Wednesday, 1 December 2021

1984/85 Scottish Cup first round: Stirling Albion 20 Selkirk 0

There are no easy games in international football. Well the recent results of both England's men's and women's teams may have assigned this particular cliche to the recycling bin. As the men won 10-0 against San Marino, the debate reignited about the merits of weaker teams participating in qualification for major tournaments. Hold my energy drink, said the women's game.

The 20-0 annihilation of Latvia saw Lauren Hemp score four goals and Ellen White's hat-trick enabled the striker to establish a new scoring record for the women's national team. Whether these two results are good adverts for the game is questionable. Thrashings will always be a part of sport, but a team scoring twenty possibly should be confined to the preserve of children's football.

Immediately the mind rewinds to hammerings of the past. But putting aside the nines and tens I can recall, there is a match that instantly zooms into focus. Normally the 1984/85 Scottish Cup first round was not extensively covered by English newspapers. But one particular fixture resulted in Selkirk becoming a hotspot on the UK footballing map.

Friday, 26 November 2021

1980s: All I Want For Christmas Is....

Is it just me, or does it become harder as the years go by to come up with ideas for Christmas gifts for yourself? Every year my wife mentions that I need to produce a Christmas list for the family, and my mind goes blank, as I struggle to think of anything that I need (bar socks).

It's not like that during your childhood, especially if you were lucky enough to grow up in the 80s. There were plenty of videos, records/tapes/CDs, and computer games to choose from, as the Woolworths and WH Smiths catalogues were scanned in great detail.

And then there was the magic of the Argos catalogue. Picking up one of those bad boys and compiling a Christmas list from the many products displayed was a joy. Thanks to the legends at Retromash, I've been able to visit old Argos catalogues and party like it's 1985 again. 

Below are some of the gifts my parents were kind enough to buy me for Christmas, and a couple that got away. Maybe I should add the presents I didn't receive to my current list? 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Top 40 Sporting Theme Tunes: No 20-1

Following on from songs 40-21 in my top 40 sporting theme tunes, we are now into the top 20 countdown. From this stage on we are pretty much dealing with iconic tunes, and we even enter the world of radio.

It's fairly likely that I have forgotten an obvious theme tune, so please inform me (politely) of my glaring omission(s) in the comments. I'll have to add them into my Top 40 Breakers, in true 1980s Top of the Pops style.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Top 40 Sporting Theme Tunes: No 40-21

I always thought I would avoid a blog on sporting theme tunes. But sometimes you have to dismiss the nagging doubts and just go for it. You may love or hate this list, yet rest assured that I have spent quite a lot of time deliberating over this whole thing.

So get ready to play Yellow Pearl by Phil Lynott in the background, and do your best Ooh Gary Davies/Bruno Brookes impression, as we begin the top 40 countdown of 1980s sporting themes. 

This week we're going from 40 to 21, taking in some forgotten gems and a few classics. Next week will see the publication of the much awaited top 20. I just hope you can cope with the suspense.

Monday, 1 November 2021

1984/85: Everton v Tottenham

It was hard not to get carried away by the rise of Everton in 1984. Supporters were swept along as a team previously struggling under Howard Kendall turned the corner and hit the road to Wembley twice. There may have been disappointment in the Milk Cup final, but an FA Cup triumph pointed to a brighter future.

"It will be remembered joyously by those who love Everton, as the day this great club emerged again from the gloomy shadows cast by their conquering neighbours," Frank McGhee wrote in the Express, after the 2-0 win over Watford. A Charity Shield win against Liverpool increased the belief that Everton were now real contenders for the big prize.

Monday, 25 October 2021

1980/81 League Cup: Watford v Southampton

Watford face Southampton this weekend in the Premier League. The meeting will have to be something special to match the drama of the 1980/81 League Cup second round between the two clubs.

We often hear how a two-goal advantage is a dangerous lead in football. Atalanta and Spartak Moscow may agree with this particular theory, their recent reversals against English opposition in Europe adding credence to this. So what leads are safe?

As an Arsenal fan I have sadly seen that a four-goal lead can be no guarantee of victory. The 4-4 draw against Newcastle in 2011 was an embarrassing episode, something that should be brushed under the carpet, never to be mentioned again. 

Arsenal's capitulation was a remarkable achievement. Admittedly they had been reduced to ten men, yet with 22 minutes remaining, their four-goal lead was still intact. History has shown us that this example is the exception rather than the norm, but in September 1980 there was another club putting their supporters through this painful experience.

