Wednesday, 17 October 2018

October 29, 1983: Rush and Woodcock

If David Coleman was right, and indeed goals do pay the rent, then there would have been plenty of happy landlords on Saturday October 29, 1983. Up and down the country, defences dozed, forwards frolicked, and nets bulged, as 135 goals were scored in the 44 league matches played in the top four divisions.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

1987: Spain v England

Any Real Madrid fans with a particularly close affiliation to the Spanish national team may well have been sick of the sight of Gary Lineker during the early part of 1987. After netting an El Classico hat-trick in Barcelona’s 3-2 win at the Nou Camp on January 31, Lineker’s thirst for goals continued as England visited Spain’s capital eighteen days later.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

1984 Stockholm Open: John McEnroe

For all his outbursts and some of the histrionics that surrounded John McEnroe’s career, there could be no doubting that the American was one of the finest tennis players of his generation. Seven grand slam singles titles between 1979-1984 highlighted McEnroe’s success in the sport, and his battles with Bjorn Borg are often cited as one of the defining rivalries in sport.

Friday, 21 September 2018

1987 Ryder Cup: Eamonn Darcy

Just like his fellow countryman Christy O’Connor Jr, the Ryder Cup had not been kind to Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy before his day in the sunshine. Making his debut in 1975, Darcy had also featured in the 1977 and 1981 contests, but held an unenviable record of played 9 halved 2 lost 7.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

1986: Tottenham v Liverpool

Liverpool appeared unusually vulnerable as they made the visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday March 3, 1986. After losing 2-0 to Everton at Anfield the week before, Kenny Dalglish’s team were grimly trying to stay in the title race, trailing their Merseyside rivals by eight points with twelve matches remaining.

Monday, 3 September 2018

1986: Ron Atkinson leaves Manchester United

If a week is a long time in politics, then a year must have seemed like an eternity to Ron Atkinson as he contemplated his lot in November 1986. Just twelve months before Atkinson had looked destined to become the first Manchester United manager to win the Division One title since 1967. By November 1986 he was out of the door.

Monday, 27 August 2018

1987: Rangers 2 Celtic 2

There are some football matches from the distant past that still leave you breathless when you watch them on YouTube. Matches played out in front of packed terraces, the atmosphere incomprehensible in relation to the sanitised experience of today, with both sets of players flying into tackles, as if their lives depended on it.

The 1985 FA Cup semi-final clashes between Manchester United and Liverpool are a prime example of this. Another is the Old Firm derby of October 17, 1987. An afternoon dripping in tension, the match alone was full of drama, passion, and controversy. Yet for four men involved, the consequences of their actions on that famous Saturday would rumble on for months to come.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

1981: City documentary

There is a strong possibility that the All or Nothing documentary covering Manchester City’s record-breaking season will make interesting viewing. Catching a glimpse of Pep Guardiola’s training methods and philosophies will no doubt be revealing. But as an outsider, I’m not all that bothered about watching something that charts the success of another club.

Give me a documentary on a turbulent football club, then you are in business. An insightful view into a football team struggling in the top flight, with uncharted access to the dressing room and Boardroom; now you are talking. I don’t want All or Nothing; I want City!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

1987: Manchester City 10 Huddersfield Town 1

The warning signs had been there for Huddersfield fans during the 1986-87 season. Former player Steve Smith had just about managed to keep the Terriers’ heads above water, with three consecutive wins in May preventing relegation to Division Three.

There would be no such escape during the following campaign, though. In fact, the 1987-88 season for Huddersfield would go down in history as their worst ever. The bare statistics of just six wins in 44 league matches paints the picture; but it was one of the 28 defeats that is still talked about to this day.

Friday, 10 August 2018

1980s Ryder Cup selection snubs

The wildcard selections of Ryder Cup captains during the recent history of the event has often provided the odd talking point or twelve. From the moment the decision is announced, all of us have an opinion on the matter. Sometimes, even those who have missed out, can’t resist airing their view. Just ask 2018 European captain Thomas Bjorn.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

English Test cricket in the 80s

With England’s 1000th Test being played at Edgbaston this week, it has been a joy for a cricket nerd like me to wallow in the numerous articles taking a look back at the best matches and players that have been part of 141 years of history.

Naturally, I am drawn to the decade of my childhood, and I started to recall the highs and lows of English Test cricket in the 1980s. Sadly, there were far too few of the former and rather too many of the latter.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

1986 Open Championship: Guy McQuitty

Guy McQuitty may have an unwanted place in the Open Championship record books, but he deserves a great amount of credit for his determination and persistence.

