was never a great idea to make the great man angry, the Daily Express' Peter Laker quite rightly describing Pascoe's act "as senseless as throwing a boomerang with a built-in grenade".
Alvin Kallicharran's 12th Test century - he would become the sixth West Indian to reach 4000 Test runs during the innings - propelled the West Indian total to 448, leaving Australia 574 to win, or more pertinently nine hours to survive. They didn't come close. After 28 overs Australia had slumped to 58/5, crawling to 131/7 as the fourth day ended. Holding polished things off the next morning, as an Australian team which had it's Packer stars back in the fold during the series, had to contemplate their standing in the world.
"It's no shame to lose to a side with their ability - four great fast-bowlers backed up by magnificent fielding and a tremendous batting line-up," said a realistic Greg Chappell, his comments accurate for the years of Caribbean domination that were just beginning. The West Indies may have gone on to lose their next series, an ill-tempered clash in New Zealand (without Richards), but the rest of the world had been given a taste of what was to come during that final Test at Adelaide in January 1980.
1988 Rugby League: Runcorn Highfield 2 Wigan 92
When Second Division Runcorn Highfield drew Wigan in the first round of the 1988/89 John Player Special Trophy, it should have been a time of anticipation and excitement for the town. Admittedly no one expected the underdogs to triumph, as Wigan were steadily building the foundations for their subsequent period of dominance, yet when Runcorn's directors chose to switch the tie to Wigan's Central Park, the romance of the cup vanished immediately.
Due to the higher gate receipts which would now be received, the Runcorn players reportedly demanded a higher proportion of the cash pot, but when the directors craftily proposed an increase only in winning bonuses, the chaos truly began. Two days before the match, the players went on strike, leaving the club directors with two realistic options: bow down to the demands of the strikers, or somehow cobble together a makeshift side.
They chose the latter, frantically recruiting players to make up a thirteen to take on the might of Wigan. Coach Bill Ashurst came out of retirement to help the cause, his assistant Harold Daley, treasurer Jeff Fletcher, and a set of local amateurs from the Clock Face and Pilkingtons Rec clubs making up the rest of the team. Unsurprisingly Wigan steamrollered their way to a 92-2 win, the Iro brothers running rampant and scoring seven tries between them. Mind you, Runcorn's cause was not particularly boosted when Ashurst got himself sent off for headbutting Andy Goodway after just 12 minutes.
The arguments continued. Runcorn skipper Chris Middlehurst immediately put in a transfer request, expressing his disgust over the whole affair. "The dispute was not originally over pay. The players wanted to retain the home tie to give us a better chance of giving Wigan a game," Middlehurst protested. "When the directors said they had agreed to go to Central Park to make more money, a players meeting decided to ask for increased money as our share".
The row turned out to be the catalyst for an abysmal run of results for the club. Runcorn would not win another league match in the 1988/89 league season, and then they extended their winless run in style during the 1989/90 campaign, a P28 L28 record and a points against total of 935 indicating just how far the team had slumped. And it all started with this messy 92-2 defeat.
1982 Snooker World Championships: Tony Knowles 10 Steve Davis 1
The Daily Express' Alan Thompson was pretty certain about what would happen at the 1982 World Snooker Championships. In fact, he was wondering what all the fuss was about regarding the forthcoming tournament. "After unaccountable hours of well-dressed men playing with antiseptic precision to the accompaniment of sepulchral commentary, Steve Davis will win and that will be that".
You couldn't argue with Tommo. The reigning World Champion was a 2/5 favourite with the bookies to retain his crown, and with the Masters and UK Championship wins already under his belt during the season, few would have predicted anything but another Davis procession.
Davis was expected to easily brush off his first round opponent Tony Knowles. The two-times winner of the UK Junior Championships had qualified for the event the month before, but his pre-tournament odds of 150/1 stressed the task ahead of him. Yet as their match progressed it soon became apparent that all was not well with the world number one.
Davis became involved in a row with photographers in the first frame, and whether this disturbed his concentration or not is open to debate. What was for certain though was the predicament Davis found himself in. Knowles raced into a 4-0 lead, and although Davis would win the next frame, Knowles moved into a staggering overnight lead of 8-1.
"It is a hell of a lot to pull back, but if Tony can do it then so can I," said a less than convincing Davis. "Even so it was probably the worst mauling of my life. He never let me settle". Any hopes of a Davis comeback or of Knowles nerves were put to bed, as Knowles calmly finished the job off the next day. To beat Davis was shocking enough, but his 10-1 win was barely believable, as the Crucible Curse had struck again (no first-time world champion has ever retained his title since the move to Sheffield).