Monday, 18 October 2021

League Cup: Liverpool win four in a row

Liverpool and the League Cup had endured a troubled relationship as the 1980/81 competition kicked off. After entering the inaugural staging in 1960/61, the club decided to sit out the next six editions, and despite the growth of the Merseyside giant, success in the League Cup proved difficult to come by.

A controversial defeat in against Nottingham Forest in the 1978 final replay was the closest the club had come to winning the competition, with Brian Clough's team once again dashing hopes in the 1979/80 semi-final. But you wait ages for one League Cup to come along....

Monday, 11 October 2021

1985/86: Leicester City v Manchester United

Football in England may have been in a bad place - a European ban, television blackout, and talks of a Super League - yet for Manchester United fans the start of the 1985/86 season was a heavenly experience. Ten straight wins in the league saw Ron Atkinson's team open up a nine-point lead over Liverpool, as talk turned to the club ending their title drought stretching back to 1967.

One more win would equal Tottenham's record of eleven consecutive wins at the start of their 1960/61 double season, but even though the 1-1 draw at Luton thwarted this attempt, the team bounced back to win three of their next four matches - drawing with Liverpool in the other - as their lead extended to ten points after fifteen matches.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

1986: Mike Tyson v Trevor Berbick

To a lot of boxing writers, pundits, and fans, Mike Tyson was a breath of fresh air in the heavyweight division as he moved menacingly towards a shot at the WBC world title. To most opponents in 1985 and 1986 he was like a terrifying hurricane enveloping them and unleashing pain. 

November 22, 1986 would see another chapter written in the Tyson story. Coming into his fight with WBC champion Trevor Berbick, Tyson had won 27 fights, 25 inside the distance, with 15 wins coming inside the first round. The hype and sense of expectation surrounding Tyson was reaching fever pitch.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

1986: The rise of Mike Tyson continues

After the first 15 fights of Mike Tyson's professional heavyweight career in 1985, there was more to come as 1986 progressed. A further 12 fights would follow as Tyson edged his way up the world rankings, moving towards a shot at the WBC belt in November.

Naturally there would be sterner tests the closer Tyson got to his title showdown with Trevor Berbick. Twice Iron Mike would go the distance, but as the likes of Reggie Gross, William Hosea, and Marvis Frazier could vouch for, there were still occasions that Tyson would demonstrate the destruction his fists possessed.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

1985: Mike Tyson

The rise of Mike Tyson through the heavyweight boxing ranks from his professional debut in March 1985 to his Judgment Day meeting with Trevor Berbick in November 1986 was an exciting time for the sport. As opponents came and went - often rapidly - the hype surrounding the 19-year-old from New York started to snowball.

Timing is everything. The days of an undisputed heavyweight champion had long gone, and with belts up for grabs in the WBC, WBA and IBF divisions, the need to unify the titles led to the three organisations and the HBO television channel creating a tournament to deliver a sole claimant to the title of best heavyweight in the world.

Friday, 3 September 2021

1989: Poland v England

It is often stated that the line between success and failure is thin. On October 11, 1989, English football fans would witness a prime sporting example of this. The national football team may have qualified for the 1990 World Cup after a 0-0 draw in Chorzow, Poland. But it could have all been oh so different. As the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark and Rysard Tarasiewicz pulled back his right foot, that line between success and failure was wafer thin.

England manager Bobby Robson really didn't need one final scare. After the disastrous showing at Euro 88, the pressure placed on Robson's shoulders may even have left Titan Atlas needing a rest. "A contributing factor was that the circulation war between the Sun and the Daily Mirror was turning medieval," Robson wrote in Farewell, But Not Goodbye. "The office of England manager was one of their battlegrounds."

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

1981: Hungary v England

As the summer arrived it was fair to say that 1981 was not going well for England manager Ron Greenwood. Just a year before hopes had been high as England prepared for the reformatted European Championship finals, but events on and off the pitch proved a pointer to the future.

Finishing third in their group behind Belgium and hosts Italy, sadly the main mark England left on the tournament were the images of rioting fans and tear gas during their 1-1 draw against the Belgians. But at least Greenwood had managed to get England into the finals of a major tournament, a crumb of comfort to provide after the setbacks of the 1970s.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

1986: Botham's glorious comeback

"Blimey, Beef. Who writes your scripts?" The question asked by Graham Gooch on Thursday August 21 to Ian Botham was a valid one. After all, it was barely believable that a man making his comeback to Test match cricket after a ban would take a wicket with his first ball. But Ian Botham was no ordinary man.