“Never give in. Never give in.” Guy McQuitty had obviously taken the words of Sir Winston Churchill to heart. Because the 23-year-old assistant professional could have been excused if he had turned on his heels and dashed away from his turmoil at Turnberry in the summer of 1986. But McQuitty was not for quitting.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

1986 Wimbledon: Castle v Wilander

England's Andrew Castle pushed Mats Wilander all the way in their second round match at Wimbledon in 1986. But he failed to build upon the initial flashes of promise he showed on that day.

After spending more than four years at Wichita State University, 22-year-old Andrew Castle was keen to make an impression during the five-week LTA satellite tour in the spring of 1986. “The American college system teaches you that losing is no good to nobody,” Castle stated. “Winning is everything. It is the only attitude for a professional. You learn to win or get out.”

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

1983: Surrey 14 all out

The Boomtown Rats and Surrey County Cricket Club might not have a lot in common. But I think it would have been safe to say that on May 30, 1983, anyone associated with the county would have agreed that they really didn’t like Mondays. We’ve all had bad days at the office, yet we ordinary folk at least have the benefit of displaying our inadequacies in front of relatively few people.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

1986: England World Cup Party album

Sometimes I stumble across something on sport in the 1980s that I have no recollection about. Last week I tentatively started researching a piece about England's far from successful World Cup song in 1986; and then I uncovered a gem. Why had I never heard about this before? How did this masterpiece bypass me? How on earth did this whole collaboration come about? There really were more questions than answers.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

1986 US Open: Ray Floyd

It was becoming abundantly clear in 1986 that if you wanted to win a golf major then experience helped. In April, Jack Nicklaus had rolled back the years to claim his sixth US Masters, the 46-year-old adding an 18th major to his mightily impressive CV. Two months later, it would be the turn of another man over 40 to win his final major.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

1986 World Cup: England v Morocco

“Bobby Robson can start looking for alternative employment if England fail to reach the last 16 of the World Cup.” The words of Harry Miller in the Daily Mirror, under the headline ‘Nice and easy for England’, seemed to imply that Bobby Robson’s team basically had a bye out of the 1986 World Cup group stages. But the course for England at major tournaments is rarely smooth.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

World Cup: The demise of Colombia 86

It’s strange to think that if all had gone to plan, that there would never have been a Mexico 86. No shadow on the pitch of the Azteca Stadium, no Mexican Wave, no Pique. All these sights, sounds, and memories of my first World Cup would simply not have existed if the original host country had not been forced to step aside. It should have been Colombia 86.

Monday, 14 May 2018

1987/88 play-offs: Chelsea v Middlesbrough

It hasn’t always been a case of winning titles and triumphing in Europe for Chelsea. There was a time when the club were playing in a rundown stadium, with property developers lurking, and just staying in the top flight was a challenge in its own right. The 1987/88 season was a prime example of the down side of supporting the West London club. And people say Chelsea have no history.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

1986 World Cup: Uruguay

Uruguay entered the 1986 World Cup as one of the favourites; they left with their reputation in tatters.

Like it or not, there has always been a place in sport for a pantomime villain. The kind of behaviour that generally unifies opinions, as a competitor or team acts in a way that brings derision from all quarters. Think of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, and the names Harald Schumacher and Diego Maradona immediately spring to mind.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

1987/88: Dave Bassett - A season to forget

There is a chance that Mark Hughes may be involved with two relegated clubs this season. Dave Bassett knows how that feels after his terrible 1987/88 campaign.

If 1992 was the annus horribilis for Queen Elizabeth II, then there can be no doubting the comparable period of time for Dave Bassett. Leading Wimbledon from the basement of the Football League to sixth place in Division One in six years, Bassett’s star was rising. But all that was about to change.

Monday, 16 April 2018

1982/83: Fulham despair

Sometimes it can be a struggle to explain to an outsider just how hard it is to be a supporter of a football club. The emotional roller coaster we all board when we nail our specific colours to the mast can leave you drained. We all love the highs, but the crushing lows often take a long time to flush out the system. Indeed, they sometimes never leave us.

Take the example of Fulham in the 1982/83 season. Promoted to the Second Division during the previous campaign, the club were flying under the management of Malcolm Macdonald. A team full of quality – keeper Gerry Payton, defenders Tony Gale, Roger Brown, Jeff Hopkins, midfielders Ray Houghton, Robert Wilson, Sean O’Driscoll, and Ray Lewington, along with strikers Gordon Davies and Dean Coney – it appeared as if back-to-back promotions was a serious possibility.

Friday, 6 April 2018

1988 World Snooker Championship

Snooker seemingly stood at a crossroads as the 1988 World Championship tournament neared. With less coverage of the sport on our television screens, and viewing figures declining, the glory days of the sport appeared to be fading into the distance.

