Wednesday, 30 January 2013

1981: England v Scotland (Rugby Union)

If in music terms 1980 had seen England enjoy a smash hit success, then 1981 was always going to be the equivalent of that difficult second album. The 2003 World Cup winning side, and indeed the 2005 Ashes cricket success, have been relatively recent examples of teams reaching their peaks, only for the combination of retirements, injuries, and loss of form leading to a decline in the team's fortunes, as inevitably anything that follows feels very much after the Lord Mayor's show. In this respect, 1981 was never going to be easy for English rugby. The Grand Slam success enjoyed by Bill Beaumont's men in 1980 was their first in 23 years, and only their second since 1928, so it was unrealistic to expect them to repeat this success a year later. The retirements of Roger Uttley and Tony Neary certainly didn't help, leaving a gaping hole in terms of experience within the English pack, and before the Scotland game at Twickenham on February 21 there was more of that to come. By then though, it had become apparent that for England, the only way was down in 1981.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

1984-85 FA Cup: Fourth round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first, second and third rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here, here and here.

The chaos caused by the new ice age that was sweeping across Britain in January 1985, meant that when the draw was made for the Fourth Round of the FA Cup there were a number of either/ors to be sorted before we could get a clearer picture of the landscape ahead. When the snow cleared, the most appetising tie set before us seemed to be the Liverpool v Tottenham clash, a battle between the current champions and, according to some papers, the champions elect. Although this was chosen as the live FA Cup match on the Sunday, and the tie was undoubtedly the pick of the round, there were enough tales in the other fifteen matches to keep us warm inside, a footballing Ready Brek if you like. A round of big-time Charlies getting their comeuppance, missed penalties, shocks, culture clashes, ticket price hikes, and non-league glory. For this particular blogger however, it is not particularly a weekend of my life that I recall with total fondness.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

1985 Australian Open: Stefan Edberg

Your starter for ten: Which country was the most successful tennis nation in terms of men's grand slam single tournaments won during the 1980s? USA? No, sorry. West Germany? No. The United Kingdom? Now you're just being sarcastic. If you said Sweden, then award yourself top marks. You see, if Google Translate is to be believed then the 1980s really was a fantastiska årtionde for the Swedes, a time of Borg, Wilander, and Edberg, thirteen grand slam titles, seven consecutive Davis Cup final appearances, and three wins in the team event. A decade that started off all about Borg v McEnroe, evolved into Sweden v America, and then Sweden v the rest of the world, as the arrival of the precocious talents of Wilander and Edberg swept across the sport. The 1985 Australian Open was a microcosm of the decade, as Sweden came, saw, and conquered all before them. Borg may have disappeared from the scene, but the baton had been well and truly passed on, and in Melbourne during November-December 1985, there was no stopping the Super Swedes.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

1989 World Darts Championship

Such was the popularity of darts in the UK at the start of the 1980s that it was hardly surprising come the end of the decade that the nation's love affair with the sport had waned considerably. As with any relationship, you have the initial excitement, the buzz of anticipation during those early days when everything is so new and different, but over time you have to be on your guard that things do not become stale and repetitive, otherwise there may be trouble ahead.

In 1989, darts and television were definitely going through a cooling off period. The BDO World Championships was now the only tournament to be shown live on national television, and although the image of the sport was being addressed - this would be the first World Championships where players could not drink alcohol on stage - the writing was on the wall for the marriage. The messy divorce would arrive in 1993, which eventually would lead us to the world of darts that we see today. In 1989 though, this seemed a million miles away, as the world's best players arrived at the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, Surrey, to contest the 12th World Darts Championship.

Friday, 4 January 2013

1984-85 FA Cup: Third round

This piece follows on from my previous blogs on the first and second rounds of the 1984/85 FA Cup, which you can view here and here.

Even as one of the biggest 1980s apologists, That1980sSportsBlogger recognises that not all was good when it came to English football in the 1980s. Violence, falling attendances, ageing stadia, poor spectator facilities, and Thatcher's proposed ID scheme, are just a few of the minus points surrounding the national game in a turbulent decade. One thing going for the 1980s though was the fact that the FA Cup was still seen as a great competition, a must-have trophy for players, managers and chairmen alike, and due to this, the Third Round weekend of the FA Cup was one of the highlights of the domestic football calendar. So as most managers prepare to rotate their squads for the irritation of the Third Round of the 2013 FA Cup, we can cast our minds back to a time when the FA Cup mattered. The first few weeks of 1985 even allowed the players to enjoy a winter break. Perhaps the 1980s weren't all that bad after all.