1986 had been a turbulent year in the life of Botham. As the tabloid press circulated around him in the Caribbean attempting to uncover details of his activities away from cricket, on the field things were hardly going smoothly. Hammered 5-0 against the mighty West Indies, the tour ended with Botham suffering at the hands of his great mate Viv Richards, as England's all-rounder tried in vain to equal Dennis Lillee's record for most Test wickets taken.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

1985 Open Championship: Sandy Lyle

Saturday July 12, 1969: as Tony Jacklin celebrates winning the Open Championship, he hurls his ball into the grandstand at Royal Lytham and St Annes. An 11-year-old boy called Alexander Walter Barr Lyle sits in the grandstand as Jacklin's ball flies towards him.

"It landed just a few feet from me," Lyle would later reveal. "It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to play professional golf, play in the Open - and one day win it." 16 years later, the task of ending Britain's drought in their own championship would land at the feet of Sandy Lyle.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

1984 European Championships: Michel Platini's nine goals

As Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated scoring a penalty against Hungary in Portugal's opening match of Euro 2020 - in that typical understated way of his - the goal that clinched three points for his country contained added significance. 

The successful spot kick broke a record held by a man who played a big part in the organisation of Euro 2020. He may have been widely appreciated as a player, but Michel Platini was far from popular in his stint as UEFA President.

Monday, 7 June 2021

1984 European Championships: France v Portugal

There have been a number of memorable European Championship semi-finals in the years I've been immersing myself in all things football. Another chapter of the Danish story against the Netherlands in 1992; England's heartache at Wembley; more Dutch penalty shootout disappointment against ten-man Italy in 2000; the spectacle of Germany-Turkey in 2008.

But you never forget your first. And placing my England hat to one side for the moment, the sheer drama of the France v Portugal semi-final in Marseille during Euro 84 takes some beating. It would be a night dripping in tension, ecstasy and agony, an evening that almost saw a Portuguese pin pop the French bubble. 

Thursday, 27 May 2021

1986: Helmuth Duckadam becomes a hero

Not all penalty shootouts are as free scoring as the recent Europa League final between Villarreal and Manchester United. After 21 successful spot kicks, it would be goalkeeper David de Gea who missed the only penalty, the Spaniards winning 11-10 to claim their first European trophy.

Goalkeepers are often heroes in the drama of a penalty shootout. In Gdansk it was the turn of Geronimo Rulli to assume the role, even finding time to score a penalty, before saving the crucial kick. Conceding eleven penalties and then missing from the spot, De Gea would experience the other end of the emotional scale. Very much more Peter Shilton than Helmuth Duckadam.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

1986: England v New Zealand Second Test

England had battled to draw in the first Test of the 1986 series against New Zealand. But there was little respite as the team prepared to face up to Richard Hadlee at his second home of Trent Bridge.

As England and New Zealand prepared for the second Test of the 1986 series, two all-rounders were very much in the spotlight. Ian Botham, beginning his comeback after his cannabis related ban, was never far from the thoughts of England fans enduring a terrible 1986. New Zealand supporters had no such worries.

Friday, 7 May 2021

FA Cup final day

As another FA Cup final approaches, my mind cannot help but drift back to a happier time for the competition. An era when trying to win the famous old trophy was not seen as a major distraction for clubs involved in multiple competitions, or others trying to stay in or gain entry to the top flight.

We all know money is the root of all evil, and that the Premier League, Champions League and too much live football has destroyed the magic of the cup. But some of us more mature members of the football family can at least hark back to our formative years and remember what it was like to wake up on FA Cup final day with the prospect of hours of television coverage to look forward to.

Monday, 26 April 2021

1986: Snooker Loopy

Looking back to 1986 and the time snooker made an attack on the pop charts.

"A record called 'Snooker Loopy' is released today. It is an unexceptional example of public bar sing-along, but Barry Hearn is confident that events in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre over the next 17 days will ensure that it gets into the hit parade." It was clear that the Telegraph's Michael Calvin was not a big fan of the forthcoming collaboration between Chas and Dave and Barry Hearns' Matchroom Mob. But one man's meat is another man's poison.

Everything Hearn touched in snooker back in the 1980s seemed to turn to gold. "Snooker is the most successful modern sport and no one has exploited its commercial potential more successfully than Hearn," Calvin continued. "Hearn's Matchroom Company stars - Davis, Taylor, Terry Griffiths, Willie Thorne, Tony Meo and Neal Foulds - will gross £2 million this year." But could Hearn and the sport of snooker really break into the pop charts back in April/May 1986?