Knowles' win thrust the Bolton lad into the spotlight, a run to the quarter finals cementing his reputation as a fine player for the future, and his boyish good looks attracting the attentions of both the press and females alike ("broke a million hearts on and off the table," as Brian Potter once said). For his part, Davis licked his wounds, brushed himself down, and then went on to reclaim his world title a year later. And he didn't too bad for the rest of the decade either.
1989 Wightman Cup: USA 7 Great Britain 0
By 1989, the Wightman Cup had long ceased to be a contest. The annual tennis competition between the Great Britain and USA had not been won by Britain's women since 1978, their last away victory being in 1975. The event desperately needed a boost as the 80s ended. Instead it was issued the last rites.
There were five 7-0 American whitewashes during the decade, but 1989 was the nadir as far as British tennis was concerned. Although Navratilova, Shriver and Garrison were absent from the home team, the British side, comprising of Jo Durie, Anne Hobbs, Clare Wood and Sara Gomer, failed to even win a set between them in any of the seven matches.
The most chastening experience belonged to Wood, hammered by a 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati, in just 42 minutes, in which time Wood won just 17 points and was unsurprisingly on the receiving end of a Double Bagel (6-0 6-0). "I've never been in a hurricane. That is probably the closest I am going to get to one," revealed Wood. "In the end, all I could do was stand back in admiration. I was given a lesson by a student".
By the time an 18-year-old Mary Joe Fernandez saw off Gomer 6-1 6-2, Britain had only won nine games in total and were 3-0 down. "They (the British players) approached the occasion with the enthusiasm of a dog being ordered to its basket," wrote Andrew Longmore in The Times, in the aftermath of the oh so predictable drubbing. Under the circumstances, it was hardly a shock that the British women were not too happy in their roles of lambs to the slaughter.
Where did the event go from here? Many suggestions were proposed, in order to reinvigorate the tournament in the same way that the Ryder Cup had been saved: a USA v Commonwealth contest; USA v Europe; even Britain versus players from the original 13 colonies in America (like that would have made much difference). Eventually the LTA did the kind thing in 1990 and "temporarily" suspended the Wightman Cup. It has never returned, although judging by the outcome of the matches in the 80s, and 1981 and 1989 in particular, it is probably for the best.
1989 Ryder Cup: Tom Kite beats Howard Clark 8 & 7
Howard Clark had a decent singles record in the Ryder Cup, with four wins from six matches between 1977 and 1995. But unfortunately this blog is centred upon sporting thrashings, so there is only one match that I can write about here: Howard Clark v Tom Kite, 1989.
Clark had not been in the greatest form in 1989, his place in the team only guaranteed once Tony Jacklin had chosen him as one of his three captain's picks. Yet Clark would win two points out of his three matches on days one and two, his fourball partnership with Mark James a particular success.
In one of the most gripping matches of the 1989 event, Clark and James would defeat Payne Stewart and Curtis Strange 1 up, giving Europe a 9-7 lead as the sun dipped on the Saturday evening. "Jessie James and myself beat Strange and Stewart on that Saturday evening but it took over six hours to play, and you know, it wiped me out for the next day," Clark would later admit.
With concerns over form, and a tired mind and body, the last person Clark could have done with facing was Tom Kite. The American was as tough as they came, and never lost a singles match in his seven Ryder Cups, so Clark needed a solid start if he was to stay in contention. But three birdies in the first six holes from Kite spelt danger for the Yorkshireman, his day summed up neatly when he was struck on the head after Kite had thrown his ball back to him on the second green and he had not been paying attention.
"I wasn't so bad when I was playing with somebody," said Clark in Gavin Newsham's Two Tribes. "There was a bit of confidence there, there was a bit of back-up. But on my own I was very fragile". Clark's delicate confidence and wobbly form left him vulnerable, and when Kite started firing birdies at him he simply had no response. Five 3's from the American on the front nine, left Clark six-down at the turn and staring a record defeat squarely in the face.
When the next two holes were won by Kite, the last appropriately with a birdie 3, Clark's humiliation was complete, the 8 and 7 loss a record for an 18-holes singles match in the Ryder Cup (equalled when Fred Couples beat Ian Woosnam in 1997). Clark could take some comfort in the superb golf played by Kite, but when you're on the end of such a stuffing it must be hard to find any consolation.
Europe would go on to retain the cup, moving into a 14-10 lead before America fought back to tie the matches at 14-14. A watching Kite was interviewed just after Jose Maria Canizares' putt had ensured that the cup would stay in Europe, asking to comment on Europe's latest victory. "Not yet. Let's get this straight," came the reply. It is a moment that has stayed with me to this day. Kite was spot-on with his comment, the lack of that extra half point to win the trophy outright still something that bugs me. Kite was accurate in more ways than one that day, something that Howard Clark can vouch for.