Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Rous Cup and the demise of the England-Scotland match

Watching the recent World Cup qualifying match between Scotland and England, I turned to my son and started boring him, as usual, with tales of my sporting childhood. Recalling the era where the England-Scotland fixture was an annual event, and a match that was eagerly anticipated, I felt grateful that I had grown up during this period. With so little live football on our televisions, the England-Scotland match was not far behind the FA Cup final in terms of excitement.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

1980s: FA Cup final tackles

Thankfully some FA Cup final traditions remain, but it is probably just as well that tackles like the ones discussed below are no longer part of the game.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Athletics: Women's track world records

Paula Radcliffe expressed anger at the recent announcement by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) that world records set before 2005 were going to be erased from history. Many feel sorry for Radcliffe and others, but for the records that have stood in women's individual track events since the 1980s, there will be less sympathy.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

1987: Players Championship

Jeff Sluman looked set to win the 1987 Players Championship in a play-off against Sandy Lyle, before a drunk spectator plunged into the sporting hall of shame.

It should have been a moment in the spotlight for Jeff Sluman. After seven years as a professional, the 29-year-old stood over a putt on the notorious 17th hole at Sawgrass to claim not just his first tournament on the PGA Tour, but the prestigious Players Championship, an event that despite being relatively new, had such a strong field that some had already dubbed it as the fifth major.

Monday, 8 May 2017

1982/83: Brighton and Hove Albion

After gaining promotion under Alan Mullery in 1978/79, Brighton and Hove Albion had managed to keep their heads above water for the first two years of their life in Division One. After a difficult start to their first season, the club eventually finished in 16th. A great escape in 1980/81 saw the team win their last four games to stay up, although this was followed by the shock resignation of Mullery, after a row with chairman Mike Bamber regarding the transfer of Mark Lawrenson and proposed adjustments to his coaching staff.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Ayrton Senna: The Last Night

I'll let you into a little secret. The moment I pick up a sporting biography I immediately turn to the photo sections of the book. From a young age I loved nothing more than analysing the minutest detail of every picture, picking out the expressions of the athletes involved, and assessing the mental state of the protagonists and spectators.

Therefore, when I was asked to review Ayrton Senna: The Last Night, I jumped at the chance. A photographic portrait of the great man's career, the book, edited by Giorgio Terruzzi, contains over 150 images taken by Ercole Colombo, covering Senna's journey from Formula Three to his three Formula One world championships, and, as the book title indicates, the tragic events of Imola 1994.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Five years of That 1980s Sports Blog

Time flies when you're having fun. I can't believe that it is five years since I published my first blog on sport in the 1980s - an opportunity to vent my spleen regarding Arsenal's loss to York City in 1985 - and in that time I've managed to rattle off 214 more pieces.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

1986/87: Division Four relegation battle

Lincoln City are on the verge of a return to the Football League, but thirty years ago they were not so lucky.

When the Football League announced a series of structural reforms in the game during April 1986, one particular innovation appeared to be long overdue. Out went the antiquated re-election system that would decide whether a club remained in Division Four, the days of the "old boys network" thankfully at an end. In came automatic promotion and relegation between the Fourth Division and the GM Vauxhall Conference, with the champions of the latter replacing the team finishing rock bottom in the Football League.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

1980s: Grand National predictions

Tipping a Grand National winner is a tricky task - the last time I got it right was Mr Frisk in 1990 - so for a bit of fun this week, I've decided to take a look at the predictions made by some of the experts in the 1980s, with regards to the horses that would go on to win the famous race at Aintree.

Monday, 3 April 2017

1987 World Snooker Championship

Looking back at the 1987 World Snooker Championship, as Steve Davis gains some revenge over Joe Johnson, and the sport is dragged into a debate involving the usage of performance enhancing drugs.

There were a number of players with a few points to prove as the 1987 World Snooker Championship commenced on Saturday April 18. None more so than the reigning champion, and the man he had beaten in the 1986 final. For Joe Johnson and Steve Davis, the next few weeks would go a long way to answering any doubts regarding their current standing in the game.

Monday, 27 March 2017

1987 US Masters: Larry Mize

Thirty years ago Larry Mize shocked the golfing world by winning the US Masters. There may have been an element of luck involved in his winning shot, but does he get enough credit for his success?

It seems that Larry Hogan Mize cannot win. Before the 1987 US Masters, the Augusta-born 28-year-old was known for the odd collapse or two, harshly called Larry D. Mize (demise, get it?) after a final round 76 at the 1986 Players' Championship saw him lose the title by one shot. But even after his finest hour, claiming the 1987 US Masters in a play-off against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros, there were doubting voices. Trawl the web for articles on the worst or luckiest player to have won a major, and the name Larry Mize is constantly mentioned.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

1980s: Phoenix from the Flames

As an Arsenal fan who doesn't like international breaks - although I'm starting to see the appeal of them - I thought I'd try and cheer myself up this week. So I've delved back into the Fantasy Football archives, and taken a look at some Phoenix from the Flames clips based on footballing moments of the 1980s.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup: Dawn Run

With the 2017 Cheltenham Festival about to begin, a look back at the Gold Cup in 1986, as Irish mare Dawn Run makes history.

