According to a venerable tradition, this column's first outing of a new year takes a look forward to that at which, over the course of the next 12 months, we will be looking back. What are the sporting birthdays and anniversaries that might excite us?
There's a big one to kick things off: on 11 January it will be 150 years since the birth of the first great British jockey, Fred Archer, who died only 29 years later of self-inflicted gunshot wounds after suffering depression following the death of his wife in childbirth. He was champion jockey every year from 1874 to 1886, and won 21 Classic races, including the Derby five times. On the same day it will be 25 years since Steve Davis won unprecedented attention for the Lada Classic in Oldham, recording snooker's first televised maximum break, against John Spencer.
On 15 January it will be 40 years since the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl. But for me and my fellow Evertonians there's only one anniversary really worth celebrating this month: the Dixie Dean centenary on the 22nd. Another great sportsman was his almost exact contemporary: Henry Cotton was born four days after Dean on 26 January 1907. And less than three weeks later they were followed into the world by Ernest William Swanton, who watched WG Grace from his pram and became the doyen of cricket correspondents. Jim Swanton's centenary falls on 11 February. He died just seven years ago, in the nervous Nineties.
On 14 March, Tessa Sanderson turns 50, followed on the 27th by Duncan Goodhew, on 1 April by David Gower, and on 9 April by Seve Ballesteros. Several other golfers become eligible for the lucrative seniors' tour this year, all of them more likely to make money than Seve: they are Mark O'Meara (13 January), Nick Price (28 January), Nick Faldo (18 July) and Bernhard Langer (27 August).
On 2 April it will be 30 years since Red Rum's astonishing third victory in the Grand National, and on 8 April, 40 years since, even more astonishingly, John Buckingham won the great race on the 100-1 shot Foinavon. Mike Brearley can collect his bus pass on 28 April, as can Nobby Stiles on 18 May, although I don't suppose they'll sit next to each other.
On 25 May the green half of Glasgow will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions lifting the European Cup, leaving Rangers fans with nothing to toast except Paul Gascoigne's 40th two days later. On 28 May it will be 100 years since Charlie Collier won the single-cylinder category of the first TT race on the Isle of Man, travelling at an average speed of 38.2mph.
A man built more for comfort than speed, Mike Gatting, turns 50 on 6 June. And on 11 June it will be 100 years since Northamptonshire were bowled out for 12 runs at Gloucester, an unenviable record - the lowest first-class cricket innings - that is likely to endure at least until England next play Australia.
On the first day of July it will be 40 years since BBC 2 began transmitting in colour with seven hours of tennis from Wimbledon, and 30 years since Virginia Wade wore her lovely pink cardie to collect the Venus Rosewater dish. Less happily, on 23 July it will be 40 years since Tom Simpson died climbing Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France.
There are a pair of noteworthy half-centuries in August: on 4 August it will be 50 years since the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in his Maserati made up a deficit of 45 seconds over only 10 laps, winning the German Grand Prix to clinch, at the age of 46, his fifth and last world title; Stirling Moss considers it the ultimate exhibition of driving by Formula One's greatest exponent. On 24 August it will be 50 years since another great finisher, Jimmy Greaves, made his football League debut for Chelsea against Spurs. He scored, of course, as he did on every subsequent debut for clubs and country.
On 17 September, the suave, moustachioed chap queuing for his bus pass will be Desmond Lynam; he was 15, doubtless already suave and moustachioed, on 5 October 1957, when Great Britain won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1933 and for the last time without European help. On 11 October, Sir Bobby Charlton turns 70 (followed on 30 December by another World Cup winner, Gordon Banks), and Glenn Hoddle will be 50 on the 27th. On 24 October it will be 150 years since the first organised football club, Sheffield FC, was founded.
The BBC's Sports Report celebrates 60 years on 1 November, as does Rodney Marsh, the Aussie cricketing version, 10 days later. Willie Carson joins Des Lynam as officially old on 16 November, and Boris Becker hits 40, officially too old for sex in broom cupboards, on 22 November.
Finally, on 2 December it will be 100 years since the formation, at the Imperial Hotel in Manchester, of the Football Players' and Trainers' Union, which in 1958 changed its name to the Professional Footballers' Association. What the men in that smoke-filled room would have made of players earning £100,000 a week, one can only ponder.
Who I Like This Week...
Again, the incomparable Shane Warne, whose international retirement leaves Test cricket immeasurably poorer, not that England's cricketers will shed too many tears. Warne's valedictory Test in Sydney was entirely characteristic of this most contrary of sportsmen: the most prolific Test wicket-taker of all time finished with unremark-able bowling figures of 2 for 92 yet top-scored with the bat, hitting 71 in 65 balls. While batting, he refused to obey the convention that sledging is the prerogative of the bowler and fielders, giving his chief baiter Paul Collingwood a particularly torrid time, making the pertinent point that Collingwood bagged an MBE in 2005 for scoring 7 and 10 at the Oval. Those other MBEs are looking a little tarnished now, too.
And Who I Don't
Again, Jose Mourinho, for so publicly naming and shaming those of his players he feels have been letting him down. I've just done a Google search on the words "Mourinho blames" and come up with over 32,600 examples: explaining poor Chelsea performances these past few years, the manager has blamed his players, the referee, injuries, Sky Sports, bad luck, the Anfield Roar and culture shock, among much else. The only factors he hasn't blamed are global warming, Al Qaeda and himself. It's probably only a matter of time before he ascribes a disappointing draw or defeat to carbon monoxide emissions or Osama bin Laden, but I fancy that he'll continue to let himself off the hook.Reuse content