It probably didn’t help that a major crisis was hovering over snooker. During the 1987 World Championships, a number of stories had broken in relation to drug usage, both recreational and performance enabling/enhancing. The next year would be dominated with front page news involving snooker players, rehab, drugs tests, and beta-blockers.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Dad and Masters Sunday

As a golf fan, there are not many occasions that compare to Masters Sunday. There are a number of aspects that make it what it is: the beautiful Augusta National course; the first major of the season; a signal of winter turning to spring in Britain; and the fact that when I was a child, that I could stay up and watch the drama unfold with my dad.

Monday, 19 March 2018

1985/86: West Bromwich Albion

On the whole, the 1985/86 football season was a pretty sorry affair for clubs in the Midlands. Aston Villa, Coventry, and Leicester hovered dangerously close to the Division One drop zone throughout the campaign, but nothing could prevent Birmingham City from the fate of relegation. The demise of Wolves continued, as they fell into the league basement. Although fans of rivals West Bromwich Albion may have found this amusing, they had enough of their own problems to consider.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

1982 FA Cup Sixth Round: Leicester v Shrewsbury

The last time Leicester City won an FA Cup Sixth round match, they had to do it the hard way, using three different keepers on an afternoon of gripping drama.

After suffering relegation to Division Two at the end of the 1980/81 season, Leicester City initially struggled for consistency at the start of the next campaign. But come the start of a very wintry 1982, the team turned the corner. The combination of a memorable FA Cup run, and an upturn in league form, made for exciting times.

Friday, 2 March 2018

1986: The Miracle of the Grotenburg

Basel, Porto, and Besiktas will have their work cut out to overturn first leg deficits in the Champions League. If they need inspiration, they should take a look at the Miracle of the Grotenburg in 1986.

With just 32 minutes remaining in the second leg of their 1985/86 European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter final match, you could have forgiven many Bayer Uerdingen fans for taking a glance towards the exits. Losing 5-1 on aggregate to East German rivals Dynamo Dresden, Uerdingen needed a miracle to score the five goals required to make it through to the last four of the competition. They needed the Miracle of the Grotenburg.

Monday, 26 February 2018

1983/84: England's cricket tour of New Zealand

There can be something almost enjoyable about a cricketing tour that slowly comes off the rails. As the injuries mount, the defeats follow, and off-field allegations begin, you can develop a gallows humour towards your team, as you ponder whether new levels of rock bottom can be reached. England’s tour of Australia in 1994/95 is one of my personal favourites of this genre. But the 1983/84 ‘Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ tour to New Zealand takes some beating.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

1988 League Cup final: Arsenal v Luton

Not many gave Luton a chance of winning the 1988 Littlewoods Cup final against Arsenal. But in one of the greatest League Cup finals ever, the underdogs would prevail.

The warning signs were there for Arsenal prior to the 1988 Littlewoods Cup final. Predicted by many to easily dispose of Luton Town in the Wembley showpiece, George Graham’s team were expected to maintain their grip on the trophy that they had won the year before against Liverpool. But history had proved that Arsenal had often not coped well with the tag of favourites.

Monday, 29 January 2018

1980: England v Wales (Rugby Union)

Looking back this week at a violent England-Wales Five Nations match in 1980, as Paul Ringer is sent off, and England only just manage to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

Generally, Anglo-Welsh rugby union clashes do not require much promotion. But the hype surrounding the 1980 Five Nations contest between England and Wales at Twickenham was suffocating. Billed as the match that would decide the championship, Triple Crown and Grand Slam, you could almost taste the tension as the February date neared.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Cyrille Regis memories

Growing up, there were not many non-Arsenal players I admired. Cyrille Regis was one of them. This this week I'm looking back at some memories of the great man during the 1980s. RIP Cyrille.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The rise and fall of Swansea City

There is a possibility that Swansea City will be relegated from the top flight this season. But surely the situation will not be as dire as the last time they suffered this fate.

Swansea City Football Club lived the dream at the end of the 70s and the early part of the 80s. Their rise from the Football League basement to the top table between 1978 and 1981 was rapid, and their debut season in Division One was a thing of joy to their supporters. But the fall from grace was just as quick. The demise of Swansea City after their party with the A-listers was the stuff of nightmares.

Monday, 8 January 2018

1988/89: Bristol City's Littlewoods Cup run

Bristol City will have their work cut out to beat Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals. But in 1989 they came within a whisker of making it to Wembley.

After 180 minutes of their gripping Littlewoods Cup semi-finals, it looked as if extra time would be needed to separate Bristol City and Nottingham Forest. But there would be one final chance for Joe Jordan's Division Three team. As the black and white cue mark flickered on the screens of ITV viewers, a corner dropped on the left foot of City's Alan Walsh, a little over twelve yards out from goal. Opportunity knocked.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

1989: Crystal Palace v Brighton

Brighton meet Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Third round this weekend, but the match will have to go a long way to beat the drama surrounding their Easter Monday clash at Selhurst Park in 1989.