Dawn Run had already confirmed her place in the pantheon of great race horses as the Cheltenham Festival neared in 1986. The only horse to have ever won the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdle treble (in 1984), owner Charmian Hill had long set her sights on Cheltenham Gold Cup glory, with the chance for the Paddy Mullins trained horse to create history, and become the first winner of both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. But there would be many hurdles to clear before Dawn Run's date with destiny on March 13, 1986.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

1983: England v Scotland (Rugby Union)

Scotland's record at Twickenham left a lot to be desired, but in 1983 they were able to take advantage of a mentally fragile England.

Michael Jackson was number one in the hit parade with Billie Jean; Britain was slowly getting used to waking up to breakfast television; the press were extremely excited that Prince William had two new teeth; and Arthur Scargill's call for a miners' strike was rejected by NUM members. March 1983, seems a million years ago. To any die hard Scottish rugby union fans that yearn for success at Twickenham, this date, from a different age, represents the last time their country won at England's headquarters.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

1984/85 UEFA Cup: QPR v Partizan Belgrade

There is not much hope of Arsenal overturning their four goal deficit against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but in 1984 QPR threw away the same advantage in their UEFA Cup tie with Partizan Belgrade.

The beginning of the 1980s was an exciting time for QPR supporters. Under the management of Terry Venables, the club were FA Cup finalists in 1982, won Division Two at a canter during the 1982/83 campaign, and a fifth-placed finish in their first season back in the top flight saw the team qualify for Europe. But there was trouble ahead.

Monday, 13 February 2017

1985 FA Cup Fifth round: Blackburn v Manchester United

As Manchester United prepare to visit Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round, I'm taking a look back at the same fixture from the 1985 competition. Many thanks to Mick Rathbone for his time in helping me write this piece.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

1986: The tied Test

Australia will soon be touring India to take part in a four Test series, but it is hard to imagine any of their matches being quite as dramatic and exciting as the 1986 Madras Test.

Monday, 23 January 2017

1989 FA Cup Fourth Round: Norwich City v Sutton United

Sutton United will play Leeds United in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend, and they will be hoping it goes a lot better than the last time they reached this stage of the competition in 1989.

Mention Sutton United to football fans, and many will justifiably recall that day at Gander Green Lane in January 1989, when the Conference team shocked 1987 FA Cup winners Coventry. But how many remember the following act in Sutton's FA Cup story that year, the difficult second album, if you like? If Coventry had been Sutton's successful debut in the eyes of the public, then Norwich City away was their Neither Fish Nor Flesh moment.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

1982/83: Graham Taylor and Watford


When the sad news of Graham Taylor passing away broke on January 12, naturally the tributes came flooding in. Whilst many noted that his time in charge of England was troubled, a lot column inches and html paragraphs were dominated with the successes Taylor enjoyed at club level, and in particular his glorious spells at Watford. When you see what Taylor had previously achieved at Lincoln City, and later at Aston Villa, it wasn't hard to see why England came calling in 1990.

Inevitably this blog will focus upon his heyday at Watford in the 1980s, and in particular Taylor's remarkable first season in the top flight during the 1982/83 campaign. To achieve three promotions in five years was one thing, but to then lead an inexperienced set of players to second place in Watford's debut season with the big boys was something else. Watford may have received a lot of criticism for their approach, yet for Taylor and Chairman Elton John, this was a victory for substance over style.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

1986: Jossy's Giants (Series 1)

Something a bit different this week, as I take a look back at series one of the cult BBC1 children's programme Jossy's Giants, in the form of an end of season newspaper report.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

1985 FA Cup Third round: Burton Albion v Leicester City

When Northern Premier League Burton Albion were drawn against Division One Leicester City in the 1985 FA Cup third round, on paper it appeared to be a romantic tie. The typical David v Goliath clash, the outside chance of a shock, and a day in the spotlight for the part-timers of Burton, provided all the classic ingredients required for this stage of the FA Cup. Sadly, the fixture ended up making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

1988: Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy

This article first appeared in issue 262 of The Gooner

There have been a number of awful football competitions organised throughout the history of the sport, from the Anglo-Scottish Cup to the Zenith Data Systems, taking in such delights as the Texaco Cup, ScreenSport Super Cup, and Watney Cup along the way. Fortunately my club, Arsenal, have managed to steer clear of most of these, but in 1988 the club qualified for a cup competition that was organised by the Football League 100 years of the governing body.