John Smith

The Prime Ministers Who Never Were, Edited by Francis Beckett

When I was taught history we were told by our headmaster, no less, not to waste time on what he called "the what ifs of history". He reckoned that it was no good asking what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had agreed to sleep with Henry VIII out of wedlock, or if the plot to kill Hitler had succeeded, because no one knows and it is all idle speculation.

Johnson hopes National test will get to the bottom of Tidal Bay

An intriguing contender with a superb Aintree record was confirmed in the mix yesterday for next month's Grand National, though his tilt at the John Smith's-sponsored prize could hardly be termed no-nonsense. Five days ago Tidal Bay finished sixth in the Gold Cup, albeit 23 lengths behind the winner Long Run. As is his style, he was almost tailed off early but once he had condescended to put his racing head on, nothing stayed on up the finishing hill more strongly.

Outside the Box: Have it! Pint of John Smith's tempts Gary Mac to play

One of the more unlikely transfers of the season has been Tadcaster Albion's acquisition of the former Leeds and Scotland captain Gary McAllister for a signing-on fee of a pint of ale and a sports drink. The Albion manager, Paul Marshall, had played alongside him in an over-45 veterans competition and after making the offer "half-jokingly", was stunned by McAllister's acceptance. The deal, he said, was completed at the bar over a pint of John Smith's and a Lucozade Sport. With Tadcaster only one point behind the leaders Brighouse Town and having three games in hand, McAllister, who hasn't played yet, should be in line for another glittering honour to add to his 57 Scottish caps, League championship, FA Cup and Uefa Cup: the Koolsport Northern Counties East League Division One title.

The art of diary writing

January signals not only the arrival of a new year – for many, it will also open another chapter of obsessive diary-writing. What drives these solitary scribblers? Tim Walker delves into their secret world