Brian Viner: Chronicles of future past from almanac of nostalgia

Nobody in the last century headed a ball harder than Dixie Dean

Nostalgia, they say, ain't what it used to be. They, of course, whoever
they are, are dead wrong. Nostalgia is much, much bigger than it used to be, in sport as everywhere else.

Nostalgia, they say, ain't what it used to be. They, of course, whoever they are, are dead wrong. Nostalgia is much, much bigger than it used to be, in sport as everywhere else.

The first column of a new year offers an irresistible opportunity to look forward to some of the events at which we will spend 2003 looking back, such as baseball's inaugural World Series and the first Tour de France, both of which illuminated 1903. It also allows me to anticipate some notable sporting birthdays, the first of which falls this very day, as dear old Terry Venables turns 60.

Venables might have ducked and dived a bit in his time, but for truly unforgettable ducking and diving, 27 January marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the greatest rugby union try, by the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park, the astonishing sidesteps of Phil Bennett finished off by the electric pace of Gareth Edwards, via JPR Williams, John Pullin, John Dawes, Tom David, and Derek Quinnell. "Brilliant, oh that's brilliant," rhapsodised Cliff Morgan in the commentary box, 25 seconds later bawling "what a score!", so ensuring that those of us who weren't there will never forget it.

February brings some less happy anniversaries. On the eighth it will be 20 years since the kidnapping of the Aga Khan's great Derby winner, Shergar, and on the 24th 10 years since the death of Bobby Moore. However, another two legends still very much alive reach landmark birthdays next month: Michael Jordan turns 40 on the 17th, Sir Bobby Robson 70 the following day.

On 30 March, it will be 30 years since Red Rum won his first Grand National, Brian Fletcher riding him brilliantly to beat Richard Pitman on Crisp by less than a length, having trailed by nearly 30 lengths at the Canal Turn second time around. And a less glorious Aintree memory, on 3 April it will be 10 years since the false-start fiasco, with Jenny Pitman's Esha Ness winning the "Grand National that wasn't" to gain a place in sporting trivia quizzes for the rest of time.

Speaking of trivia, let's consider the FA Cup, which I and fellow Evertonians know to be an unimportant competition, early exit from which is recommended if a team are to focus on doing well in the League. On 18 April 1903, however, when it really mattered, Bury beat Derby County by what remains the biggest winning margin in FA Cup final history, 6-0.

Half a century later, an even more memorable final took place; on 2 May it will be 50 years since Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3 in a match known as the "Matthews final", except by the late Stanley Matthews himself, who liked to point out that it was Stan Mortensen who scored a hat-trick.

While we're talking great feats of goalscoring, May brings the 75th anniversary of the greatest: on 5 May 1928, Everton's Dixie Dean went into the last match of the season, against Arsenal at Goodison Park, requiring two goals to equal the record of 59 in a season. He scored three.

Nobody in the last century headed a football harder than Dean, nor could anyone spin a cricket ball quite like Shane Warne. The 10th anniversary of the so-called "ball of the century", the one in the first England v Australia Test at Old Trafford that turned 18 inches to remove Mike Gatting's off-stump bail and restore the reputation of leg-spin bowling, will fall on 4 June.

Indeed, June is a big month for cricket anniversaries. On the 11th, it will be 50 years since Len Hutton became England's first professional captain, and on the 19th, 100 years since the birth of Wally Hammond, one of the finest of English all-rounders. "I have never seen a batsman so strong on the off-side and as a slip fieldsman he ranked as one of the greatest," wrote Don Bradman after Hammond's death, in July 1965.

On 10 July, it will be 50 years since Ben Hogan won the Open Championship in his one and only attempt at it, and on the 20th another of England's 1966 World Cup heroes, Roger Hunt, becomes an old-age pensioner. On the 22nd Jimmy Hill, still blethering, turns 75; Graham Gooch will be 50 the following day, as will Ossie Ardiles on 3 August, 25 years since he dramatically arrived at Tottenham Hotspur. Sam Torrance joins the half-centurions on 24 August.

How many more birthdays George Best will see is a matter of constant conjecture, but one fervently hopes he'll be around to celebrate, on 14 September, the 40th anniversary of his debut for Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. Exactly a month later a slightly more obscure anniversary occurs; on 14 October it will 125 years since a football match first took place under floodlights, at Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

The first week of November sees three wonderful footballers, Mark Hughes, Ian Wright and John Barnes, turning 40; on 29 November another one, Ryan Giggs, finally hits 30. But the big football anniversary in November takes place on the 25th, when it will be 50 years since English delusions of superiority were dealt a mortal blow by the brilliant Hungarians, led by Ferenc Puskas to a 6-3 goalfest at Wembley.

And finally, Harvey Smith is due his bus pass on 29 December. I hope he raises two fingers from the back seat.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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