Tuesday, 26 November 2019

1980s: Football in the snow

As we approach the festive period, there is a strong chance that P-P will appear on more and more results pages, as winter weather begins to hit fixture programmes across the UK. Although many pitches can cope with snow and ice, many a game is called off due to worries over spectator safety getting to and from the ground.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

1987: Mark Hughes plays in two matches on the same day

Liverpool will be playing matches on consecutive days in December. In November 1987, one man managed to participate in two games on the same day.

A lot has been made of the fact that Liverpool are being forced to play on December 17 and 18 in the Carabao Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. Yet back in the 1980s, matches on consecutive days were a reasonably regular occurrence. In 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1986, Liverpool played League fixtures on back-to-back days, and without the comfort of the huge squads that clubs enjoy in the modern era.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

1980/81: Sheffield United pay the penalty

Sheffield United are currently flying high in the Premier League. But things were a lot different in May 1981.

As a football supporter, there are some matches that it is impossible to ever truly get over. Defeats that still leave a bad taste in the mouth, bring a shudder down the spine, and immediately transport you back to a dark place. Sheffield United fans of a certain age may want to look away now as the events of May 2, 1981 are raked over.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

1985/86: Football television blackout

Overindulgence is often a problem over the festive period, and this is not just limited to food and drink. December 2019 will see a total of 41 live Premier League matches available to UK viewers on Sky, BT and Amazon platforms, and combined with the numerous highlights packages on our screens is there a chance that we're reaching saturation point? Football might be in danger of eating itself, but it hasn't always been this way.

Can you imagine the uproar if an announcement had been made before the 2019/20 season declaring that there would be no football coverage on our television screens? No Match of the Day, Goals on Sunday, Super Sunday, Monday Night football, and a complete ban of any goal action on news programmes. Only Soccer AM for us to watch; it sounds horrific.

Monday, 28 October 2019

1981/82 UEFA Cup: Arsenal v Winterslag

This article first appeared in issue 270 of The Gooner

The start of the 1981/82 season was not going swimmingly for Arsenal manager Terry Neill. After losing Liam Brady in the summer of 1980, Frank Stapleton was the next star to leave Highbury, his departure in August 1981 made that much harder when he chose to join Manchester United. Without adequate replacements for their star men, the Arsenal faithful were restless.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Cricket: Silk Cut Challenge for all-rounders

“I count myself extremely fortunate to have played the bulk of my international career in the company of a clutch of outstanding all-rounders,” Ian Botham wrote in Botham’s Century. “It was quite a freaky time in that respect, and the fact that Kapil, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee were vying with each other and myself for the unofficial title of ‘the best in the world’ undoubtedly spurred us all on.”

Thursday, 3 October 2019

1989/90: Alex Ferguson's struggles continue

There are many achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson’s that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would love to repeat as Manchester United manager. But mirroring the start of the 1989/90 campaign was probably low down on his list. The recent draw against Arsenal gave Manchester United their worst league start to a season in 30 years. When United gained seven points from seven matches in 1989, it seemed that Fergie time was running out.

Friday, 27 September 2019

1987 Rugby World Cup: England

Mike Weston and Martin Green were swimming against the tide as they tried to prepare England for the inaugural World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. Weston (Chairman of Selectors) and Green (coach) had started building up to the tournament a year before the event.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Book review: Tony Knowles - Heart Breaks

“He broke a million hearts on and off the table.” The words of Phoenix Club owner Brian Potter, as he opened his new Tony Knowles suite, were funny because they were true. So accurate in fact, that the title of Gareth McGinley’s new book on the snooker star of the 1980s is spot on.

Friday, 13 September 2019

1989 Ashes: An A to Z of humiliation

Failing to regain the Ashes in 2019 hurt, but nothing can compare to the 1989 series that provided an A to Z of humiliation.

They may have been billed as the worst Australian team to tour England, yet in David Boon the tourists at least had a drinker to contend with the best.  Reportedly drinking fifty-two cans of lager on the flight over, Boon had to be carried off the plane. 

Monday, 19 August 2019

1985 Ashes: Wayne Phillips

Nothing could separate the teams going into the fifth Test of the six-match 1985 Ashes series at Edgbaston. England’s win at Headingley had been countered by Australia triumphing at Lord’s, and a flat pitch at Trent Bridge, and bad weather at Old Trafford, meant that England were in desperate need of a win.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

1987 World Athletics Championships: Fatima Whitbread

Before 1986, major championships had not been kind to Fatima Whitbread. Defeated with the final javelin throw of the 1983 World Championships by Tiina Lillak, there was more heartbreak to come at the hand of British rival Tessa Sanderson. Defeats at the 1984 Olympics and 1986 Commonwealth Games led inevitably to the bridesmaid tag being mentioned ad nauseum.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

1987 Wimbledon: Boris Becker v Peter Doohan

Before 1987, the only pain Boris Becker had suffered at Wimbledon was during his third-round match against Bill Scanlon. Stretchered off court two after tearing ankle ligaments, the 16-year-old German exited the tournament in agonising circumstances.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

1983 French Open: Jo Durie

The past is indeed a foreign country. Before Johanna Konta’s exploits, the last British woman to reach a French Open semi-final was Jo Durie in 1983. Around that time, Manchester City had just been relegated, Brighton almost won the FA Cup, Aberdeen lifted a European trophy, and a female Prime Minister was about to increase her majority in the UK election.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

1984 UEFA Cup: Tony Parks

Sport has a habit of creating heroes from the ranks of the previously unknown. In football, one such example was the tale of Nigel Spink. A 23-year-old goalkeeper, who had previously only played one game for Aston Villa, played a significant role in their 1982 European Cup triumph. Two years later, another young English keeper would take centre stage in a European final.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

1983 Cricket World Cup: Kapil Dev turns the tide

Kapil Dev wasn’t quite walking into the last chance saloon as he made his way to the middle of the Nevill Ground at Tunbridge Wells on Saturday June 18, 1983. But India’s World Cup campaign had definitely reached a crossroads. India were 9/4 when Dev arrived at the crease; sadly, for supporters of the national team, that was what the scorecard read, rather than the odds on an Indian victory.