Monday, 19 April 2021

The European Super League

Strictly speaking this is not a 1980s blog. But I had to have my say on these mad proposals for a European Super League.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. But the events over the past weekend have left me looking back to the 1980s with a tinge of sadness. Forget the violence, decaying stadia and declining attendances. At least there seemed to be some form of attempts at playing the sport on a level (muddy) field.

Of course, there were incidents of club chairman attempting to make the relatively rich that little bit richer. After all, this was the decade where greed is good became a mantra for many. The change in gate receipt sharing, the rows that led to a television blackout, and the first murmurings of a Super League were signposts pointing heavily towards the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

1981 World Snooker Championship

Although Steve Davis was priced as the 7/2 favourite for the 1981 World Snooker Championship, his path to title glory would be littered with obstacles. After facing a future star of the sport in the first round, three world champions then lay in wait. Securing a first world title was going to be earned the hard way.

With seedings at the Crucible based on the last three World Championships, Davis was seeded 13th for the event that started on Tuesday April 7. Yet the 23-year-old was clearly the man to beat after winning the Coral UK Championship, the Wilson's Classic, the Yamaha Organs Trophy, and the John Courage English Professional Championship in the 1980/81 season.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Golden goals: Steve Nicol (1987)

After a rare trophyless season in 1986/87, there were some voicing the opinion that the Liverpool dynasty was showing signs of cracking. The departure of Ian Rush to Juventus for £3.2 million left a sizeable hole in the team, as Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was tasked with replacing the seemingly irreplaceable.

"The coming season is going to be Dalglish's biggest test yet as a manager," the Guardian's David Lacey wrote in his preview of the 1987/88 campaign. Others waded in too. "Dalglish has a lot to live up to this season," John Bond commented in an exclusive Express article. "Time will tell whether he really can do it."

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

80s, 80s, What's The Score?

"I wonder what the latest score is in the Old Firm derby", I thought to myself during walk number 321 of lockdown. About twenty seconds later I had my answer. Reaching for my phone, a few thumb presses gave me all the information I needed. I could have even checked in on the results from the National Division of Luxembourg if I was that way inclined.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

1981 FA Cup Sixth Round: Everton v Manchester City

Forty years is a long time in sport. It's a long time in life (sadly, I know this for a fact). When Everton take on Manchester City in the FA Cup Sixth round at Goodison Park this weekend, the tie will see two Champions League winning managers lock horns, as their (rotated) multinational squads strive for a place in the last four at Wembley.

The past is indeed a foreign country. When the two teams met at the same stage of the competition in March 1981, the situation was understandably different. Two mid-table teams clashed in high intensity matches at Goodison Park and Maine Road, on far from perfect playing surfaces and in front of packed terraces. The 1981 tussles would be a very domestic affair that were not for the faint-hearted.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

1986/87: The Souness Revolution begins

As Steven Gerrard was unveiled as Rangers manager in May 2018, he would have been fully aware of the challenges ahead of him. Without a Premiership title in seven years - including four seasons spent outside the top flight in that period - toppling Celtic from their perch was the daunting task facing Gerrard in his first managerial post.

In April 1986 another ex-Liverpool captain arrived in Glasgow to dip his toe into the murky waters of football management, charged with turning around the fortunes of the club. Three League Cups and a Scottish Cup in the 1980s were all well and good. But Rangers had not finished above 3rd in the Scottish Premiership in a decade that had seen them eclipsed by a number of clubs.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Saint and Greavsie

There is possibly nothing worse than hearing a load of old people banging on about the past and how great things used to be. Shut up, grandad. Who wants to hear about three channels on UK television, Ceefax, no internet, and mobile phones the size of breeze blocks? Put your typewriter to one side and move on.

If nostalgia leaves you feeling cold, then I might have to question why you have landed on this blog in the first place. A site that rewinds to the 1980s, dons the rose-tinted glasses, and swims in a sea of reminiscence. You may want to look away now if wallowing in the past is not your thing. 

Thursday, 25 February 2021

West Ham: The Boys of '86

West Ham are currently chasing a place in the Champions League. But they have a long way to go to match the excitement of their 1985/86 season.

It may have settled many a pub argument amongst players and supporters alike, but surely there is more to football than purely "medals on the table". As Rob Smyth points out in this brilliant article on the Danish national team of the 1980s: "Winning is for losers. Many of life's more interesting stories focus on those who didn't quite make it."

