I've started so I'll finish... Mastermind winner completes perfect sporting run

Shaun Wallace may have been the first black person to win the BBC Mastermind title on Sunday night, but he was not the first to do so with a specialist subject from the world of sport.

Shaun Wallace may have been the first black person to win the BBC Mastermind title on Sunday night, but he was not the first to do so with a specialist subject from the world of sport.

The 44-year-old barrister - a lifelong football fan who lives, aptly enough, in Wembley - answered questions on "FA Cup finals since 1970" to succeed last year's winner Andrew Page, whose chosen field in the final was "international golf, 1970-2003". So that's a 100 per cent record for sporting finalists since the show, which ran from 1972-1997 with Magnus Magnusson as host, was revamped last year with John Humphrys as question master.

Last year, 16 contestants answered on sport. Of the first 40 contestants in this year's competition, almost one in four offered sporting options: world heavyweight boxing championships 1895-1978; Test career of Geoffrey Boycott; history of Halifax Rugby League Club; Tour de France; history of European Cup finals since 1970; the IAAF outdoor World Championships; history of Manchester United Football Club; history of Essex County Cricket Club; the 1981 Ashes Test series.

Wallace, who progressed from the first round with a perfect record on the subjects of the European Cup finals and the England football team at the European Championships, was not even the only contestant offering sporting expertise in the final - one of his rivals chose questions on Test cricket.

"I'm living a dream that I never thought I would fulfil," he said after becoming the 27th winner on the Mastermind version of a penalty shoot-out, by virtue of two fewer passes than his nearest rival.

Having viewed the starting line-up, a contributor to the website Quizzing.co.uk described it as "a sea change from the Magnusson era when highbrow intellectualism predominated..."

So would the succession of white, middle-class women who won the title in the early years look sniffily at the trend? Pam Cavannagh, series producer of the new Mastermind, thinks not. "I don't think we should be uneasy about including sport," she said. "It's great for the viewers, and I enjoy having it on the show. I don't think it has less kudos for the contestant than other subjects. There are so many statistics available and you can get asked about so many different details."

Care has to be taken, nevertheless, to prevent the sporting remits becoming too narrow. "Manchester United, 2002-2003", for instance, would not fit the bill.

"Contestants have to offer four subjects, of which they can end up doing three," Cavannagh said. "We try to let people do what they want to do, but we have to be sure subjects have plenty of depth." But two recent suggestions that failed to make the cut did so for simple reasons of extreme dullness: "The natural history of the goldfish" and "Orthopaedic bone cement in total hip replacements".

Wallace, who likened the butterflies he had in his stomach before competition to the feeling of waiting in the tunnel for the Cup final, may have answered questions on sporting topics in all three rounds, but his first choice was from a quite different area. "He wanted to do Kings and Queens of England since 1066," Cavannagh said, "but it had been done the year before."

Specialist subject: the 15 questions

Shaun Wallace's specialist subject questions on FA Cup finals since 1970

  1. Who was the last English-born manager to win the FA Cup?
  2. Which Brighton fanzine's title reflects a miss near the end of the 1983 final when Brighton were drawing 2-2 with Manchester United?
  3. Who finished on the losing side in four FA Cup finals between 1985 and 1992?
  4. Whose pass did Ricky Villa pick up at the edge of the penalty area before weaving his way through the Manchester City defence to score Spurs' winner in the 1981 replay?
  5. In 1973, after parrying Trevor Cherry's point-blank header, whose close-range follow-up did Jim Montgomery famously manage to save?
  6. With what were the players of the Sunderland team mistakenly presented with after losing 2-0 in the 1992 Cup final?
  7. What is the FA's official timing of Roberto Di Matteo's goal in the 1997 final, the fastest in a Wembley FA Cup final?
  8. Ipswich Town's Roger Osborne is said to have explained his 79th-minute substitution in the 1978 final by saying that he was "overcome by excitement" at having done what?
  9. Which year's final was played using an orange ball?
  10. In the 1977 and 1983 finals who played in both losing teams when the winners were Manchester United?
  11. Whom did Ian Wright replace when he came off the bench to score two goals in the 1990 final?
  12. Paul Gascoigne was carried off after less than 15 minutes of the 1991 final after his lunging tackle on whom?
  13. Who scored Manchester United's equaliser in the 88th minute of the 1979 final only for Alan Sunderland to make it 3-2 to Arsenal in the final minute?
  14. Whose cross was deflected past Ray Clemence by Gary Mabbutt to give Coventry City an extra-time winner in the 1987 final?
  15. What first name and surname is shared by a player who appeared in the 1983 and 1987 finals and one who appeared in the 1984, 1985 and 1986 finals?

The answers

1 Joe Royle; 2 And Smith Must Score; 3 Paul Bracewell; 4 Tony Galvin; 5 Peter Lorimer; 6 The winners' medals; 7 42 seconds; 8 Scored; 9 1973; 10 Jimmy Case; 11 Phil Barber; 12 Gary Charles; 13 Sammy McIlroy; 14 Lloyd McGrath; 15 Gary Stevens

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