Saturday 8 January 2011
Brian Viner: This is the year to toast the memories of Blanchflower, Fangio and Shergar
The Last Word
As regular readers will be aware, it is a tradition here at The Last Word to look forward, early in a new year, to all the anniversaries and milestones that will prompt us, over the next 12 months, to look back.
Indeed, we've already marked the most poignant of the lot: 40 years since 66 people died in the Ibrox tragedy of 2 January, 1971. Here are some others, along with some notable 2011 birthdays, looming between now and the end of June, with the big dates from July to December to follow next week.
Tomorrow it will be precisely 200 years since the first golf tournament for women, or at least the first one recorded. It took place in Musselburgh, with a fishing-basket as first prize. On 21 January it will be a mere 100 years since the inaugural Monte Carlo rally, the initiative of Prince Albert I of Monaco, great-grandfather of the present Prince Albert.
The sixth of February marks the 50th anniversary of a television first. Nobody had refused This Is Your Life host Eamonn Andrews before, but Tottenham Hotspur captain Danny Blanchflower did, walking away from Andrews live on air and calling the show an invasion of privacy.
A man who said yes to Eamonn's big red book, Kevin Keegan, turns 60 on St Valentine's Day, and on the 22nd it will be 20 years since the man who succeeded Keegan in the Liverpool No 7 shirt, Kenny Dalglish, abruptly resigned as the club's manager following a nerve-shredding 4-4 draw with Everton in the FA Cup. If the dafter sentimentalists on the Kop get their way, Dalglish might yet be reinstalled.
On 24 February, Lleyton Hewitt turns 30. Frankly it's a surprise he's not at least 40; he seems to have been around for ever. Four days later, Peter Alliss, who has been around for ever, will be 80. On the same day, Barry McGuigan hits 50, possibly with a right uppercut.
Into March, and that fellow Dalglish again; he'll be 60 years old on the fourth, which would also have been the 75th birthday of another great sporting Scot, Jim Clark, who perished at Hockenheim in 1968. On the day Clark died, another former world champion was serving a ban from his sport. Muhammad Ali, having refused to join the US Army and fight in Vietnam on the basis that "I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong, they ain't never called me nigger," had been suspended from boxing, but on 8 March, 1971, he finally got a chance to win back his world heavyweight title, against Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden. He lost, but it was a hell of a fight.
On 11 March it will be 100 years since the largest crowd ever recorded in the bottom tier of the English football league, 39,146, crowded into Valley Parade to see Bradford City beat Burnley in the FA Cup. The following day it will be 20 years since a Third Division game between Bournemouth and Reading made history. For the first time, the reserve official was a woman: Wendy Toms.
On 27 March a rugby league legend, Ellery Hanley, turns 50. Two days later the London Marathon will have been running for 30 years. And if you need staying power for the Marathon, what about the staying power of Jack Nicklaus? On 13 April it will be 25 years since I had the privilege of watching him, at the age of 46, win his 18th major title, the 1986 US Masters.
I also had the privilege of being at Wembley to watch Everton beat Manchester United in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, a great day, although on the whole I deplore the business of holding semi-finals at Wembley. It all started on 14 April, 1991, when Tottenham beat Arsenal.
What's the betting on Tottenham, who play Charlton in the third round tomorrow, reaching this season's final? Mr Ladbroke and Mr Hill will tell you, and they'll also tell you that on 1 May it will be 50 years since betting shops were legalised. That happened just in time for punters to back Spurs to win the League and Cup Double. On 6 May, 1961 Danny Blanchflower was much happier to be handed a big silver cup than a big red book: Spurs had become the first Double-winners of the 20th century, back when it was English football's transcendent feat rather than the relatively commonplace achievement it has sadly become.
A different kind of record was achieved by Shergar on 3 June, 1981; the Aga Khan's wonderful horse won the Derby by the biggest-ever margin: a remarkable 10 lengths. Two years later he was kidnapped, never to be seen again. And so to what to some folk is a crime just as heinous: on 22 June it will be 25 years since Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" scored past Peter Shilton in a World Cup quarter-final. Two days later sees the centenary of a more honourable Argentine, the brilliant racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, and two days after that comes another sporting centenary: 100 years since the birth of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an Olympic gold medallist as an athlete, an All-American basketball player, and the winner of 82 golf tournaments, including three US Opens. Women's sport, in fact sport in general, has never known her like.
It's still quiz time, so look sharp
There might still be time, depending on how early you're reading today's paper, to enter The Last Word's celebrated annual quiz, for which the fabulous prize, as always, is 365 bottles of Spitfire Ale, generously donated by master brewers Shepherd Neame. You have until noon. But be warned: some readers have been working on it since 18 December. Anyway, you can find the questions by googling 'Christmas Quiz: A Second Chance'. Happy New Year.
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