Wednesday, 29 October 2014

1983-84 FA Cup: First round

The start of a series of blogs on the 1983/84 FA Cup, beginning with the first round in November 1983. A round of shocks, thrashings, replays, non-league success, and a reminder of a bygone era of football when some players simply turned up and played for the love of the game.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Euro 1984 qualification: Northern Ireland

After Northern Ireland's flying start to the qualification campaign of Euro 2016 a lot of references have been made to the fact that they have never qualified for a European Championships finals tournament. Hearing this, my mind drifted back thirty years or so to the nearest of near things, a time when Northern Ireland defeated West Germany home and away, and came within ten agonising minutes of joining the finalists at France 1984. An attempt at qualification so inspiring and full of pride, yet so frustrating and tinged with regret. From the highs of Hamburg to the anguish in Ankara, the story of Billy Bingham's brave men warms the sporting soul, as the underdogs nearly pulled off the impossible.

We probably should not have been too surprised by the eventual progress made by Northern Ireland. A successful 1982 World Cup had seen the team make the second group stage, their win with ten men over hosts Spain in Valencia the finest example of the Irish ability to punch above their weight and defy the odds. However, it would take an upset of David versus Goliath proportions for manager Billy Bingham to lead his country to Euro 1984. Reigning European champions and 1982 World Cup finalists West Germany had been drawn in Group Six, and realistically it looked like a straight fight between Northern Ireland and Austria for the runner-up position. And as Northern Ireland would sadly discover, the so-called minnows of the group in Turkey and Albania would also provide stern tests at various stages.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

1981: Suntory World Matchplay

1981 had been a challenging year for Seve Ballesteros. Throughout the season, the Spaniard had been embroiled in a row with the European Tournament Players' Division (ETPD) over appearance money on the European Tour, so much so that Ballesteros left the Tour and refused to play events in Britain that didn't pay him the money he felt he was rightfully entitled to.

To many, Ballesteros was seen as a greedy, a man too big for his boots, someone who needed a return to reality. But others saw the debate from Seve's perspective. After all, he was Europe's finest player, a winner of two majors, and why was it acceptable to pay a non-European Tour member an appearance fee (such as Lee Trevino or Arnold Palmer), but not Europe's star attraction?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

1980s: Football debuts

Throughout the years, football debuts have come in many shapes and sizes. From the sublime (Wayne Rooney against Fenerbahce) to the ridiculous (Jonathan Woodgate for Real Madrid), a footballer is often remembered by their first appearance for club or country. This week I'm taking a look back on some footballing debuts of the 1980s. Some memorable for all the wrong reasons, others the stuff of dreams.

As ever, this is not a definitive list. So please feel free to contribute your own ideas in the comments section.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

1983/84: Cambridge United

It is often stated that losing, as well as winning, can become a habit. Just ask the players and supporters of Cambridge United during the 1983/84 league season. For seven long months the team embarked on an unwanted record breaking run consisting of 31 matches without victory. A run involving three managers, 32 players, thrashings, near-things, Nick Hornby, and no airing of I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (I'll explain later) for far too long. A regrettable season maybe, but in many ways an unforgettable one too.

Friday, 19 September 2014

1985 Ryder Cup: Craig Stadler

Eighteen inches. Just eighteen inches. So close, that even asking a former US Masters champion to play the shot seemed questionable, almost a waste of time. You or I might miss the occasional one from this length, but not a professional playing in the Ryder Cup. Surely not. Back went the putter and.....

Monday, 15 September 2014

1989 Ryder Cup: Christy O'Connor Jnr

Before 1989, Christy O'Connor Jnr had a strained relationship with the Ryder Cup. Winless in his one previous appearance and then rejected in 1985, he must have felt that his chances of taking part in the ever popular event had long gone. But just when it looked as if the two would go their separate ways, fate decided to play a part in giving O'Connor and the Ryder Cup one last chance at patching up their differences. Beautiful fate.