Friday, 3 May 2019

1987/88: Celtic's glorious centenary season

The relationship involving Billy McNeill and Celtic Football Club was always destined to be a marriage made in heaven. The captain of the Lisbon Lions, McNeill then went on to enjoy a successful spell as manager, winning three League titles and a Scottish Cup and League Cup between 1978-1983.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

1985/86: Norwich bounce back

As spring turned to summer in 1985, Norwich City fans must have felt emotionally drained. The footballing Gods may have provided the ecstasy of a Milk Cup win with one hand; they were about to take away plenty with the other.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Great saves of the 80s: 1986 Bruce Grobbelaar

“Hero or villain? Genius or clown? Will the real Bruce Grobbelaar please stand up?” Ken Rogers, writing in the Liverpool Echo, was not alone in focussing his attention squarely on Liverpool’s keeper after a Division One match on February 22, 1986 that appeared to have killed off any hopes of the title returning to Anfield.

“For 73 minutes the controversial keeper was in line for Liverpool's man-of-the-match award as the 134th Merseyside derby unfolded in dramatic fashion at Anfield. Then the Jekyll and Hyde streak that haunts him mercilessly, more often than not in front of a television audience of millions, reared its head once again to leave the red army stunned.”

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

1985: Chelsea's electric fence

Football pitch invaders have been making the news in recent weeks. In April 1985, Chelsea chairman Ken Bates chose a rather controversial method to address the problem.

Preventing football violence during the 1984/85 season was proving a thankless task for the authorities. Events at Derby, Chelsea, and Luton provided examples of the problems facing the sport, and cures for the English disease seemed thin on the ground.

Monday, 25 February 2019

1988: Everton v Liverpool (Division One)

The 1987/88 season was never going to be easy for Everton. They may have been reigning champions, but the departure of Howard Kendall to Athletic Bilbao was always going to hit the club hard. Like many before and after him, Kendall’s assistant Colin Harvey would discover that replacing a legendary manager was a thankless task.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Great saves of the 80s: 1985 Neville Southall

The sad passing of Gordon Banks has inspired me to start a new series: great saves of the 1980s. The first entry involves a Welshman at the peak of his powers, and a defining moment in the 1984/85 Division One season.

Although he is often regarded as one of the world’s best goalkeepers of the 1980s, it had actually taken Neville Southall a few years to establish himself as Everton’s number one. Making his debut in 1981, a spell out on loan at Port Vale in early 1983 suggested that his days at Everton were numbered.

Monday, 11 February 2019

The rise and demise of Newport County

All football clubs experience relative highs and lows throughout their history; seasons to remember, others to forget. But not all clubs manage to squeeze in such a wide range of emotions into one decade alone. The case of Newport County in the 1980s is a journey from hero to absolute zero.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

1988/89: Aberdeen v Rangers - Ian Durrant

Life was pretty good for anyone associated with Glasgow Rangers at the start of the 1988/89 season. Seven wins out of eight in the Premier Division, including a 5-1 destruction of Celtic, had catapulted Graeme Souness’ team to the top of the league, and the club also progressed to the final of the League Cup.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

1987: Ireland v England (Rugby Union)

Reversing the fortunes of the England rugby union team in the mid-1980s was never going to be an easy task. Winning only two matches in the Five Nations championship between 1983-85, urgent action was required to revive the English patient.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

1989 Masters snooker: Terry Griffiths v Silvino Francisco

Come the end of the 1989 Benson and Hedges Masters, newspapers were heralding the rise and rise of Stephen Hendry. His growing reputation in snooker was enhanced after winning the tournament at his first attempt. As the 20-year-old held the trophy aloft at Wembley, the sport looked like it was in safe hands for years to come.

Friday, 11 January 2019

1989/90: Liverpool 9 Crystal Palace 0

The season was young as newly promoted Crystal Palace made the daunting trip to Anfield to take on a Liverpool team still hurting over that Michael Thomas moment in the previous campaign. What looked a tough examination on paper proved to be on grass too. September 12, 1989, would be a day many associated with Palace would never forget, no matter how hard they tried.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

1983/84: Leicester v Southampton - match abandoned

As Leicester prepared to meet Southampton at Filbert Street on October 15, 1983, there would have been vastly different expectations for anyone associated with both clubs. Rooted to the bottom of the table, Leicester were winless in their eight league matches. In contrast, Southampton were sitting pretty.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

1989 FA Cup Third round: Newcastle v Watford

It was a good day to bury bad news. As all and sundry debated the reign of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, the FA announced that there will be no FA Cup fifth round replays from this season onwards. I’m not sure there is any more space for the organising body to hammer another nail into the coffin of the famous old competition.

Perhaps it is time for dinosaurs like myself to let it go. Let’s face it, the magic of the FA Cup vanished years ago, suffocated by greed, with most clubs now viewing it as a bit of an inconvenience. Bit by bit, all the elements that made the FA Cup what is was have been chipped away.