Tuesday, 25 November 2014

1980-81: Anglo-Scottish Cup

By 1980 it was clear to all concerned that the Anglo-Scottish Cup was on its last legs. A distinct lack of concern south of the border had reduced interest in the competition, with the Scottish League understandably unimpressed with the lack of quality teams entered by the English Football League, and as early as September 1980 the rumours began to circulate that this would be the last Anglo-Scottish Cup. Indeed the 1980/81 edition did prove to be the last knockings of the tournament, yet along the way it did provide a few talking points, including a rare moment of glory for a Derbyshire club, a debut for a 14-year-old, and an embarrassing episode for a Scottish giant.

Monday, 17 November 2014

1984 Formula One World Championship: Lauda v Prost

Half a point. Just half a point. Sixteen races taking in four continents over seven months of intensive competition, and at the end of it just half a point separating the two protagonists. The 1984 Formula One World Championship season would involve a battle between two legendary drivers that would go right down to the wire, the pair finally separated by the tiniest of winning margins. To the winner the spoils, and one last championship to crown his career that was inevitably drawing to an end. To the runner-up, more heartbreak, as for the third year in a row he was denied the title and the chance to be the first Frenchman to win the Formula One World Championship.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

1986: Viv Richards' 56-ball Test century

When Misbah-ul-Haq recently hit a 56-ball century against Australia in Abu Dhabi he equalled a Test record that had stood for 28 years. That particular innings was played by a man who is an all-time great, one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, and a knight of Antigua and Barbuda. Sir Vivian Richards' assault on a floundering England during the final Test of the 1986 series in the Caribbean was as thrilling and exhilarating as the fast bowling attack the West Indian skipper had at his disposal, one which had pounded England into submission during the series. And to top it all, the record was achieved at St John's, Antigua, the home island of the great man himself.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

1983: England v New Zealand (Rugby Union)

When it came to the 1983 Autumn international between England and New Zealand, it was hardly a case of England expects. With only two wins in twelve matches against the All Blacks, history was not exactly on England's side, and events in the past twelve months were even less encouraging. No wins and a bottom-placed finish in the 1983 Five Nations was a far from ideal start for the new England coach Dick Greenwood, and with New Zealand looming on the horizon in November, it did not look as if things were about to get better.

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?