West Ham United may not have won any trophies in 1985/86. But the achievements of John Lyall's squad are still rightly celebrated at the club. No other West Ham league season has touched the heights of the 1985/86 campaign; the Boys of '86 were this close to lifting the Division One title.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

1988/89: Doug Mountjoy and his Indian Summer

How a former fishmonger rejuvenated the career of 46-year-old Doug Mountjoy at the start of the 1988/89 snooker season.

April 1988: As Doug Mountjoy shook hands with Neal Foulds at the Crucible, reality struck. The 13-1 defeat in the second round of the World Championship in Sheffield was bad enough, yet it was an appropriate end to a disastrous season that would see the Welshman slip outside of the top 16 for the first time in 11 years.

"I didn't have a game," Mountjoy revealed after the 1988 UK Championship. "It's difficult to find out what you're doing wrong." For a man about to turn 46, it appeared that he was past the point of no return. "I understood there was nowhere else to go unless it was surviving down the bottom end of the ladder."

Monday, 15 February 2021

1987/88: Arsenal win 14 in a row

When Manchester City recently defeated Swansea in the FA Cup fifth round they became record breakers into the bargain. A 15th straight win for a top flight club edged Pep Guardiola's side past the previous mark set by Preston and Arsenal. With power to add, City's new record may stand for a long time.

Inevitably the focus of this piece takes us back to Arsenal and the start of the 1987/88 season and not Preston in 1891/92; apologies, I haven't started That 1890s Sports Blog yet. Ultimately it would be a frustrating campaign for George Graham and his developing team. However, as summer turned to autumn it promised so much.

Friday, 5 February 2021

FA Cup: Manchester United and West Ham clashes

The forthcoming FA Cup fifth round match between Manchester United and West Ham is the latest chapter of a story that has seen the two clubs face each other in the competition. From the first instalment in 1911 - won 2-1 by West Ham - to Manchester United's third round replay win in 2013, the ties involving both clubs have provided many talking points.

West Ham's 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2001 is often remembered for Paolo Di Canio outwitting Fabien Barthez, although some West Ham fans may wistfully recall how their midfield trio of Lampard, Carrick and Joe Cole shone. Two years later, there was no such joy in Manchester; current Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring the last goal in a 6-0 hammering.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

1981/82: Liverpool v Man City

Pep Guardiola will undoubtedly view the forthcoming visit to Anfield as an ideal opportunity to break his duck at the home of the champions. Yet it is not only the current Manchester City manager that has an unenviable record at this ground. Manchester City have won just two league matches at Anfield in the last 40 years.

One of these victories came during an uncertain time for Liverpool. The 1980/81 campaign had seen Bob Paisley lead his team to the European Cup and Milk Cup, but a poor run in the league from January onwards killed any chance of retaining their title. As the 1981/82 season developed, it appeared as if inconsistency would again threaten Liverpool's title aspirations.

Monday, 25 January 2021

1982/83: Dundee United

The Dundee United club statement released after the sad death of Jim McLean on Boxing Day 2020 said it all. "An integral part of our history and rise to the forefront of European football, Jim was simply a titan of Dundee United folklore, cherished by the United family the world over."

The term legend is thrown about freely, but in the case of Jim McLean there is every justification in applying the term to the manager who transformed the fortunes of Dundee United. When McLean took over at Tannadice in December 1971, the club were in the shadow of their city rivals. Within 13 years, he would win two Scottish League Cups, a Premier League title, and get the club within a whisker of making the European Cup final.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

1987/88 FA Cup third round: Sheffield Wednesday v Everton

Despite being reigning champions, the summer of 1987 had been an unsettling time for Evertonians. With Howard Kendall departing for Athletic Bilbao, assistant Colin Harvey faced the unenviable task of filling the shoes of his great friend. 

Most of the squad from the two title winning teams remained. But by the turn of the year it was apparent that the title would be going across Stanley Park, as Everton and the rest struggled to keep pace with the last great Liverpool team of that era. There was satisfaction for Harvey, as Everton defeated their rivals in the Littlewoods Cup. And of course, the FA Cup provided hope for silverware.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

1986/87 FA Cup: Chorley humble Wolves

The 1980s had started in exciting fashion for supporters of Wolves. Winning the League Cup at Wembley, with £1.49 million record signing Andy Gray scoring the winner against Nottingham Forest, the club finished sixth in Division One, and the future looked bright under manager John Barnwell. Yet the foundations for a decade of decay had already been established.